So you want to be an indie dev?
People often ask me what it takes be a successful indie games developer. Ok, so that is a blatant lie. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me this—most likely because I am not a successful indie games developer. Well not yet anyway. Regardless, I know there are many people out there who are pondering this daunting question. Having now published a few games of my own, I feel I’m at least somewhat qualified to provide a little insight on the subject. Hopefully you’ll be able to learn something from my experiences, mistakes and my occasional breakthroughs.
So where to start? If you want to make games—especially if you want to make them on your own or in a small team—there are 2 essential skills that you’ll need to possess. You are probably expecting me to tell you that you need to be a programming whizz or an exceptionally talented artist. I won’t. These are highly desirable skills no doubt, but I believe the 2 most essential qualities are ‘versatility’ and ‘determination’.
Indie Game Developer – The Ultimate Renaissance Man:
When I decided—rather late in life—to walk down the path of the indie developer, I had a very naive view of what that would entail. “Hey! I love games and have some art skills!” I thought, “If I learn programming too, I’ll be a rich and famous game legend in no time!“. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I now understand that it takes much more than ‘art and programming’ to produce a fun, successful game. This is where versatility becomes an absolutely vital skill of the solo-developer or small team.
The term ‘Renaissance Man’ refers to a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. There is perhaps no person more suited to this title than the indie developer. In the past year I’ve had to leave my ‘artist/designer’ comfort zone, adding all sorts of new roles to my repertoire. These include animator, programmer (of sorts), web designer, writer, marketing guru, video producer, social media butterfly and countless others.
I had mostly zero experience in these areas and am still far from being an ‘expert’ in most of them, but the important thing is to jump in and have a go. Be versatile, try new things and don’t be afraid to fail. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you can master being versatile then the other skills you need will come in time.
Determination – Picking Yourself Up When You Fall:
I mentioned that a good indie dev shouldn’t be afraid to fail. This is crucial because you certainly will fail. The chances of creating a big hit on your first attempt are slim to none. Don’t let that get you down. Treat everything as a learning experience, a stepping-stone to reaching your ultimate goal. I strongly believe that with enough passion and determination anyone can become a successful game developer. Maybe I’m wrong, but I suppose it takes a bit of a dreamer to make it in this industry anyway. I’m certainly not what you would call ‘a success’ just yet, but it’s encouraging every time I get a little bit closer.