What I Learnt from Making My First Game

Written by Jake Tucker

January 30, 2017 // 8:35 p.m.

What I Learnt from Making My First Game  What I Learnt from Making My First Game

You can't try to force everyone to play your game

I don't know when I became vaguely insufferable when it came to my game. It definitely wasn't at the start when I was working on it quietly and wasn't sure that I really had anything particularly exciting. It wasn't at the end, when a friend of mine that agreed to test it on Steam didn't even load the app up before telling me it was 'really excellent', which is a great compliment and should be taken as such but isn't all that useful for trying to get a sense of how good your game might be directly before launch.

However, I found that people weren't as excited about the game that I was making as I was, which made a lot of sense and stopped me going on about it enthusiastically to anyone that would listen, but, also, playing a pre-release game is actually hard work, and you shouldn't expect your buddies to do it for free.

Of course, if they want a copy, hand it over. Free feedback is the best.

What I Learnt from Making My First Game  What I Learnt from Making My First Game

Even a text adventure has bugs

One time, I spent three hours trying to work out why a passage was broken, discovering after I painfully went through the entire text and the text of the passages that link into it that I'd missed a single comma, breaking everything on the page.

I've never been a fantastic proof-reader, despite my profession, and when you're playing with code even a minor typo can have cataclysmic effects. If everything breaks, that's actually preferable to several of the bugs you might get by missing a single detail, often leading to problems that are nearly impossible to notice and fix until you launch.

What I Learnt from Making My First Game  What I Learnt from Making My First Game

No one cares about your game unless it's good and you're lucky

Not your buddies, not your friends, and not even the press. I initially launched my game on Itch.io and dutifully sent out a fairly decent press release, aping the style of the hundreds of press releases I'd received over the years. I discussed the press release and got a press list from a friend who also straddles the line between game developer and journalist, although her games are, admittedly, much better and aren't entirely text based.

I thought I had something noteworthy, but not a single member of the press responded. This comes largely because I had a self-inflated sense of how well my indie game would actually do. I'd heard of the indie success stories and naively assumed my game was good enough to get noticed.

I was wrong, mostly through my arrogance, but it's given me interesting information to take forwards. When I launched on Itch.io, 500 people downloaded my pay-what-you-want game; only six people paid for it. I made £42, which wasn't bad for 18 months of work.
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