Ever go to a movie, and say to yourself afterwards, “That was pretty good, but I would have handled the ending a lot differently.”? That’s why I got into game modding: because unlike a movie, you can change a game to make it work the way you would like it to.
After doing modding and level design for many years, I finally decided to make the leap and try development a few years back. I did a lot of investigating the various engines that are out there, and in the end decided to just jump in and try out the one that I thought would work the best – even though I wasn’t sure I could do what I wanted in it. That engine was the Unreal Engine. I spent several months going through tutorials, and working on a project that I knew would work with that engine (even though it was not exactly what I wanted.)
I eventually had to develop my own assets, which meant I needed a tool for 3D modeling. So I started using Blender. And after a while with that, I found that I needed an additional tool to handle the 2D work (for the skins of the 3D models). So I settled on Photoshop. Mostly because my wife is an expert with it, which gives me a free help desk, if I get stuck anywhere.
In the end I completed a fairly nice looking medieval village. I wrote scripts for opening doors, sliding portcullis, boxes and barrels to shove around and hide stuff behind, and some really nifty lighting effects. But it was the amount of time it took to do the 3D assets that convinced me to look for another engine. I wanted to spend my time with the story, designing puzzles, and the logic. I just didn’t have the time to spend an entire weekend to do the 3D model for every rock, wheelbarrow, shrub, etc. in the game. There were a lot of assets included with the package, but that put even more pressure on my limited artistic talent, since my models looked rather sorry when placed next to the well-designed models that came with the game.
So I made the switch to GameMaker Studio, and 2D design, where I have been ever since. My most recent change has been the switch from pixel and raster art to vector art, specifically using Inkscape. I have a long way to go with Inkscape, but it works well with what I call “thinking in geometries” which comes pretty naturally to me. Take a rectangle, cut out a round piece, warp the right side nodes, etc. I still struggle a bit with organic shapes, like rocks and plants, but I do that with pen and paper drawing too.