Indie game development: where to start? Great news! You can start making games with the right tools that are readily available for beginners.
The barrier is in your head… mostly
Many people at some point find themselves wanting to make a video game but immediately find a wall of self doubt thinking that without school, money or some sort of rocket science understanding of code it could never happen. This is not the case. However the vast number of ins and outs can be intensely overwhelming. Plus like anything with such complexity the more you learn the more you realize how much more there is to learn. So while it is not easy it’s not as impossible as it may seem.
The right tools for the job
Great news! You can start designing and developing video games with the right tools that are readily available for beginners and super affordable! The days of having to pay hefty fees to license a game engine or build your own are over! Some excellent programs include the Unreal engine, Game maker, Construct, Godot and my personal favorite Unity just to name a few there is no shortage of engines to use. As well as some more accessible all be it limited options like Core or Dreams that are great for beginners. There are a multitude of methods and tools for game design and development. There are also many free tools for art and music which can be personalized and implemented into one’s development. Some of which include Blender 3D is great for building 3D models. It also offers a multitude of options for texturing, animation, 2D work and video editing. An all around great tool. Gimp is fantastic for 2D work and is similar to Photoshop in the tools, mechanics and output options. Audacity is great for recording and editing you own sound effects, music and voice overs. Finally, LMNS is a free DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that allows the user to build and personalize tracks from sampled instruments.
A place to land
Not long ago getting your game on Valve’s Steam platform was like scaling Mount Everest with no equipment. These days, it’s a much smaller mountain and there are many more options and avenues to get the user’s desired outcomes! Obviously Steam is the go-to for mainstream developers, whereas itch.io’s platform has more of a focus on indie developers and projects. As far as the mobile platforms Google Play is very user friendly, same for the Apple store though i am not as familiar. I would highly suggest starting with itch.io as it is geared toward indie games and has no cost.
The skills to pay the bills
All of the previously mentioned tools have there own pros and cons, bring their own unique twists and have their own complexity when it comes to ease of use. Most offer tutorials and documentation to aid anyone feeling lost. Many have wonderful communities that are normally happy to help people in need. I myself, have taken advantage of such threads and gaming forums when needed and have continued to reference them over the years. As far as coding there are many resources to learning. Coding can still be a bit scary at times, I would suggest a visual scripting method like Playmaker or Bolt for Unity or Unreal engines blueprints system if you are having trouble.
So with all this said like any great thing there is a price to pay. The discipline and determination it takes to brainstorm, develop and ship a game can be gargantuan. The consequences of devoting so much time, effort and money can add stress and even weigh on relationships if left unbalanced. It is possible to avoid most of the hardships if you have the patience and plan well. The reality however is if you pursue the indie dev journey you will fail. Not all of the time and less often as you grow your knowledge. You will suffer hardships and hit a brick wall from time to time. It’s up to you to keep at it. Your first game probably won’t make you a millionaire nor the hundredth. If you want in for the money don’t. There are many jobs that are much easer and pay a living wage. It is not an easy path but it is well worth it in my opinion.
Is it for you?
Art is subjective, likewise, game development is too. Even more so indie development. There are musicians, actors, writers, cinematographers, designers and artists of all kinds! Indie developers can touch on all these subjects and more. It is important mention that indie development is not for everyone. It is a wonderful combination of arts and sciences that can create an intoxicating cocktail. I can’t get enough of it.
I made some videos to help you out
- Software: https://youtu.be/GqVCTg1DrDk
- Blender 3D: https://youtu.be/BP2N_d3b2cE
- Gimp: https://youtu.be/nNpA_QdqCNM
- LMNS: https://youtu.be/2KCPUqj0S_k
- Unity 3D: https://youtu.be/neC0qz_AlKU
- Audacity: https://youtu.be/RqOrGlnMLOc