Unlock your creative power with our beginner’s guide to how to code a game. Learn game engines, coding languages, and more.
Independent game designers and coders are architects of fun, creators of worlds, and crafters of immersive experiences. If you want to learn how to code a game, our beginner’s guide offers you the keys to this kingdom, explaining the ins and outs of game engines, the mysterious tongues of coding languages for games, and more.
Now’s your chance to turn your love of gaming into a paying freelance career shaping the landscape of interactive storytelling!
Starting your game coding journey 🤖
If you’ve found your way here, chances are you’re a gamer. From their thrilling narratives to their complex strategies and immersive virtual realities, the games we love to play most leave a lasting impression. Interestingly, the community of those who stand on the other side of games — the game designers — is notably smaller. This disparity doesn’t exist due to a lack of interest but more often from a lack of knowledge about where and how to get started in this industry.
Learning how to code a game and create a digital world is a rewarding and surprisingly accessible endeavor. Below, we’ll give you an overview of the exciting journey from player to creator.
What is a game engine? 🕹️
A game engine is a powerhouse software framework used to create video games. The robust skeleton underneath your favorite game’s animations, sounds, and interactions, the engine provides the fundamental tools needed to design, develop, and construct video games from scratch. Often home to libraries and support programs, game engines render graphics and manage physics, sound effects, object collisions, and more.
Front and back-end developers can focus on their game’s unique features and design, knowing that their game engine takes care of many substantial elements. Examples of the most popular game engines include:
- Unity is known for its versatility and beginner-friendly approach
- Unreal Engine is prized for its stunning graphics and powerful performance
- Godot is popular for its flexibility and open-source availability
Every game engine has unique pros and cons; understanding them is an essential first step toward learning how to create a video game.
Coding languages for games🎲
Just as a painter needs a palette of colors, a game developer uses a range of popular programming languages. The language you choose depends on your game’s requirements and engine and your coding experience. Each language is a tool that has benefits and drawbacks, including the following:
Simple and readable, Python’s an excellent choice for beginners. This quick and easy coding language is ideal for smaller games, but its slower execution speed and limited support for mobile game development must be considered. If you want to learn how to code a game in Python, try taking online coding classes or tutorials.
C++ is a powerhouse coding language that fuels many high-performance AAA games, including the ones created by large publishers. It’s fast, flexible, and can be used with many game engines, including Unreal and Unity. C++ coding challenges include its complexity and steep learning curve, which can be daunting for beginners.
C# is a simple, versatile programming language used to create the Unity game engine. It’s object- and component-oriented and easier to understand than C++, making it an excellent choice for new coders. The disadvantages of C# include low-level functionality and performance issues. This programming language is developed by Microsoft and works alongside the .NET Framework.
Coding a game: 5 steps 🤓
Freelance game development is an exciting journey filled with creativity and logical problem-solving. If you want to do it yourself, follow these steps:
Select the type of game 🖲️
Game development begins with the spark of an idea. As a freelance gamemaker, you have vast creative freedom — do you want to create a puzzle, shooter, or role-playing game? Or something else entirely? Brainstorm the game’s theme, interactivity, and victory/defeat conditions until you’ve crafted a concept you’re satisfied with.
Create the game’s visuals 🎨
Next, bring your game to life visually. Coding games as an independent developer involves designing characters, enemies, items, environments, and more. Every visual element contributes to your game’s overall aesthetic and atmosphere; the unique spin you put on it defines your game’s distinctive style.
Add the game logic 🧭
Here’s where your coding prowess comes into play. The game logic is the code your game needs to run — its lifeblood. Whether you’re coding from scratch or utilizing a game engine, this step is the heart of what most people imagine when they consider video game coding. The game logic ensures each part interacts correctly and serves its purpose in the overall design.
Test the game 🧪
Now that you’ve created your first game, it’s time to challenge it. A thorough testing phase is critical for spotting bugs, inconsistencies, and areas with room for improvement. As a freelance developer, the debugging process falls on your shoulders; as extensive as the process can be, remember that every fix ensures smoother, more enjoyable gameplay.
Share the game 🔗
Congratulations! You’ve created your own game, and now it’s time to share it with the world. Gather friends and family for a gaming session, distribute your game on appropriate platforms, and take a moment to relish your accomplishment.
What types of games can you code? 🪄
As an aspiring game developer, the types of games you can code are endless. Each type of game offers unique challenges and rewards regarding coding, design, and player engagement. Your choice may depend on your interests, the experiences you want to create for your players, and your skill level.
Here are a few types to consider:
- Web-based games. Simple and accessible, these games are fun, convenient, and great for the first time. Different platforms, including Scratch from MIT, offer a springboard for novice coders to craft and distribute entertaining games, but the trade-off is limited complexity due to lower processing capabilities.
- Console games. When you consider the term “video game,” do console games come to mind? Coding for dedicated gaming consoles like Playstation and Xbox means your creations may be enjoyed from living rooms everywhere.
- Computer games. Developing a native computer game is the way to go if you want to create something cutting-edge. Personal computers are powerhouses that deliver top-tier gaming experiences in terms of graphics and speed.
- Mobile games. A whopping 70% of American gamers play video games on mobile devices — that’s a huge percentage! Coding mobile games might be your winning ticket if you aim to reach the widest possible audience.
Showcase your coding services on Contra 🙌
With these tips and tricks tucked under your belt, it’s time to set off on the thrilling journey of game coding. Remember that nothing beats hands-on experience, and with these insights into coding alongside your newfound understanding of the tools and languages available, you’re equipped to venture into the world of independent game development.
Start forging your path in programming and coding by offering your freelance services on Contra. We’ll connect you with ideal clients worldwide seeking coders for their game projects. By joining, you'll engage with a thriving community of experienced independent developers ready to provide invaluable support as you navigate your freelance journey.
If you’re seeking experienced Independents for your project, hire a front-end developer, coder, or programmer on Contra today.