Have a great idea for a game? A lot of people do! But most of them never make that game a reality. You can be different! But how? How does one make a video game?  Is it hard? Do you need a million dollars? Do you need a large team? Well, the key to making a video game is to go step by step. The first step is reading this guide on video game development for beginners!

Discover the beginners guide to basic video game development

Find out how to go from idea to reality with your first video game.

Big idea
Image via Flickr

1. What’s the BIG IDEA for your video game?

The best place to start with making a video game is “THE BIG IDEA!” What does that mean? It means that you should have a strong idea about what makes your game special and different from other games. Your game doesn’t need to be completely different. After all, there are a lot of games that are similar to each other, and they are all fun, and that’s great. But if you want your game to be successful, you need to know what is the one thing that will set it apart from the others.

Image via DevTeam

2. Make a Game Design Document.

A “GDD” is a “Game Design Document”, and that’s what you should make next. What goes in a GDD? EVERYTHING. This is where you put all of your ideas, and show how they make your “Big Idea” shine! What is the plot/story of your game? Who are the characters or teams? How does the game work? Is it single player or multi-player? Is it a first person shooter? Is it a side-scrolling actioner? Is it a puzzle game? What are the tools, objects, or weapons? Is it 2D or 3D? Is it for the computer or for the iPad?

A professional GDD can be as long as 50 pages or more. Yours doesn’t have to be. But, if your GDD is less than one page long, that probably means that you need to do more thinking and more imagining to really have a good idea about what kind of game you are trying to build. So get to imagining, and write down everything you think of!

Pick a game engine
Image via SakuraMiyazono on Wikipedia

3. Choose a Game Engine.

Now that you have a strong idea of what your game will be like, it is time to choose a game engine. A game engine is a piece of software or a website that is made to help you build a game. A long time ago, there were no game engines to help, but now game engines can do a tremendous amount of work so that you can just focus on making a fun game.

There are a lot of game engines to choose from now, so how do we choose? Well, a lot of the choice can be determined by what you wrote in your GDD. For example, if you decided that your game is a Role-Playing Game, a great choice would be RPGMaker! If your game is a simple 2D action game, a great choice would be Scratch or GameMaker. If you want your game to run on Roblox, you should use Roblox Studio. And if you want to make a professional-level game, and if you are at least in high school, you can go with Unity.

4. Decide on your resources.

With today’s helpful game engines, small games can be made with just one or two people. Often there is someone to code the game and someone to make the art. But, this doesn’t have to be the case. Sometimes the same person does both things. Or sometimes there is just a designer and an artist.

If you are not an artist, you may be able to find free art that is included by your game engine. Scratch has its own library of 2D images. Roblox has the Toolbox system, where you can find 2D images, 3D models, tools, sounds, music and even code! And Unity has the Asset Store, which is just like Roblox’s Toolbox. So you may be able to find all the art that you need instead of having to make it yourself. Also remember that the internet is a great resource. If you are making a game just for fun, for yourself, (not selling it for money or sharing it) feel free to use any images, sounds, and music you can find on Google. Or use free image sites such as Canva and Pexels.

5. Prototype and playtest your game!

A game prototype is a very small version of your game that demonstrates what your game will be like. It has some basic art, user interface, and most importantly, it demonstrates the key game mechanics that the player will use to play and beat your game.

Creating a game prototype is a key step to making your game, because this is where you prove that your game is fun and that people will want to play it. Once your game prototype is ready, you can host playtests. Playtests are where you show your game to your friends and family and let them play it. The goal of a playtest is to see what works and what doesn’t work, what is fun for your players and what is not fun for them, what the players understand and what they don’t understand. After each playtest you can improve your game so that it gets better and better!

Image via Steampowered
Image via Steampowered

5. Complete your main video game development.

So, you have written a GDD about your Big Idea, you chose a game engine, and built and playtested a prototype of your game. Everything is looking great! Now it’s time to go from idea to full-blown game. This phase of development is where you express your creativity as you make all of the levels and add all of the story. Also, it is where you will do all of the extra stuff that will make your game shine, like adding sound effects, visual effects, music, etc.

Image via PC Gamer
Image via PC Gamer

6. Publish your game.

Once you have built out all the levels of your game, added the beauty and polish to it, and tested it for bugs, it is time to publish your game. Publishing means taking the game that you have been working on and putting it in public for the world to play!

A lot of game engines have places on their websites where you can publish and share your game with the world. If you made your game with Scratch or Roblox, you will also get a website link that you can send to friends and family so that they can play your game. If you make a more formal game, like with Unity, you may host your game on a website or you may choose to publish it on a game publishing platform such as Steam or Epic Games Store.

Congratulations! You made a game!

