Today I want to talk to you about 4 things I wish I knew as an aspiring independent game developer.
The first is Start Small.
Separate skill from ambition and make sure the project is the right size for you. Game design is hard, and no one gets it right the first time around.
Starting small allows you to fail fast. You will know what works and what doesn’t really quickly if your scope is small. We learn from our mistakes, so small quick mistakes provide small quick lessons.
As you get better and more experienced you can increase the size of the projects.
I made this mistake early on. I wanted to build an epic RPG with every feature you can imagine. In the end there were way too many problems to solve in too little time and I got bored, and abandoned the project. Don’t let that happen to you.
I would recommend looking at another game and trying to copy a mechanic. If it’s your first game, I would recommend just trying and creating a clone of an existing game like Tetris and putting a twist on it… like instead of blocks, maybe cats fall from the top.. who knows. experiment, that’s what small projects allow you to do.
The second point to consider is to use a gameengine. There are many amazing free engines out today that take way the heavy lifting such as Unity and Godot. Don’t get hung up on the coding, and learn just enough to get the feature working.
I’ve been guilty of this one when I first started. As a programmer, I naturally wanted to write things from scratch. Early on I spent more time programming a game engine than a game. And since it was my first time, the game engine sucked and the game play was nowhere to be found.
So, you have to ask yourself, “Am I making a game or a game engine?”
Time spent on working on engine features is time not spent on making a game. Remember, the player is ultimately playing a game, not the engine.
The third point is the COMPLETE THE PROJECT!
The most important skill to have is to be able to COMPLETE A PROJECT. This sounds like an obvious one but it needs to be said.
A large number of games started by new game developers don’t get completed.
This usually happens because of the previous points mentioned.
Either you’ll start a project and get bored of it and move on to the next idea or quit altogether.
Finally you’ll want to release and repeat.
The game is not truly done until it’s in the players hand.
Revel in your accomplishments! Take the feedback and learn from it. Try not to take anything personal, but know not all feedback is good feedback. This is the time to reflect and start planning for your next project. What went right, what went wrong? Knowing that you can complete a project, use that experience to work on the next game. You will know what you’re capable of use that knowledge for the next game.
Also know that your first few games will likely be bad. That’s OK! Game design is hard and is a skill that can only be learned from doing… So, continue making games and you’ll surely continue improving.