Game development: Don’t try to learn too much
The funny thing about this post is that I’m telling you right away to not listen to anything I’m about to tell you. In fact you should not even listen to me telling you to not listen to what I’ll tell you. Repeat until your brain explodes.
I guess that if Markus Persson would have been told what I have been told in the past that maybe he would have never released Minecraft. Or maybe he’s just even more bull-headed than me so he did anyway. So let’s start where this post should start: Congrats Markus for your success, your hard work and believing in what you did. Indies need inspiration and you surely became one if you were not one already.
So what I have been told that turned out to be total bullshit but that I didn’t know was total bullshit at the time? Well I’ll just scratch 2 things: crappy graphics and no tutorial for a complex game is a good recipe to kill an interesting game. Those are 2 small things but 2 small things I heard over and over than I finally almost believed everyone telling me so.
On one side we have people who played Golemizer for 2 minutes and then forgot about it or told me that graphics and “hard to understand” would just not cut it. On the other side we have passionate players that while smart don’t have any degree in rocket science that figured how the game worked and how fun it could be. For some reason I always took the side of those who told me I should do better instead of improving what was already good. Sorry to all players about that. I should have known better.
So who were those who told me Golemizer had crappy graphics and non-existing tutorial? The same who are currently praising and giving great review to Minecraft… I already congratulated Markus for his work so I’m not trying to diminish in any way what he did. I’m only pointing to these people that it’s way damn easier to praise the depth and fun of a game once it already became a huge success. Don’t worry though as I already figured a long time ago that reviewers are people making money based on their traffic and not on the quality of their work. Review an unknown game=no traffic. Review the current flavor of the month=a boost in revenue. No hard feelings. We all want to make money somehow.
The problem is that I really believed there was a problem with Golemizer’s graphics or that the lack of good tutorial (or the lack of whatever anyone with more experience than me would tell me) was a huge problem. Well after looking at Minecraft I can only conclude that I must unlearn much of the stuff I thought I “learned”. Minecraft graphics? About the same as Wolfenstein (I enjoyed a lot Wolfenstein but let’s agree those are not great graphics compared to what we usually see these days…). If Minecraft wasn’t a hit the first thing people would say is that the game isn’t popular because it has bad graphics and people like good graphics. Minecraft tutorial? What tutorial!?!?!?!
– Spoiler –
The first 5 worlds I created I ended dead because some freaky monsters killed me when it was night or because I somehow mined the water and ended up drowning because I didn’t know how to get out of there.
– End spoiler –
In fact I didn’t get anything about Minecraft until I watched this video (contains spoiler). Golemizer is much more forgiving than Minecraft but still most of the people who could have talked about it didn’t even tried to spend more time in it than they did in their first try in Minecraft. Asking them to watch a video or read some help text would have been terrible I’m sure… They have so many mails in their inbox about reviewing “good” games so they really can’t waste time on a game they don’t understand in the first 30 seconds… Instead they just told me that Golemizer really need a better tutorial or first time experience. Sorry but my initial experience in Minecraft wasn’t quite enjoyable (it did became interesting after seeing the spoilers in the video). So it’s ok for Minecraft to have a terrible first-hand experience and no tutorial but it’s not ok for Golemizer. Bah.
But let’s not blame them too much as like I said most of them talked about Minecraft once it already was a success. They’re in it for the business and not the games and I can understand that.
So let’s shift to other things I’ve been told. Advertisement. It seems you almost have to do this. Well Minecraft didn’t do any paid advertisement but everyone that “knows” how to sell a game will tell you that you have to do some kind of marketing. Maybe ads, maybe some Twitter spam, anything. Yet I look at Minecraft and don’t see any of this. Poor me I thought that’s what was needed and fell into the trap spending useless money in this. Again I listened to people who “knew” more than me.
By now you’re already telling yourself that Minecraft is just a better game than Golemizer. Just ask Markus if he knew his game would have such success when he was building it and I’m sure his answer will be “No”. Didn’t mean he didn’t believe in what he was doing. Didn’t mean he didn’t thought it was clever. Didn’t mean he didn’t thought it could have some success. It just mean there was no way of knowing.
There was no way of knowing. Still a lot of people believe they know what is required to build some success. Note that I used the word “build” here. Looking at Minecraft I can only (once again) come to the conclusion that a lot of people talk but very few “do”. Too bad I listened to the talking people at first. Maybe I should have kept doing whatever without knowing anything. Maybe it wouldn’t have changed anything. Maybe it would have been worse. The only thing I know is that there is no way to tell for sure. Simple like that.
So what I’m trying to say here is that if you’d like to work on a game do it the way you want to do it. Don’t get your hopes too high, just keep to what you feel is right. It might not provide the results you were expecting but if it doesn’t live up to expectations and you kept to your bull-headed mind then it will be less frustrating than listening to anyone “knowing” what you should do and convincing you that you were wrong all that time before “knowing”.
Oh I guess that it’s quite possible your work never bring any results but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of not being fooled by some people who thought knew better than you. There’s no way to predict what will work and what won’t. If there was then everybody would be following this recipe and every single indie game developer would have thousands of dollars held by Paypal.
So don’t try to learn too much from others. Learn from yourself. Be deaf a bit but don’t be blind either. In fact you shouldn’t even try to learn that from my blog… Go figure. Just do as you want. That’s the best I know. Just do something and build on top of that.