Indie Game Developer Mindset Check

Before I made the decision to go indie. I thought about my strengths and weaknesses as a game developer. It’s an honest exercise to see if the skill sets align to make sure I have what it takes to be able to make it as an indie. A lone game developer has a lot on his plate. Artistic ability, technical ability, design skills, business, self-promotion etc. All this required knowledge could be intimidating at first. That’s why I think the most important ability in indie game development is having the right mindset.

So is the decision to go indie crazy? It’s the question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. On one hand the opportunity to work on self directed game project is very intriguing on the other hand I do realize the sheer amount of work that it takes to improve on the current skill set to be able to release something that I’d be happy with. The scope of knowledge required is a challenge and a learning opportunity for me. It will require recognizing strengths and weaknesses and finding the time and putting in the effort to improve upon them.

Working at a game studio where you have a specific job description makes you very good at one thing. By doing the same thing everyday you become an expert very quick in that one area. And that’s great, if thats what your goal is. I have a lot of respect for people who are able to focus on one area such as concept art or animation and become true masters in their domain.

For me the exciting part about making games is the synergetic process of putting all the different elements together. I guess The Jack of all trades but a Master of None fits the description. Now is being a Jack of All Trades and a Master of None enough to make quality games? I think yes, but it requires some self-awareness and the right mindset.

Are you an artist? most people would say no and right away think that art is some inherit skill available to only selected few. I don’t really consider myself an artist but I know that if I gather the right reference material, establish the art style using reference sheets, follow the process and spend long enough time on mixing and experimenting. I’m able to achieve results I’m happy with. It might not make me the most efficient artist out there and the quality can’t compare to full timers. But oftentimes it gets me far enough.

Coding is another example. The complexity and scope of game programming is huge and it’s something that will take a long time to master. I don’t consider myself a programmer. My goal is to make games and not be the best programmer in the world. The code I write is messy, and there is a lot that can be improved but there are a lot of great resources online and a lot of people ready to help you out if you ask. In most cases I’m able to accomplish what I set out to do but most importantly I’m not afraid to just jump in and write crappy code to get things done with a hope that with time and practice it will improve and I think thats an important mindset to have.

I’m about half way point of working on my first iOS/Android game. It’s been a really great experience so far. The mindset of creating a whole game by one person is so different from working on a team, where often you can pass off the decision making to someone else and not take responsibility for your work. It also forces you to go outside of your regular comfort zones and dive into and solve problems that you might have not had to worry about previously. At this time, although not always easy I’ve been able to push some of those comfort zones and so far accomplish most artistic and technical challenges.

What are your thoughts on the right mindset for indie game development? 

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4 Replies to “Indie Game Developer Mindset Check”

  1. I’m very intrigued for the same subject as you from several years now, and I truly believe that this gigantic task of make a good and fun game as a lone wolf can be possible.

    I love to code and I love to do art, I can’t say I’m be best on the world doing it but I have a professional quality on everything… and on a second thought, seriously, on this big wide world who can be named “The Best”?… and for how long?

    From my point of view, making games is not an Olympic competition where world records can be challenged; making games is all about making people to have fun with them, and on many cases, fun mechanics are not hard to program or dress with art.

    Never the less, doing a game for just one guy is a really great challenge, because we need to have the ability to handle so many different thinking paradigms. And that’s why I found this so exciting.

    We need a mindset that can be fun and creative even handling uncertainty, ambiguity and risk.

    Impossible to do a fun game alone?… After seeing the Wright Brothers flying and knowing that Galileo was right about the earth, I’m no willing to even mention the word “Impossible” any more on any context.

    Few weeks ago, I just take the decision, with my wife’s support, to put myself to work and start pushing myself on the same journey as you. My strategy: I don’t care about fancy technology, cutting edge algorithms, Parallax mappings, Sub surface scattering or any Impressive VFX out there that just takes your time, money and life away. I´m focusing on great game mechanics, appealing Story, solid characters, great aesthetics, enjoyable music and good voice acting. These things are not very expensive to buy or develop, but they are the core of any game. My Religion: Keep It Simple… and Fun

    After several research thru many reviews sites and gamer’s blogs, I discover that all the time the players completely crucifies the games that are not fun to play, even if they have top notch graphic and stuff. But players are more likely to give their forgiveness to games which have no so cool graphics, but are great on fun.

    1. Hi Alberto,
      I think that’s a solid strategy. It’s easy to get caught up with methods, tools, and tactics that don’t contribute to the core experience. It’s definitely possible to create a solid experience by one person. Its not easy but it has been done before. And will be done a lot more in the future. Good luck on the journey.

  2. wouldn’t grabbing a team for your projects make life a lot easier and increase the quality of work and the speed of which content is put out. I mean i like the idea of going lone wolf cause you know all credit and profits go to you but its just another way you can go at it

    1. In some areas having a team would make things easier at the same time the nature of the work would change. It would be more Managing, Producing and Directing rather than Creating. I think the tasks to communicate, sell ideas, evaluate and constantly revise content which would be necessary if working on a team is a full-time job and the opportunity to get some hands on learning wouldn’t be as great. It’s something I’ve thought about and it’s a possibility down the line based on the outcomes. But for now, because the projects are fairly small the lone wolf way fits.

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