Which skills are actually needed to make a game?

I know, I’m sorry guys, I know this has been asked a little over a thousand times but I can’t find anything relevant via search (having problem formulate the appropriate keywords :slight_smile: )
In a few words, what is needed to create a game?

From what this humble newbie understands these are the areas you (and/or your team) need to know, basically:

Programming (not really necessary since there are blueprints but if you know programming sky’s the limit)
Modeling - for props and characters (imported via maya/blender/3ds max)
Texture/art - basically the textures and backgrounds and whatnot (also maya I assume, as well as Zbrush or equivalent for 3d?)
Animation - For moving objects obviously (can be imported from software above AND done in unreal engine(?))
sound - Not touching this one (will buy/find royalty free sound/music)

A plan and a step by step program to get it done.
Is the rest done inside unreal engine?

The reason I’m asking is I’m looking to tackle this the right way. I don’t want to jump in without knowing the basics. But what are the basics really?
I know the fundamentals of programming (I can read code and I can create small programs, nothing fancy).

I’m thinking about getting to know maya first and maybe play a little with the existing assets in UE.
I’m looking to start small but I want to start in the right end.
Animation is probably very simple. Now don’t get me wrong all animators out there, making something look and move realistically is probably hell on earth. But making something move left, right, up and down, enlarge, make it smaller etc is what I’m talking about.

If I put it this way: I would probably be ecstatic to see the cube I made in maya move around and respond to user input in UE.

What worries me is this:
If I’m riding solo and I want to make a 3d game I need to know modeling/animation/zbrush AND unreal engine?

It felt much more comfortable when I started to learn programming and html/css. I knew what I wanted to do and I knew what tools I had to learn. I could just open up notepad and make things happen on the screen.
When it comes to creating games it feels very blurry, I don’t know what I need to know, which programs I need to have and treading these unknown waters, it’s kind of scary. Where do I start and how do I proceed? Maybe someone know of some books or good tutorials that helped you along the way?

Thanks and sorry for the wall of text.

Hmm… I’m a noob myself but I would imagine it would be beneficial to learn to make a website so that you could have your own website for your game,although you could probably hire someone else it might be a little pricy

You won’t find any tutorials about learning ‘how to learn’, sorry.
There is no perfect guide on making games because each game everytime is a different beast to master.
If you are willing to learn it all like I do, you must be prepared to invest 10+ years of your life constantly learning how to do things…
I’ve been learning from different areas since 2001 and I can tell that there’s always something new to learn everyday for your whole life.
Only now I feel confident and experienced enough to try and build a whole game on Unreal all by myself; earlier I would say that Unreal is way too hard for a one-man project (game with considerable gameplay length) and would run to Unity and alikes.
If you don’t want to learn things the hard way, pick a field that you like and joing a team…

Personally I do a little bit of all of that (not sound) but I’ve kind of found my niche, or my preferred aspect of game design which is level design and balancing.

I enjoy modelling level props i.e trash cans, crates, buildings etc. I’m not too good with modelling characters, it’s the little details for me.

I know C++, but I’m not super good with it, then on top of the UE programming adds just that much more to learn. I’d prefer Blueprints.

Animation goes with modelling for me, I can do it, but I’d rather get some free animations and add them to my skeleton and do all the stuff in UE.

Texture/Art, meh could go either way with it.

My point of this is:
Try a little bit of everything, you’ll find what you enjoy the most. Or what comes the easiest to you. Just know if you work with a team, you’ll have the areas covered. What you asked about was sort of a broad/vague question, because with programmers you have like main game mechanic coders, you have server programmers (makes sure the servers do what they’re supposed to do) etc. With the Art teams you have, modellers (characters and static meshes, level props. Then you have animators, texture teams etc. You have level designers, maybe level programmers. Then you have the sound guys coming behind with the ambient sounds and what not. You’d also have QA (quality assurance) teams to test different aspects of your games and stuff.

But yeah all in all, there isn’t one way to “design a game” you’ll find your preferred role. Just dive into it, try out everything (some people might not suggest this but it sort of worked for me) and see what you like.

Curiosity and determination.

Also, someone much wiser than me once said “Do it today, not tomorrow!”. Meaning, don’t tell yourself “tomorrow I’m gonna start doing this and that”, start right now or you’ll most likely never start.

