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Have you ever wanted to design your own computer game?

Maybe you have a great idea for a game but don’t know how to get started? Maybe you’re a gamer yourself, and after playing so many video games you have an idea on how to improve on classic formulae?

Maybe you’re interested in game design or maybe you’re only interested in one aspect of it, like art design, level design, or storytelling?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then this guide is for you.


Before you can start building a game you need ideas for a game concept.

Inspiration can come in many forms. You might get game ideas from books, movies, or TV shows. You might get game ideas from other games. Just be sure to put your own original spin on things.

To begin defining your concept you should define your player’s role in the game. What can the player do within the game? What are their objectives?

This might be obvious for some games. In a first-person shooter and many role-playing games your objective is to defeat enemies and progress throughout the world.

Other games, like The Sims, are more freeform and the player’s goals are less obvious and defined.

You should also identify an audience for your game. You cannot design a game well unless you know who you are designing it for.

Different player groups or audiences include hardcore gamers, casual gamers, men, women, children, and adults. Players with specific interests and from different cultures also constitute player groups.

Once you have decided on these things it is time to choose a genre or genres that best fit your game concept. Examples of popular genres include adventure, puzzle, action, strategy, RPGs, and simulations.


All of your ideas about your game should be recorded in an ongoing concept document. For now, this should include your working title, concept ideas, your player’s role and abilities, and your chosen genres.

As you go on to create more of your game you should add world details, concept art, level design, and more to the concept document.

This document can be used for your own reference, as guidance for a team, or as a pitch to investors.


The detail of different game worlds might vary depending on genre, gameplay, and other aspects of the game. For example, World of Warcraft and other RPGs tend to have very complex game worlds with rich world-building. Puzzle games like Tetris require less defined “worlds”.

World-building can be quite complicated, especially for large games. Aspects of a game world that need to be defined include the physical world, its art style, characters, cultures, and history. Emotional content and ethical considerations should be examined.

A level is a subsection of the game. Games are partitioned into levels for several reasons. One is to make it easier to load everything needed for a particular portion of gameplay and store it in memory at once. Another is to create logical sections or areas in which players can explore and play.

Level design varies greatly between different genres. A side-scrolling action game like Super Mario Bros might have levels based on different visual aesthetics and map layouts. Pac-Man has very little variation between levels except for different power-ups and varying character speeds.

Generally, a modern game should have a tutorial level to introduce the player to the mechanics of the game. Subsequent levels should maintain consistent difficulty or gradually get harder. If there is an easy mode, then it should be startling easy. Harder modes can be included for players who want more challenge.

Lighting, atmosphere, and pacing are all also important aspects of level design, particularly in certain genres.


Gameplay includes the challenges, actions, and choices that comprise the user experience in a game.

Gameplay should be fun, first and foremost. What is fun can be difficult to define and capture. If there is an element of gameplay that is broken, it will ruin the user experience and should be removed. If there is an element of gameplay that is fun, think very carefully before modifying it significantly. You may have lightning in a bottle.

Game mechanics are the rules and data associated with a game. For a game like Monopoly, game mechanics include the written rules, but they also include the board, the pieces, and the Chance and Community cards.

Game mechanics include player actions, challenges and goals, NPCs and their capabilities, physics systems, internal economies, social interaction, resources like power-ups and weapons, and more.

Different types and genres of games will have different game mechanics. The fusion of the game concept, world, art style, and mechanics will all converge to create a unique game and a unique player experience.


Stories are of different importance to different games. The best place to begin when designing a story is with the characters.

Good characters should be appealing, believable, and memorable. The player should be able to identify with them. For instance, in children’s games the protagonist is often smaller than the enemies.

An avatar is a player character within a game. Avatars can be specific characters, or players may be given a choice of avatars for their character. Some games allow for in-depth avatar customization.

Character concept art should be created for any important characters. Then actual digital assets (models and textures) can be created. Less important characters may be represented by placeholders during the development process.

Stories add entertainment value and attract a wider audience. Many players play video games primarily for the story. Those who do not can simply ignore it.

Good stories should be engaging, believable, and meaningful. Story-focused players should care about the characters and events in your game.

