Breaking In

    There can?t be many people on this site who don?t dream of “breaking in” to the computer games industry in some way. Except for those of you already in the industry of course. This article is intended to give a few ideas, but not a definitive guide, to those on the outside thinking about getting in.

    We all have ideas for games. Ideas, though, are worthless. For your idea to gain any worth, you need to build a game around it. Also, while all ideas are worthless, some are better than others. People?s definitions of “an idea” also differ. For example, a few months ago, while I was writing the “Diablo III Design Document” series, I received a few emails that began or ended “feel free to use my ideas, just give me credit”. The “idea” in question might be something as earth-shattering as “they should make the Paladin?s skill tree better,” or “there should be more chance of finding the Buriza.” These, to me, do not merit the term “idea”. I should stress that emails like those described were a minority of the several hundred I received in relation to those articles.

    Sending ideas for games to developers or publishers is not going to get you into the industry. Computer companies are not made up of talented programmers sitting around, waiting for someone to tell them what to do. They have their own ideas for games, and they don?t need yours or mine. If you want to make something out of your idea, YOU have to do it.

    If you want to break in to the industry, you need a vehicle to make developers sit up and take notice of you. You don?t need to write a ground-breaking game from scratch, there are other, better ways to showcase your skills. I am speaking of Mods.

    Mods can be made for a number of games currently on the market, and across genres. While the FPS genre is most famous for its Mods, don?t forgets games like Neverwinter Nights or Morrowind, which have their own, powerful game creation engines. It is to these, ready-made tools that you should turn.

    Write a plan for your game, and you are well on the way to getting it done. You should be very sure exactly what kind of game you want to make before you sit down to start. Is it fantasy? Sci-fi? Modern day? Period? Will it be FPS, RPG or something else? Your plan, or design document, should set out the basics of what you want to do. There?s no need to go overboard on the detail. It?s very useful to get this down on paper, even if you think it?s all in your head. Having something in front of you before you start is vital, and will provide some direction to the work you do.

    By planning the game, you will get a good idea of the tools you will need to finish it. Knowing the kind of look you want for your mod will help you decided which game to base your Mod around.

    You also need to know what your own strengths are- this too will determine what kind of project you take on. If level design is your forte, then devise a series of levels for your favourite FPS game. If you like to tell a story, then a module for Neverwinter Nights is probably more appropriate. History buffs might want to re-create their favourite battles for a game like Medal of Honor, or Battlefield 1942.

    In addition, don?t fall into the trap of trying to do too much straight away. You aren?t going to create the next Diablo II in your spare time. Have a look around at other game Mods first; especially those based around the engine you have chosen. These will be your competition, and your aim will be to stand head and shoulders above the best of them.

    Once your project is complete, or near complete, it will be time to release it to the public. Just remember that “good enough” is never good enough. Every offering you put out should be very polished. Everything you put out to public scrutiny should work to advertise your own skills. Even if you release it as a ?beta? should look and play pretty much as you want it to, and have some well crafted, complete levels to play on. A good way to make sure of this is to “test” the game with some friends. Even if you simply get them around your computer to each have a go at playing your creation, this initial feedback (in a non-threatening environment) can be very helpful.

    Offering support to those playing your game is also vital. Regular updates show that you care about your creation and are still involved in it. The worst advertisement you can have for yourself is a poorly designed, half-finished Mod, marooned on the net. Take a look around, there are plenty of them. I doubt work stopped on them because the author got a job with Id. Finish what you have started before you move on to your next project.

    Finally, keep your eyes on the prize, and don?t get disheartened if your first beta is not met with a rush of job offers. The creator of Counterstrike worked on other project before that one, including the well-regarded Action Quake 2. When the right people can see you have a track record of producing and completing quality mods that prove popular, you will have a good chance of reaching your goal.

    Disclaimer: The Ninth Circle was written by Lorelorn (David Kay) and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

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