10 Harsh truths about being an indie game developer
Have you ever felt games are easy to make? Remember when you saw that badly made game and you were just like „Uh... I could have made it better“. Well developing games in particular is a lot of work, and although it looks easy, it's hard as when you were making your first steps with your mommy.
So today you will learn the harsh truth about being an Indie Game developer.
1. Mathemathic Is Not Important
This is the most common belief of everyday gamers as well as someone who goes out one day and says “Yey! I could make a video game and make a lot of money!”, and then gives up the next day whereas he found out he thought 2+2 = 4… Oh it does equal 4? Dammit… Back to the point.
Why do you think programmers are paid more then 55.000$ a year? Exactly because of that, due to mathematics do not only consist of math, they consist of logic, and thinking as well. So the next time you think about making a game, you must know that math is the key to making one. Like my professor said:
“If you do not want to use your brain, you will use your hands”
2. The First Walk
When you take up on programing and making games in particular, is where you will stop and say “Now what?” Like I stated, this is the point where a lot of people give up immediately, as a result of thinking everything should be served to them. The models, the sounds, music, scripts, everything. Well it just doesn’t work that way, as even when you are sitting at your mom’s table, and the food is there, but it won’t come if you don’t grab that spoon and put it in your mouth! (Unless your mommy still feeds you.)
Therefore, rise up to the challenge and start learning and creating your first models, sounds, etc. Yes, it will be hard, you will fail a lot, and in many points of doing so, you will want to quit many times. But eventually you will become better at these things. To put it in perspective, it’s like driving a car for the first time. It was surely pain in the a*s to be honest, but as you do it more, you got comfortable with it. And that is what you need to do. You need to get out of you comfort zone and start creating!
3. Conquering The World – Not Really.
You know that felling when you watch an awesome movie, and you were so “pumped” and started acting weird, just to fell a bit empowered. Nevertheless this is how video games are started, when you want to make something that matters. But why are you sure it will conquer the world?
Firstly, to be honest it won’t.
Secondly, chances of you succeeding at the point where everyone knows your game is fairly small since an indie developer is hard to get on the market. Unlike for instance Ubisoft that has a huge fan base, and posting a game doesn’t face a challenge when they have thousands of employees.
This is why indie developers are at the bottom of the mountain and have to climb up and hope someone will still be there to see their game. Thankfully Steam, Desura and GOG are making the best of promoting indie games, and this is a huge marketing help, and if you ever wish to publish your game anywhere, even for testing, you can do it there!
4. Errors Everywhere!!!
There was one great episode in Malcom in the middle where it describes how it feels to program. http://9gag.com/gag/a8WeN41 . You can find it here, but let me tell you a great story about how programmers often feel while programing.
One night, Dimitri (Yes Dimitri), wanted to prepare everything for the morning, his clothes, his paperwork, placed his key on the table so he wouldn’t bother wasting time finding them in the morning and did the dishes. But little did Dimitri know that he was actually drunk, and that he didn’t do nothing in the right order, and had to spend 1 hour to sort everything back to normal in spite of his thoughts that he had done it right in the first time.
To conclude, this is the biggest problem, programmers face. Although it looks like everything is in order, you won’t know until you test it. However, having even tons of error is normal, and the more you have them the more you actually learn, so every time you get one *sigh*, just remember. You made the error, and you need to fix it.
5. Chains Of The Media
You cannot change how the world reacts to you, but you can certainly change how you react towards the world.
While we, indies, develop our games, we often want to show something called WIP, as to Work In Progress. Whatever it looks great or bad, we are often bombarded with bad comments mostly, especially if the game is in very early development stage. So what happens next?
Some lose their creativity, and start being ashamed of their OWN game, as chains of fear condemn them thinking they failed, and often give up on their game, because of the fear of rejection. All the potential success will become as the wind. Silent.
On the other side, people who get through this stage, and act only on the good comments, as well as the bad ones, however never give up, will be the ones who reach the top of the mountain, and eventually will successed .
6. Climbing Up The Mountain
So you and your buddy made a FPS (First Potato Shooter)? Wow… So great… Honestly, well done, but have you checked, EA already made a similar FPS, far better than yours? So, why would anyone want to play your game then? Nowadays big corporations, like EA, Ubisoft, Crytek and etc. can make far more better games then indie developers, but there is a catch though. They CAN make, but so can we!
