Read First: the MakeGamesSA FAQ

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Welcome to MakeGamesSA!
The forum is a friendly place to ask questions, show your work, and just chat about game related stuff. But start your stay by looking over this FAQ :)

The FAQ is a work in progress. We will be adding to it constantly. Please send us suggestions and we'll add them in! This is a community driven forum, so we want to hear from all of you.

What are the forum rules?
Don't be a ^#%%@. That's it, really. We work together here, so do onto others :)

I have a great game idea! How do I get it made?
We are all here because we want to see our ideas come into fruition. Unfortunately, ideas by themselves aren't worth much (if anything). On top of that, everybody has their own awesome ideas that they are working on. This means that unless you have something else to bring to the table, enough to convince people that they should be working on YOUR idea and not their own, you will have to make your own game. Anyone who has followed game development online for any amount of time has seen hundreds of 'projects' pop up where one person with little to no experience, knowledge or funds attempts to assemble a rag-tag band of internet superheroes who will shake the very foundations of modern gaming, with nothing going for them but dreams and the promises of revenue share. These projects all die out after a few weeks as people lose interest or become aware of the scope of what they are attempting.

Further reading:

I want to make lots of money!
This isn't the forum for you. This is the forum for you if you want to make lots of games.

How do I make a game?
Nowadays most people making indie-style games use pre-built engines such as GameMaker, Unity, or the Unreal engine. This has a lot of advantages over writing a game from scratch, most notably that it makes the whole process much faster and allows you to spend your time making your game rather than writing your engine. Building a game in almost any engine still requires a large amount of programming, in the form of scripting. While there are tools for building certain games (such as point-and-click adventure games) purely in a GUI, for most games you will need to learn some programming. Don't let that worry you though, it's not that hard. There are thousands of websites offering free lessons and tutorials - Google is your friend.

After you've chosen which engine you'd like to learn, google and find some tutorials/videos - everything you need is available, for free, online. If that fails, there are communities filled with friendly people who are willing to help you... usually. Start making games as soon as you can. The most important thing is practice - start small, do something that you know you can actually complete. Make a game like pong, and see how far you can take it. Post it online, get feedback, learn from your mistakes, and proceed to your next game.

It is worth reiterating that you should start small. Even experienced developers routinely underestimate the amount of work that goes into making a game. Take a basic idea, cut all the excess, focus on one mechanic and get it on-screen and working - then iterate from there.

Which engine should I use?
This varies depending on the type of game you want to make, your programming skill and your personal preference. In the end, it doesn't really make that much of a difference... the lessons you learn in crafting a game experience are valid irrespective of platform, and the skill of learning is more important to being a capable programmer than proficiency in any one language. The most popular choice is Unity - although it might be a bit overwhelming for newcomers, you can make anything from simple 2D games to AAA-quality FPS games with it. GameMaker is a simpler alternative, Unity is also a highly recommended option.

Further reading:

I want to learn programming, where do I start?
Start by understanding your question. Think about what you really want to learn: do you want to learn to make games, or do you want to learn to programby doing something fun, like working on a game? Once you have decided on your primary concern, then you can begin to ask for more focused advice on where to start.

Further Reading:

How do I get a job in the games industry?
South Africa currently has a small, but healthy and growing games industry, mostly (if not fully) focused on 'indie' development. It's important to be active and visible to get to know people, so participate in forum discussions online, go to meetups, build up a rep and keep your ears on the ground for an opportunity. Your portfolio is by far your most valuable asset (more than what degree you have or what you have written on your CV) in impressing a prospective employer so focus on building a collection of playable, quality games. Of course, a degree is still useful and there are gamedev and game design degrees popping up everywhere in SA, but it your portfolio will be the deciding factor.

If you are interested in programming for games in a more AAA-styled environment, rather than building smaller indie-styled games, read this article: although much of the same applies there.

Where do I get art for my game?
Getting art for your game can be difficult if you are working on a solo hobbyist project and have little artistic skills. Best is to just buckle down and do it yourself - even if it does turn out to be crappy. However there are lots of websites offering free art online, such as . Stealing art from other games is also usually ok for small hobby projects - as long as you (obviously) don't try to sell your game with the art in it or try to give it off as your own. It is tempting to try and find someone or form a team online to do your art for you, but unless the game you are working on is provably super-awesome or you can pay them decent money this rarely works out.

Further reading:

I want to be a game artist!
That's great! You'll be flinging digital paint and shooting vertices, and making the game art world more beautiful as you go! But wait -- a word of advice before you jump on the realtime rendering railway: you need three pieces of essential kit!

Firstly, you need Artist Goggles. These art-tinted lenses directly affect the quality of your work by allowing you to look at your own and other peoples' work and see what could make it more beautiful. They are also what all other artists will judge you by, and have a direct and overwhelming influence on your art portfolio -- the key to getting yourself a job in the front lines! A sound knowledge of art principles, a great visual library, and having a thousand pieces of art to your name will keep your Goggles crystal clear.

You'll also need the Map of Contraints. This map allows you to evaluate whether your art can fit into a game on a technical level. As a game artist, your work needs to run in a game engine where lots of things need to be shown in real-time. Knowing how to optimize your art for games means freeing up resources that can be used for EVEN MOAR ART, special effects, and other eyegasmic goodness.

