Most gaming fans have dreamed of becoming game programmers unless they have no interest in coding whatsoever. The actual process for becoming a game developer is both more difficult and simpler than what you may think. So, how to become a game developer? Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Step 1: Game With Purpose
The first step to master something is always to become an adept student of that subject. If you want to become a great musician, listen to great music first. If you want to write the next great novel, read all the great novels written before.
And, if you want to develop the next great video game, play the greats that came before. It’s not enough to mindlessly play them, though. You have to play mindfully, trying to understand the different decisions developers made.
Play the game and pay attention to the narrative structure of the game, how it’s put together. Become the student of the subject first. Then worry about the rest. This is the first step on how to become a game developer.
Step 2: Immerse Yourself in the Community
One of the biggest advantages of living in the 21st century is that we are all interconnected. You have the power to connect with people who share your passion for video games but live on the other side of the world. This would have been unimaginable 100 years ago. Take advantage of it.
By becoming an active member of the video game community, you will gain a deeper understanding of what gamers, your future target audience, like and don’t like. What they enjoy and can’t stand.
You will also meet people who aspire to become a game programmer too. Who knows, maybe you will team up someday and set up the next Ubisoft! Just like movie making, video game development is a team venture.
Being active in the community will give you a more clear insight on how to become a game developer and also help you find your first gaming industry job. If you know people who work in the industry already, you might hear of job openings. Who knows, these friends may even recommend you for the position!
The Game Director for World of Warcraft, Ion Hazzikostas, was the Guild Master of Elitist Jerks, a guild with the greatest WoW forums on the Internet, before being invited to work at Blizzard Entertainment and quitting his job as a lawyer.
There are numerous examples of outspoken fans who made good points publically being tapped to work on the game they loved directly. You may not get a job in game development directly, but it may get your foot in the door.
If you have your view on how to become a game developer and it doesn’t involve making friends among the people in the community, you can still succeed. It will be much harder, though.
People are social. It’s much easier to give someone a shot if that person comes recommended by someone you know.
Step 3: Make A Plan
Game development is an extremely complicated subject. Approaching it without a plan is a sure recipe for disaster. First, decide what your end goal is. Do you want to make the next Assassin’s Creed? Do you want to release the next Pokémon GO? The things you need to learn to achieve your goal are vastly different for both cases.
Your plan should cover a lot of different parts, including:
The engine you want to start with
There are a lot of different game engines to choose from. If you haven’t heard the phrase before, a game engine is a framework upon which the game is built. It handles the game’s physics, inputs, artificial intelligence, scripting of in-game events and many other things so that you don’t have to code it all from scratch.
Without engines, it would be a lot harder how to become a game developer since you would have to write your scripts for each new game you try to make, which would extend the build time and make it much more complicated than it already is.
There are several game engines you can choose from and play around with to make something playable, including:
This is another great engine. It comes for free in its basic version, which should be enough to help you get a handle on how it works until you are ready to work on more ambitious projects. Games like Pillars of Eternity, Lara Croft GO, and Kerbal Space Program were made using Unity.
- The Unreal Engine
The Unreal Engine is one of the best in the world. Chances are that you’ve played something made using it, Fortnite Battle Royale, perhaps? You can use it for free but will have to pay a small percentage of revenue after release. The engine could be considered as one of the most popular ones to choose on how to become a game developer.
If you love the Far Cry series, be sure to try out this engine. It was used to make the game, after all. It’s completely free too. You get access to all of the features without even having to pay royalties!
The programming language you should learn
The programming language you should learn will largely depend on the game engine you choose. For the Unreal Engine and CryEngine, you will need C++. Unity requires you to know C#.
The problem with C++ is that it’s harder to learn compared to C#. It may be a good idea to start with C# and play around in Unity to get a handle on the fundamentals. You can work out how game development works in an easier environment.
Once you know how to become a game developer in its entirety, however, you will have to learn C++. It is the industry-standard programming language in game development, after all.
Set small goals
People often overestimate their capabilities and motivation when setting goals they want to achieve. Don’t make the same mistake on your journey to become a game programmer.
Setting achievable but ambitious short-term goals that lead you towards your overall dream to make a game is a key to remaining motivated.
Don’t start by promising yourself to make a game in two years, you will fail. Instead, give yourself a month to figure out how to master a small part of your chosen gaming engine and a particular part of the coding language you’re learning.
As long as you feel like you’re steadily moving in the right direction, you will be able to stay motivated.
Is there a better way to learn how to become a game developer than to turn the process of doing just that into a game? There isn’t!
Games have rules, goals, and rewards for achieving them. As long as you follow the rules and achieve the goals set before you, your dopamine receptors are spiked with a reward. That is essentially what gamification is.
Set yourself a goal, set rules and dedicate a reward if you manage to achieve the goal while following the rules.
Step 4: Start Learning NOW
When people wait for circumstances to be just right, they almost always end up not doing it. How to become a game developer? Start learning now. Play the great games and analyze them, become active in the gaming community, find people who are learning to become a game programmer just like you.
