GameDev Protips: How To Finish And Ship Your First Few Games

It’s a known problem that new developers struggle with how exactly to go about putting their first game out on the market. Here are some tips to make that struggle a little less intimidating. First off, your first projects shouldn’t be long projects. You will improve as a developer over time, and your first projects likely won’t even be worth using within a few months. Because of this, plan for shorter projects (optimally about a month each) so that you don’t pigeonhole yourself into using poor coding or something that you did as a novice developer. Similarly, don’t sweat it if your project does take too long. New developers have no frame of reference and will often think projects take less time than they actually do. If you want a general rule, add about 50% onto your estimated project time.

Next, don’t worry too much about your first game’s design. As long as it is functional, it is helping you gain experience which is necessary for making anything worthwhile in the future. It simply won’t be possible to build something incredible as your first project. On a similar note, don’t worry about production values. As long as the game is fun, you can add the polish later. Focus on gaining your experience unless that polish is critical for learning something new in the future. Also, you should get other people to play your game. Letting other people play your game will help you realize any potential flaws or improvements that can be made that you wouldn’t have realized otherwise — the more the merrier!

Lastly, and most importantly, ensure that you’re continually making progress on your game. Set milestones for each quarter of your planned development time, and break those into even smaller tasks that can be reasonably worked towards and won’t be intimidating. Instead of saying “finish the game’s art,” break that single milestone into “finish the character’s art,” “finish the world’s art,” and so on so that you don’t lose track of what to do. To also help with keeping on track, you should review your game weekly, even if you don’t plan on working on it. If you go for too long without looking at your game, you won’t remember what you were doing or how to do it and are much more likely to lose your motivation and quit.

Important Takeaways: New developers often struggle getting their first project out, so here are some tips to help do so. First, plan short, approachable projects that you can quickly get out onto the market. This lets you gain experience and helps you avoid being forced to use novice developer coding mistakes in a final product due to how quickly your past skills become obsolete compared to newly improved skills. Focus on finishing and shipping your prototypes. Don’t spend all of your time focusing on how polished your game looks if you’re just trying to get something out there for feedback. As long as the game is functional, reasonably fun, and has some kind of art, it’ll be fine as a prototype. You need that experience as soon as possible and focusing on polish will slow that process. Save it for later on down the line. If you want some advice, letting other people play your game will show you some potential flaws or improvements that could be made that you would’ve failed to notice otherwise and how to go about implementing or fixing them. Finally, make sure that you’re continually making progress on your game. Set milestones then break those into smaller tasks that you can easily approach without being intimidated.

GameDev Protips: The Secret To Getting Paid For Your Game Ideas

Let’s imagine that you were tasked with digging a hole to reach a particularly desirable outcome. If you dig the hole, your work is valuable. But, if you know where to dig, how deep, and you provide the tools, you’re even much more valuable. It’s not enough to just have the idea — you have to formulate the plan and have the know-how to pull it off as well. Which is where your role as a potential project manager of sorts comes in. So what’s the secret? You’re a producer, so you better start acting like one if you want to get paid for your ideas. It’s hard to really understand how hard management can be if you’re new, and as much as it sounds like, it’s not always just sitting around telling other people what to do — especially in the budget-starved world of indie game development. Here are a few tips though.

Firstly, you can’t be a perfectionist. You can’t demand absolute perfection from others, or else you’ll be bogged down in micromanagement. You’ll have to deeply assess what a person can and cannot do, and assign them tasks that are within their abilities and the project’s scope. Don’t set up people for failure. As an idea guy, you’re probably not going to get much done yourself, and you have to be available to be interrupted quite often depending on the size of the team that you’re managing.

If you’re doing your job right, you’re the most enthusiastic and supportive person on the team. Treat everyone on your team as a hero (because they really are), no matter how much they can accomplish or how well they can do the task. The most important responsibility is planning the world is you know what needs to be done, and you need to make sure that you have the resources before you get there. There are so many things to do and decisions to make, and as a manager, it’s your job to outline these plans and set them in motion.

Remember to let other people manage specific areas. For example, I’m honestly not the best writer, and when working on my indie roguelike SanctuaryRPG, I actually delegated the writing to a small close-knit team of writers. This consisted of a “Lead Writer” and several other writers who were working under him. This streamlined the management process, making it so that I only had to manage one person in that particular segment of the team instead of each person individually.

