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For The Untalented Guide

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So about 3-4 years ago I participated in Game Fruit/ProSimUnion's siminar and made a presentation for those who do not know where to start on making a game, especially if they don't do art, know how to program or design. Its a bit out of date but I will be updating it. I thought I would share as a lot of people found it helpful. Also, PRH is no longer around, it was shut down by new owners after I sold it about 6 months later. My current game is www.Asmundr.com

 

For the Untalented

 

Introduction:

 

Hey everyone, you may or may not know me. My name is EJ and I am the owner of Pine Ridge Herding. I am 21 years old and live in Canada with my fiancee, Dave,  and my miniature australian shepherd named Quinn. Outside the SIM world I am a dog trainer.  I started playing sims long ago when Furry Paws first began and eventually found myself wondering what it would be like to actually make my own game. I had a few ideas but didn’t know how to go about making a game so I shoved them to the side for a couple of years and went on playing sims. The more and more I played sims, the more I began to think about what I would do for my own sim and what I would like to be able to play. Back in 2012 I shared the idea of a dog agility sim with a friend of mine who urged me to make the game a reality. After realizing agility was all ready well in play on another game herding was brought to my attention.

 

Today I am hear to talk about having no talents. I like many out there now could not program, could not make game quality art nor could I design and code a layout, but I had ideas. I am going to go over some steps on how make a game without having the big three talents.

 

I had no idea what I was doing at first. I had lots of help from my friend in regards to ideas and we began to just write out all of our ideas and hoped the rest would follow. Well, I planned and I planned until I felt it was time to do something about my idea. I had no idea what coding was or that there were even different types of languages at the point in my sim career. So I didn’t know where to begin in that area, so I started with art. We started with a banner and some silly staff images to have on the staff page, which was useless and we didn’t even end up using, but it was something to do while I tried to get my ducks in a row.

 

Great ideas appear every day for sims but so many of them never see the light of day; the person who came up with those ideas might be unknowledgeable of how to make that idea come to life business wise or not have the talents themselves. When I say talents I am again referring to programming, designing and art. Now if you have all three skills, you are golden, although it would be a lot of work for one person to manage themselves. Most people do not have the skills required to make a sim at first, but fear not! You can create a successful sim without them. It comes with a lot of work whether you have the skills or not so be prepared to take on a lot of responsibility.

 

So before we get right in it. I would like to take a minute to talk about age and responsibility. So commonly young players want to create their own site. I myself, was around the age 14 or 15 when I started thinking about my own sim. I am so glad I had no idea what to do at that age, I was not ready for such a huge commitment at that time. Owning a sim is very expensive and most young players do not have a good enough income to fund a sim, let alone enough business knowledge. To anyone out there who is under the age of 18, keep your ideas, expand on them, but wait until you are older and can handle it. I don’t want anyone to think I am telling them not to make a sim, just wait a few years. It also conflicts with laws as well if you are under a certain age in some countries. You have to remember you are taking payment from other people who donate to your game, taxes have to be paid and business licensing and copyrights have to be done.

 

Before you even think about spending one cent on a game, you need to create a budget. How much can you put into your game right now as of this moment wit enough left over for you to live your life and cover all of your expenses in real life? Then you have to think about what kinds of game expenses you will have such as; coding, art, layout/design, advertising, business licensing etc. if you are seriously thinking about starting a SIM it's best to reach out to people who program, do art and make layouts and see what their prices are so that you can get an idea in your head of what it would be like to have this kind of expense. Also get in contact with government about tax information and registering a business.

 

So lets begin with coding. I had no idea how to code or what code even was. I took a computer class in high school which I thought was designing websites, but it was only half of the story. Dreamweaver did all the coding work and I dragged and dropped the rest. I began talking with an owner of an open sim and got a lot of information who gave me great tips on where to begin.

 

So Step 1:

 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! By asking questions and communicating with other owners I made myself a nice little network of friends. Lots of those owners I still talk to today and consider them great friends of mine.

 

Now with coding there are two routes to take. Either you hire someone to do the coding for you or you take the time to learn it yourself. If you hire someone to code your game then you have to make sure you have the money to do so. I tried coding at first and fail miserably and thats when I reached out to my programmer. One thing you have to understand is, just because you hired someone to do the coding for you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved and start learning to understand coding yourself.

 

I learned so much once coding had started appearing and making my game a reality. I would sit and read the code no matter how confusing it was and to this day, I can understand how to read code and what the code is doing, writing it on the other and, I am still learning.

 

Finding someone to code your game may be hard at first but there are plenty of places to look for a programmer. You can start by looking right here on Game Fruit, Virtual Pet List or even reach out to programmers in your area etc.

 

So once you have found your programer, this is where your plans come into play. Are you going to do it script by script or all at once? You need to have all your ideas written very clearly. It helps the programmer write the code you want of if you use psudeo code. For example; if you have a dog that needs to be taken to the vet before competition you would write;

 

Click on link to vet,

select dog,

select vaccinate,

if dog all ready vaccinated then give error message, “You all ready vaccinated this dog!”

if player does not have enough money then give error message, “You do not have enough money for this vet expense!”

etc etc

Until the Dog gets vaccinated for “blank” amount of days

 

Doing your sim script by script is how most owner’s purchase coding. Its less expensive, and it gives you a chance to plan what will happen first.

 

In my opinion the best way to start creating a game is doing the bare bones structure. Bare bones structure is login, logout, register, alpha codes if wanted, news, forum, profiles, online members, live chat and private messages. Once you have all of that done your community coding is done and you can start planning your game.

