Game development in the past has been a difficult task due to the lack of easily available resources. However, in recent years, many game development stakeholders have made these resources available on the internet, with companies such as Unreal Engine and Unity making game engines and learning resources available to the general public.
This has increased the likelihood of game developers to create games all from the comfort of their homes. An indie game developer is a game developer that creates games independently of a team or a company. Starting as a beginner can be intimidating, this article aims to inform you of an effective way of starting indie game development.
1 What’s Your Idea? Pick a Small One
Statistics show that new game developers get their inspiration from games they often play. Picking a project similar to a game that inspires you to increase your understanding of the game idea. It is important to note that you’re not ready for a complex idea.
Game development is a difficult skill that often grows as you practice more. Just like learning a piano, you have to start with easy tasks, and gradually grow into more complex projects. Picking a simple idea for your first game and narrowing it down to the core details should be your first task.
Understand what it needs to be playable, at the moment you could emphasize player movement, a simple storyline, and the win condition. Try to avoid enemies and fancy mechanics at this stage. Making it easier increases the chances of completing the game and the motivation that follows it.
2 Decide On What Framework or Engine You Will Use
Now that you have broken down the idea, it is time to pick a game engine, framework, or library that you will use.
A Game Engine for example Unity or Unreal Engine comes integrated with a graphical interface and the most built-in functionalities. Frameworks and Libraries refer to code written in existing programming languages. These provide the functionality needed to create a game and get it to show on the screen. However, the downside is that they do require an extensive setup process.
Picking a framework or a game engine can be overwhelming, here are a few pointers for this;
- For non-programmers, a game engine like Unity or Godot will provide many features on their graphical interface, meaning that you can start game development without a mastery of any programming language.
- For Programmers, a game framework in a language you have a grasp on makes the learning process easier.
- Picking between 2D and 3D can be tricky, however, using 2D as a starting point will prove beneficial as it is simpler and has easily available assets.
3 Coming Up With A Prototype
The goal with the first cycle of development is to create a minimal viable product(MVP). Avoid the features that are not necessary for your core idea. At this point, worrying about art and sound will take up unnecessary time and resources; just use the basics for everything. Be as simple as possible in the first cycle of development.
The purpose of this simplicity is to reduce the scope of development while gaining a fun and valuable learning experience. In this step, you should focus on building the best core mechanics for your game, without a huge focus on the game’s cool features.
4 Finding The Assets
Once the core mechanics work, for this next step you can now focus on adding art and sound to the game. You can try making your own, however, the easier option is to find free assets online. In this step, you should learn how to find and work with placeholder images and sounds online. Experiment with different assets; you will be amazed at the impact real assets have on the feel of your game.
5 Build A Complete Game
With your core mechanics and some additional assets, it is now time to bring it all together. Making the game feel complete will involve implementing a game loop inclusive of the win/lose conditions, and the ability to start over. Implement all the overarching game mechanics that are sensible for your game. The main menu, save, and load system will come in handy for this implementation.
6 Another One Maybe?
The experience gained with creating the core mechanics, including additional graphics and sounds, and fully implementing the game loop should not be laid to rest. You have finished your first game and are more knowledgeable than you were before. While tweaking your game to make it better should be a priority, you should also consider starting a new project.
To be better at game development, you will need to make more games. Try out different mechanics for each new project you work on.
As your Indie game development skills grow, you will need to start asking people to buy your games. Monetization may not seem a priority at first, but you will need the gig to be sustainable. There are several platforms where you can sell your game(s) if you look carefully.
The Work Setup
You will need a productive space in your home where you will work on these personal projects. Buying a couple of monitors or one large workstation is a good investment, and since you might be working in the odd hours of the night, buying neon pixel led lights will work best as it will help avoid distracting others from sleep.
Indie game development can seem overwhelming at first, but if you follow the above steps, and keep practicing regularly, the efforts will eventually pay off. Take the most efficient path based on the skills that you have. If you lack the skill, learn the basics, then start developing for more learning.