Simon J McDonnell

Creating cool stuff


Scope is a very important thing.

DONE, drop the mic, I’m outta here.


I’m talking about project scope. A problem that a lot of beginners fall into is having too big a scope. So an aspiring game developer likes World of Warcraft and Guild Wars, right? They’re a big part of their life and they inspire them to create games themselves. Wonderful! Problem is that this aspirational person then decides to make an MMO like WoW as their first game. I mean, it’s the kind of thing they play, and they know just how they want it to play, so it’s perfect!

This could not possibly be more wrong.

For those who aren’t very game-savvy (which is probably few of you considering my profession and interests) an MMOG is a Massive Multiplayer Online Game. It is a type of game where hundreds, thousands, millions of players will be playing together in various worlds completing various tasks. These are enorrrrrrrmmous undertakings. They frequently take large, experienced teams many years to develop one. That’s not even the end, as current MMO’s have conditioned players to regular updates of new content.

You may now be seeing why having your initial effort be an MMO is such a bad idea.

Your first project in any new field should be incredibly small. It should be something that you can accomplish quickly and with minimal knowledge. The project after that should be a bit more complex in areas you haven’t covered, and so on and so on. The idea is that trying to tackle a huge project right away is just a recipe for failure. It’d be like trying to run a marathon before you’ve run a mile.

A great beginner project for new game developers is Asteroids, or Pong. These are games that have very, very simple mechanics, and which have very few demands in terms of art of content. They will teach you basic skills which you can take forward to your next projects. They’re also both games you can start and finish within a reasonable frame of time. Having regular successes is really important for your motivation. You don’t want to be slaving away on a single project for months or years when you’re starting out.┬áNumber one: the mechanics will likely be harder to implement than Pong’s are, and Number Two: your motivation will dry up long before you finish it.

Having a finished product in your hands is a great feeling, and it’s revitalising. It means you can show people something that you’ve done and be proud of it, while also freeing you up to try that new fun idea that might have been bouncing around in your head during the last development days of Pong 2: Pong Harder.

I’ve framed these examples in terms of game development, but the same logic can easily be applied to other fields, like writing. A lot of people want to write, but they want to write books. They want to write books right away, without ever trying something shorter. This fails a lot of the time, and then they get really discouraged and decided that they just can’t write.

This approach is so flawed! Of course you’re bad when you start off, everyone is, at everything, ever. The key is to start small. Take on projects that you know you can finish quickly, and work, slowly, up to bigger things.

Remember, Rome wan’t built in a day, and neither was Pong Galaxy: Legacy of the Pong Crystals, the hot new MMOG from Aspiration Studios.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.