I recently did a talk at the Kumon award ceremony this year. Kumon is an amazing tutoring company which I also did as a kid. They asked me to talk about how maths can be used to make games. The response to my talk was amazing and I hope that people went away seeing the fun things you can achieve with things like trigonometry! (Yes, they do exist!)
Here I am suited and booted and delivering one of the three talks I gave that day:
I also met a number of really cool award winners who were interested in making games. Congratulations to all of them, and if anyone is reading, please feel free to contact me at any time. Having done some of the course, I know how much commitment it must have taken to reach completion!
Here I am with a fellow ‘Southampton-ite’ who received his maths award – congratulations mate!
On a related not – I also often get emailed questions from people curious as to how I learned to make games, what software I use and how I got started. I recently had a lovely email from someone keen to learn about the feasibility about making games full time. I wrote a reply to her, and then thought that this information might be interesting to others in a similar position, so here it is! I’ve no doubt there are people out there who would give far better advice, but all I can talk about is my experience, I hope it might be useful, but everyone’s experience is going to be different.
What was the process of learning AS3 for you? Have you got any advice as to how to get started?
The process of learning AS3 was a bit of a long and convoluted process. I actually learned AS2 first. I did this by scouring forums in my free time or staying up late in the evenings and experimenting right through until 1 or 2 in the morning when I had work the next day! However, I’d recommend getting a book. Forums and trial and error are OK, and thats how I learned, but I also found that whenever I splashed out on a proper, physical book I could hold in my hands I would not only be able to progress more easily, but actually understand what I was doing. Copy and pasting code, while tempting at first, actually sets you back in the long term. If for example, you understand the difference between a static or instance variable that will allow you to get on so much more easily.
What advice would you give to yourself if you could meet yourself when you were starting out?
I don’t think there is a huge amount I would tell myself when I was starting. I was driven by the excitement of my ideas – usually based on how I could create a cool ‘system’ and had the attitude of taking a chance on any collaboration that came along. If it doesn’t work out, or they don’t pull their weight, don’t work with them again. Thats why I now only work with a small, very talented team – which is awesome! But you do need to go through that learning process. You do need to make mistakes and try and learn from them. Usually the bit of advice I give to someone starting is ‘just make a game’. Don’t prepare too much, don’t over think it, just do it. Start by getting your character walking around, then throw in a few enemies, and just grow and learn from there. I guess what I am trying to say, is that there is no substitute from experience and there is zero reason not to just get on with it. I meet a lot of students at the moment who want to make a game development ‘business’, whereas I just wanted to make a game. The rest came later.
In terms of having games out there, I do think I could have been better at creating a ‘franchise’ or a series of games and cultivating a followership around that. I attempted this a bit with it with Combat Hero Adventures, but the problem with me is that the thing that got me out of bed every morning was the new idea. Working by yourself means you need a lot of self-motivation, and I found that unless it was a new exciting idea I’d struggle to get things done. I also wanted to make games so that I could explore lots of my ideas, not just churn out sequels. However, I do now feel that there are some games that I’d love to revisit and expand that world with a sequel, I’m currently working on Super Adventure Pals 2, and I’d love to create another Bearbarians.
How feasible is it to work full-time and design games on the side? Do you make any money designing Flash games?
I have been working on games full time for around 4 years. However, 3 / 4 years ago the flash game market place was fantastic. However, I do not believe that these prices exist any more. I don’t think its feasible or wise to go full time for flash games any more (as it was 3 or 4 years ago when I started) without having other areas to what you do. I wouldn’t quit working until you are already making a living from it – thats what I did. Last year got a little scary, and I have had to evolve what I do. I balance the odd bit of commission work, freelancing while I build for Steam and console.
Where is a good place to get started?
A good place to get a grip of things is FGL.com (flash game license.com) – thats where I sold my first game, and was how I ‘met’ all the sponsors I have been doing business with. I’d highly recommend getting on there and checking it out. A word of warning though, I have only sold one game on there and I believe I got a bad price for it, since then I have always sold through direct email.
I don’t know whether I have give you hope or scared you off, but I have had a wonderful few years making games full time. I’ve had to adapt due to changes, but you have to do that in any changing business, particularly one so reliant on technology. If I had to sum everything up I’d say: “Just do it, the rest will follow”.
But then again – would you really trust me for advice?
Don’t take this guy’s advice.