The 4 biggest mistakes I did in my first game

Developing a game is hard. Especially when it is your first time and you are unsure about every decision you make.

There are many traps that you can fall into when starting your first game. And the scary thing about that is that they will sooner or later catch up, and leave you in a bad situation. That was the case for me recently. For 3 1/2 years, I was developing a horror game as my first game. After a long thinking time, I decided to give up on that, because the game had some big problems which were not solvable.

So, here is the list of the 4 biggest mistakes I did when I was creating my first game. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes, and save you some struggle :)

Underestimate

Famous last words:

This won’t take too long.

One big mistake many developers do is to underestimate the size of new features. When I was starting with my game, I thought I would finish the map in 3 months, but then after 3 Years it still was not finished.

Mostly, this happens because of a lack of experience and a lack of planning.
A new feature does not always look big at first glance. But when you start developing it, you will notice things you did not saw before.

You need to accept the fact that you are not a specially talented developer who can create games much times faster than others. It sounds logical when you read it, but when I started my game development journey I kinda thought that way, and I think I am not the only one.

There is a reason why there are almost no open-world games made by single indie developers, it is not because nobody wanted to do that but it is because it is not doable.

Late Playtesting

It is extremely important to test your game.

You can never be sure if your game is good, or goes in the right direction when it is never been tested. When other people test your game, you will see weak points of it, that you never thought about before. This helps you to work on the bad things in your game early and allows you to change bigger parts of your game easier when they don’t work.

It gets unpleasant when one of the core game mechanics doesn’t affect the player in the way you want. When this happens, and the game is already in a more developed state, you are in a very bad situation. Because then it will be very hard to fix the problem without changing big parts of your game.

Reinvented the wheel

Do What You Do Best, Outsource the Rest

This is even more true as a solo developer. You can’t do everything!
Even if you got the time (and mostly you don’t have it) your skills are not good enough. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Probably no one of us is a multi-talent who can do everything a game needs by himself.

If you are bad at creating 3D models, then there is no shame to buy them!
You don’t know how to create music, then find someone who knows that!

Of course, this does not apply when you want to learn how to create 3D models or music, but keep in mind that your goal is to create a game and when there are already finished things you can use, then you should use them.

I trusted my future self

At one point while developing my game, I decided to add a fighting system, so that you can fight against the monsters you get to face. The problem was not only that implementing a fighting game is a tremendous amount of work, but it also needs a lot of good looking animations.

I am not a good animator, and I did not have much fun and interest in creating animations. I just said to me “soon, I will be able to create good animations”.
Well, the future is now and I did not increase my animation skills to the level that I need. And the fighting system ended up as an additional huge feature on the backlog.

If you planning a game, plan with the skills you have right now.

Conclusion

One last thing in the end: accept when your game does not work out well.
Yes, it is hard but sometimes you should accept the fact that you are developing a game that is going to be nothing good.
Of course, this does not mean that you should quit a game after negative feedback or unexpected obstacles that will come during development.

Like I wrote before, developing a game is not easy and there will always be problems to solve and some of them will look unsolvable at some time. But then you come up with a solution.

I think you as a developer will feel when your game is going nowhere. And then it is time to think about abandoning your project.
Don’t be too scared to take this step! You may leave your project, but you still have all the experience and knowledge in you that will help you with your next game!

Start with a smaller game. I know this is something no beginner wants to hear, but it could not be more right. If you don’t believe me and you want to create your MMORPG or open-world horror game, no problem! Go ahead and make your experiences as we all do.

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Tim Engelke

Tim Engelke

Just an aspiring game developer — I write about game development, art and other things that come to my mind.