Game Development: choosing a genre

If you're an aspiring video game creator, you've probably considered many different genres to create in. If you've chosen to make video games it's a sure bet that you enjoy playing them. And as gamer you'll be inspired by the complex games, the games with grand design, the most in-depth story and the solid game engine. So when you come to making a game, you'll naturally want to follow down the path of these revolutionary A+ titles.

Let's not get carried away though. Have you considered planning your game? Have you considered what's involved? Too many times we can get caught up asking ourselves "Can I do it?" rather than "How much time will it take me to do it?". Anyone with enough determination can accomplish something; you could build the pyramids given an infinite amount of time and dedication... but how much time will it take you? Do you really know?

You should ask yourself that question when designing a game. It's a common oversight to think "Well, this game will take me two years to make... but if I get five people to help me, it will only take four months! Unfortunately, while the math does add up, the reality is never that simple.

So what is the most important thing to determine when selecting a game to create? I believe it's how much time you want to invest, and what you want to get out of it.

Let's look at some questions you should be asking yourself before starting work on a game.

General Questions

  • How will I program the game?
  • How will I design the graphics?
  • How will I write the story?
  • How will I create the levels?
  • How will I test the game?
  • How will I promote the game?
  • Will I need a publisher to sell the game?
  • What will make my game more appealing than similar games already released?
  • How will I script the story?
  • How will I reward the player as they progress through the game?
  • How will I design the tutorial?
  • How will I design the help?
  • How will I manage the difficulty levels?
  • Will I need a team of people to develop it?
  • - How will I recruit the team?
    - How will I manage the team?
    - How will I communicate with the team?
    - How will I reward the team?
    - How will I keep the team motivated?

Massive Multiplayer Online Game

  • How will I code the multiplayer?
  • How will I provide the online server for the users to play on?
  • How will I script all the quests?
  • How will I design the combat system?
  • How do I keep users accounts secure?
  • How do I deal with malicious or misbehaving players?
  • How do I keep users interested by creating new content?
  • Will I need a currency system, inventory system, buying and trading?
  • How will I ensure both new users and experienced users have an enriching experience?

First Person Shooter

  • How will I create the physics?
  • How will I create the Artificial Intelligence?
  • How will I implement multiplayer?
  • How will I manage the weapons, ammo and inventory?
  • How many types of enemies will I need?
  • How many types of weapons will I need?
  • How will I manage health?

Real Time Strategy

  • How many units types will I need?
  • How will I design the combat system?
  • How will I create the Artificial Intelligence?
  • How will I implement multiplayer?
  • How will I balance the game with a vast amount of strategies?
  • How will I design the maps?
  • What types of terrain will I need to design for the maps?
  • Will I need a fog of war? How do I code it?

Role Playing Game

  • How many classes and sub classes will I have?
  • How will items and spells work?
  • How will the combat system work?
  • How will allies and enemy Artificial Intelligence work?
  • Will I implement a map to help the player navigate?
  • What happens when a character dies?
  • Will I implement multiplayer?

Racing Game

  • How will I create the physics?
  • How will I create the Artificial Intelligence?
  • How will I implement multiplayer?
  • How many types of vehicles will I need?
  • How many tracks will I need?

Platform Game

  • How will the enemies move and attack?
  • How will I manage the health and items?
  • How many bosses will I need?
  • How will I transition between levels?

Puzzle Game

  • How will I keep the game challenging?
  • Will I need to show the player the solution to a puzzle or provide hints?
  • How many different mechanics will I need?

Once you have considered these questions you can better assess how long a game will take to develop. As a general guide, I wouldn't recommend a MMORPG unless you're willing to dedicate at least the next three years of your life to it. First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategies will generally take over a year, while Racing Games and RPGs may take less depending on 3D and multiplayer aspects. Platform games can usually be programmed in less than a year, due to a low amount of AI, 2D and Single Player focus. Lastly, Puzzle Games are usually the easiest because of no AI and no multiplayer.

My recommendation would be to start small and work your way up. Jumping in the deep-end may seem enticing at first, but it doesn't take long to become overwhelmed. Some of the most experienced game developers got their start on smaller games. ID Software's John Carmack began with the Mario-inspired platformer: Commander Keen, while Will Wright, designer of The Sims, had earlier success with the top-down city-planning game: Sim City.

Any experience you get developing games, whether it works out or not, is valuable experience. Learn from your failures as well as your successes. Choose your games carefully and assess the time they will require against the time you have. And remember, no development goes completely according to plan, so be generous with your estimations. With a bit of careful planning you'll save yourself a lot of headaches and get the game you want within an achievable time frame.