2d mobile game animation of a viking in a race car

Beginner's Guide: How to Create a Mobile Game

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Updated 5/5/2020

The 7 steps to creating a mobile game are:

  1. Make your plan.

  2. Choose your software.

  3. Learn your programming language.

  4. Start your project.

  5. Implement your graphics.

  6. Elevate your play.

  7. Release your game.

girl playing a mobile game on her phone

Every person these days has a mobile phone, so it’s no surprise the mobile game market has skyrocketed. If you’re itching to know how to make a video game app of your own, this article will walk you through seven steps you need to take to get your video game app from idea to release.

1. Make Your Plan

 2D graphic of explosions for mobile game

Proper planning, or a lack of planning, can make or break your game. Before you start building your first game, you need to know what it is you want to make. Is it a side scroller? A puzzle game? Or some type of racer? Will it be 2D or 3D? Take the time to write down ideas, come up with unique characters, play with different art styles, and think about the type of gameplay that would make your game fun.

2. Choose Your Software

Why make creating a video game app harder than it needs to be? Take advantage of the advancement in development tools that do the coding for you so, you can focus on the more creative side of your creation.

  • Unity: This is by far the most widely used software among mobile game developers. It is completely free to use (until you put your game onto the market) and has very high graphics capabilities. 

  • UDK (Unreal Development Kit) powered by Unreal Engine: This comes with a pre-made basic project so you can have fun and practice making a prototype game to learn about the tool sets.

  • GameSalad: This requires absolutely no coding knowledge, but uses what they call a “behavior-based logic system.” Think of it as a sort of drag-and-drop game creator. Of course, there is still a learning curve and you won’t be creating complex games as soon as you open it. However, it is extremely powerful and can easily port your games onto iOS, Android, and Windows with the click of a button. 

3d mobile game character with streaks of code

3. Learn Your Programming Language 

No matter which game development software you choose, it’s still extremely important to learn a programming language. A great place to start is C#. This object-oriented programming language is simple and relatively easy to grasp. It is also the most widely-used programming language among Unity developers. 

4. Start Your Project

While actually starting your project can feel intimidating, keeping things simple means you can quickly see results. Begin with the basic mechanics and rules of play. Next, design your first level, implement your graphics, and test, test, test. Finally, create the interface (screens, menus, options, etc.). 

5. Implement Your Graphics

3D mobile first person shooter game environment and character

2D mobile game graphic of vikings racing in cars

You have two choices when it comes to implementing graphics into your games:

  1. Create them yourself in Photoshop (for 2D graphics) or Maya or 3ds Max (for 3D graphics). 

  2. Outsource your graphics to another designer. There are plenty of sites that are dedicated to helping you hire a designer who will give you the look you’re after.

6. Elevate Your Play

Knowing how to create a mobile game isn’t enough. For it to be successful, players have to want to play it. By taking a few extra steps, your game will be able to compete.

  1. Ensure your game doesn’t pixelate.

  2. Make the controls easy and intuitive.

  3. Add an interesting and engaging storyline. 

  4. Create the mood through music that is fun and not distracting.

  5. Test, test, and test some more.

7. Release Your Game

One mistake new game developers often make is trying too hard to make the game perfect, thus delaying the release of the game. It’s better to get the game out the door quickly. If it finds an audience, that’s when you can improve upon the game by releasing updates. If you’re serious about making money off of your game, you’ll need to budget for its marketing.

Now that you know the basics of how to create a mobile game, keep learning. Explore Game Development Tutorials from Pluralsight