Nut up, or shut up

  • Tallahassee


It’s time to nut up or shut up about wanting to be a game developer. This time, I mean it.

Again, with this?

Boy, oh boy, I’m bad at this blogging thing. I’ve been seeing a lot of bits online (read: Instagram Reels, TikToks, YouTube Shorts, etc.) about ADHD and they need to stop being so relatable, or else I’m going to have to go see a specialist. Anyway, I’ve been busy moving into a new house (see Dev Log 1) among other things as of late, and I’ve finally had a chance to write again.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about why I got into software development in the first place. I believe it all started back in 1998 with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Now, as a child with all of the free time in the world, I had played plenty of video games before then. Something hit different about this one. It inspired 9 year old me to want to make incredible experiences like it. I had no idea what kind of career that was at the time, but I knew I wanted to do it as an adult. I remember asking my cousin, who was only a few years older than me, what job that was. He said, “Video Game Artist”. So, for the next several years (until I found out that “Game Programmer” was the title I was looking for), I focused on learning what that meant and what I had to do to get there.

When I was around 10 years old, my dad bought me a few materials to help me learn BASIC. I remember making a couple of programs with it, but I think I was just too young at the time to really grasp what was happening. Later, in high school, I took the one and only programming class the school has ever had and might ever have. It was taught by my band director at the time, who also coded a bit on the side. He taught C++ that semester, and I fell in love immediately. It was the only course I could focus on. I remember struggling to make a hangman game for one of the assignments. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get that working, but after I finally did get it to work, I was filled with my first hit of programming ecstasy. For my final in that class, I ended up coding a 1941-like game. It was buggy as all hell, but it worked well enough to get me an A in the class. I’ll never forget my teacher telling me that I was “good at this” during one of the lessons. It cemented the fact that I’d be programming for a living (which is true).

So, fast-forward to now. What happened? I have, of course, dabbled in game dev since then. I’ve made my own World of Warcraft server as a teen. I’ve modded Battlefield 2. I’ve made a map in Counter-Strike a time or two. I’ve done countless tutorials and courses online to make my own game and get started as a game developer, but it just hasn’t happened. Perhaps that’s partially due to me not knowing that being a single-person dev team means I have to do everything. From coding (the part I love) to making 3D models, materials, pixel art, music, etc. (the part I don’t dislike, but holy hell am I bad at). I got discouraged time and time again. Nowadays, I’m a front-end web developer. Not to brag, but I’m told I’m very good at it. It’s encouraging and rewarding to see 9+ years of doing this kind of work to be met with such high regard. But it’s not what I want to do forever.

What makes this time different? For starters, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve moved into my forever home and this is where my family and I are going to stay. I feel like my employment is also stable, where it wasn’t before. Perhaps that’s due to being in the private sector, perhaps that’s due to having more experience under my belt? Who knows? One of the biggest driving factors this time is, I’ve had enough of not chasing my dreams. For too long I’ve just been surviving, and I want more than that now. I talked with one of my good friends about everything, and he mentioned a course bundle to get acquainted with the Godot game engine. We both bought it and are making our way through it. I think it helps to have a buddy stand by me this time. It’s both motivating and it helps keep me accountable and disciplined. I’m enjoying everything so far. I’ve been waking up earlier than usual to try and get in an hour of quiet, learning time, since that’s hard to come by later in the day and evening. My goal at the end of this is to re-create a level from one of my favorite games. My longer term goal is to eventually make my own game and get into the industry. For now, though, I think mini-projects to get acquainted with the engine and game dev in general is the way to go. I’m going to be putting all of my Godot projects into a monorepo that you’re welcome to follow.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any tips for me, feel free to reach out via GitHub or the comments below.

Update from Dev Log 1

So, that Unreal Engine house thing never quite took off. I got decently far in it, but holy hell is working with lighting optimization difficult when you don’t know what you’re doing. So many things went wrong with that, not to mention that trying to move to Unreal Engine 5 completely broke everything. Staying on UE4 made iterating unbearable since every time I made a change to the lighting, I had to wait a good 10 minutes for the level to re-build. I gave up after a while because I felt like I just couldn’t win. Perhaps if I can get my hands on an RTX 4070 (or better), I’ll revisit it sooner. Maybe I’ll re-do the project in Godot? Right now, though, it’s just another side project that never quite took off.

I still plan on re-doing this site again with something like Astro, but I haven’t had the time to 1) Re-design my site (someone send me a good Figma tutorial), and 2) Learn Astro.

Thanks again for reading. Links to neat things are at the bottom.