Could I make an Open World game, as myself, with very little experience?

Hear me out…

I am purely a hobbyist, I was messing around with Unity and decided Unreal Engine was for me. I like it a lot more so far.

I want to learn Unreal Engine and just get some of these ideas in my head down on a game, in no way, shape or form am I looking to release some massive game, I just want to make a big Open World game with a lot of art over the course of a very long time with my son.

Leading on from that, if it is possible, where do I even begin? I thought about finally getting a start today and I realised it’s going to be extremely difficult when I couldn’t even decide on a map size! How do you even make that decision? is there a reference when it comes to scale and stuff?

Sorry, maybe there’s a course I can purchase to learn?

I’d really appreciate any helping comments. Again, I must stress, I do not want free things, I do not want to make a large MMO with a vision of becoming a trillionaire, I just want to learn Unreal Engine and I think I would be motivated if I was working on something I want to create - I have a cool little vision of a large map and some cool artwork.

I’ve made mobile games before, really, really, really bad ones. I have followed a tutorial on a third-person game before on Unity and got about 20 hours deep in to that. Then my day job is a programmer, which I’ve been doing for 15 years (completely different languages to game development though). That’s the extent of my experience!

Again, any helpful comments would be greatly appreciated.

If I’m just delusional, let me down easy! I truly feel like I’m asking stupid question.

You can learn if you are dedicated, it’s tough and is a multi-discipline team effort kind of thing, but you could do it single-handedly if you are very dedicated to doing it and don’t mind that it will take forever, 10+ years depending on what you are attempting and how quick a learner you are. Your son will probably get bored and abandon the project, but even if he doesn’t can he realistically contribute to it? Is he dedicated to learn?

You do have some experience already. You worked in unity and are a programmer. What have you programmed? What languages did you use to do it? You will need to learn C++ and the blueprinting language that unreal uses, among other things.

There are courses you can take all over the place of varying lengths, you can even graduate with a college degree in games design from accredited universities. Only you can decide how much learning and what kind you need.

Trying to do a whole game starting with your level of experience is kind of nuts, a more realistic approach would be to begin with making some small modifications to existing games. Or if a programmer, programming your own small games from scratch like tetris or stuff like that. Then go forward after that to tackle doing a huge open world game in unreal.

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I understand how every decision can be daunting, my advice would be to start with anything and just see how it feels. For the map size example, you can do a quick research on other game map sizes and start from there, but I’d suggest to pick anything, even if it’s random and iterate on it. You can surely assume that everything you do in the first try will be replaced or improved/iterated on as you keep working.
If you enjoy the process and dedicate yourself, I think it is doable and it has been done before many times.

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Yes you can make such game, it will take you about 20-30 years to make, because it is a lot of work. And if you think you can skip most of that work making world procedurally, look at early “No man sky” EARLY, yes it was empty and boring world. So procedural generation will not save you time.

Imagine you just released open world game based on 8bit spectrum technology, with 8bit graphics and sound, after 20-30 years of coding this masterpiece, every day for 8 hours at least, however only nostalgia nerds noticed it, and just few bought a copy.

I know about another (great indie game) that had (or has) very dedicated team, it took them years to make it, and on release game looked dated. So creating huge open world game alone is possible but only as a hobby. If you want to have any meaningful release you need to make game in 2-3 years, so for one man team, only tiny games, or pipe dream ones where you do not care about releasing.

Either you make tiny games and hope one will sell, or you get some coding job (shared skills with indie game dev), earn money at work and be free to code whatever you want as a hobby.

Bottom line is, just start coding your game, any game, learn get experience. Oh also ALWAYS get outside your comfort zone when coding, always pick method that will teach you something new.


This post took a little to get approved so I have actually progressed and I appreciate the comments. I think I could have explained better now, I spent 10 hours yesterday watching and following along to Unreal Engine tutorials and I’ve had great fun copying real location height maps and building a little shooter in it with a very scary triangle.

Thankfully, I’ve managed to get a feel for and understand the size of the map, which was my main issue. I was struggling with scale, but after reading up about the fancy new world partition, I think I understand the performance trade-offs and the sheer amount of effort and skill required; I therefore will most likely just build a little island-exploring-type-game that I can do a cool theme on.

This, in my head, would have been a project done over many, many years anyway. My son is old enough to start learning and he likes the idea of creating a game before he can learn it at University. My programming skills are confined to mostly Javascript + the popular frameworks/libraries, PHP, Golang and Python - I have Blender experience, enough to sculpt very basic things, for the person that asked.

