Something that interests me greatly with making things is the process by which the maker transforms from a novice to a master. This is a process of learning primarily by doing and through experience. Things like reading about a subject, interacting with peers, or watching others demonstrate, or abstractly thinking about a topic all contribute to learning, but none so much as actually doing things.
To the greatest extent possible, one should endeavor to spend their time doing and making. Get outside of your head and make. Do not exhaust yourself while making and doing; give yourself opportunity to observe what, how, and why you are doing what you are doing, and take time to examine and reflect on these things. Then apply what insights you gain from this into your next doing and making.
As I have progressed in learning GameMaker, I have observed a few distinct phases in my development. I don’t know that I’m at the highest level yet, or if there is a highest level. But as a gamer I like being able to categorize things and assign levels to them :-)
I really wish that I had had something like this to guide me as I made my progress, so it makes me really happy to have written this. I think it can help a less-experienced developer have some idea of a criteria of competencies so they can figure out how to get better, things to look for that can help them get there without having to figure it all out for themselves. It can also help a mentor recognize where their protegé is at in their development and help them identify areas where they should focus in order to improve.
Here’s a summary of my progression as a GM Dev to date:
Complete ignorance. It’s a struggle to do anything.
All you can really do is follow instructions in a tutorial, most likely doing things with drag and drop actions. And sometimes even that is frustrating.
Despite the instructions being clear and straightforward, you still have a hard time following them because you have questions that are so basic that the people who wrote the tutorials don’t even realize that you would have them.
If you’re trying to follow written instructions, you wish that instead of still images, you had an animation showing where to click and what to type. The instructions use terms for user interface widgets in the IDE that you aren’t familiar with yet, leaving you to guess until you figure out what they mean.
Six months or so later, you think to search for tutorial videos on YouTube, and find a bunch, although they’re not really much better because of amateurish production quality, and by this point you’re well beyond needing them anyway. Still, there’s a few good ones on topics you’re not yet clear on. (more…)