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6 Mistakes of Indie Game Developer

1) Start the effort by going full time indie.
2) Don’t study the game market.
3) Develop big game project.
4) Assume you can do all by yourself.
5) Don’t takes initiative to build community around the game project.
6) Don’t participate in indie developer community.

Going to indie game developer route path is like going to the unknown path that does not guarantee a bright future. Sure, there’s some success story of indie game developer who managed to do well in their effort but most of the people I know are struggling especially nowadays when economy are in such a bad shape.

So why bother becoming an indie game developer? The only reason that I can think of is becoming an indie game developer is such a cool stuff because you are doing stuff that you enjoy. Playing games is fun so making games should be fun, right?

That my friend is one piece of bullshit because developing a game is a serious business so you need to approach the development process just like a regular business. This mean you need to carefully plan your game by studying the market and developing the game based on features that market want. Yes, you can develop games that fits your vision but at the same time you have to adapt to what market want. I will discuss this stuff later.

Otherwise you are going to fail in your attempt financially. Yes, you can develop your games as a hobby but you still need to approach the process as a business process because you definitely want to get your creation to the right audience, right? Unless you want to develop games that you are the only ones who plays it :) Ouch, I’m being sarcastic, here.

Mistake 1 – Start the effort by going full time indie

You can’t just jump in to become indie game developer just like that. If you are just graduated from high school or college, you need to get a proper day job then you can working on your indie game project in the evening or weekend. Getting a proper day job gives you financial stability and some money to invest in your own game project.

Fortunately not many people follow this kind of mistake but it can happen to anybody who’ve enthusiastically want to join the exciting world of indie game development. I was once making this mistake. I could have been better getting a day job but instead I take a plunge into the field full time. I have some side income to support me during the development but the development take a hit due to lack of fund. So the development takes an excruciating time to move forward. It takes 8 years to finish my first game.

Had I choose the path to get a day job, the development process might could have been cut to half and even improve its production quality by bringing in talent. Please, don’t follow my mistake. Get a day job, start saving, do the project in free time, bring in talent if you can afford and you’ll doing OK :)

Mistake 2 – Don’t study the game market

Game development is a business process. That’s a single fact that a lot of indie game developer newbie tend to forget. “Hey, I want to make this cool game and don’t give a damn about market.” If you think like that then I can assure you are not going to survive financially in the game development field.

Making a game is a business. This mean you have to study the market. There’s plenty sources you can find:
1) Gamasutra is website dedicated to the art and business of making games. There’s plenty of good articles related to games market that might interests you. Try to observe the pattern in games market.
2) IndieGamer Forum is a forum dedicated to discuss anything about indie game development.
3) TigSource Forum is a forum dedicated to discuss anything about indie game development.

When you study the market, this does not necessarily mean you can’t create games that you want to create. You are studying the market to assess whether the game you are about to create has enough market to sustain you as a game developer. Ask yourself this hard question – will there be enough people who want to buy your game? If the market is way too small and your target is to make some decent money, then you have to make some serious decision.

Even if you decided to serve the market, what are important feature that market want? Then you are wiser to incorporate that feature into your games. This way you’ll make the game easier to sell. People have expectation and if you don’t meet their expectation, they don’t bother to see what you are offering to them. Harsh lesson…

I make this mistake of not studying the market before I start my first game project. The game belongs to a niche hardcore market (tactical strategy games) so that make my job harder. To make it worse, I didn’t listen to a feature the market want – 3D. Instead I create a 2D game which makes the game looks retro. I couldn’t make 3D game because I don’t have technical expertise to do it. The 2D game does not look good enough because I’m not a graphic artist.

If I study the market, I wouldn’t dare to serve the market. Instead, I can concentrate my effort of creating a game where the market can accept 2D game such as casual, business or simulation games. Beware that your sentiment can cloud your business judgement. Just because you are a big fan of certain game, does not necessarily mean you might want to create game based upon it even if you know that you are not going to make some money out of it. Ignore this if you just want to create game for fun :)

Mistake 3 – Develop big game project

It’s quite natural for newbie to aim to create the grandest game project they can think of. “I want to create FPS with 100 levels, 1000 enemies, 100 weapons and all the junk that I can throw!” Yeah, good luck with that. Let me know if you ever going to achieve that maybe 10 years from now?

The truth is starting a small game project is the most wisest thing you ever do as an indie game developer. Small game project allow you to finish your game project much faster and the best part is you can build yourself a portfolio of games that provide synergy to each others.

However there is a trick you can pull if you still want to develop a big game project. You can split the game into several parts. Finish the first part, release it and then develop the next part. Repeat the process.

So how do we consider a game a small game project? Actually there’s plenty of definition but my favourite definition is the game should not take more than 5 hours to complete it on normal difficulty level. If the game takes more than 5 hours to complete, then it is already a big project.

Mistake 4 – Assume you can do all by yourself

Game development is a difficult process as it need multiple skills to pull it off in term of design, programming, writing, art and music. If you decided to work solo on your game project, this mean you have to have skill in design, programming and art. Depending on your education background, if you are majoring in technical field, you have skill in programming so you need to learn some art skill. If you are an artist, you need to learn programming which by the way is very hard things to do. This is based on my personal experience :)

Does it have to be like this? It used to be but not anymore. There’s plenty of tools in the market right now that can help you in your game development process even if you are not good in programming. For 2D game development, nothing beats working on Flash development. You can create a good game with Flash using only basic knowledge in programming. For 3D game development, there’s a free 3D software called Unity 3D.

With of all this tool, you might think you can pull it off. Don’t be surprised if you can’t progress the way you want it to be. Along the way you might face some difficulty that might demotivate you. Now this is a good time to ask help from anyone who can help you – someone from indie game developer community.

You might do yourself a favour by getting in touch with indie game community. This way if you face some problem, you can ask for help. Thanks to the wonderful invention called Internet, this is possible. Indie game developer community can be found on IndieGamer and TigSource.

Mistake 5 – Don’t takes initiative to build community around the game project

Any game project no matter how small the scope is can benefit if there is a community behind it. The community consists of developer and a sets of fans/followers who follow the development of the game until it is released and continue to support it by giving precious feedback to the developer. It is easy to build a small community around a game project by asking your friend and colleague to join it but the real challenge is to grow the community across the Internet.

Fortunately, this has been made easy thanks with a plethora of social media tools scattered throughout the Internet – blog and various social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. You might want to create a blog which revolves around the game project and ask people to subscribe to blog news feed so they can keep in touch with any development news related to your game project. You can also create a Facebook page which allow you to post any updates to the game project.

Several years ago, this technology does not exist so any game developer have to rely on press release, coverage on gaming website and paid advertising banner ad/text link to build awareness of their game project. So if you want to build awareness of your game project, please take advantage of this social media tools.

Mistake 6 – Don’t participate in indie game developer community

This has been discussed before so if you don’t yet join any indie game community, now this is the right time to do it. Do it now!

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