As a manager, you’re making sure that everyone else can do the tasks that you gave them. Check in on them and see how they’re doing. Help them if they’re having trouble, or assign other people to do tasks that you don’t want them doing if it’s not something that they’re particularly adept at, or if it’s not worth the time investment for them. For example, I’m not the best at pixel art. When making an indie game, I usually am presented with the following two options: I could go out and attempt to learn pixel art and do it myself, or I could hire someone to do pixel art for me. Considering that I’ve spent the past decade doubling down on my knowledge of game design, game production, programming, and marketing, it would make little sense to try to do art myself. It would take far too long to shore up that particular weakness of mine.

Important Takeaways: Idea guys make get a bad reputation in the industry, but they’re actually instrumental to a project’s success. Don’t be afraid to be the idea guy. As a person who has ideas, your value lays not only in what you could do but in what you know and your ability to communicate and plan effectively. Keep learning, have a solid track record of having great ideas and strong managerial skills, demonstrate value to your team, and you too can play a role in the industry as a so-called “idea guy.”

GameDev Protips: A Few More Potentially Helpful Tips On Game Development Success

Be proactive. This is the reason as to why most people aren’t successful; they either haven’t gotten started or they quit early in the game when it comes to game development. Most people are too lazy, not confident enough, waiting for a break, or too focused on distractions. If you really want to make something happen you can’t just talk about it; strategize and make a game plan. Stop sitting around thinking about doing it, and actually get it done. There are so many people out there with amazing ideas but the problem is that those ideas usually just stay as ideas, and unfortunately, ideas by themselves are not profitable nor sustainable without great execution.

Focus on learning. Sometimes when you pick up a new concept you may be tempted to use it as a crutch and just rely on doing what works instead of trying to figure out how to improve processes. As long as you are proactively gaining new knowledge and understanding of both the world around you and your career aspirations, then you are taking steps towards your dream. Remember to take baby steps and to surround yourself with a group of people that understand your vision and will challenge and motivate you to chase after it. If you’re a programmer, hang out in programmer circles (there’s a lot of them on the interwebs). If you’re an artist, dig deep into online communities such as DeviantArt.

Be prepared for the unexpected. You’re probably wondering if you should quit your job in order to invest all of your time and energy into your side project making indie games. It’s a very pleasing idea and it means more creative autonomy for you. No more boss and no more doing things you don’t want to do (to a certain extent). However, you know by now that’s not how the real world works. The bills aren’t going to pay themselves and you may need a little cushion in case something happens. Having a reserve of cash for when something goes wrong in your business is critical for minimizing those failures. The extra funds will ensure that you can still provide for yourself and not have to instantly retract your idea of having a business. That’s why maintaining a job while starting and/or working your side gig is an absolute must in today’s society. If you can contract the tidbits of work that are too tedious, do it as long as it will jumpstart your business. If you can automate certain parts of your business, like marketing, then do it. If you can find ways to make your job in creating the business easier and cheaper, you should always take up the opportunity. Ultimately, a business should focus on your natural skill-set and expertise. No one is expected to be good at everything, but rather just really good at a few things. Delegating lesser tasks will let you focus on those things that you are particularly good at.

Things can and always will go wrong. Try to troubleshoot foreseeable pain points and errors if possible. If you know you will need more money than you originally thought, try to do some extra research for some additional resources or people out there who can get the job done for a budget that you’re comfortable with. Don’t sweat the small stuff and try to handle what you can control. If possible, try to have a little money stashed away entirely for your business as that cushion for when things just don’t go your way. One of the worst feelings in the world is getting the ball rolling on a game development project, then watching that ball stop abruptly because of a problem caused by your inexperience; avoid that at all costs by learning and doing as much as possible, without putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Important Takeaways: One huge reason why many developers’ careers never take off is a lack of proactive behavior. They end up giving up before they’ve started or really soon afterward. If you truly want to do something, you can’t just keep talking about it like it’s a dream; you have to strategize and make a game plan. There are some amazing ideas in the minds of many people, but if they don’t become something besides an idea, then there’s an astronomically high chance of the idea being forgotten and lost. Be motivated. If it’s hard for you to find motivation, read some motivational quotes, or do whatever personally gets you in the mood to get things done. Hard work is the only way to get anything that you dream of in life. Even if things seem like they aren’t moving with your side job and the start of your indie game development career, remember that is just a temporary situation and will change as long as you are willing to work for it. As long as you have knowledge, advice, a good attitude, and tenacity, you will eventually get to where you want to be… even if it seems like an eternity.

Business Protips: How To Make A Living In The Game Development Industry

First, know what type of business you’re wanting to start — knowing which business to start in absolutely crucial in entrepreneurship. For the most part, there are usually three main types of business: cash flow, high investment, and long-term investment businesses. Each business requires a different amount of capital and time to get started. Yet, knowing how to be successful in one will inevitably help you be successful in at least a few, if not all of them.

