By Thomas Palef
As a developer and a gamer I always wanted to make games, but I never actually did. In order to change that I threw myself a public challenge: build a new game every week in HTML5. I now have 8 finished games on my website, lessmilk.com, and I plan to keep going because it’s a super interesting project. In this post, I will discuss some tips that I learned while working on my challenge that should be useful to anyone interested in making games.
Start Really Small
I remember that a few years ago I was excited to build my first game ever. My idea was simple: make a clone of the original Zelda, the one that came out on the NES.
After two weeks of work, I had a green character moving around in an empty world. The game was boring, full of bugs, and I had no more motivation to finish it. By wanting to do something big, I ended up with basically nothing.
So if I had only a single piece of advice to give to people interested in making games, it would be to start really small. Look at my first game on lessmilk, it’s so simple that it’s almost not even a game. But I had fun while making it and I learned a lot. Most importanly, I actually finished it.
Choose the right framework
Nowadays there are plenty of frameworks to make HTML5 games, and that’s great. Which framework should you choose? As you may guess, the answer is: it depends. However here are tips on how you can find your answer:
- Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself:
- Do you want to make 2D or 3D games?
- Do you want them to run on console, mobile devices or desktop browsers?
- Can you afford to pay for the framework?
- Once you answered all of these questions, start reading about the frameworks and choose 2 or 3 that appear to best fit your needs.
- Finally, write an extremely simple game with each one of them and keep the one that you feel the most comfortable with.
It’s a process that takes time, but it’s worth it. Why? Because if you get to the point where you realize that you picked the wrong framework, much of what you learned previously and much of your prior work will go to waste.
Graphics and Sounds
For me, making the graphics and sound for my games was the scary part. They both have a super important role in a video game, and I have no knowledge on how to do any of those things. So what can you do?
The good news is that you don’t need to be a designer nor a musician to make a good game. There are plenty of resources available online that you can use:
- For sound, there’s an awesome tool called Bfxr. If you know how to press a button, then you can make sound effects for your games.
- For graphics, there are plenty of free sprites available for you, like those on the OpenGameArt website.
Of course, nothing stops you from learning how to make your own sounds or graphics. For example I decided to do all of the sprites in my games. Because of this I spend way to much time in Photoshop trying to make decent sprites, but at the same time I’m practicing a new interesting skill.
“Juicify” the Game
One common problem with amateur games is that they often “feel wrong,” and because of this, they are not fun to play. Well, there is an easy fix to this problem: “juicify” the game. Let me explain.
The basic idea is to add animations, transitions, and delays to the game. These are just aesthetic changes, but they will make the game feel more responsive and less boring. This is a vast subject that I cannot cover here, but if you’re interested you should definitely watch this 15 minute Youtube video that shows how juiciness works.
Once your game is nearly finished, let some of your friends and family test it. Make sure to be there while they play, because you will most definitely discover that your games has flaws. Doing this was eye opening for me. Here are some examples:
- If people struggle to find a way to start the game, don’t say “but it’s obvious, it’s right there!”. Instead, change the game to make it even more obvious.
- If they keep dying on the first level, it’s not because they are weak, but because you are now super strong at your own game. So just change the level to make it easier.
- If they keep pressing the wrong keys, maybe you should rethink the controls of your game.
This simple technique will greatly improve the quality of your game.
Making games is a super fun thing to do. Seeing a game slowly taking life is an amazing process. So if this is something you’d like to do, my advice is to go for it!
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to have a look at my free HTML5 games on lessmilk.com. I also have a newsletter where I regularly publish content related to my project, you can subscribe to it here.
Brian has published in a variety of technical publications over the years, has presented at numerous conferences and events and has served as a technical editor on a number of books.
You can read Brian’s blog archive with 9+ years of content at remotesynthesis.com (he still posts, infrequently). You can find a full list of Brian’s past publications and presentations. Follow Brian on Twitter @remotesynth.