Due to the interactive nature of computer games, it is possible to tell stories that are difficult or impossible to tell in other media. Computer game storytelling is very flexible. Stories can be linear, or they can branch into multiple different paths and endings.


Different games require different user interfaces. For a first-person shooter, a health bar and an ammunition counter might be all that is required. A real-time strategy game or role-playing game might need a complicated user interface to contain controls and visualizations for all of the relevant game elements.

Modern players generally expect even the simplest games to have a start screen, a score and/or time display, and a game over screen. More complicated games might have heads-up displays, mini-maps, weapon wheels, and more.

If there is information a player needs to know while playing the game (progress, goals, inventory, actions, etc.) these should usually be represented in some way on the user interface.


So far, everything we have discussed can be designed on paper. This can be helpful to hash out ideas before spending resources on prototyping and development.

Before you can properly implement a computer game, though, you will need to select a game engine.

A game engine is software architecture that game designers and developers can use to create a game. Within the game engine, designers implement the world, the characters, game entities, physics, artificial intelligence, collision detection, and everything else needed to realize their vision.


1. Unity

Unity is an excellent choice of game engine for beginners. It allows for the creation of 2D, 3D, VR, and AR games for multiple platforms and has a huge online asset store of both free and paid assets. Unity Learn is their free online platform with extensive tutorials on using the Unity game engine to make games of all types.

Unity’s Personal edition includes most of the engine’s features and is free to use for individuals and small businesses with less than $100,000USD in annual gross revenue or funding.

Click here to go to the Unity website.

2. Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine is the most powerful game engine on this list and can be used to make beautiful and expansive 3D games. The learning curve is also quite a bit steeper than with many of the other engines on this list. The Unreal Engine powers blockbuster games like Fortnight, Gears of War, and Valorant.

Unreal Engine is free to use until your gross revenue exceeds a certain threshold, at which point you are required to pay royalties to Epic Games.

Click here to go to the Unreal Engine website.

3. Godot

Godot is a free, open-source game engine that can publish games for multiple platforms. It lacks some of the features of Unity and Unreal Engine but is still a very capable piece of software. Users may find it more difficult to find tutorials on using Godot than with more popular engines like Unity and Unreal Engine.

These caveats are offset by the fact that Godot is free and open source.

Click here to go to the Godot website.

4. AppGameKit

AppGameKit is specifically designed to be easy to learn for beginners. Like Godot, it lacks some of the features of more professional game engines. AppGameKit has limited graphical capabilities and is best used for 2D games.

All editions of AppGameKit come at a flat cost, meaning new users must lay out a little cash before using the engine (although there are 7-day free trials of some editions).

Click here to go the AppGameKit website.

5. GameMaker

GameMaker is another game engine that is ideal for beginners, with a focus on being easy to learn for users with less developed programming skills. It is best used to make 2D games and has a built-in graphics editor for creating raster graphics.

GameMaker has a free version that allows you to test out the engine, but commercial use requires a a one-time purchase of the professional edition or a yearly subscription to the enterprise version.

Click here to go to the GameMaker website.


During the development process games must be both balanced and tested.

Balancing involves making sure the level of difficulty is fair and consistent, or gradually increases. Games must be balanced (or at least perceived as balanced) for both Player vs Environment (PvE) play and Player vs Player (PvP) play.

Testing is important at all points during the development lifecycle but must be focused on prior to production.

Alpha testing is in-house testing by the team that made the game. Beta testing is when the team makes a (usually limited) public release to play-testers to gather feedback on bugs, usability, and gameplay issues.


In conclusion we have looked at the necessary components of game design:

  • The game concept
  • Game world and level design
  • Gameplay and game mechanics
  • Character and story
  • User interface

We have also explored some of the best game engines for beginning game developers:

  1. Unity
  2. Unreal Engine
  3. Godot
  4. AppGameKit
  5. GameMaker

If you enjoyed this article, then feel free to check out similar content on my blog. If you want these articles delivered to your email inbox every weekend, then click here to subscribe to my newsletter.

I wish you all the best in your journey of learning and self-discovery.

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