I'm a designer, not a programmer.


I was going to post this as a reply in this thread, probably very near this post on the forum, but the author meant "art" by design, I am thinking actual game design, but this post got me thinking.

I'm a designer, not a programmer. I have friends who work in code, and they have talked about how they think and sometimes dream in code. I know how to code, I've been using GML for a long time now. But my projects usually end up in some kind of limbo because I'm not a programmer. The short version of my day job is "problem solver". People come to me with issues, or I see them myself, and it's my job to do something about it. I think in terms of "how can this be better?". In my time developing games, I'm usually spending most of my time at my notepad, in excel, docs, forums, GDC archives, using the resources around me to create mechanics, not crunch code.

I can spend months on a project on paper, on whiteboards, but never get it into code. On my laptop as I type now, I have a folder of unused mechanics and sometimes whole game ideas surrounding them. It's a shame because I tend to get lost in these ideas, and I don't think most of them will see the light of day because I'm not the most skilled programmer. Rather, I tend to get lost in the loop of iteration over iteration, with no end product coming to light.

Not to say I haven't finished a game. I have a few under my belt! Last summer, I spent most of it developing a mobile game that never saw release. It's sitting on my computer now, but I don't want to pay to renew my Apple developer account right now ;). When it came to developing this specific game (I don't remember the exact timeline) it was something like 2.5 months of "what is this?" and "how can this be better?" and "is this actually fun?", followed by iteration over iteration over iteration. The actual programming work only took about two weeks. I teamed up with an online friend of mine who is a talented pixel artist, and one of his friends composed a few tracks, and it came together! Rewarding as this experience was, I can't help but also remember how absolutely burnt out I felt after a few weeks of spending all my spare time in GMS. I have a huge amount of respect for those of you who can. Not only in Game Maker, but those who can code or work on something important to them full time like that.

Honestly, I'm not totally sure what the point of this post is. Maybe it's that I want to let you all know it's okay to not finish every project. Maybe I wanted to share my personal experience. Maybe I want to remind you that nobody (or, at least, very few of us!) are truly a jack of all trades. Maybe I was just thinking about how we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I suspect it's a combination of all of these, but you get out of it what you will :)

I'd encourage you to think about it, and if you're up for it, reply with what you are and what you aren't! Some of us are programmers and not designers, some of us are pixel artists and not composers. Some of us are creative thinkers, but not game designers. But we are all in this together, and we are all awesome. Thank you.


It takes a lot of ooomf to finish a game. It’s the hardest part. I always go back to doing the parts that give me the most joy. It’s a hobby. It’s suppose to be fun. Challenging yourself is fun too.


Yeah the design is a key part of the process. Once you have the design written down, make a list of what you need to fulfill those requirement. Then set out the fill the list. That is how I work anyways. You can either make the code and art and such yourself or use free resources or contract it out or form a team. The key is to once you got your go list work the list and don't try to change it unless it is absolutely necessary.


Im also more of a designer than programmer. I started to fiddle with gml few years ago when I first got my hands on gms 1.4. I was more of the creative brainstormer who draws doodles and design sketches on the back of a notebook. I always daydreamed into making my creative stories into games but never thought game maker would be easy piecey. I already know how to do so much from practicing and playing with the program. Im still trying to understand the whole change on gms 2.3 but Im so excited to get something made already. :-D


To me, programming is problem solving too.
You may or may not have a GDD, you hopefully know all the systems that will be in the game, how the gameplay is supposed to work, now what's the best way you know how to make all that work?

I think that once you're comfortable with GML, using the manual, and debugging, the coding is usually the easiest part. It's the "exactly how am I going to make this work as intended, user friendly, efficient, perhaps modular to allow for easy integration of future skills etc" that can be problematic.


🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Programming is a means to an end, design is the exact opposite. It's way better to be good at design and glue your games together with spaghetti codebonara than an expert programmer who glues together drab 5-minute corridors with bullet sponges made from stock assets and cheap instakills.
spaghetti codebonara
I'm using this phrase from now on.

To the OP's point, coding can be incredibly intimidating. I've always been far more sure of myself (and I'd like to believe have some fair amount of skill) when it comes to design, world-building, and character design than I am with programming. There have been far too many stops and starts in my own projects simply because I've been afraid that I'd mess up coding the next section or mechanic. But in almost every case, the actual writing of the code was simple. I read this thing on Twitter the other day that said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that if you can program a version of Pong, you have enough programming ability to code 90% of the games Vlambeer has ever released. Its when your simple bits of code start becoming intertwined and interdependent that things start getting a little tricky...