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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.

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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.

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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. Gamedev.tv 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.