Although, it is hard for indies to climb up the mountain of success, it’s also easy at the same time. We just have to be unique. In addition of the hard work we have to put in to make a game as an indie developer, indie games have a unique touch. Great example would be the World of Goo, one of 2 indie games that made it through, and made the indie wheel start rolling in October, 2008.
7. The Indie Name
What does Indie mean? Some people actually don’t have a clue, but it stands for individual. However we were not called indie developers until, like I mentioned, 2008, when World of Goo came in. That event invited many people to join the “revolution” of small teams and individuals to make their own game.
But again, as we rose from the ashes, we fell into a curse again, as indie games are hard to spot. To sum up, many great games, are “missed” do to just being indie. When someone sees an “Indie” label on a game, they immediately lower the value of the game.
You and your buds walk in the a game store and see 2 boxes, completely the same. Nonetheless one is labeled “Indie”, while the other is for example labeled, “Crytek”. Which one will you or your mates check out first? There is no prize for guessing here, but the answer is “Crytek”. To explain why, it is because people value and play safe by buying a Crytek game, rather than an indie game. They didn’t know however, that the indie box had 50 golden bars, and Crytek had 10, nevertheless they took the Crytek box, as the name still counts more. Generally speaking the name indie is our pride, but on the other hand our curse as well.
8. Loading Level – Making The Game – Please Wait
To be clear this is “the nightmare”. You surely will now wonder why, and obviously I won’t answer the question… Or will I? Simply put it this way. All of the weight of making the game is on the indie developer. This is due to, many indies, are, as the name says, individual. Just like me, all of the work has to go through our hands. I won’t lie it is like arguing with the most stubborn idiot you can possibly imagine right now, by that I mean it will drain your energy when you have to do all the work at the beginning. But it sure is a fun ride. After some time you will get used to it, but there is one thing to bear in mind.
We have to learn at least 5 different types of programs to even think about making a game. Not just us, anyone who will try to make a game has to, and if you can learn these, nothing can stop you nor us. Making a good and cooperative team today, is a huge challenge and a huge success. And this just makes thing even harder, as making a good games becomes even a greater test.
Remember at school when you told your friend a joke, and he says it out loud and everyone laughs thinking “Such original, many laughs, much funny”.
Well this is the same thing Indie developer’s face, as one sets up the idea, post it on, like stated before WIP section of his game, and in 2 months someone makes it better and claims it is his work. And you might think now “Yea, but you can sue him right?” Acutally. No. Because it was an idea. You did not copyright it, nor could you, as ideas, in general cannot be actually stolen. Like Edison "stole" the idea of the Light bulb from Nikola Tesla.
He could not actually prove it as he did not “secure” it properly. And this happens all the time, and some things are not nearly worse when an anyone, not just indie developers, that are working months of achieving a script, and then 1 month later, they sees their idea, on, e.g. “Unity asset store”, earning
Yes. What yes? Yes, funding is a harsh truth about indie developers as most of them (98%) are middle class citizens. Paying their taxes and sitting by their computers for hours! And that is the sole reason why man “indie developers” try to make games, in order to get money. And this is both bad and good. It is good as in they want to be paid for their work, which is fine, but bad in a level where they just go for the money. Most indie developers are artist and if your, or anyone goal is only to get money you can only fail. As those developers will be driven by thoughts that their game is the game looks like “Crysis 3” while it looks actually like “Super Mario”…
Last but not least “Funding” in the terms of game development is important. As developers can buy software and other things like artists, composers they need for a game. This was an issue back in 2008, but has become far easier when “Kickstarter” and “IndieGoGo” arrived. In spite of this because of rushing and bad planning campaigns on both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo fail by more than 55%.
To conclude, funding is important, but making millions out of game should not be the goal. However the main issue remains, as money is important, but many fail due to lack of effort in publicity, while using great tools like Kickstarter, but do not use it to their full potential.
Still hoping you won’t cry the next time you fail as it is a part of life. Accept that someone doesn’t like your game. However be objective. Someone may do. Seek and be open to both opinions but do not let go off your game.
Thank you for reading,