From time to time I get e-mails from fellow game developers, people just starting out asking me for advice. Usually when people start their journey they want to make the next big 3D MMORPG. I have decided to write down my answer to them for everyone to enjoy.
This is for the people that are making or want to make games, but what I will write about spans nearly everything in life. So be sure to read what I’m saying if you have ever wanted to achieve something.
The Ultimate Vision
To boil it down into one sentence:
The 3D MMORPG is your ultimate vision, it is not the game you will actually do in the nearest future, it is the game you will eventually make if you aim for it.
But you want to have this game right now, yes? You learned how to program or draw in MS Paint and you want it all? The holy grail of games, the best game in the universe, you want the fame and you want the glory. Most of all you want to actually play this game because there is nothing like it out there. You think hard and you come up with a brilliant idea…
There will be a beautiful world, a continent surrounded by a sea in which evil has arisen. The world will be inhabited by various creatures… let me be creative now… let’s say dwarves, elves, orcs, humans. There will be traditional medieval combat weapons and armory… let’s add to that… yes, magic! Potions, spells, runes, mana! How brilliant my mind is! How do I come up with this stuff!? I must be some kind of mastermind. Now let’s see… yes, let everyone play this game, like all people from around the world can join in, form parties, travel woods and kill boars together to gain experience points! Yes, there would be like different levels and classes… OK enough I’m so pumped up about this, I regret writing it down, somebody might steal it!
Yeah… but I’m not here to bash you, I’m here to tell why you will fail, and it is not because of the idea for the game. Blizzard stole my idea and World of Warcraft is now the most popular MMORPG of all time, so that works.
The problem is the point you are standing in time.
You do not have the abilities or knowledge to create such a big game right now. This is not because you are just genetically stupid and don’t have the talent for it. I’ll write about this in a second, cause it will be the most important piece of the puzzle. First think about this.
Knowledge is a tricky thing. If you want to achieve anything in life you must have the knowledge of how to do it, then you use your intelligence to map out specific tasks to accomplish. But if you don’t have experience you actually don’t know what you don’t know!
It was Socrates that first stated it, first realized this concept:
I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing
You really know nothing about what you want to do! (me too of course, I just don’t know slightly less, but I still don’t know more than say Bill Gates).
When you’re learning any type of skill, like playing tennis, learning to drive a car, playing guitar the best thing to do is take an instructor. That is a person that knows what you don’t know and gives that knowledge to you. I’m not saying take an instructor (although it would be the best idea) but realize that you know nothing about the area you are going to work in. If you’re starting to make games you have completely no idea how to make them. Even if you are confident, you learned how to program, how to design a game, you’ve played WoW for 100’s of days etc., if you’ve actually not done games before and failed while making them, you’ve learned nothing.
You must fail when making games. The only way to know there is a wall in front of you, is to run into it and smack your head against it. Then you know there is a wall and that you must overcome it.
So my advice is really simple: start small and move steadily forward. Start by making really small little games with no graphics at all or start by modding existing games. Get bored with them and move forward creating another game slightly more complex than the other (boredom is a sign that your brain has learned already everything about the subject). With each of these games you must come with the same attitude as if you were about to make “the greatest game in the universe”. You must be really excited and motivated to do it. How do you do that I’m not going to tell you, cause you have to find out what fascinates you by your own.
If you fail doing the game it is just a signal that the game was too big, you expected too much from yourself at this specific time, and you should’ve made a simpler one. It does not mean you are a loser. It means you are one step closer to that ultimate game.
Now we can come back to the most important advice. All else was just a prerequisite. Woody Allen once said:
Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once
When you want to create the next big 3D MMORPG you are acting as if time does not exist. So you go and start making the game, you realize it is just too difficult, you analyze the situation and conclude “I’m too dumb” or “It’s too hard” or “I just lost motivation” or “The illuminati (or any other mysterious power) prevented me from doing it”. All of this is the same side of the coin. All these thoughts come from hitting the wall. Now you must use your intelligence to actually see where you are, where do you want to go and how to get there. You must realize where you are standing in time. How far are you from making that big project of yours. To do that you must have knowledge of what needs to be done. But you don’t have that knowledge so you have no idea where you are standing!
Paradox it seems? Yes it is a hopeless case if… you think about.
So don’t think about it and just use my advice, start small. That is the only way you get out of the lack-of-knowledge hole.
The key point you must remember from this is: everything happens in time. Time would not exist if nature wanted you to get everything today. The 3D MMORPG of your dreams is your ultimate vision. It is the game you want to create and which you desire the most, but you won’t make it. You won’t make it ever? NO! You wont make it NOW! This is the point.
Actually this is one of the core secrets of every succesful person. Everyone from Beethoven to Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m not comparing myself to those “almighty greats”, but I am following this secret instinctively all my life, I’ve just come recently to understand what it is and word it out. This is the core concept of any great self-help book like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. If you understand what I wrote there is no need for you to read that book. The problem with understanding, believing and finally accepting this truth is that you think you are different from succesful people.
You look at Arnold and say “I could never have muscles like him, it’s genetics/steroids/whatever”, or you say “wow look at his acting abilities, I could never act like that!” (well maybe not that). You listen to Beethoven and say “He was born with this ability to compose”. You play John Carmack’s games like Doom or Quake and say “He’s a genius, look at this amazing compression!” (if you’re a geek).
The first guy was a skinny little kid like anyone born in a shit-hole in Austria. The second had constantly been reminded by his teachers that he has no talent at all. The third made crap games working in Softdisk.
They are not geniuses, they are regular people. If you ever listen to them (including Socrates and Woody Allen) they will say it straight in your face “I’m no different than you”.
Everyone is average!
Once you realize this, you come up with an understanding of why these people act and achieve differently than the average. And that is only because of a simple concept that they follow.
Know your ultimate vision, realize it will not happen today, tomorrow or even in 5 years, but some day, and to get to that point you must work slowly, learn, experience, fail, build and create every day with something new that will bring you closer to that goal even if it doesn’t look like you’re anywhere close.
The true skill to do this is PATIENCE. If you think you don’t have patience then I’ll tell you what it is. Patience is just a deep understanding of this concept I wrote about, plus the enjoyment of the actual moment, of what is happening now. If you are content with what is now and you believe you will achieve that ultimate vision one day, you are on your way to making that next World of Warcraft.