The Game of making Games - a Metaphor


"Make small games" is the advice that everyone hears when starting out with game development. But that's is nothing that we want to hear while fantasizing about our insanely big dream project. Let's face it, small games seem boring.


The Game Metaphor

Let's put it into terms that we all understand.

It's one of those rainy afternoons. Some guy, let's call him Link, decides to become a game developer. Of course, he has big plans. He wants to make a MMORPG. Oh wait that's boring. Let's say, he is a Hero in a role playing game, and he wants to slay a big dragon!

Link just started his journey today, that pretty much makes him a level 1 hero. He has barely any skills, his wooden sword is weak, his wooden armor is thin and he only has money for two or three healing potions (just in case...).

The dragon on the other hand, this untamed beast is level 60. It's big, it's strong and it kills everyone who gets close to it.

As in every role playing game, there is a huge world with all kinds of fascinating things between Link and the Dragon. There are other heroes, some are friendly and some aren't. There are thousands of monsters everywhere in the world. Some are weak, some are almost as strong as the dragon. Some of them are in dungeons and they are so strong that only a group of brave heros might have a chance to kill them.

Now I am asking you the reader, how can Link slay his dragon?

Plan #1 - think big

Link may be only level 1, but he sure is motivated, enthusiastic and dedicated. He does the obvious thing, he walks right towards where the dragon lives, and he faces him.

Link walks up to him and slays his wooden sword right into the sleeping dragon's head. The sword breaks without hurting the dragon at all, the dragon doesn't even feel it. But Link is brave, he walks into the woods, finds some sticks and stones and quickly crafts himself a spear. He walks back to the dragon, and throws his spear right into the sleeping dragon's eye.

A loud roaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar... spreads through the world. The dragon was hurt, and he is now awake. The spear made a total of 1 damage - sadly the dragon still has 999 health left.

Now its on. The dragon spies a huge load of fire towards Link. His weak wooden armor starts to burn and does a lot of damage to our hero. But Link won't give up, he drinks a potion and once again he walks back into the woods, crafts himself a new armor and tries again. On his next attack, he managed to do 1 more damage.

Only 998 health left...

The sun rises and falls day after day, and our level 1 Link keeps fighting the beast. It has been a long time since he started fighting the dragon. And even though he is the single most dedicated hero in the whole world, he runs out of energy eventually. After what feels like a year of fighting, Link is a mess. He hates his weak weapons, he hasn't slept in days, he is hungry, he has no more money to buy new potions.

The dragon spits fire right into Link. His weak wooden armor starts to burn again and ultimately he dies a slow and painful death.

Plan #2 - successive

suc-ces-sive [/səkˈsesiv/]: Following one another.

Let's start again. This time, our level 1 Link starts by killing level 1 wolves. He gets stronger, he built some muscles, used the wolves' fur to make better armor and traded the wolves' eyes for a better sword. It's time to fight level 10 orcs now...

Our Link fights hard every day, and soon he advanced to level 30. He met a few friendly heroes along the way, and they decided to go into a dungeon and slay a big evil spider. It's a hard battle. Link continues to get stronger and stronger.

Five years later, it's another one of those rainy Sunday afternoons. Link's thoughts drift away as he remembers all the monsters that he has killed, all the powerful new weapons that he found and all the mistakes that he made. He is now a powerful and well respected warrior. He is the leader of a huge guild called Vedemag, and he has thousands of potions in his backpack.

As the clouds melt away and the sun shines right into his eyes, he remembers the dragon. The untamed beast that got him into this in the first place. Link never gives up, so he decides it's time to fight the dragon again.

He walks up to the dragon and starts by smashing his holy sword right into the dragon's eye. The dragon awakes, a loud roaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar... spreads through the world again. This time, he made 100 damage - now the dragon has only 900 health left.

As Link raises his hand, his whole guild appears behind him on the horizon. Fearlessly they run towards the dragon and fight him with everything they have. The hours pass by as the dragon gets weaker and weaker in what seems to be the biggest fight in Link's life. The dragon becomes weaker and weaker. He can barely breath, as Link attacks him with his sword for the last time.

Our hero has slain the dragon. After a long journey full of practice, failure and persistence he finally reached his goal.


Dear reader, you are Link. The Dragon is your big dream project. The heroes are your fellow game developers. The wolves are those little one-week game projects, and the orcs are the slightly bigger 6-month projects. The big evil spider will be your first one-year multiplayer game.

Right now you are only equipped with a wooden sword (a few tools that kinda suck). You have to be patient and keep fighting, and ultimately your wooden sword will turn into a powerful holy sword (like a Game Engine or a powerful Framework). The potions are your food, so make sure to farm enough gold in order to pay for it. And most importantly, your wooden armor is your mind. It's up to you to strengthen it by failing and succeeding over and over again.

Be patient, enjoy the journey and don't be so crazy to fight the dragon right away!