Saturday, September 15, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 3

This is part three of an article I wrote for PC Powerplay, an Australian gaming magazine. This time I discuss how to produce graphics, sound and beta testing on a budget. The next and final installment is due soon. Enjoy!

Okay, we’ve got our programming sorted out. Now how do we create graphics on a budget? Luckily there are some inexpensive options available.

Photoshop is a great art package, but is probably a bit too expensive for the average hobbyist. For Brainiversity I also used ArtRage 2, which for my below average art skills provided a better result with freehand drawing than Photoshop. The limited edition of ArtRage 2 is free but for USD $19.95 you can get the full edition which lets you use layers.

For more pixel perfect art I used a package called Pro Motion. It’s USD $29.95 for the lite version and is great for creating traditional 2D sprite graphics and animation.

I also used GIF Movie Gear to create my desktop icons. You can use the free trial version to create a set of icons, but if you plan to make a few games I’d recommend buying it. It costs USD $29.95 from gamani productions.

When it comes to audio I only use Audacity. It’s free and allows you to sample sounds using a microphone then do cool effects and save them out in different sound formats. It also supports the royalty free ogg vorbis format that the PopCap Framework uses.

Music is the one place that I spent real money. I wanted the best, so I chose Mick Gordon from Game Audio Australia. However, if you still want to keep the budget low, then there are plenty of good budget musicians to be found on the Indie Gamer Forums.

Beta Testing
You should constantly test your game with friends and family as you develop it. Even if it’s not the sort of game they usually play you can still pick up critical issues such as a confusing interface, poorly written instructions or even bugs that you miss when you play.

I also recommend holding a public beta for your game as you approach completion. To capture user feedback I used Survey Monkey, on online survey system, to collate player’s thoughts as soon as they exited the game. The service is free, but capped to 100 users. You can increase your survey group size for a nominal fee.

For Brainiversity I used the survey to ask some key questions about the game and used the feedback to change some things before release. For example I discovered that people weren’t aware of the game’s charting function, so I made the hint system tell the player about it at the start of the game.

Next... Selling your game

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