 

Step Two: The Layout

 

Layouts are very tricky as your taste can change, your game’s needs can change, or you may have to make your layout more user friendly. As an owner you should be able to visualize a look in your mind of how you want your sim to look. Even if you don’t have drawing, skills draw it out. Get a pencil and paper or draw it digitally with a tablet. Like coding you either can hire someone or teach yourself.

 

I got into habit lately of designing my own layouts and then having someone else code it for me. That way there I know its what I want and it saves a lot of back and forth time telling a designer you want it changed.

 

When it comes to which should come first, coding or layout, I would pick coding. In development stage you shouldn’t be worried about making it look pretty just yet, you need to focus on creating ideas and getting those ideas written into code. Players shouldn’t be apart of your site yet until you have the vast majority of the coding done. It was one of the mistakes I made myself, but I somehow managed to make my way through it.

 

Step 3:

 

Now that you have coding, a layout in mind, you are going to need to make that game pretty. Again, you are either able to do art or you can pay someone. Art like everything else costs money, I was lucky when I first started PRH as all my artists were volunteer, but, being volunteer I wasn’t able to get them to commit fully to making art. Then I had to start paying for art.

 

You really need to have an idea in mind of how you want your game to look. Do you want to be realistic? Semi? Or cartoony? When it comes to hiring artists you need to have that look in your mind and check their examples to see if it matches your vision. I have been able to find awesome artists by just looking through devianart, but you can also find artists on Gamefruit under the Commissions forum.

 

Make sure you ask a lot of questions to your artist. Before hiring an artist talk with them a bit. Find out how often they are available and how well they can commit to your game. I for one, know the terrible cost of replacing art again again, it's not fun, so make sure you have everything covered in that first talk and that you find out if they are or not right for your site.

 

So the next thing you need to know is what do you need for art? Well you need more than just images of items and animals, you need:

 

-a banner/layout art

-a town map/world map/backgrounds

-layout index art to attract members

-an advertisement

-animal of your choice for sim(dog, horse, cat etc etc)

-items

-icons

 

You need to make sure you aren’t lacking in images, but not overflowing with no space left on your screen. You really need to make it visually pleasing to members. They will come for the art and stay for the coding.

 

Step 4: Your Mods

Moderators are something that I find a lot of owners do first when creating their game. I am guilty of it and it was a bad idea. You don’t need mods if you don’t have members on your game yet. Hire mods when have a member base and do not hire your friends. Hiring friends can ruin your friendship with that person. You are going to be not only a game owner but a business owner, you have to maker professional relationships. I myself am friends with my staff, but it was on a business level first and they know I am still the owner and they are employee.

 

So where do you hire mods? On your game. For the first little bit try to moderator your game as much as possible and have all the moderator tools setup. Watch player interactions and see if there are players that you think would be a good fit to be a staff member. So what makes a good staff member on your mod team?

 

  • Online activity-be online

  • Game knowledge-they should play the game to understand it

  • Participation- be involved in the community

  • Helping- this person should be someone that does not need to be told to help other players

 

So when hiring put up an application form on your game and ask a lot of questions like; Do you have any previous experience? If you have, where have you worked? What would you do if you saw two players arguing in chat? What happens if you find out your best friend on the game is breaking the rules and how would you handle it? How much time can you dedicate to being online?

 

One thing I find very helpful is having weekly meetings with all my staff. We go over what happened in the previous week, upcoming events and updates etc. My mods also fill out forms every week and submit them before the weekly meeting. The form is to let me know what they did for moderating that week. How many times did they get online? Did they interact with players? Did they handle any reports? Were they any player issues they dealt with? Did they notice any bugs? etc

 

Step 5: Marketing

 

Advertise, advertise, advertise, when the time is right. If you are just starting out, have no coding, no art, no layout, its best not to advertise at all. Make sure that you have a good start on your game. You don’t need members on your game until you are ready to start testing. I know how exciting it is to start getting members, but you don’t want to get all kinds of members and then have your game disappear for a while and come back with a few updates, and disappear again. Players want to play your game and will not stay if there is nothing to do.

 

I would start advertising your game when you have a good amount of coding completed and a layout up with some nice art. At that point you should be ready for testers and then you can start posting and making update announcements.

 

So where do you advertise your game? Get a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Gamefruit Tracker, Email Notifications, Google Ads etc. There all kinds of social media outlets for you to use! You can also advertise on other games as long as you read the terms of service and make sure its allowed.

 

Step 6:

 

You made it! You have coding, a layout, art and a member base! What do you do now? Be active within your player community and always look for new feature updates on your game. One thing I find a lot of new owners make the mistake in is thinking their game is done. A game is never finished it is forever growing. You need to make sure you get bugs squashed, features updated and players are happy etc. Players also need events like trivia, holiday games, and Q&A’s etc. Keeping yourself active in your game keeps your members active. I like to get on live chat and talk with members, it really makes the community come together when they see not only other members are online but the owner and also staff. Make sure the staff you pick have strong community ties and are active with the members. Players love it when you talk to them and give them the time of day. You have to remember that without your players you have no member base and no member base means no one will play your game.

 

So it is possible to create a sim without having a skill or any of the skills at all. Two years ago I had no idea what to do to make my game, it was a long hard road, a lot of money, a lot of work, but it was all worth it. I got to see my idea become a reality, I made great friends and I have an awesome member community on my game that I love to death. I still have a long road ahead before it reaches my end goal, but PRH and I will be around for a long time.

 

To anyone taking this journey and is needing help, I hope this has given you some things to think about and helped you understand what your next step is. I also encourage anyone who has any questions to feel free to message me at any time. I would be happy to help you as other owners have done for me. And maybe we can start our own little club of the untalented

 

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