If I made a tutorial series

I apologize for abruptly doing a post that isn’t relevant with last week’s, but a mysterious thought crossed my mind a couple of nights ago from a dream…

I saw myself surrounded by water, and the sun started to set. I blinked once and right in front of me appeared a giant Island. I blinked again and it grew larger in scale. Suddenly it vanished before my eyes and I asked myself one question…

What if I did a tutorial on making a game with Game Maker 2?

What if, the tutorial was a video series where I provided art, music, sound assets. I would walk with the user through coding all of it from scratch, no experience required. I’d structure it to be as fun and engaging as possible. The final game could be a fun and cool project…

The Challenges

Fun vs Learning – I’d want to try to make it a simple and fun. Providing code might water down the experience of learning actual game development, where you have to problem solve ways to execute your idea. I could also use basic code systems like “drag and drop” but that would really limit the potential of what can be made and learned. Doing actual coding and explaining it line by line sounds like the ideal choice, but would also be really boring.

Lack of Ownership – When someone follows a tutorial, they might feel that what they created isn’t really theirs. I suppose this is an inevitable trade-off when a user is simply trying to learn vs create their own assets. The only idea I could have is perhaps suggest that if the user wanted to make their own assets they can.

Time – While it’s fun to think of ideas to pursue and get excited over them, committing to creating a series takes time. I’d essentially have to code the game ahead of time, streamline the code, do an actual recording session and then edit the footage. By the time I finished all of that, I could have spend that time making more than 1 game!

Redundancy – There are already thousands of free tutorials and guides to creating video games. If I made a tutorial series, the issue is that it would generally offer the same information, at most, it would show some different preference and techniques. But I suppose this is no different than making a game during the “Indiepocalypse” anyways (Where everyone is struggling to come up with a unique idea that’s fun).

Everyone is Different – Everyone has a different learning style, some are readers, some are visual, some verbal, etc.. Which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. The challenge becomes how does someone make a tutorial that’s engaging to the user so they don’t feel like they’re just doing stuff just because someone told them to.

TLDR, these 3 elements are extremely hard to maximize together (but easy to maximize if only 2 are done):

  • Learning – Knowledge and experience that the user will use and reference to for the rest of their game making career. Making a user actually learn something without having them just repeat your actions isn’t really enjoyable but does serve as a reference.
  • Fun – How enjoyable and engaging it is for the user. Reducing frustrating redundant aspects and providing assets would help with time, but would water down the learning experience.
  • Time – Both for the length of each video itself and my own investment of time. Making each video short would really water the experience down, but making each one long is really unappealing and outright boring. The luxury of time is not something I have.

(I like how I made each one a different color, like it’s Pokemon or w/e)

In-spite of the challenges, If I made a tutorial series, I’d want to make it something that is useful, to the point, and enjoyable. I try picturing a younger version of myself, thinking what kind of tutorial I’d want to use for making games. Honestly I’d probably just want someone to do most of the heavy lifting on the code side and I just make the art and such (which really sounds like it could be accomplished with something like Scratch or Alice).

Let me know what your thoughts are if you have any. What type/style of tutorials have you found to be useful?

-Brandon

Game Development: The Pros and Cons to using an “Instance Test” Room for your game

Hi guys, I thought I’d make a game development post about how gameplay mechanics were tested in Frog Hop and the effect it had on the overall result of the final game.

An “Instance Test” room is a developer level that end users won’t be able to play. Its purpose is to bug test and prototype gameplay elements before they are even put into an actual level.

A simple example of the kind of stuff that you'd test for. In this case, if the enemies got stunned, the collision check script didn't run. And when out of stun, if they collide with the ground or an enemy below they jump.

A simple example of the kind of stuff that you would test for. In this case, if the enemies got stunned, the collision check script didn’t run and they would phase into each other. Normally when out of stun, if they collide with the ground or an enemy they jump, which is why they hovered in this example.

It seems like a no-brainer to have a test room so that you don’t tamper with the actual levels of your game. However there are problems that I ran into when using a test room.

When it comes to making a bigger game, it becomes harder to predict what might happen since there are significantly more assets to make than just a spike and trampoline for a Game Jam game (A small game that is usually made in a short period of time).

One of the biggest problems I ran into with Frog Hop was that I would finish creating a simple enemy such as the rabbit, but I would continue exploring that enemy type, which resulted in several variants. While this might not be bad in a short term and can be fun to explore, It resulted in creating A LOT of objects and interactive assets that made it very difficult to figure out where to put it in the actual levels of Frog Hop. Especially if it’s your first game, it can sometimes be hard to plan what assets will be the most fun to put in.

In general, you want to avoid getting carried away with spending too much time on polishing and adding too many new assets. Focus on creating your game starting from level 1, play your first level, if you feel it needs an obstacle of some sort, just instance test that one asset get it to a fairly functional state and just put it in your first level. I used this approach with my first game jam game Tempora, a puzzle-platformer where you can change the seasons to affect the level’s shape as well as how you interact with things.

Tempora, a puzzle platformer created for the Buswick 2014

Tempora, a puzzle platformer created for the Buswick 2014

I’ve found this approach works well for smaller game jam games, since you can naturally just play your game from start to finish and add what it needs. Of course with a bigger game, having some experience and good planning (I’ll talk about that in another post) are key to helping you avoid spending too much time on overly polishing and adding assets.

(Of course, we are talking about video game development here, and boy do games require a lot of work and are hard to plan out!)

I’ve found the term for this is called Scope Creep, where the project size ends up becoming larger than intended, resulting in having a huge back log of assets to make and potentially resulting in burnout.

Unlike burnout, Hoppy here is experiencing the opposite of burnout…chill-out?

When using Instance Test Rooms…

PROS:

  • Bug fixing.
  • Helps avoid tampering with final level designs.
  • Can discover new design concepts that could potentially work well for your project.
  • Decent source for capturing bizarre gameplay moments for your social media posts.

CONS:

  • Can result in Scope Creep, meaning you could get carried away with creating too many assets.
  • Can get caught up with polishing just one gameplay element and lose track of the overall layout of your game.
  • Can get “lost”, where you become attached to the test room and don’t actually design levels that would properly implement your asset.

In conclusion, from my own experience, instance test rooms in general are very useful for testing and polishing your planned asset. While they are great for this purpose, as well as for exploring game concepts, they should be used with caution as the project can run the risk of scope creep! Instance test rooms are important to have, just…don’t get TOO attached to them!

Hope you enjoyed reading,

-Brandon


www.tinywarriorgames.com