As an aspiring indie developer, I spend a good chunk of my free time watching veteran developers share their hard-earned knowledge on Youtube. It’s extremely enlightening and helpful to listen to these designers talk about past trials and tribulations. Now that I’ve started to notice a trend in developer guidance, I have decided to whittle it down and share it myself. After compiling all the advice I’ve heard, it seems that indie game success is dependent on two main themes: practice and motivation.
Out of all the videos I’ve watched, articles I’ve read, and advice I’ve been given, it seems like it’s these two topics that everything consistently wears down to. So now comes the important part: how can practice and motivation lead to success? Let’s break it down:
Practice: While there are plenty of game design tutorials out there online, there are some things that you just must learn on your own. This is where raw practice comes into play. You may be able to learn how to draw pixel art, but no one can teach you how to come up with a good-looking color scheme: that’s up to you. Tutorials can only get you so far; at some point, you must experiment on your own to hone your developer’s personality – that is, the way you draw, code, write, or design. These things will not be taught in a video, they can only be discovered through practice. So even if you barely know how to code, try to make something anyway. Make games for the sake of making them. You don’t need your first project to be a blockbuster – hell, make Pong if it’s all you can do. Something is better than nothing, and even if your first attempts aren’t great games, practice is still practice.
Motivation: You can’t practice game design if you’re not motivated to make something. In my opinion, coming up with ideas and mechanics is pure bliss, but when it comes time to sit and code, it’s hard to amp myself up to do it, especially if I know it’s going to be hours of work. Feeling this way is understandable for two reasons: on the one hand, game design is hard work, and the toughest part of a project is always the start; and on the other hand, indie developers are often alone. It’s easy to be motivated with others around you, but motivating yourself can prove to be a challenge. So how do you do it? There’s really only one answer: you have to have fun doing what you’re doing. When you’re starting out, don’t focus on making something breathtaking, focus on making something that’s fun to make. At the time of this writing, I’m making a small endless-arcade game that features a silhouette character who can perform crazy martial arts attacks. Here’s how the project started: One day, I wanted to practice pixel art animation, so I drew a gray humanoid figure throwing a punch. He was so fun to draw that I began making more sprites of him doing other attacks. Two months later, I’ve decided to turn my practice session into a real game. My motivation came not from having a mind-blowing game idea, but from making something that was fun to make.
The first game I ever tried to make was a full sized, top down RPG. Was it good? No. Did I finish it? Of course not! Even now, four years later with much more experience, the thought of making a huge RPG is still daunting. But the important thing is that I tried, because in trying, I learned an immense amount about things like coding, artificial intelligence, pixel art, and atmospheric design. While I may not have come out of it with a finished game, what I took away was a vast expanse of knowledge I had not had before; and a lot of what I learned was not through the tutorials on Youtube, but through my own experimentation. I was getting practice, and I was motivated to keep trying, even though my goal was miles above what I could reach at that stage. Practice something fun, and have fun practicing.
All included images and artwork are property of Jack Breen, Hybrid Games© 2016-2017.