By Joshua Temblett (Dontkillmydreams), OnRPG Journalist
Building Browser Games (http://www.buildingbrowsergames.com) is a website dedicated to creating and programming a browser based game. With various tutorials and a helpful community, you’ll soon find yourself learning the basics of code and fulfilling your dreams of making that game you’ve always dreamt about.
The one thing I will say is, after searching the Internet many times for information about how to get started building a game, is that it’s nice to finally come across a place that tells you where to begin this otherwise very daunting task. The guides will take you through the integral births of your game, such as preparing your server, to the foundations of the genre such as stats and general gameplay. One of the things that impressed me the most about Building Browser Games.com was how short but sweet the tutorials were, enabling you to quickly see results. I will say that if you perhaps aren’t as good with PHP or MySQL as you used to be, or if you have yet to learn the two coding formats then you may want to visit w3schools.com to either brush up on them, or learn them.
Another thing I found incredibly interesting were the articles about whether or not there were markets for various types of text based games. I generally love looking at gaming markets and whether or not a game will work due to over/under saturation of a genre or recent gaming trends. These articles on buildingbrowsergames.com will give you an insight into the industry so that you can decide just what type of game you want to make. Post Mortems, when a developer picks apart their development process and aspects of the game, are also featured on the website. These will help you in creating your game and will hopefully stop you from making a mistake that another developer has made. The importance of these cannot be stressed enough. Many times when I’ve been designing a game or thinking about making one, I’ve turned to these to see what problems and issues to avoid.
To elaborate on the community further, they really are incredibly helpful. As long as you don’t go into the forums acting like a moron or a twelve year old who’s got “this incredibly awesome idea” which you decide not to example or provide a design document for, you’ll be fine. In all honesty, this website is one of the best for information with regards to creating a browser based game. It’s got everything you could possibly want from a website dedicated to building video games. So if you’re excited about the thought of making your own dream game then I certainly recommend that you stop by this website, you won’t regret it.
Just for you (I just keep on giving don’t I?) I managed to catch up with Luke, the creator of www.buildingbrowsergames.com, to ask him a few questions.
Onrpg: How did you come up with the idea of building a website dedicated to budding programmers intent on creating a browser based game?
I used to be a fairly active member on a website dedicated to programmers helping other programmers; one of the more common questions that got asked in the web development sections was “how do I make a browsergame?”(other variants included “can I have the code for a browsergame”, or the ever popular “how do I make a mafia game?”). I figured that one of the best ways to answer the question, once and for all, would be to create a website devoted *to* answering that question.
Onrpg: What kind of responses have you had to the website? Have any games been made using your tutorials?
The responses to the website have been, for the most part, overwhelmingly positive. I actually had someone who was blind contact me last December to thank me for writing my tutorials and ask for help with some problems she was having – I’ve also had lots of helpful readers point out technical errors and details I’ve missed, which has been nice. While a few readers have e-mailed me to say that they are in the midst of building games using the tutorial as a base, I haven’t heard of any being released to the public just yet – I’m looking forward to seeing the finished products, though.
Onrpg: How would you suggest someone begins creating a browser based game? What should they do to get started?
Typically I’ve found that the best way to start building a browsergame is by building a single piece of it, and then building another piece and incorporating them together – by starting small and showing off your prototypes, you can gather a lot of valuable feedback early on in the process, in addition to providing the small victories that I’ve found help a great deal in keeping motivated to finish a project. Working on a game one small, manageable chunk at a time also tends to help you refine your design; you might build your combat system one way, only to realize that your commerce system needs your combat system to work a little bit differently. As you build each piece and connect them, you can see the relationships and iron the kinks out as they come up. Also, if your idea isn’t quite what you wanted it to be and you decide to pursue a different one, you can (in some cases) reuse the code that you were writing – if you’ve written one bulletproof registration system, you’re that much farther ahead on your next project. I’ve noticed lately that the skeletons of my own projects tend to start out with a lot of code that I’ve copied from other projects I’ve worked on; everything that you’ve worked on before just becomes another entry in your personal library of code to work with for the next project.
Onrpg: What would you say is the hardest part of developing a game?
I would say that the hardest part of developing a game is in staying disciplined and focused on seeing it through. For all the thousands of games that are already out there, there are tens of thousands that got to 80%, faltered, and then fell by the wayside. Finishing your current project instead of moving on to another one is extremely difficult; most of the people I’ve talked to are doing this in their spare time, so it’s easy to go “it doesn’t cost me anything to switch to another idea/project”, without realizing that there’s an opportunity cost involved in not finishing the game they’re working on before moving on to the next one.
Onrpg: With all your experience do you still find coding browser based games difficult?
I wouldn’t say that it’s the programming that’s hard, anymore; it’s coming up with original ideas, and seeing them through to completion. The mafia idea has been done to death, and fantasy kingdoms and space are getting there as well. I’m really impressed by games like Forumwarz (http://forumwarz.com) and Kingdom of Loathing (http://kingdomofloathing.com) – they’ve managed to come up with games that are completely unique and original (and even built worlds around them) in a space that seems to be dominated by space, castles, and the mafia.
Onrpg: Do you think that anyone can be a games developer? What skills do you think it requires?
I would say that yes, anyone can do it if they set their mind to it and are willing to put in the effort required. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a fine line between “building games for 10 years while working a dayjob”, and “built a successful game and now pursues game development full-time” – the line is dedication.
Strong organizational skills are a good asset to have in virtually all aspects of your life; game development is no exception. Being able to plan ahead (or at least keep your designs flexible) is also a big plus – your game will get to done a lot faster if you don’t have to backtrack or rebuild anything.
Onrpg: Do you think there is a big market for browser based games?
I think that the market for browser based games is absolutely massive – there’s a lot of wide open room for new players to get into the game. Browser-based games are so flexible that they can appeal to anyone – and I think that there are a lot of opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of by an enterprising game developer.
Onrpg: What is the single most important lesson you’ve learnt from your experiences in making games?
I would say that the most important lesson I’ve ever learned while making games was a simple one: don’t get too attached to your design. By the time you release your game, it will probably be totally different from the game that you originally imagined; – and then after you release your game, you’ll find that your playerbase has a completely different idea of what direction your game should take than you do.
Onrpg: What’s your favourite video game of all time?
I would have to say that my favorite video game of all time is probably Nethack (http://nethack.org/) – every time I play it, the experience is different. It also sort of proves that you don’t need the snazziest graphics to make a good game. There we have it, I hope this interview informed you about just what it takes to be a programmer/designer and the mindset required. It does require a lot of time making a game but I think you’ll find that in the end it’s worth it and if you’re a budding developer then I can only say this to you: one day, I look forward to interviewing you about your game.