Once in a while I’m receiving a mail asking for advice on how to begin to make games. Which language should be learned and that kind of stuff. Here’s what I answer to the people emailing me.

You want to make games

Never forget that. Seems obvious no? Well I always tell that first as it’s easy to get lost by the numerous advice everyone will give you. Fact is that you don’t need to prepare yourself to make games you just need to start making games. There’s no need to study C++ for 6 months before trying to build your first game. Look at the options, pick the one that will get you to your goal quickly and then starting working. We’re not talking about writing a business plan for the next 5 years here and I’m also not saying that picking the fastest option will make your rich by any mean. You just need to start making games.

When you make your first game you’ll start realizing some stuff. Stuff like “what makes a game fun”. Stuff like “how hard is it to create a given system”. You don’t need to be good at coding for that. You’ll learn as you make stuff. Sure your first game will be impossible to debug, will consume way too much memory for what it does but all of that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ll get some experience at making games. That’s what you want so don’t plan too much your first steps. Who knows maybe you’ll realize that you don’t even like making games!

Long term plan. Your own stuff or work for a big company

That’s always something I bring up. What do you mean by “I want to make games”? Do you mean doing something similar to me (on your own) or find your way to a big company to work on Call of Duty 23? If your goal is to work for Ubisoft, EA or the other big ones then you might want to know what C/C++ is. I don’t know much about the big companies but all I know is that knowing C/C++ should be a good start to get there. Maybe even C#. But why not try to email someone working for a big company? You’ll be surprised how many people will answer you if you ask kindly. Many of them can easily be reached on Twitter or on their blogs so do some research and ask them. You’ll get a better answer from them as me I never had any interest of working for a big company.

Flash/AS3 as a starting point

Yeah maybe it could be Unity, maybe it could be Java, maybe it could be GameMaker (yes GameMaker could be enough for some people) but the point here is that AS3 is easy to learn, you’ll find plenty of resources to learn it and it’s very easy to distribute a Flash game. It’s just the easiest way IMHO to get something done and get it out in the wild to see what people think. Quite possibly it’s not the best way to make a living but then your question should be “how can I make a living making games?” and to that question I still have no answer to give you. I have the shadow of a hint but I’ll wait to get the answer for myself before giving advice about that.

You don’t need the Flash IDE to create Flash games. Just take a look at FlashDevelop and you have enough there to get started for $0. To create your first Flash game I’d also recommend that you use an already existing Flash game library like Flixel or Flashpunk. It’s surely not required and I won’t tell you if the best thing since sliced bread but it’s a much faster way to create a game when you don’t know anything about AS3. My advice here is use those libraries at first to create your first game while you are learning how this stuff works and then make your own choice after. You don’t need to build everything from scratch for your first game. Again remember what you want. You want to make games and not to build a game library.

It’s good to listen to others but it’s bad to do as you are told

People can tell you what they want they are not you. You are the one who must figure out what’s good for you. For example here I’m telling you that AS3 is probably the easiest way to get something done. Don’t take my words for it. Do your homework and look around. I gave you a hint of my experience but not everyone has the same story as me. Don’t take my words as a recipe but as ingredients to create your own recipe instead.

Look at me for example. First game? A JavaScript and VB.NET MMO … Nobody will tell you to do that kind of project to get started. I did it because I knew how to use those 2 to get something done and I knew I would get to the finish line even if the odds were greatly against me (fact is 99.999999% of newbies saying they will make a MMO as their first game probably fail or abandon the project). Yes of course everyone was probably right that I wouldn’t make money out of a MMO as my first game but this invaluable experience got me where I am today which is from my point of view at a good spot to keep going and hope for the best.

That’s not much but there’s not much to say

Really. Just make games and don’t worry about making mistakes. If you’re honest about your desire then you’ll figure out everything you need while doing it. All I can do is show you some doors but I won’t pick one for you. I’m happy to share a bit of my 4 years of experience of making games but I won’t pretend to have any kind of answer to anyone. Take what you wish and then go make your own story you can share in a few years!