Getting your feet wet. Make a game.
So, you want to make a videogame. But, it’s your first one, and you have ideas and dreams. Seriously – if you have never created a game, or a game mod, you need to take a step back before you get overwhelmed. Simply put – it’s a lot of work, even with so-called easy tools helping you along the way (and often giving somewhat cheesy results.) But don’t let “hard” talk stop you. It’s just learning, after all.
Your best bet is to start with a small game modification, and games these days encourage that. Why do I suggest this? Because many games include the game modding application along with the game. Whether we are talking Skyrim or merely Torchlight, there are often specific tools built exactly for the task of users like you, making a mod. For those that do not, or for a little bit extra…consider Softimage mod tool software (free) to create or modify elements within a game you might already own as an example.
The advantages of making a mod (rather than a game) are getting some experience without having to build everything yourself, by which I mean – an entire game from start to finish, and all assorted resources. Who does the scripting? The storyboarding? The music? The UI? The…many aspects that get taken for granted, unless we are aware of them. So. Depending on just how far you want to go, you can merely make characters or add rooms or entire maps or even create campaigns. The point here is, before making your own game, creation of a mod is a good place to start to see what your dream really requires, any frustrations, things you like (or dislike), what offers the most difficulty for you, etc.
Typically, these game mod app’s come along on a provided disc, sometimes they require an extra download (Torchlight 2 game editor has yet to be released, for example). I would say your best bet is to start with a game you really like, and mod that (enthusiasm makes a great boss). For example, the most simple modding software offered has been the map editor for far cry (predator) on consoles. Even console folks can get on the modding action (somewhat). Generally however, that is not what most making consists of. Mod making is creation of game elements and resources, new additions being either adjustment of old ones to appear new, or completely new resources. This can be anything from new effects, new characters to new music. Suffice to say, it is a great place to start before you decide “game development” is for you.
Start small – make a character, and paint it, animate it, add it, make it actually work. Or, make some rooms, or maps, if that is what you want to do. I suggest making mods instead of outright building a game, because if you have never made one – well, you WILL fail. Badly. Everyone starts somewhere, but the ‘great ones’ didn’t begin great, they worked to get there. By starting with a mod (small!) you will be less tempted to start off by trying to add everything that you can think of into your “dream game project” (which is, ironically, what still kills some professional game studios even now). I might add here that you will likely quickly learn what you like and dislike about any of the creation aspects, which is important, because that aspect also kills interest quickly.
There is a decent article on making your first game on Kotaku, here: http://kotaku.com/5979539/a-beginners-guide-to-making-your-first-video-game?popular=true
Still, I think the error here is to not start with some preexisting frameworks. Think of it this way: If you have never built a house, will you just go out and build one? How do you (be honest now) think that house is going to come out, building all by yourself, without any real experience? First, you need to assess your skills and abilities, what tools you have, and what you know about them, and skill with them. If someone else has already built the house frame, and put up the walls, and any number of internals (like water, electrical, etc.) then, you putting in a countertop or sink might be a good first effort….and far more likely to work correctly right off. Do not despise small successes.
The same thing might be applied to making a movie here. Ask yourself how many scripts you have written, how much music you have composed. Where you might be tempted to build a full feature length ‘film’ you would be far better served by doing small stuff and finding out just how much effort 3 really good minutes of show time require. I might add here that small segments and portions give you more time, ability and energy to hone your vision and craft, and what expectations you have of it. It is certainly a lot easier to build a short 5 minute clip really well than to spend 5 years bogged down on some film (or game) you lose your vision on. All of this especially applies if you are trying to do everything yourself, wearing all of the hats.
There are many 3-5 minute projects I can show you that took but a mere months to complete. Except…that’s a month from 10-30 people from individuals with lots of professional experience. For someone just starting out, it is unlikely that you or I can claim prodigy status so easily.