Top 5 Skills Every Freelance Game Developer Should Have

Game development is essentially an umbrella term for the entire process of creating a game. There are many different aspects to developing a gamefrom artistic design, programming, to scripting—so don’t worry if there is an area to gaming that isn’t your forte yet. 

That being said, learning the ins and outs of game development can be overwhelming, to say the least, but as a freelancer trying to improve your craft, certain skills are fundamental for your success in the field. If you’re curious as to how you can enhance your knowledge as a game developer and increase your appeal to a gaming company, here are 5 basic skills every freelancer game developer should have: 

1. Proficiency with Gaming Engines

First off, you’ll need to be proficient with gaming engines. A gaming engine is a software-development environment used to create a game. Engines allow you to design the animation and graphics of your game, implement the script, and code your game all in one space with the ability to develop projects for consoles, mobile devices, and computers.  

Start by choosing engines like Unity, GameMaker, and Godot to build a foundation. If you get stuck, there are video tutorials and game resources on each engines’ website to hone your skills and improve. Youtube is also a great resource for tutorials on engine features ranging from basic to advanced techniques. 

2. Coding

You need to be competent in coding in order to be a successful game developer. 

Start by learning a coding language that is right for you. Popular coding languages are Python, JavaScript, or C, C++, and C#. Then make it a goal to watch a tutorial or work on a coding exercise every day, even if it is for only 10 minutes! Just keep at it and be consistent. 

Luckily, there are a variety of online resources that make it super convenient to learn coding languages. Try free online training sites like Khan Academy’s Hour of Code or Codecademy where you can take online courses, tutorials and start writing your own code at your own pace! Or do daily exercises on Scratch. Scratch allows you to learn code in an easy and fun way because it was made to share coding practices with kids!

3. Scripting

Scripting lays out the objective, plot, characters, rules, and lore of your game. 

The more original the better! The key to a good script is the details. You need to have a detailed and consistent world, character development, levels and rules to your game. Develop an origin story for your game with a history of your characters. You can elaborate on this by including a map with historical landmarks. Also, look for ways to form character relationships. You can do this by forming alliances within the game and create compelling character dialogue. 

 The type of video game you are developing makes an impression on your script as well. For example, if it’s a role-playing game make sure each character has a name and a memorable characteristic to differentiate them. Likewise, if it’s a multi-player shooter game, then have a detailed log of every weapon in the game, its names and its function. 

Put a document together of all of the rules of your game, characters, and history of the game’s world. You can then share this document with other team members to maintain consistency. Test your script by having a friend read it like a book and have them give you feedback.

4. Graphics and Animation

Graphics and animation create the world of the game and make it playable.  

Animators create the game design, scenery, characters, and expectations of the world. For example, if the player instructs the character to jump, they are responsible for making sure the character jumps instead of fall over. To learn animation, start by getting familiar with the animation features in your engine of choice. Watch tutorials on your engine’s resource site and on YouTube to learn specific animation features quickly.

You can also learn Adobe Animate if you want more animation freedom. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for 2D graphics effects are also a great way to create a cohesive scenery for your world. Adobe provides tutorials for all of their software so you can learn one feature at a time. Another great resource for online courses is BYOL to learn any of these programs above. Plus, for complex animation such as building 3D characters, consider Maya. You can learn how to use Maya by watching a free tutorial or class on Pluralsight to slowly build your advanced animation skills.

5. Communication

Whether you’re doing it via code or email, communicating clearly and accurately saves you a lot of time and headaches.  

At a large company, you could be working with anywhere from 40-400 game developers all specializing in different aspects of game development. With that in mind, It’s important to have a clear understanding of how all facets of game development work together. By doing so, you’ll be able to understand how to best translate your ideas to other teams and what information they need. If you don’t understand what a department’s function is or what they need from you, then don’t be afraid to ask them. 

Being honest about when you need help reduces your stress and streamlines your team’s success. Talk with your teammates and make sure you develop defined goals and that everyone is aware of all upcoming deadlines so you can work together efficiently to get the job done. 

Be Patient With Yourself

Game development covers a wide variety of skills, so be patient with yourself as you grow. Becoming an expert in all of these skills may not be realistic, but you can specialize in one of these areas to become more competitive. At the end of the day, having a game of your own to prove your skill set will matter the most to a future employer.

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