This blog post will focus on discussing the correct way to make use of game development tutorials. I know this might sound bizarre but it can be easy, especially for new game developers to overuse them. Overusing tutorials can have a negative long term effect on our ability to become great game developers, which is why it’s important we use them correctly.
Types of game development tutorials?
I don’t want to say game development tutorials are bad and put anyone of ever using them so I thought I would specify the difference between game development tutorials that can cause problems and those that cannot.
Tutorials that I think are perfectly fine to use without repercussion are those that teach you how to use a tool. Game engines are an example of a tool. Unreal and Unity both allow you to make games, but both work differently. If you know how to use one of them that doesn’t automatically qualify you to pick up and use the other. This is where tutorials really shine. They provide a quick and easy way to get up to scratch with a new tool without you having to poke around blindly trying to figure things out yourself.
Tutorials that can cause problems are those that focus on providing a solution to a problem. This could be a tutorial that teaches you how to make an entire game or one that shows you how to implement a specific feature or game play mechanic. Whatever they might be they provide an answer to a problem and provide code.
Why Problem Solving Tutorials Can Be Bad?
Tutorials that provide solutions to problems are only bad if we use them for the wrong reasons. This is easy to do if you’re a beginner game developer who should focus on learning and solving problems but instead turn to tutorials for answers.
This is bad because what makes someone a good game developer is their ability to solve programming problems. Tutorials provide a solution to a problem that avoids us having to figure things out ourselves.
We might learn a little about a topic, but the real value comes from taking knowledge and applying it to a problem. As developers, there is also the added benefit of figuring out the code we need to write for this problem.
This leads me onto a second problem with tutorials. They only show you one way of solving a problem, and their solution might not be the right one for your project. Many aspects of a project affect how a problem should be solved such as hardware limitations, hardware/devices that need to be supported, type and number of platforms to support, architecture of the code base, and so forth.
With so much variation, it’s not likely that code you pulled from a tutorial online will be the best solution for the problem you are trying to solve. Furthermore, if we can’t even come up with a basic solution ourselves, then we have no chance of solving the problem unique to a specific project given all the potential considerations we have to make.
Am I Trapped in Using Game Development Tutorials?
The next step after realising how bad game development tutorials can be is to identify whether we are using them too much. Let’s look at a very plausible scenario where we try to create a game.
Imagine we come up with a great idea for a 2D RPG game, but we aren’t sure how to start. Perhaps we should look for a YouTube tutorial and find something that helps us create a basic 2D RPG in Unity. Perhaps we follow that whole tutorial and have a game that works, but it’s not quite what we wanted. It doesn’t work on mobile or have several game-play features we came up with.
Instead of figuring out how to implement them ourselves, we look online at more specific tutorials. How to make a 2D RPG mobile game, how to implement x gameplay feature. Perhaps are requests become so specific that we cannot find a tutorial online to help us, so we ask people online for help instead. Sadly, no one helps us, and in the end our 2D RPG mobile game ceases to exist.
If any part of this scenario mentioned sounds familiar, then you might have fallen into the trap of overusing game development tutorials. In this example, instead of solving problems ourselves we have resorted to having other people solve them for us and in the end have given up because we haven’t found solutions to problems ourselves.
Why Am I Using Game Development Tutorials?
Don’t feel bad though if you find yourself in this situation, it’s most likely that you have taken on too much too quickly. That’s the problem with game ideas, they are easier to conjure up than they are to actually bring to life.
Many people jump into learning how to make games before they even know how to create basic programs. It doesn’t help when a lot of tutorials online promise they’ll teach you how to code whilst making games when in reality you should just start by learning to code.
So when you want to create a game, and maybe you’ve worked through a couple of online tutorials that have taught you a bit of coding whilst making a game in Unity, you might believe you are ready to make your own games. Only to realise that when it comes down to it, you don’t have the tools or experience to come up with something yourself. Which is why you go back to searching for tutorials.
Game development isn’t easy and no amount of tutorials you follow online will prepare you because you will eventually have to solve programming problems yourself. Good programming and software development skills are a necessity, you can’t just skip these basics and jump straight to being a game developer.
When to Use and Avoid Game Development Tutorials
Like I said previously I think tutorials are great, especially those that teach you how to use a tool such as a game engine and tutorials that solve problems are also good providing you use them responsibly.
Tutorials aren’t great for people who are just getting started and are still trying to learn, or for those trying to run before they can walk. Tutorials take away from the most beneficial aspect of learning, solving the problem yourself. By all means follow a tutorial to “learn” about a certain algorithm, or about how finite state machines are used to create AI for yourself, but do the coding yourself. Take the idea or concept from the tutorial, but do the hard work yourself.
There is a big difference between someone who wants to build a 2D RPG and finds a tutorial for creating AI for said RPG as opposed to someone who researches techniques for building AI, say finite state machines, does some research then finds a tutorial that provides an example of using finite state machines for say a racing game. They then take that knowledge and apply it to their own situation. This person found a technique for implementing AI; They looked at an example of how it’s used but applied it to their own project writing their own code.
To summaries this article, I would say be careful. Above all else a good game developer, a good programmer is someone who can solve problems. Tutorials can be great for learning about a new tool and can be a good guide for solving a problem. The problem is when we fall into the trap of having tutorials do all the work for us so we end up missing out on the opportunity to solve problems and thus become a good game developer. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves why we are using tutorials. If it’s because we do not understand how to solve the problems ourselves then maybe we need to take a step back and look at whether we are ready to make games.