Whether you are a newbie developer or an old pro, the advice within is sure to help you earn a high score with gamers! A lot of programmers start out with the dream of becoming a game developer at some point in their career. A lot of us are serious gamers (when time permits), and nothing would be cooler than being able to create our own world to play in. In many ways, game development is the penultimate creative process; no matter if you are programming a platformer, side-scroller, or RPG, every game is a mix of storytelling, art, music, and cinema (to some degree), all coming together and culminating in (hopefully) the ultimate piece of entertainment.
While most of us will never get the opportunity to see our creations played out on the mighty console (think PS4, Xbox, or Wii), making an indie or self-created game or mobile app is a real possibility, thanks in part to the ease and relatively small learning curve that comes with the W3C’s latest iteration of the web’s favorite markup language – HTML5.
HTML5 Game Development Best Practices
Below is a list of best practices, tips, and advice for game development in HTML5.
Planning is Everything
Planning should be a part of every developer’s plan – no matter what level the programmer is in an organization or what the project they are working on entails. Even if you are just patching an app or conducting QA work, having an actual, written out plan of action will save you (and your company) a lot of grief, coding, and, ultimately, money.
There plenty of great project management tools on the market, ranging from free to enterprise level, depending upon your particular needs. If you are a small shop or a solo coder that is unsure if you want to invest in a piece of PM software and the free versions just seem like more of a hassle than you want to deal with, you can always create your own database or use an Excel file in a pinch. If your game takes off, you can always purchase a higher level work tracker down the line!
Planning for video games includes many aspects. Story, character and level design, combat systems – the list goes on and on. Start with each major category, then write up a strategy and pseuocode for each part. When you are done, set your plan aside for a few days, then look at it again with fresh eyes. Did you miss anything? Consider having a fellow developer go over the sheet or other team members. If you work with a large crew, create a skeleton plan for each section, then allow the appropriate team member to fill out their piece of the puzzle. Different minds will have different perspectives on what needs to be coded. Be sure everyone is on the same page before any project starts.
Document Your Code
Let’s face it – developers hate to write documentation for their code. It is a fact of life. However, if you have ever had to debug another coder’s “mind bending” software, then you know how frustrating it can be trying to figure out what the intent of a particular block of code is, or what purpose a given variable serves. Indeed, if you have ever looked back at your old code – something you wrote personally – odds are, without documentation, you may not know what you intended for your module to do. Code changes, and so too, do coding styles. Save yourself (and any future programmers who have to read your code) some much needed hassle: document your code.
Find a Good Framework
The web is full of frameworks for HTML5 game devs. They come in all shapes and sizes – free, ad-supported, expensive. They also serve many different purposes. Some of are good for 2D games, others for 3D. Some help you create mobile apps and desktop programs as well, while others work with a specific purpose in mind. Finding the right framework can be time consuming, but it is well worth the process. Read reviews from other users and watch YouTube videos of the various features of each framework you consider. If they have trial versions, download them and take the framework out for a spin. Don’t commit to any single framework until you are comfortable with it and have written – at the very least – a short game. The last thing you want to do is go all-in with a framework only to find it doesn’t suit your needs 3 months later. That can equate to a lot of waste blood, sweat, and tears – no to mention shiny quarters!