Also, you may want to consider enrolling in one of the Unity courses if you decided to learn on this game engine, using C#, the programming language, which is less complicated than C++. We have an ambitious course that should introduce you to most of the important concepts in Unity and game development overall.
When you finish our Unity courses, you will not be ready to start working as a game developer. You should have a place to get started from, though. You’ll also have some idea about what you don’t know yet.
With that knowledge, you can then move to learn everything you don’t understand. On your quest of how to become a game developer, you need a starting off point. Our course might just be it.
Step 5: Master It
While learning how to make a game, you might come up against concepts that seem completely useless. Persist, don’t ignore them. Every function in Unity and other game engines have a purpose.
It might not be readily obvious but some game programmers spent long hours, even days, coding it into the engine so that you could use it. You owe to them to learn to do it and use it, at least when needed.
Don’t expect to learn to be a game programmer quickly. It will take you years of hard work. And don’t think we’re using the phrase “hard work” lightly. We’re not. If it was easy to make a game, everyone would do it. It’s one of the greatest jobs in the world, after all.
Step 6: Find a Team
Game development is a team sport. If you wanted to make a game by yourself, learning how to become a game developer and use game engines wouldn’t be anywhere close to enough. You would have to become an illustrator, animator, composer, VFX master, writer, marketer, a true renaissance man of the 21st-century tech world.
In short, it’s impossible to do in 10 years.
Instead, you can use your connections in the community to find people to help you. You should all come together, figure out an idea for a game, make a plan on how you’re going to make it and get to work.
Don’t try to make the next AAA hit, however. Your team will be way too small for that. Instead, work on making a small Indie game that’s a bit different than what your competitors are offering. Learn from their mistakes, improve your product.
Step 7: Pay Your Dues
The beginning of your career as a game developer is going to be hard. Everything you do will be new, meaning that you will have to figure it out first. You will work a lot, make a game in your free time for free, publish it… and it will probably flop.
There are thousands of games available, it’s not likely that a lot of people will choose yours. Don’t allow it to demotivate you, though. Just start the next project and make it better, learning from the mistakes you made before. Once again, if it would be easy how to become a game developer, everyone would do it.
Step 8: Decide On Your Career Track
Let’s say that you are now a game programmer with a couple of completed projects under your belt. At this point, you need to decide how you want your career in the gaming industry to go.
You are choosing between two tracks: employee or employer.
The easier way to progress in your career once you know how to make a game and can prove it is to ask around and look through the jobs sections of most developers’ websites to see if they are looking for Junior game programmers and apply for that position.
Game Developer Conferences are a good place to learn about how to become a game developer. Also, it is a great place to find industry insiders if you haven’t made any connections on the Internet. Before you go there to find a job, however, make sure you have something worthwhile to show off. The industry insiders there will remember you, so make sure that good things settle in the back of their minds.
“But wait, I made two games, I’m not a Junior,” you might say. You would be mistaken. Compared to true Seniors who worked on games like Overwatch, the Assassin’s Creed series or the Call of Duty games… You get the idea, right?
Even if you truly are above the level of a Junior game programmer, it won’t take you long to get promoted. Think of it as a part of paying your dues.
If you’re not a fan of working for someone else, you can choose to go down the harder road and try to grow your own burgeoning game development studio. Keep making games with the friends you’ve made and try to get some extra funding through crowd-funding resources to hire some people and make the finished games bigger than anything you’ve built before. It may take you decades, but you could eventually find yourself working on the most hyped AAA game of the year.
Step 9: Leave Your Ego At the Door
At any point in your journey to truly learn how to become a game developer, you may have the urge to think you’re the greatest thing to grace the gaming industry ever.
While you may even be the most talented game developer in the history of the world or have the greatest ideas nobody’s ever had, it doesn’t matter. Accept and learn to love and live by the principle that ideas aren’t worth anything; it’s all about how you execute them.
Thousands of passionate people like you try to get into the gaming industry every year. The ones who work the hardest are usually the only ones who make it. It’s not unusual to have 70-hour work weeks. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice your nights and weekends to game development, a lot of people will and take your spot as the new hot game programmer.
Forget your ego, let your work speak for itself.
Step 10: Never Give Up
A dizzying rise to the top of the gaming industry is a nice thing to dream about but let it stay there. Even if you are extremely talented and the only thing outstripping your talent is your work ethic, it will still take years for you to make it.
We don’t mean to demotivate you, only prepare for the road ahead. Of course, if you were destined to figure out how to become a game developer and succeed, we couldn’t demotivate you no matter how hard we tried anyway.
The fact of the matter is that the first game you make will objectively suck; the first job you apply for you probably won’t get, unless you had prepared for it well beforehand.
You will face numerous rejections on your way but you can’t let them get you down. After all, you can’t win this game if you don’t play with full effort and focus. If you thought some games on the hardest difficulties were hard, wait until you try to earn the privilege of making them.
How to become a game developer? Analyze, network, learn, and NEVER give up! Simple, right?