MonthOctober 2014

Alone in the dev – Developing a game alone

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Alone?

I sometimes get asked by people if it’s possible to develop a game all by yourself.
The simple answer to that question is ‘Yes!’ (the exclamation mark is a must).
Even if you are working full time and are trying to be indie part time, it’s possible.
It’s true, I’ve done it before, and I can prove it.

Actually, I can’t prove it anymore.
It’s OK though, you can totally believe me.

I did release a game around 2010-2011; it was called Static Break and it was a puzzle game for iOS. I actually also released Super Static Break for iPad which was Static Break, but with extra puzzles.
Was it the best game ever? Was it super intricate and involving?
I can assure you that the answer to both questions is a resounding ‘NO’.
It is, however, something I am still excessively proud of.
Why?
Keep on reading.

The problem with working alone

The great thing about creating a game on your own is that you have complete control over everything. You get to choose the setting, the style, the title, the gameplay, the schedule, the price, etc.

It’s great!

All this control and power will also be your biggest challenge, because you are alone.
When you are working alone, no one is there to force you to work.
No one will organize your project.
No one will do the stuff you don’t want to do.

And there is only one thing you really need in order to overcome the challenge of working alone.

Willpower.

It seems simple enough, but it’s atrociously difficult to actually achieve.
So, here are a few tips on how to be a lone wolf.

Alone wolf

I believe this is what an indie working alone looks like, but I’m not sure

How to work alone

Keep it simple.

I’m starting with this tip because it is the most important, and by far.
The game you are working on alone should be simple, especially if it’s your first project.
By keeping the game simple, it will be much easier for you to manage the project and it will increase the chance that you will finish the game, which is one of the most important things you need to do as an indie.
Sure, you won’t make that super deep and complex RPG with a story spanning three generations that you’ve always dreamed about. Again, if this is your first project, you shouldn’t be doing that anyway.

If the game you’re making alone is simple, you’ll reduce the chances of failure (not finishing!)

In my case, Static Break was a relatively puzzle game and it took some time to complete. Looking at it today, I realize it’s because I kept the game simple that I was able to complete the project and release it.

Compensate for your weaknesses

Chances are you’ve got some trade that you’re good at/studied in.
A game you make alone should capitalize on your strength, to increase the chances of finishing.

Not an artist? Make a game with simple shapes or with art that you can make yourself.
Not a musician/sound dude? Get some free sounds or buy some royalty-free music for low prices.
Not a programmer? Use an engine that requires very little programming.

By focusing on what’s your good at, you won’t get caught up in stuff you don’t know and increase the chance of completing the project.

Use tools and engines

If there is any way you can make something simpler by using a tool (free or not), do it.
When you use tools made by other people, you are being efficient and are using their strengths to your advantage.

Want your game to be multi-platform? Make sure you pick an engine that covers the platforms where you want to deploy.
Don’t know Photoshop? Use Paint.net instead; it’s a free alternative to PS.

A special point needs to be made on using a tracking tool to manage your project.
Use any type of software that will let you set up tasks and planning.
This could be Gmail/Calendar or something like Trello (which I use).
These are especially useful as you can typically set due date with email reminders.
These will serve you well as swift kicks in the butt if you ever slack off too much.

Keeping a journal of what you’ve done can also help.
You will feel as though you are progressing and when the project is done, you can look back at all the work you’ve done. Plus, if you actually publish that journal live, like on a blog, it also counts in your marketing effort and will give you great practice for larger projects.

Should I work alone?

Definitely. At least for one project.

The reason I recommend working on at least one game alone is simple.
You’ll get to know yourself pretty well.
You’ll discover which parts of the indie aspect will interest you most, and which you will hate.
And then, you’ll probably realize how much work doing a “real” game would be at that point, and that’s fundamental.
You won’t know what being indie is unless you’ve tried.
You can then start working on something bigger and try stepping outside your comfort zone.

Basically, you will grow as an individual.
And if you actually get that game done, even if it’s simple, you will feel great about yourself!

And, hey, you never know!

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Success as an Indie – 3 Important Factors

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Success as an indie

The exact definition of what indie means could be the subject of debate (and another post). However, most indie developers pretty much agree on the definition of success. Success as an indie means that you are able to live off the craft of making the games you really want to make. Having read a lot of articles on the subject of succeeding as an indie, I’ve noticed that there are three points that seem to be recurrent.

Success factor #1 – Finishing your game

It may seem like a really obvious point, but most developers have a really hard time finishing a project. Even small projects can be hard to finish. Having completed a few projects on my own, I can certainly say that finishing a game completely is not an easy task. Even if you have teammates, completing a project can be difficult. Regardless of your situation, it’s really important to focus on the task at hand and keep your project realistic and organized. I think I’ll write another post on what I do to complete my projects, but in the mean time, here is another link on the subject.

Success factor #2 – People need to know about your game

We love making games. And as we gain experience making games, we think that completing the game is the hardest part. The truth is, getting your game known is as hard, if not harder that creating the game itself. For a lot of developers, making the game is what’s fun, but selling it to people isn’t. However, if you want to succeed as an indie game developer, you need your game to sell. And if you want people to buy your game, you need to inform them about your game. In the future, I’ll also be writing some posts on how to get people to know about your game and here is another excellent blog to get started.

Success factor #3 – Getting lucky

I’m actually talking here about good old random luck. Interestingly enough, most successful indie developers say that their success also was due to luck. Yes, this means that you don’t have control over this. However, most successful indie developers agree that if you work really hard on the first two points, your reliance on luck can be diminished.

Reading back on this post, I realize that it kind of sounds like I’m stating the obvious.
Well, the truth is, I am, because it needs to be repeated.
I’ve seen plenty of projects not get finished.
I’ve seen plenty of projects get finished, but sell a ridiculous amount of copies because of lack of exposure.
Finally, I’ve seen great games with some great exposure that still didn’t make it to success.

But, hey, if I’m still around talking about this, then I guess there is a fourth point.
Don’t give up.

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Introduction to Indie Dev Guy

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Introduction to me, the Indie Dev Guy

I finally got to writing a first introduction post after struggling with a few technical points.
Well, I guess one of the fun things about being indie is that you need to do everything and learn everything, so, here we go!

Hi!

Quick introduction, the name’s Tiego FB, just a guy and an independent (indie) game developer, hence the name of this blog.

I’m actually also a full time programmer working for a medium-sized video game company.  I decided to start this blog because, well, to be honest, in order to succeed in the indie business, you need to have exposure.

Wait, don’t leave just yet!
The idea here isn’t just to talk about me all the time, but rather to have a space in which I can express some ideas, some opinions along with some experiences that I’ve in the past ten years.

Yep, basically, I’ve been working in the video game industry for the past ten years.
I’ve also been trying to succeed as an indie game developer for the past three years.
I’ve worked for large, medium and small companies video games.
I’ve been a teacher and taught stuff on the industry and programming.
I’ve been a lone indie developer and I’ve tried to start an indie game company with some people I know.
I’m sure I’ll write something that will interest you at some point!

So, if you’re interested, come back once in a while.
My goal is to talk about everything related to the video games, indie video development and other related stuff.
I might digress once in a while, but don’t worry, it’s part of my charm!

You can also follow me on Twitter and stuff, and hopefully I will get better at that too!

And yes, I am working on a few projects that are bound to interest you!
Well, that’s it for the introduction!

 

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