Make a Game/CRPG: A piece of cake?

Ok, so you decided to make your own RPG?. OK, that's cool ^_-. You have your story in mind (simple or movie-like, does not matter). You know (more or less) the basics of your game. You even have one or two artists (you are lucky!!). And now it's the time of taking your computer and start programming...

No. It's not the time. Programming the (final) game is one of the last parts of the proccess. "Process you say?". Yep. Making a game is a very big process, that starts when you take paper and pencil for brainstorming and ends when the your game is deleted from the last computer that played it.

So: Programming a game (hence, a CRPG) is not a piece of cake. Continue reading this; and if you feel discouraged, don't be sad. Maybe the sadness would be more if you decided to make your game, and years after the start you know that you maybe will not be able to end your game forever ever 'cause the process is endless.

 The Process of Making a Game

What means: "Making a game"?. What is its stages?.

 1. Starting

You have the idea for the game. You know the basics (how the game is going to be played, how the game will look, how long will be, of what genre is going to be...). Now is time to take that basics, and write them down into paper. Not only writing them: Expanding the ideas. In this document you will have the "heart" of your proyect. This document will say if your game has a game world to explore (Final Fantasy VII) or only a map with precalculated paths (Final Fantasy XI); if your combats are strategical (Shinning Force), Turn-Based (final Fantasy), or Real-Time (Baldur's Gate); if your interaction with the people is only talk (Final Fantasy) or you can even attack them (Ultima saga). If you can save almost everywhere or if you save you must return to certain places (SNES Zelda)...

Also you will have the story's basics. Your world. Your Heroes. Your Allies. Your Enemies. Your plot. Your endings....

And... the rules!!!. What characteristics have the people that live in your world, what they mean, how and why are they used...

And the most important thing. In this document, you must have what you CAN do in this game and what you CAN'T do.

Summarizing: Make a document that tells WHAT your game can do. When you reads your own document, you must have the idea of "How my game is going to be" or "My game will be similar to X but with Alpha, Beta and Gamma". And when someone reads your document, he/she must be able to say: "OK, i can imagine how your game can be done".

 2. Designing

Now it's time for the designs. Before, you know WHAT your game can do. Now it's the time of HOW your game can do that. Usually you will produce from this stage a lot of documents. you can call them "Design Documents".

So in these documents you must have almost everything of your game. Every part. Maybe not in detail, but every aspect of "How-to-Do" your CRPG must be covered here.

About playing: The menus, the basic gameplay, the battle gameplay, the special gameplay (minigames and so on), ...

About programming: How every part is done, and what are the relationships between these parts. What things i will need for making my game.

About the plot: (Basically) The walkthrough.

About the rules: What is the behaviour of your NPCs, Why, What physics you have in the game, How the game events (a thunder, water, a gun,...) affects your PCs and NPCs.

And about the graphics!!!. Make preliminar designs. Basic Models. Sketches. Capture the Look & Feel of your game. Of every area of your game.

"So... i need to do all these things??" Yeah. Because sooner or later, you must do it. And it's better to do them in the start, when things can be changed easily.

 3. Designing-Programming-Drawing

Now it's the time when things goes fun. First make (program) a basic skecth of your game. Then try it. Put basic graphics, basic gameplay. Try it. And change the things you don't like. And now put new things into the game. And test them. And add more graphics, more complexity. And change some designs if you don't like them. And Do. And Redo. And Reredo.

This process is called "Iterative process" or "Prototyping". Believe me: Don't do your game in one, big process. First make a "Basic" Game, where you can test things of the game (AI, behaviours,...). Then add things to this game, and maintain the "Basic" game to work like a testbed.

 4. Level Design

And now, you'll have what is called an "Engine". But not a game: only a program when you can see the answer to the question "What i CAN do with my game". But now, you must DO the game. You must make all the levels. You must make all the enemies. You must program them. And above all: You must make a GAME. It MUST be fun. It must provoke in the gamer the desire of keeping playing till the end.

And by the way: Test, Test, Test.

 5. Beta Test

Congratulations!. At this point you have a game!. But like all computer programs, it will have flaws. Shit happens. So it time to make more testing. "I have made lots and lots of test!!". Yeah. But only inside your team. When you're making a game, you usually forget to test some places, some situations, but because you have been with that situation almost two or three years. We Humans are not perfect. So let somebody that hasn't played your game play it. From the start to the end. And hear his/her comments.

Also, you must test if your game works on every platform. PCs are so different that maybe your game will work in some platforms and fail in others. BTW, if you're making your game for a console, then you are a Lucky B***...(only one platform to test with...)

 6. Game Support

Now your game is in the stores/Internet/CDs!!! People play it!!!. ^__^. But people will have problems. Will encounter bugs. Will not know how the game can be installed. and so on. The same happens with your favourite operating system (And they are professionals!!). So prepare to fix bugs, to help people, and (maybe) to add a little feature.

In fact, the process is more complex than I say above. Every stage mixs with the others, and there is more than one people making the game. There are from 10 to 100.

For a "real" view of the efforts of making a game, try to search "Game Postmortem" in a search engine. And read them.

 Uff, too much for me... or not ^_^

If the process overhelms you, then you can do these things:

 Use an engine: There's lots of RPG engines waiting for you ^_^ , just search them. So (if you find an engine that is perfect for what you need), you only need to make steps 1-4-5-6.

 Take a group, and do only one task: If you're good in programming... just make the engine. If you are good at physics...program the game physics. If you are a good illustrator... the graphics are waiting you!. A Game can be done more easily if you are a group of people (you'll have lots of problems but ey, better 10 than 1 ^_^).

But if you want to go ahead... there's a lot of quality games (most in the shareware market) done by a few people. Just enjoy the process. And make a game that the people can enjoy. Remember: Games are done for enjoyment.