Cash flow businesses are the easiest businesses to start because it takes little to no capital to get started. You just have to know what you’re good at. However, this business will eat up a large chunk of your business because in this type of business you are both the brand and the machine behind it. These types of business include starting your own freelance development studio, programming your own games in an attempt to sell them, and so on. Because you are the business, the profit margin is high as you do not need to hire expensive staff and equipment just to keep the company running.

The success of the business is based solely on your ability to attract clients and/or make successful product launches. Eventually, these types of business could turn into a long-term investment business, but we will talk about that later. More importantly, these cash flow businesses have high profits margins and take little to no capital to start. On the other hand, these companies are not highly scalable because they cannot be automated. It requires you to be continually working, and because of this, the business cannot be easily be ramped up because you are the brand. If you are thinking about this type of business, think of yourself as the ultimate contractor. The relative success and failure of your business will depend on you.

Next are high investment businesses. These types of businesses are completely different from cash flow businesses. They are highly scalable and automated. They are the software and mobile apps that you sometimes hear about on the news or your Facebook feeds. These are the types of people that have it figured out and they know how to make their money create wealth. To create this type of business, however, you may need a lot of capital, unlike a cash flow business. Think in-between $10,000 and $1,000,000, depending on what you’re trying to get into. A few examples would be if you were to create a game analytics platform, a middleware solution for game developers who need more metrics to improve their games, or even setting up housing for budding indie game development teams.

However, once your business is fully integrated you can sell your business with ease, and with a large profit margin to boot. These types of business are usually funded with a loan, crowdfunding, or more commonly with a separate cash flow business. In this type of business, you can choose whether or not to be the brand, but you do not have to be the machine. By not having to be the machine, this can free up valuable time for other pursuits. This time can be spent sourcing or creating other high-investment businesses or even getting started on a long-term investment business. Either way, a high-investment business will lead you to great financial success if you can meet a real demand in the market. Look for opportunities to add real value to other people’s lives. Help them improve their situation and/or make life or business processes easier on them. Set others up for success, and you’ll benefit if you’re in a high-investment business.

Finally, we have long-term growth investment businesses. This type of business is usually brick and mortar or investing in other businesses, and can yield a high return on investments if you know what you’re doing. Some examples would be investing in other game development companies, funding the development of indie games, or helping other developers take care of potential obstacles to their success. While this business does not require you to be the brand behind the business, it definitely takes a certain level of business savvy in order to reap a considerable return on investment.

Eventually, this type of business will yield passive income, but it takes a high initial investment and constant maintenance to make sure things are going smoothly. Sooner or later, the initial woes will take care of themselves, but that will only happen after the first couple of years in the business. As stated before, a cash flow business can turn into a long-term business. While this type of business is low-risk, it also takes a long time to make your money back and involves some capital to get started. Most people take the money earned from their cash flow business and invest it into a long-term business. This is a great way to keep the lights on while also increasing your knowledge of certain industries and markets.

Important Takeaways: Obviously, it is important to know what kind of business you want to make when you’re planning on starting your own business. There are three main types of businesses: cash flow, high investment, and long-term growth investment. Cash flow businesses are often simple home businesses that don’t require automation; you are the person making the product or providing the service. While these businesses have high profit margins due to their low starting prices, you’ll have to work an ungodly amount of hours, and the business’ growth is directly tied to you — thus they may not be viable if you’re planning on scaling up rapidly.

Next, high investment businesses are fully automated and usually utilizes a more machine-like management and workflow. These don’t require as much action on your part so you will have more time to pursue other avenues for business growth. Their downside is that they may require a large investment of time and/or money before you can begin, which isn’t feasible for everyone.

Finally, long-term growth investment businesses are similar to cash flow businesses but you have other systems helping you on the side that will eventually take on all of the workload. These businesses often have a large start-up fee and require constant maintenance early on to ensure things are going smoothly, but once the ball is rolling, it gets rolling. The downside to these businesses is that it often takes a while for you to break even on your initial investment. One strategy for creating this type of business is to start with a cash flow business and eventually expand your breadth along the way.

GameDev Protips: The Importance Of Finding A Mentor

Finding a mentor is absolutely key to success whether you want to get better at programming, art, game design, or anything else under the sun. Why mentorship? Simple. You get valuable advice from experts or specialists in your chosen niche. Ideally, they will have failed more times than you have even tried, so their expertise and knowledge is more practical than someone who hasn’t actually gone out and engaged in a lot of trial and error. They know the game and they have a track record of being successful. A mentor should be able to provide insight both from where you are in your life and where you want to go. While it seems exciting, a mentor shouldn’t be some celebrity or esoteric guru. They need to know the core strengths and weaknesses of the niche that you want to get into. Remember that people want to help, but you need to help yourself first.