Explore the best game programming engines

Here is a list of some of the best game engines that you can use, organized from easiest and simplest to most advanced and complex!

Scratch game engine

1. Scratch game engine

Scratch is the ideal place for younger kids to start making games. In fact, Scratch was built specifically for kids! In Scratch you can make fun, small games using a purely drag and drop interface. There are also tons of learning materials to help you to learn how to use it. You can even start with a free Scratch live online class that's very popular with beginner coders. Scratch even has a “Remix” feature so that you can modify and make your own version of games made by other people. This means that you don’t have to start from zero if you don’t want to.

Game Maker Studio

2. Game Maker Studio

Game Maker Studio is a fantastic place for beginner game developers to start making games. It allows you to start creating right away and has a visual programming language so it is easier for younger developers and non-coders to use. You can make a lot of different types of 2D games with Game Maker Studio. The one drawback is that Game Maker Studio is not for making 3D games.

RPG Maker

3. RPGMaker

If you want to make a top-down 2D role-playing game, RPGMaker is the best place to start.  With RPGMaker you will get to dive right in to the creative part of making your RPG game without having to worry too much about coding/programming!

Ren'Py game maker

4. Ren'Py

If the game you want to make is a Visual Novel, in other words it is just a story with choices but no other types of game challenges, Ren’Py is a great game engine built just for this purpose. With Ren’Py, you will be responsible for making pictures and writing the story, and the rest is done for you!

Roblox Studio

5. Roblox Studio

Roblox Studio is the game engine that you must use if you want to publish your game to be played on Roblox. It is a great, deep engine. Simple games, like obbys, can be made by even beginner developers. Advanced developers will be able to use this engine to build the complex, popular games that trend on Roblox every day! Here's how to get Roblox Studio. And you can get live expert guidance in our Beginner Roblox Game Coding class, or our Roblox Studio Lua Coding class for more advanced coders.

Unity for game programming for kids

6. Unity

Unity is an advanced-level game engine. It can be used to build everything from small hobby web games to money-making professional-level games. Because Unity is so advanced, it might be intimidating or too hard for younger or beginner developers. But after you have worked with some of the easier game engines for a while, you may be ready to try Unity and see what you can really do! Get live expert guidance in our Unity class designed by experts from Google, Stanford, and MIT.

Where to study game programming

The best way to learn how to make video games is by making video games! That said, you’ll gain a huge advantage by learning what other people have already learned before you. Thankfully, there are many ways to do that!

Create & Learn

1. Create & Learn

Create & Learn is an award-winning online education platform where you can take game development and other technology-related classes no matter what level you are! You can take the classes after school or on weekends or holidays, and learn about a wide variety of topics. The class curriculum was designed by experts from Google, Stanford, and MIT and uses real-world technology. In fact, Create & Learn has classes to teach you how to make games in Scratch, Minecraft, Roblox, and Unity!

YouTube for game programming

2. YouTube

YouTube is, as always, a great resource for learning, especially when you want to learn something specific. If you want to learn how to make a leaderboard in Roblox, there is a video for that! If you want add music to your Unity game, there is a video for that. Just search for exactly what you are looking for and you will find it. There are also entire YouTube Channels about game development to explore.

Game Developer website

3. Game Developer

Game Developer is an online magazine all about making games! On Game Developer’s website you will find articles that talk about all kinds of topics from game design to programming to publishing and marketing. It is a great source where you can learn from the experience of professionals to up your game.

Image via KindPNG

4. Your friends and classmates

You can also learn from other children! Tell your friends that you are learning to make video games and the odds are that they will start learning too. Then you can teach each other everything that you learn and you will learn much, much faster!

Learn game development
Image via Flickr

Try video game development for beginners

Now you have a great idea of how to make your own game… or games! Making games is a step-by-step process. Everything starts with an idea, then grows into a design, a prototype, and ultimately a full game that you share with the world. Whatever you make, make it yours. Video games are a place where you can express your creativity and show the world your unique you.

So what’s next? Think of that Big Idea! Get inspiration from other games, or even other artistic things like paintings or comics or movies or tv! Then fill a page with your game design. Or two pages. Everything that you imagine. If you are in high school and a self-starter you may find internet resources adequate to get you started building your game. Otherwise, you may need some help.

Take advantage of classes offered by an online school such as Create & Learn. There, expert and experienced teachers can guide you on your first steps in the process of building video games - from making your first game object to making your first full game with multiple levels and winning and losing. Get started today!

Written by Ken Patel, who started coding at age 10. Following his passion for video games, when he entered university he enrolled to study Computer Science. After graduation, he embarked on a career as a professional video game developer. Ken is excited to be sharing his passion, knowledge, and experience with the next generation of game makers through his role as a teacher here at Create & Learn.