GameDev Thoughts: Tips On Starting Out When You’re A New Solo Game Developer

Being a solo indie developer is not an easy task. Before you try to even start off as a solo indie developer, I strongly advise you gain experience working for a company first. It doesn’t matter whether this company is even within the gaming industry. Just get out there and work. This company work may give you contacts that you can use whenever necessary, the funds to stay afloat long enough for you to put a game or two out, and/or lots of experience failing at your day job, which will help you know what to avoid doing in the future. Failing is incredibly important as it’ll teach you things that nothing else can; experience trumps any amount of prior learning you got from a book or some other source.

Next, it’s time to build up some connections. Even if the benefits aren’t immediately obvious to you, you need to connect with others for their potential help in the future. Perhaps they can help you solve a problem you wouldn’t solve otherwise, or perhaps they’ll help you promote your games. There are tons of ways those connections can help you, but you won’t receive that help if you don’t have the connections in the first place. You can build these connections by creating a blog, posting around on forums, attending conventions, working with other developers, and other similar activities. The point is, you need to create a presence for yourself. Additionally, while you’re searching for these connections, make sure that you’re being a decent person. People are far more likely to help if you’re genuinely interested towards them and your work. Yes, it’ll take a lot of work to be genuinely interested in other people, but this will pay dividends to your career if you’re socially inclined.

After experience and connections, we can get to tips revolving around actually doing something as a solo indie dev. First off, you should be versatile but also know your weaknesses. If you’re alone, you can’t just specialize in one field and expect to make a complete game. In order to gain this versatility, you just have to create with your own strengths and weaknesses in mind. Just create things whenever you have the time and you’ll quickly find out what you’re good at and what you need to improve in the future. For me personally, I discovered early on that game design (more specifically building strong core engagement and retention loops) was one of my strong suits, so I’ve almost completely given up on pixel art and music production when it comes to making games. However, you don’t have to give up all of your weaknesses — just don’t focus extensively on them. Remember, you can aim to make games that don’t heavily involve utilizing those weaknesses to negate their effect. The point here is to not underestimate what you can accomplish with dedication. Even if you think you’re horrible at some aspect of game design, work with it anyways! People like to see results more than they like to see the potential for results.

Important Takeaways: Beginning as a solo indie dev is a daunting task, but here are a few generally useful tips to help overcome that intimidation factor. First, gain prior experience working for a company before you even consider starting solo, or you won’t have a lot of assistance that you would otherwise have to keep you on your feet at first. Next, build up genuine connections so that you have a reliable help source for tight spots in your career. Finally, focus on figuring out what you’re good at and what you aren’t great at. From there, design games with both your strengths and weaknesses in mind, while also working on mitigating that weakness through practice if you’re so inclined. Even if you’re awful at some crucial aspect of game design, keep on trying to make games. People like seeing that you can do something rather than just having the potential to do something, even if that something is pretty bad in its current state. Just dedicate yourself to the mission of creating, and your skill will naturally evolve over time.