Here is a list of general tips to help you succeed in game development:
1. Practice a little bit everyday. This will keep the things you learn fresh in your memory and build a habit of staying on task.
2. Watch video tutorials by quality instructors. 3DBuzz is fantastic for game programming. Jonathan Williamson and Andrew Price are phenomenal for modeling and texturing. Nathan Vegdahl is the one to watch for rigging and animating. Khan Academy is the best for learning Linear Algebra. Ctrlpaint.com is great for concept art in Photoshop. Find out who the best teachers are in the industry and learn from them. Watching tutorials shows you new and more efficient ways to do things you might have been doing the long way, or may steer you out of bad habits you’ve picked up, or just show you how to do things with better polish. Follow along with the tutorial in the related software, where applicable. This will give you valuable practice. If need be, watch first, then watch again while following along.
3. Always be working on a specific game. This will force you to only practice tasks that are related to building a real game.
4. Ask for help. Find someone more skilled and more experienced than you at the aspect of game development you’re working on and ask them for help on a specific problem you’re having. Send them your problem code and point out the line that’s giving you an error. Email them your model file and ask how fix the weird deformation of the hips while it walks. Don’t struggle alone. You will likely lose your momentum and get frustrated without help. You should have an account on several user community forums like blenderartists.org, unity3d.com, stackoverflow.com, to name a few so you can post questions.
5. Always be looking for new learning resources. Do google searches for new video tutorials on texturing. Look for books at the bookstore on sculpting your models. Try to find excellent game programmers to befriend. Read the Unity Game Engine documentation. Download and tinker with the sample Unity game projects. Visit the blender website and forums often to find new plugins and tutorials the user community has made. If you have a weakness in your game development, there is a resource out there to help you, and it will probably be free or inexpensive.
6. Watch video game trailers and ask yourself questions about what you see – “Do I know how to create the dust clouds that Link kicks up when he walks on dirt paths?”, “Do I know how to make the slick animated HUDs I see in Borderlands 2?”, “How would I go about coding the physics to make Sonic the Hedgehog run inside the loop-de-loops?” Find a feature you’ve never tried to create in art or code out and try to do it.
7. Think of yourself as a game development expert. Expect yourself to grow into this. Build the kind of habits you think experts would have. Set aside the time you need to become this, even if it means saying no to some other leisure activities. Hint: time spent playing games does not translate into time spent making games! If you spend 8 hours a day playing games, you’ll not get far as a game developer.
8. When possible, ask an expert to watch you code or model in real time. Let them give you feedback on how you’re using or not using keyboard shortcuts for faster workflow. Listen when they correct you on your technique. For people in Ezimin, getting this opportunity might involve coming to the team meetings a bit early or staying a bit late, but please do so!
9. Join a team of game developers who are actively and consistently building out a real game, like Ezimin Interactive! They will hold you accountable to work, answer questions, give support, and push you to improve yourself.
10. Make regular backups of your files to some other hard drive. Make this into a habit.
11. Get the equipment you need. Get a decent computer with a decent graphics card. Have a scanner so you can scan and upload concept sketches to show team members and to colorize in Photoshop or Gimp. Plug your computer into an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) with a battery backup. Buy an external hard drive to store your backups. Artists should get a Wacom tablet. A small Bamboo tablet costs around $60 – you don’t need to fork out hundreds for a big one. A comfortable desk with good lighting, a quiet room, with high speed internet access, and a 3 button mouse will also go a long way.
12. Stay current with the software you use, but don’t break your existing game projects in the process. You should be subscribed to the Unity3D newsletter so you’re alerted to the latest versions as they come out. Read the developer notes that Blender Foundation releases every week or so to find out the new features that will be coming out in the newest version of Blender.
13. Keep a journal of your game development efforts. Include any thing you found difficult to do and why, and go into detail about any work-arounds you had to use to make something work. Chances are good that you will need to do this task again in the future, and it would be good to have notes on how to do this so you don’t have to relearn this 6 months from now! Be sure to journal on your computer, not on paper. A digital journal is best because you can do Ctrl-F keyword searches to find what you’re looking for. Ctrl-F doesn’t work on a physical pad of paper. Also, remember to include the sort of keywords in your journal entry that you would expect to use to find this tidbit of knowledge later on. Also, include links to any video tutorials or web articles you found useful in your journal.