You’ve all been very kind, so thank you for your help. I think I should have learnt a bit more before posting.

I’m not looking to make money or sell anything, I’m just getting old and need a hobby. Programming is what I’ve been doing my entire life and I enjoy it, and I’ve always wanted to just…make a game…somehow! I never thought about diving in but now I have.

So, you can’t say you don’t want to do something massive but also want to make a large open world game.

With that said, Unreal actually has a whole learning center that has courses approved by Epic that are 100% free. It’s the Unreal Learning center and it will have everything to get you started. Other than that YouTube is a great place to try and find a quick solution to something, but just understand that there are a million different ways to do something so they won’t always be the same process.

If you want something more structured after doing the Unreal Learning Center then places like Udemy are great too but make sure you look at student numbers and reviews before buying a course. Also make sure the course is recent.

But any open world game is something is a large undertaking even for large teams. Just know it’s better to start off working on something smaller while you learn things and build up. That way you gain momentum and won’t lose momentum when you encounter issues.

It seems that you must break things up into smaller and edible pieces that you can actually consume. Ask yourself this, is it actually possible to do what I want with this engine? And if the answer is actually yes, how does one actually get there?

One day animations, one day HUD, one day sound design, one day whatever etc etc…

Like the old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

And another old saying, “The only stupid question is the one you are afraid to ask.”

I have a friend who’s been making his first game for 20 years, he doesn’t want to ever finish it, he uses it like a sandbox for coding fun experimental things. It’s kind of a mess, not really a game, more of an ongoing programming experiment, but it’s fun for him.


Can I just recommend to just make and finish something. One or two levels, hud, animations, game logic. It is really satisfying to get something completed. You could tinker on that for a long time, but you learn so much by actually doing it.

I myself have tried bigger games but always fail to fully start, eg get too caught up one or two aspects and give up before anything is produced.

Yeah it’s very possible. But you have to learn where to make strategic compromises so that you can actually finish something.

Only way to learn where you should make those compromises is to make small projects and take them to completion.

If you have a specific dream game in mind, split it into smaller bits and each small game you make will build experience that is building towards the mastery you need to make the larger game.

For instance, I want to make a story based zombie shooter game with a semi-large, semi-open world. But first thing I have to learn is just the very basics of unreal engine and blueprint scripting. So to start with I am making a walking sim type game that has some systems which may carry over into my bigger game.

My recommendation for getting started though - like your first 6 months to a year - is to look for project based tutorials in ANY genre and do them. is good, the unreal online learn area is fantastic, udemy has a few gems, youtube has tons of great stuff… don’t worry about memorizing everything or sweating over “best practices”. You just need to develop experience through repetition and then stuff like best practices and tough judgement calls will be easier to understand.

The best developer is the one having the most fun. Keep that in mind because it is easy to get into a bad mindset with game development that will burn you out. All over the internet you see people arguing over right way to do this and that, and there is a lot of toxicity because people work so hard in indie development but few succeed. So jealousy and envy is ever present. But if you are making games because it is fun, the work just keeps getting done and that’s all there is to it.

And don’t take what you are doing too seriously. You’ll get locked into decision paralysis over every little thing. At the end of the day, the absolute best thing you’ll accomplish in game dev is to produce fleeting, unimportant, disposable digital entertainment. It is not important. So do your best work, but don’t stress over small decisions. Just go with gut instinct and set aside a certain amount of time to refine things, but once that block of time is up, continue on.

If you haven’t done this yet. I would recommend checking out Epic’s Kite Demo.
To see what an open world looks like in editor.

It depends on what your goals are, for people that want to be able to sell their games it makes sense to work on smaller projects first and build up experience before tackling something really big.
If it’s something that one person can reasonably do then the main challenge is just motivating yourself to put in the time.
Also, if you can afford to at some point don’t be afraid to pay someone to do some part of it, as a solo developer you can often feel like you need to do everything yourself but that can be unreasonable, especially when you get to stuff you’ve never done before.

I have abandoned projects because my scope was too big. Open world is too ambitious for beginners. Start with small static world/small room based puzzle kind of games. Along the way you will find that game development is not just code. You’ll have to learn a dozen things to finish your game. Keep at it and eventually you’ll reach shipping day…

Technically, yes. It might take you 10 years, but yes.

