I’ve been thinking a lot of how to get artists into video games.
I think animators are a lot of the way there. There is a certain understanding of movement that an animator has that also helps with video games.
I’ve mentioned Anna Anthropy in a couple posts. She has a book that is the one I’ve seen that seems most written for someone who is an artist but doesn’t assume you know anything about video games.
Some of it might be out of date. When she discusses possible tools you could work with, there’s no mention of Unity which has become pretty promising, so I’ll try to explain here.
Unity is a game development environment. There’s a free version, which limits you from some things the pro version does, but is still very powerful. It lets you output the game as a program for Windows or Mac, or output a file that’s used by the Unity web player. (Which lets people play your game in their web browser, as long as they’ve installed the Unity plugin.)
It will require more technical capability from you than making a Twine game, for example. How much more depends a lot on the mechanics of the game you’re trying to make. It’s easiest when you just go with the flow of what capabilities are already built into the game. If you look at my game Party Business, programming the cake was fairly straightforward, because it relies heavily on the pre-programmed physics of what’s called a RigidBody. Programming the forks was more difficult, since I couldn’t use a pre-programmed element for deciding they are close enough to the cake to attack, or to make them follow the path of the maze. So I could see someone without any programming experience figuring out how to do the former through persistence, but not the latter.
There’s also the 2D vs. 3D issue. Before Unity, I had experience making games in Flash, but they were always 2D games. I still sometimes have trouble wrapping my head around how Unity represents rotations numerically, using what’s called a Quaternion. Unity is capable of making 2D games, like my game Spitty Octopus and if you’re new to this, sticking to 2D is a good way to keep it from being too complex. It also means you can make your game graphics as images instead of dealing with 3D modeling, which is another thing I’ve just barely begun to figure out.
Also once you’ve made a game, how do you get it out there? Two places I like that aren’t mentioned in Anthropy’s book are Itch.io and Gamejolt.
Both sites allow you to post games as Windows or Mac executables, which distinguishes them from some game sites like Newgrounds or Kongregate, which only allow games that can be played in the browser. This would open up what kinds of games you can make and what methods you can use to make them. Itch.io also allows you to sell games through the site, which I think might fit into the zinester mentality. Also when you post something, one option it gives you in the form is you can pick a different noun for it instead of “game,” so you can call it an “interactive artwork” or a “software toy” or whatever you think is a better term if you’ve pushed beyond the limits of what counts as a “game.”