Define which niche within the games industry that intrigues you the most. What experience and skillset can you already bring to the table? How can you be proactive and learning the ins and outs of this area of expertise on your own? If you answer these three questions, then finding a mentor should be easy. As long as people see you trying to take the bull by the horns, then they will be impressed and it will make their job a whole lot easier. Most mentors will be able to relate to you because they were once in your position. Getting to know your mentor and their history will not only give you motivation for achieving your goals, but it will also help you define pitfalls that you want to avoid. A mentorship is like any other relationship — it is based on the idea of mutual respect, reciprocity and consistency. If you’re only reaching out to your mentor when you need advice and not just for a quick catch-up from time to time they may be reticent to stick their neck out for you.

Keep in mind though that you shouldn’t just limit yourself to just one mentor. While you may have your eye on the perfect person to help coach you, they might not have enough time to teach you the ropes. Having a handful of people on call for this role will ensure that you aren’t placed on hold whenever you need some advice or quick tips. Plus, you never know how someone might be able to help you, so getting different prerogatives will most likely bode well for you.

Important Takeaways: Finding someone who completely knows what they’re doing (and is willing to share their knowledge with you) is just as important if not more important than just being around like-minded people. This person will change as your life goes on, and will help keep you on track. Make sure that this person is someone who is actually willing to give advice, as not all sources of inspiration will necessarily be someone that is going to reach out to you and give their advice. If you know exactly what you want to do, what you are capable of, and how far you’re willing to learn on your own, finding a mentor shouldn’t be a problem. Most of these mentors can relate to you because of shared interests.

As a result, you should always learn about their history because of the benefits it brings, including motivation and finding potential traps you could fall into. Try to not only reach out to this mentor when you need advice; treat this relationship like any other relationship and just genuinely community with them from time to time. Remember, a so-called “mentor” whose only purpose is to give advice might start dreading your calls. Having a mentor is invaluable. They can provide different perspectives on issues and help make the iterative process of improvement much faster than if you were to go it alone.

GameDev Protips: How To Get Your Feet Wet With Game Development

It’s a frequent occurrence that new developers have no idea where to start with their game ideas. To me, this is likely a hurdle because of a disconnection to the gaming industry; even the largest games in the market started very small and slowly became something much larger. Even if your dream game is fresh in your mind and you know exactly what you want from it, it can be very intimidating to sit down and start trying to actually program it. Even the simplest of tasks can create impasses that increase the chance of giving up. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, it’s extremely important to start small. Almost every game will start with extremely basic features and placeholder graphics in order to test that the game actually functions. From that point on, you just can build onto it like a Lego tower. It’s extremely important to take things one step at a time so that you can avoid the inevitable frustration that comes with overwhelming yourself.

Creating your game’s features on a step-by-step basis will also help you find out what you truly want from your game. As you break your game down into small pieces, you’ll be forced to analyze your ideas on a deeper level. This is a good thing as setting your development path in stone is a good way to make something generic. If you allow yourself to deviate, you’ll be more likely to produce interesting mechanics. This is because when you actively brainstorm ideas to add onto other, already implemented ideas, you end up with something that you would have never aimed for when you are trying to take a straight-line development path.

Most importantly, it’s important to remember that your “development chunks” are appropriate for your skills. Break your tasks into blocks that you can tackle with your current skills so that you can easily see your progress; working without an indication of progress is a good way to lose motivation. Also, don’t forget that you can simply stop working and come back later if things get out of hand. After all, you shouldn’t be trying to make a game on a deadline for your very first gamedev experience; that’s just a recipe for failure that includes mixing deadline-induced stress with inexperience. The most important part of making a game is to simply keep making the game. Any progress, no matter how little, is a step toward a release that you wouldn’t have taken with gigantic, sweeping tasks.

Important Takeaways: Many new developers don’t have a clue as to how to start working on their first game. The key is to simply start with extremely small, basic tasks and build a base that can easily be expanded upon. This method of development will not only end up giving you more unique and refined mechanics but will also save you lots of stress and ensure that you actually make progress. Trying to tackle everything at once will just leave you frustrated with nothing to show, and can incite giving up. Break the work up into blocks of tasks where you can easily track the progress you’re making; working without any indication of progress will result in lost motivation. In the end, making your first game is all about actually working on it. Simply keep making progress, no matter how little, and eventually, that dream game will be finished and released for others to enjoy.