First things first, make a gameplay loop that you like. Use a game design document for this. Put in all the barebone assets you want for your game. That means a player, AI, vehicles, etc.

Then once you are happy with the gameplay, then look into the art assets, textures, building, wildlife, character animations, etc.

All the while you are developing, make sure to optimize. Some say optimize at the end, that’s BS. Optimize where you can, when you can.

That’s how I create this alpha demo: Speed Demons
It’s playable: Speed Demons game

“I want to learn Unreal Engine and just get some of these ideas in my head down on a game…”

Welcome to the journey :). Look up making a design document … to put your ideas into for scope and playability goals … but let’s say you’re graphically minded and typing out all that is not your thing … make a 2D layout first … progress to 3D, clearly denote goals, game play features, game mechanics, all drawn neatly. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Have you tried the LEARN tab under UNREAL ENGINE on the website? I found this tutorial Creating a Level Blockout for Game Development ( really made me think about the many hats a game/level designer wears and I began thinking about the big picture of beginning a game design in Unreal Engine. While he was talking though I was learning and planning out ways I would change it or how it would influence other ideas I have. I think that is the hallmark of a ‘worth your time’ learning experience. Many great tutorials on the Learn tab.

Practical advice:
I wish I had spent less time on learning with walkthroughs and how To’s. If you have a specific need for that feature in a game then learn it and implement it right away. it will be more impactful to your study and learning journey.
Another help is to think of your game in terms of repeatable small steps and objects and how you can create/borrow a framework/template to get started. EPIC provides many great free templates for you to sandbox or learn useful game development techniques.

Unreal Engine online learning has courses targeted to different jobs like animator, film maker, environment artist etc. etc. but a hobbyist is all of the above. Learn by spending time on the tasks in your interests that develop your skills for future fun projects.

Don’t try game Jams until your ego is ready for the experience.

You need a playbook and team mates and an environment to play, develop and game. You need some rules. Would be nice to have a coach or mentor. The community can help be coach albeit limited in scope.
You need to practice before the season starts.
Last, you need to play and have fun!

Additionally, if you have art in your head but are not an artist, I humbly suggest you hire/get an artist to create the art if your playability mechanic is good. If you want the experience … Blender is free with a huge community of support for making artistic assets. otherwise leave the art to the professionals. The reason I say that is because the many programs that surround Unreal Engine create a bottomless pit of learning and the mad skillz you desire to make the amazing dream thing you imagined will still belong to professionals after you sink hours into trying and learning. Those hours would have been better served working on your core mechanics of your game.

“To thine ownself be true” … soberly estimate your strengths and use the amazing Ecosystem Epic fosters in the community for Unreal Engine to bring your shadowed and hidden ideas to the bright light of creation so we all can experience the joy you uncover on your journey.
Spend 15 minutes day on your hobby if you’re interested.
Spend 30 minutes a day on improving your skills if you like it.
Invest an hour a day if after two weeks you have created and something.
Invest 3 hours a day if you love it!
Commit at least six hours a day if you want a new career in it!

Learning rewards you with recognition but creating something only you dreamed and dared to create is THE reward of a lifetime.
Best of Luck to you and all the creators, hobbyists and tinkers who change the world by caring to dream.

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Simply try it. You’ll probably encounter a slew of issues that you don’t know how to resolve, then go to the forums or elsewhere asking for help, get some and don’t get some…then return to the project and try more troubleshooting / potential solutions. Lots of people on the forum have attempted to scare you with the prospect of trying it, I think, but if you think about…they don’t really know. And if they’re doing something big, even on a team, then perhaps you can do something roughly the equivalent if you commit enough time to it and get the help you need for bugs / issues. I’m still rather new to the engine, and I need to learn a number of aspects that are vital to creating a game or other things such as visualizations. Like tri-planar mapping, and how to do different kinds of translucency materials. Then there’s animations and blueprints programming. The lack of resources on Unreal’s web site / forums is a part of why it’s so daunting, and lots of resources available are not succinct and thorough enough. So, it inevitably requires tinkering and going to Youtube or other sites to get information and how-tos / tutorials. In essence, try it and use the resources that are there to see how it goes.

Didn’t people build inventions, cars, engines, boats, buildings on an individual level before it was built by teams and large numbers of people working together? The Wright brothers built planes and other things, and sure they had help here and there.