Someone on one of the panels at GDC said something similar as well. Just make stuff, don’t think to big right now. Just make something, finish it and move on to the next idea. Finishing a project is the hardest task of all.

You say you don’t want to jump in without knowing the basics. But jumping right in might be the best thing to do. Don’t think, do.

Don’t be afraid of doing stupid things; do stupid things until you do something right :wink:
And then make more stupid things until something right again haha

If you really are serious about this, I would try to pick up these two books.

They helped me out immensely…

  1. http://www.amazon.com/Level-Guide-Great-Video-Design/dp/1118877160

  2. http://www.amazon.com/Art-Game-Design-Lenses-Second/dp/1466598646/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425835849&sr=1-1&keywords=the+art+of+game+design

The one thing that you need to know is that making a game is very…general.

The “basics” that you need to know really depends on what you want to do.

Designers, for example, would need to know a plethora of things ( i.e. writing, communication, psychology, etc.), but they don’t need to excel at each one.

A programmer would need to know programming language, sure, but they also need to know how to use strategy and communication to their advantage.

Their is no “basics” to game development, because their is no formula that everyone follows. Everyone is different, the way they make games is different.

The best thing I can tell you is…just do it.
Build a game. Sit yourself down, write out (or type out) your design.
Just get to it.

Don’t be afraid to take months to decided on a design either. I created hundred of game designs before I found the one I wanted to do.

Here’s the thing. If you’re passionate about this, skill or no skill, nothing can stop you in this quest.

If you have an additional questions feel free to ask me anytime.

Good Luck and Have Fun,

~ Jason

WARNING: Wall of text approaching!

From my experience as an IT consultant, I would break down the skills into 3 categories:

  • Design skills
  • Project Management skills
  • Technical skills

Technical skills are the most clear-cut. They are your programming and art skills and experience. Can you create, rig and animate a model? Do you know how to use the level editor? Are you familiar with the intricacies of C++ and the UE4 code-base?

The importance of technical skills I would argue are inversely proportional to the size of the team, being critical if you’re in a small team or one-man-band and inconsequential in a large team. The main reason being that in a large team you won’t have time to actually do any development as you’ll be engaged in organisation and making sure the team is on track, and you’ll have people to do those tasks already. In a small team however, people will expect the project manager to lead from the front and make a material contribution, especially in an amateur setting.

Project management skills are the ability to manage the project lifecycle and ensure that everyone on the team has what they need to do their job. This is the hardest skill to “learn” as much of your ability is defined by experience. As the team size grows this becomes a very demanding role, which is why technical skills start to take a backseat. Ultimately your job is the following:

  • What do each of my team members need to do their jobs?
  • How do I ensure they have it?

Things your team need are of course direction. What do they need to work on next? This is important as you don’t want your artists duplicating effort by accidentally working on the same thing, or focusing too much on one area and neglecting other important ones. Then they need an organised process. What change management tools are you using, do they know how to use it? The last thing you want is your team treading on each others toes, overwriting each others work, pushing commits to the wrong branch and so on. You also need a fast turn around, a disorganised project can easily discourage people as they get fed up of weeks passing before they see their contribution in action, or not having a proper road-map so they can see how far they’ve come and how much further they have to go. Finally they need support, if someone is struggling with something then why are they struggling? What do they need you to do to resolve their issue? If you can’t resolve the issue, what work-around can you come up with to help?

I would argue that you want to be familiar with tool-sets like Github and SVN, and the UE4 engine workflow. Note that you don’t need to be an expert in programming or art, as that’s what your team is for (unless it’s a small team as mentioned earlier). But the team will expect you to worry about setting up the necessary working environment and it definitely helps if you know the workflow from getting a rigged model into the engine for example, even if you don’t know the actual technical aspects of rigging and animating.

Finally we have design skills. By these I mean the core game mechanics, rather than the art style which is a separate matter. Design is all about the numbers. How many times do your players die on average at a particular point in the game? What is your difficulty curve like? For this it helps if you’re a bit of a stats nerd and have an analytic mind. Essentially you need to understand what data you need to collect, how to collect it and how to interpret it. If you’re designing a UT level, you might want to capture stats on where your players spend the most time in your map. If the players are spread evenly out across the map, that might be an indication that the map is a little dull with too much downtime as players try to find each other. If they tend to congregate too much in one or two points and ignore the rest of the map, that might indicate you have too many choke points and players tend to camp and hog the resources. The secret is to set up play test sessions with a very clear goal in mind for what you want to learn, whether its map flow, difficulty curve etc. and ensure you have the means to capture the right information for later analysis.

