Learning how to build a video game from scratch can be a rewarding experience. If you're a gamer, it'll teach you the process of how to create a game concept and expose you to the programming it takes to develop a finished game. You'll probably end up with a newfound respect for Game Developers and may even want to join their ranks!
Below, we'll take a look at the game development process and some of the technologies you'll need to bring your game idea into reality. You'll need to know at least one programming language to build a game, and there are quite a few options to choose from.
How to make a game
To create a video game, first, you need an idea. You may already have one and have a head start, but even with an idea, there are still some general steps to follow to turn that idea into a finished game.
Choose a concept for your game
If you don't have an idea for a game, then the best way to come up with one is to look at the type of games you like to play. Do you like first-person shooters, platformers, tower defense games, or one of the many other types of video games? There are plenty of options. It helps to know what type of game you want to create to pick the best technology to build it.
Do market research on your game
Once you have an idea of the type of game you want to build, you may want to try playing a few of the games available in that genre to get an idea of the features your game will have. Competing games will have slightly different functionality, which players swear by. Which do you want to emulate in your game?
Create a design document
Once you have a concept and have done your research, you'll most likely have a pretty good idea of the game you want to build. The next step is to make a design document, which is basically an outline of the game, what type of features you need to add, what it will look like, and more. It should have enough detail so that someone else could read it and understand the type of game you want to build. This design document will help you decide what technologies are necessary to use and keep your game project on track.
Using your design document will help you decide which programming language and/or gaming engine you will use for your game. If your game will be in 3D, then you must choose a technology that supports it. If it'll be a mobile game, then you may use a totally different technology than you would use for a PC game. Let's look at some of the technologies that are used to create video games.
5 technologies to create a video game
The technology you'll need to create your game depends on the type of game you're building and the platforms you want it to run on. Below, we'll explore five of the most popular technologies used for game development.
Unreal is a cross-platform commercial game engine created by Epic Games. It was designed for creating high-quality 3D games and has been used in many commercially successful video games, including Unreal, Fortnite, Batman Arkham City, BioShock, Deux Ex, Mass Effect 2, and more. Unreal is written in C++, so to use the engine, you need to know this programming language, which you can learn with our Learn C++ course.
The Unreal Engine features a high degree of portability, and games written with the platform can run on various desktop, mobile, console, and virtual reality platforms. It's free to download and uses a royalty model based on sales if you plan on creating a commercial game.
Unity is a cross-platform commercial game engine created by Unity Technologies. You can use it to create 2D, 3D, and virtual reality video games that run on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and more. While it costs money for larger game companies to use, it's free to use for hobby projects and indie game studios.
Unity is a very popular engine for new developers because you can create many types of games that run on multiple platforms and its full-featured game editor. There have been many commercial games written with it, including Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and Subnautica. If you want to learn to create a game using Unity, you'll need to know C#, which our Learn C# course can teach you.
Another advantage of Phaser.js is that you can try out some of the games written with it right now in your browser without downloading gigabytes of files and installing them on your system. Check out some of the games written in Phaser.js here.
PyGame is a free, open-source Python library designed for creating video games. It's popular among new Game Developers because Python has a simple syntax similar to the English language and modern programming features that allow developers to write concise code. PyGame is also cross-platform, and you can use it to build games for Windows, Mac, Linux, and other operating systems.
PyGame is used specifically for creating 2D games and is a good choice if you want to create puzzle games or other simple games, though it's also been used for more advanced game development. Unity of Command is one of the more popular games written with PyGame. You can get started by learning to write Python code in our Learn Python 3 course.
If you're into retro games, you might want to write your game in C++ using ncurses. Ncurses is a simple, free library that allows you to write text-based user interfaces that run in the terminal. Using it, you can create the types of video games that came out in the 1980s and run them on the terminal using simple commands.
For example, the game will say you're in a dungeon and ask you what you want to do. Then you'd type in directions like "move forward," "move left," etc., and hit enter to see the results.
You can even create simple graphics using ASCII code and print them to the terminal. Developers have created games that emulate Pong and Snake using ncurses.
Getting started with game development
Knowing how to program is the key to building a video game. Fortunately, you can learn to program as you build your game. In fact, if you're already into video games and want to learn to program, then learning while building your first video game is perfect. You'll have two motives to finish the game: learning a new skill and completing a game you can show your friends and family.
If you'd rather learn at your own pace, check out our courses on game development.