Lastly, you'll need Design Slippers, gained from the experiences of playing, studying and building game worlds. You'll want to have thought about design, and how your art can help to craft great game experiences.

I want me those Art Goggles!
You get/upgrade your Art Goggles by gaining Art XP, which you earn by making art. It doesn't really matter what kind of art you're making, in any medium, as all art will contribute to your Art Goggles. However, some activities will earn you an XP BOOST. The most basic and most powerful one is by drawing. Drawing teaches many art fundamentals that are vital to your XP growth, including (but not limited to!): gesture (the energy!), value (contrasts of light and dark), texture (what materials things are made of), form (describing things you've observed in the real, 3D world, on a 2D canvas, and using lighting/shading to get things looking good) and composition (how these all tie together).

Painting's also a great thing to learn, as it requires all of the above, but adds the concept of colour: how they work together, and how they (together with lighting) control the mood of your game. Photography's also a great skill, often undervalued. Everything we see is made up of light, so studying how light behaves, different light setups for different situations and for bringing out the best of your subject matter, and how lighting can be used in composition are especially vital for environment work. Sculpting is also a great skill, particularly if you're interested in being a 3D game artist.

While you may want to jump right into learning software, It's a good idea to learn art independently to (and before) learning software. Learning software can be frustrating and slow your Art XP growth. You may find yourself spending more time trying to figure out how to do things using digital media than in polishing your Art Goggles, so your work may end up looking shoddy, and you may not know why. While you'll probably need to learn some software somewhere along the line, it shouldn't be the focus of your efforts. Traditional media provide a more direct way of upgrading your Art Goggles.

Lastly, you'll also want to grow your visual library. This means watching documentaries, reading books and being interested in the world around you. These are akin to allowing your Goggles to see a wider spectrum of colours. If you've studied anatomy, you can use that knowledge in your characters. If you're a fan of WW2 weapons, you'll make much more convincing guns. Having a great visual library means you don't need to search for reference images as often (because you've got them in your head), and you'll have lots of ideas to draw from (lolpun) when you're making your game art.

I want to make digital work!
The software you learn should match the studios or teams you wish to join. In South Africa, Softimage (also called XSI) has a massive hold in the vast majority of 3D studios in film and advertising. If there isn't enough game art work (our industry is still small, although growing) it will be really easy to transition to offline rendering jobs. (It's generally quite easy to move from games to another 3D industry, because you're working with fewer constraints; it's generally harder to move the other way around. There are exceptions.) 3ds Max is very popular in the visualization industry (product viz, arch viz). Maya has rapidly grown into an immensely popular package overseas because of it's great toolset and extensibility in character animation, but only a handful of studios use it locally. Blender is free, and competent. ZBrush and Mudbox are widely used for sculpting and texture painting. You'll also need a 2D app for painting textures for your 3D assets.
For 2D, Photoshop is by far the dominant software. However, most 2D programs can also handle PSDs, and there are far fewer issues with file compatibility in 2D than there is in 3D programs. You can probably get away with using whatever you're comfortable with.

However, realise that if your Art Goggles are poorly maintained, your work will suffer tremendously regardless of what software you use. Although teams may build their own tools specific to the games they're working on, there are only ever "magic buttons" for working faster -- there are none that will make your art look better. It's a good thing to be familiar with several packages, but it's a great thing to be a specialist with at least one. Learning another package when one is already highly proficient with one already is a breeze.

I want a game art job!
You nee a portfolio! Every employer, whether they're an indie group or a giant corporation needs to see evidence that you can pull off the work that they'll need you to be able to do. Make sure your portfolio matches the kind of studio you're heading to, whether it's pixel art, digital paintings or 3D. Some quick and dirty tips about putting together a portfolio:

Only include your best work. It's better to have one truly stellar piece of work than a whole lot of mediocre work
If you know which studio you're trying to get into, make work that is relevant to them. You should be able to hold your work up next to a shot of one of their games, and honestly tell yourself that your work would easily fit there, and look just as good, or better.
Answer questions with your work. (Example questions might include: Does this person understand lighting? Does this person understand anatomy? Will this person be able to create good quality work on a tight deadline? Does this person understand the constraints of getting her work into a game engine? Answers to these questions might include full environment pieces, anatomy studies, competition entries and captures from a real-time renderer, respectively. Which questions you prioritise depends on what kind of artist you want to be.)
Also realise that the vast majority of positions are filled by referrals or word-of-mouth. It's a really good idea to be involved in game communities, to show work regularly, to take feedback and critique professionally (regardless of how savage the feedback might be), and to be the person that people think of when a position pops up. Don't be isolated, or nobody will even know you're keen for a job.

Further reading:
The Polycount wiki: <-- THIS. Many of these FAQs are answered there in more detail.

Where do I get sound for my game?
Again, best is to do it yourself - bfxr ( is an amazing web-based tool that will allow you to make custom sounds for your game easily and quickly. also has sound and music available that you can use for free. Several people on the forum could also give you useful advice on where to begin.

General further reading:
Great list of tools for indi game dev:
Advice on finishing a game:
GameMaker tutorials:
Greg Costikyan - I have no words & I must design: Have No Words & I Must Design_Toward a Critical Vocabulary for Games.pdf
This discussion has been closed.

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