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.
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.
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.
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.
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!