Despite popular belief, game development is not all fun and games. It is a competitive industry that requires skill, knowledge and profound love for the gaming industry.
That includes actively playing games as well! Nonetheless, that does not mean you should be glued to your PS4 all day, never writing any code.
The success of renowned game developers is not the result of a greater kill-to-death ratio. What was the secret to their success, you ask?
Let’s analyze the requirements needed to become an indie game developer or secure employment at a reputable company in South Africa.
The software skills required to become a game developer
A game engine is computer software that provides 3D and 2D artists with a framework to create animations, graphics, models, visual effects, etc., quickly and easily.
This has resulted in both small and large studios heavily relying on this critical rendering tool. The good news is that you have a wide range of options to choose from, regardless if you are a “noob” or fluent in C++.
Some of the most commonly used game engines
Unity is one of the top choices for developing indie and mobile games, and it is no surprise. In addition to supporting the creation of 2D, 3D, VR, and AR content, is this game engine compatible with over 25 platforms!
As free software, Unity is a big hit with small projects. As per the personal license, users are permitted to create commercial games free of charge, provided they have not received more than $100,000 in revenue or funding from Unity in the last 12 months.
Among the coding languages Unity utilizes, is C# the only one worth learning as it is relatively easy and ideal for independent projects.
Unreal Engine has become one of the most popular game engines on the market. By utilizing its framework, one can create 3D renderings of still spaces, complex scenes, and special effects. Sounds like you’ll need to tackle a lot of code, right?
Not at all. Unreal Engine makes use of the Blueprint coding system, an easy drag-and-drop interface for finding variables, functions, and classes. In no time, you will be able to master Blueprint, and your fingers will itch to try C++.
Arguably the most appealing attribute of Unreal Engine is the fact that it’s a free game engine that only charges 5% of your sales.
The great thing about GameMaker is that it is not just a cross-platform game engine, but an excellent application to create games, no matter what your level of expertise is.
With GameMaker’s programming language, GML, users can customize their desired game characteristics, and those with coding experience can take their games to the next level.
Although the game engine was originally designed for 2D artists, 3D games can now be created as well. However, individuals will need to exert a bit of effort and a lot of patience. However, fear not, Gamemaker offers several tools and tutorials at your convenience.
A “gem” contains several files of content and code to enhance your game design, including models, textures, scripts, and animations. As a result, developers can pick and choose the features that they want to integrate without taking on tools they don’t need.
Furthermore, Lumberyard’s visual scripting tool, Script Canvas, allows anybody to prototype and develop game logic easily without having to learn any scripting languages.
Moreover, Lumberyard earns its money through Amazon Web Services that individuals or businesses use to develop and support their projects, instead of charging monthly fees or taking a cut from your revenue.
How to land a job in the industry
To succeed in the gaming industry, you need a lot of endurance, motivation and time! It means minimizing the number of days you spend AFK.
Francois Van Niekerk, Clockwork Acorn’s developer, reports that it is difficult to make a living in South Africa solely from game development.
Hence, your career decision should not exclusively be determined by money. Nevertheless, do not lose heart.
Obtaining employment at a South African game design company may seem challenging, but it is not impossible and living paycheck to paycheck would no longer be an issue.
Since employers tend to prefer applicants with bachelor’s degrees, most game developers have some form of formal education. Their preference is due to their scientific backgrounds, which make them ideal candidates for developing games.
Gaining recognition is most effective through a portfolio
Include the projects you’ve worked on, whether you contributed to an established company’s product slaved away in your bedroom; employers want to know what you are capable of.
Employers look for these qualities in game developers
Knowledge of programming, video graphics, and hardware (IT skills)
Programming is only one component of the process. A keen eye for design is essential. Game designers need to understand characters, scenery, and the user interface of video games as graphics and animation play such a huge role in video games.
Time management skills
Modern video games are complex products with many moving parts. Collaboration among several artistic and technical professionals is often required to complete a project.
Thus, to succeed in such an environment, you need to be able to work well under pressure, collaborate effectively, and meet deadlines.
Creativity and culture
It is not enough to be knowledgeable about the science behind game development. Cultural taste and preferences must be well-understood, alongside creativity.
It is common for programmers and technicians to overlook communication as a soft skill. However, it’s an invaluable skill.
Game designers must be able to convey their visions and ideas to other members of the team, including producers, musicians, and sound effects experts.
Final words of wisdom
Buying the most expensive, state-of-the-art computer or software isn’t necessary, especially if you’re just starting. Invest in equipment that is most suitable for your experience level and progress from there.
The game development industry isn’t all fun and games, but it does require a lot of gaming. Some of the best ideas for games come from elements already present in other games.
By playing, absorbing, and deconstructing a game, you will better understand what appeals to the audience.