In my time at IGAD, I noticed that (in Gamelab, for example), designers tend to take their hands off the development of a project after the concept stage is done. They feel like they cannot work on anything anymore. And I believe that's a shame - there is always work to do, for everyone. What would be a reason for having this mentality? "I cannot program" or "I am no good at art". However, I also believe that, next to mentality, it is also a matter of perspective; we tend to look at projects way too much from a design point of view and not from an executive design or production point of view; we think, but we don't create.
Of course, many of us create levels in Gamelab, but the assets production is always left to the programmers, artists and igd-ers. I think you can change that. Of course, you can learn Maya, Photoshop, C# and all other things, but that does not necessarily change the perspective; I believe that working with certain tools can do just that. I'm not saying everyone should use this, but if you really want to get more involved in a project as a designer, you can check these out, it worked for me.
Also note that it is very possible that you already know all these tools; they're not very hipster or anything. Just have a go with them, they are great.
- RPG Maker XP / RPG Maker VX
Now, don't start laughing just yet. "Hah, RPG Maker, that's for noobs". That is, however, my point: if you are a designer, not that savvy with programming and art, you need a tool in which you can express your designer skills, not having to wait on programmers to finish their code and artists to finish that character model. RPG Maker XP and VX, for me, are amazing tools for just that. Level design (building a world, however with default graphics, expressing ideas and creating a living world), narrative design (make your stories, make them come to life, add cutscenes) and expressing your general concepts are three things I have learned to do in this software. I worked with it for about 7 years and I learned so, so much from it. You don't have to code, if you can't, but you will learn to understand it. You don't have to open Maya, but piece by piece you learn how to edit and make your own graphics. 2D is better to start with anyway, if you ask me.
Of course, then there's the problem of "YEAH but there's a default battle system and default ugly graphics, and, and..." - well, of course; that's my point; you don't have to do any of the magic the programmers and artists do, if you don't want to, but there is room to do so. And however crappy you think the graphics look, you can make very pretty things with it. One of the latest games I made with it had an entire custom system and almost no default graphics (of course the default style, but you can also change that entirely if you want), and I didn't code that much for it (you can actually do the entire thing without doing any code):
A list of resources:
- To the Moon: an amazing game by Kao Kan, completely made in RPG Maker (while even keeping the default style). This is an amazing example of what you can achieve in a seemingly simple engine. I worked for him as a translator and the truth is that he did things in RPG Maker that nobody can, but it is still a good example.
- Download RPG Maker XP
- Download RPG Maker VX - I personally think the style is too biased to create original games in, but the software itself has improved.
- A very basic tutorial on how to create maps
Scirra Construct Classic / Construct 2
A more popular tool nowadays and a bit more complicated, Construct 2 is a pretty powerful engine capable of exporting to all sorts of formats, including HTML5. No programming required (even harder to access than in RPG Maker): just create events to create your entire game. The engine adds particles, physics, 3D support and more to a great workflow. Made by two guys, but they achieved so much already.
Construct Classic was the first version of Construct, abandoned because they started working on a more stable version (and thank god for that). Both versions are available for free, the latter one coming with a couple of restrictions. Construct does not come with default packages, but there are tons and tons of graphics to be found online.
I personally found Construct to be the best tool to design and then create mechanics pretty easily. It takes time to get everything right, but you can have a physics-based puzzle in 2 hours. Any 2D game is possible and with over 660.000 downloads, a lot have been made so far. And it can all be played in your browser! In other words: you have a lot of freedom, but you also have to do more yourself. Still a great tool that I have used a lot to explain mechanics, even.
A list of resources:
- Read about and download Construct 2
- After this you'll understand the entire engine
- A CONSTRUCT 2 CONTEST(DUTCH), this is your chance to try it out! There are not many competitors and the prize is a Construct 2 Paid License.
- The Spriter's Resource: Probably familiar, but use this for graphics!
Unreal Development Kit
Second year designers will be very familiar with this tool, but first years might not; UDK is an extremely powerful tool, mainly useful for Level Design. The engine is also used in the Level Design course, so if you want a headstart: try it out now and start to create something.
Why is this powerful engine a tool for designers? Well... you don't have to program and you don't have to model anything. UDK uses brushes to fill levels and create a structure. There are plenty of downsides: the engine is unstable and heavy, there is almost no support compared to Unity and the game itself is quite limited to a first person game, unless you start programming. But it is fantastic for level design and to create great portfolio pieces that might help you.
Although the interface might overwhelm you at first, it is quite easy to play around with the software after a while. The best thing is the ability to change the level whenever you want, just by moving brushes around and adding or removing blocks. An example of a LD1 level that you have to work on in the second year:
The engine comes with an amazing amount of built-in content. Textures, models, skyboxes, sounds... everything is there. And with only the click of a button you have a deathmatch game with weapons and a score system in place.
A list of resources: