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How to Become a Game Developer

Game Development

One of the questions I get the most is “how do I make a game?” Well, being a game developer is hard work. It requires several different areas of expertise to get into making Flash or any other sort of game. But just as a brief rundown, I wanted to show everyone what the process looks like for being a game developer and making Flash for everyone to enjoy.

Grab Some Tools

First, you need to make sure you have all of the following:
1) A computer – Your computer must be at least a mid-level machine, meaning it should be running faster than 1.2 GHZ. It also needs to have sufficient memory, a minimum of 1 GB RAM and 10 GB hard drive space. It doesn’t matter if you have a Mac or PC most of the time, at least for Flash development, as the software is cross-platform.

2) Algebra Skills – You need to be able to do simple algebra. It doesn’t take extremely hard math to start out in game development, and you will learn a lot on the way… but for now you just need to know at least Algebra. Any more math will get you much, much further though, especially if you know Trigonometry which is a major cornerstone.

3) A copy of Flash – Flash 9 is available through the Adobe website for a 30 day trial. After that, you are going to have to pay full price for it. Problem with full price is that it is $700.00 USD, which is quite a lot for someone who may not even decide to journey further into Flash! However, they also have student versions for much, much cheaper… only $250.00. Or, you can just pick up an older version of the software (Flash MX, Flash MX 2004, and Flash 8 are all fine choices, all from Macromedia) from sites like Amazon or Ebay where they’ll run under a $100 bucks… you won’t be losing too many features, and you can always upgrade when you decide to be in it for longer.

4) PATIENCE – Flash is not easy. Flash is really hard, and will have you angry at times. But if you stick with it (for almost a YEAR or more!), you’ll find your skills are growing. You are not going to make the best Flash game ever in 2 days. Or in 2 weeks, or even 2 months. You are going to have to devote hours upon hours learning the skills.

Flash using a coding language called Actionscript. Currently there are two versions of Actionscript out there, Actionscript 2 and Actionscript 3. Actionscript 2 is a bit easier to learn, but is not as capable as Actionscript 3… but if I had to recommend a language I would say start on AS3 if you can get a copy of Flash 9. Flash 9 is the only version of Flash right now that handles the AS3, so if you have anything else you’ll be stuck with AS2. It’s a pretty easy language to learn compared to some other ones like C, and using coding logic it’s pretty easy to learn the basics.

Get Something to Help You

When you get all the above ingredients, you should get a book to learn basic Flash. It is near impossible to learn Flash just by “playing around with it,” and you’ll miss a lot if you do not know what it is capable of. These books below are also good to reference once you are experienced. Here are a good choices, available in most bookstores:

Adobe Flash CS3 Bible – This is the most comprehensive title, and is pretty cheap.

Adobe Flash CS3 for Dummies – This book is surprisingly easy to learn with. It’s a lot better then it appears to be, and breaks everything down. Plus it is less than 20 bucks!

A tried and true method way new developers just into the scene is to get the free 30 day trial to learn the software, using a book. After the 30 days are up, they make a decision as to whether Flash is for them or not. This way you do not buy software that you are going to shelve or resell in a few days.

Learn It

Learn the software. Play with it, poke it… do whatever you need to do to get results. The more you learn the software with the help of a book or another Flash developer, the easier it will get. Once you start getting into the rhythm of developing small applications, it will start to become much easier and a lot less frustration. However, I would NOT recommend setting into your first Flash file looking to make a game. Learning how the code works is a much better first step, and setting small goals for yourself definitely helps (for example, trying to make a block move across the stage).

If you can, get into a Community or University college class. Many schools now offer an entry-level Flash class. I was lucky enough to have one even at my high school, which helped a lot through the process!

Seek Help on the Web

The web has SO many tutorials, you can practically learn Flash just from online tutorials. And there is live help if you want it in help forums, like on Newgrounds, Kirupa, and Armor Games.

Once you start to get enough practice for about 6 months to a year, show your work to your friends and family… see what they think. Get some good critiques, and ask them what they think. Having outside critics will really help your work become great. Post your early work into a Flash forum, and ask how you can improve!

Save Everything

Flash is a journey as well as a process. If you save all your work and constantly back it up, you’ll see improvement. It’s really hard to see improvement at first, but you are getting better! You are going to hit many failures and triumphs, but Flash is a constant learning process. It’s not a matter of overnight success… there are several speed bumps along the way. And with that, there will be times you want to quit because you are not doing as well as you would have wanted to. Don’t give up! If you keep at it and want to be good, you’ll be improving your programming skills and your work even by messing up.
Play a Lot of Flash Games

Look at other Flash titles. Why are they popular? What do they do? What effects are created by the author? What do they do that you don’t? Learning from others is a fantastic way to develop your own skill. And not just Flash games; play a lot of console games! Learning gaming logic is truly a blessing for game development. How do lives work? How difficult is too difficult? When does a game jump out at you? When you start to discover these things, you’ll begin to put these concepts into your own work. Not so much to copy and paste other people’s work, but to just learn what concepts are available.

Polishing a Final Product

When you feel like you know enough Actionscript, try putting together a game! You’ll see how everything you learned goes into a final Flash project. And when that game is done and playable, congratulations! You have become a game developer!

Now that you know the very basic process of learning Flash, think about doing it! This is the method I used to get to the point I am at today, and hopefully you’ll want to jump into Flash, or at least try it for a while.

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