Sorry, I know you said “in a few words”, but making games isn’t quite so simple, there’s a lot to it. That’s why so many projects fail!

, thank for post, interesting read.

Can you advice any resources (books/learning material) on the last topic? I want to know more about this :slight_smile: What decisions are good/bad in game design, what you should not do, what players should not experience in a good and fun game and stuff like that.

I have to admit that the last point is the area I have the least experience in. In my day job I have experience as both a developer (not in game development mind) and some project management experience, but the last point is very specific to game development.

However, a technique I find that is always helpful when approaching my own projects is to start off with a high-level concept and start breaking it down. You want to start off with a particular image in your mind, and then start listing out the mechanics behind that concept. I remember watching a video with John Romero and Tom Hall doing a post-mortem of Doom, and Tom Hall briefly mentions his time working on Prey. He said he had this image of running up to a wall, looking up and throwing a grenade “up” the wall, with the gravity causing it to bounce up the wall and onto the ceiling.

Eventually you break it down into a set of discrete parameters (such as jump height, movement speed, fire-rate, damage per projectile, ammo count etc.) which you can then start tweaking based on feedback from testing. Initially you’ll try to use best estimates based on experience and your understanding of player psychology and then tweak from there.

I can’t recommend any books myself, but I’m sure others will have some recommendations of their own :slight_smile:

The most important skill, and I’m not kidding here, is determination to finish your game.

Getting game mechanics working, is easy part. Polishing it, testing, and iterating is the true test of resolve and determination.

Historically tools use to be made for a given engine and anything built for that engine had to be fit to finish as to the specifications of what the engine would or would not allow. This created the need for skill sets that were required to fill the specification as well limited to the preferred application use as to what works with the pipeline.

In general modeling was modeling and animation was animation but to get stuff into the game tools that were made only worked with a limited number of programs so this tended to create 3ds Max modelers and Maya animators yet the skill sets for the two are identical.

Of course things change and gets better and if I was to point to the watershed moment in time I would have to say the introduction of FBX moved the cornerstone into the edit environment, like Unreal 4 or even UDK, that opened the playing field to a vast amount of skills that are not necessarily about sticking to the default applications.

For example.

One of the advanced requirements for next gen games is hair so instead of finding someone with skills of being able to push buttons someone who is a hairdresser could fill the spot and you would only need to teach them to use a different set of tools but would not have to teach them to do hair designs for a video game.

So today I would say a needed skill is to become software savvy and know what options are available to you that “must” support the FBX pipeline as it is not “just” another export format.

By the way.

Our team has been spending the last year reorganizing our entire art pipeline just because of Unreal 4.

The short answer.

If it has FBX get it into Unreal 4 as soon as possible and see what happens as the rules you once though was there is no longer. :wink:


Don’t focus on the software but the craft. You will learn more from Andy Warhol than you could reading a user manual.

Just saying.

Programming and artistic/modeling skill everything else imo comes after. Your game isn’t going to go very far if you cannot program it, and art is needed for immersion into the game. AAA graphics arnt needed, but you atleast need something better than minecraft graphics unless you really have a good idea.

Great stuff guys! It seems like there are countless ways to handle this. I’m currently learning php and java (do you ever fully learn? :slight_smile: ) with a few ideas I want to make a reality before this year is over. So it is taking up a lot of my time, I’m not gonna lie. That’s why I kind of wanted to know where I start and so that I don’t “waste time” learning something that I don’t need at my level. I’m gonna be honest with you and say I’m not super serious about this, but I’m seriously interested. I’ve always wanted to make my own games, especially rpg’s and horror, always thinking up scenarios and how things would work. But I can’t shove the other stuff I’m learning aside because those are things I’m very serious about right now. One thing doesn’t have to exclude the other though. I’m going to check out the books and lynda’s basic tutorials of UE4. After I’ve learned how to work the basics of UE I might go into other programs. Until then I’ll use whatever free things are available.
Thank you so much for all your answers!