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Being an Indie game developer

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Roohul, Jul 1, 2019.

  1. Roohul

    Roohul

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    Hi Everyone,
    I need some advice and guidance related to being an indie game developer using Unity. I was working as full time Android developer but making games and working with visually appealing stuff has always been my passion. I learned unity and recently left my job and want to become a full time indie game dev. I recently did some small freelance unity jobs and felt very happy about it. I did explore about possibility of making money and creating games. After reading many articles I am feeling quite disappointed. Most of the articles give a message that creating games for money is almost useless if you are not a AAA studio. It will be extremely hard to enter market and make your game visible. You will be spending too much money for marketing and in the end making much less money. I recently read an article on forbes which says that if you are creating games for money you should go home and do some other business which makes money. You should only make games if games dev is your passion and you don't care much about money. I have been playing games since my childhood and I think I can come up with good game ideas. I know success in anything requires hard work and patience. but after reading all this negative stuff about game dev I am really thinking about going back to some job and drop the idea of being an indie game developer. I need some advice here. has anyone got any success? Are there any success stories for you guys so I can keep working with Unity and master it and learn some graphic designing as well and dive into this game dev world. I will be much thankful for kind opinions.
    Regards
     
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  2. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    My point of view is this: if you have invested so much into it, do yourself a favor and make a game of some kind, at least, before you think of giving up. Not just to make money, but (if you had some drive initially to make games) at least to fulfill that initial desire so you don't have to say you didn't try.

    Of course, if there's some pressing need to make money, go ahead and find a good steady job first.
     
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  3. RichardKain

    RichardKain

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    There are success stories, but they are few and far between. And more often than not they involve more than one person. Usually a lot of the success stories come from small teams that transition into being small developers. Game development is such a broad subject that it frequently requires multiple people in order to make meaningful headway. It's also such a huge time-sink that meaningful progress by an individual takes an insane amount of time and sunk cost. Individual developers who succeed financially usually have some manner of support system that allows them to work on games full-time without having to worry about providing for themselves for some time. (frequently multiple years)

    And on top of all of that, the game industry at large has become incredibly competitive, crowded, and cut-throat. The general quality of games has raised enormously since the mid-80s. And the sheer selection of modern games is staggering. Literally thousands of games are being produced and released every year, and a healthy percentage of those are of reasonable quality and polish. That is your competition. That is what you are up against.

    There is good reason why so many are starting to look at game development as a hobby, as opposed to a full-time profession. Being hired by a game company often means working unreasonable hours with little to no benefits, and almost zero job security. (it has become a common industry practice to fire a lot of developers after a project launches) Being a small-time indie developer means diving into a saturated market with zero guarantees of return on investment. I'd recommend getting a full or part-time job to pay the bills, and working on your own game development on the side. It is more financially responsible.
     
  4. SnowInChina

    SnowInChina

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    https://80.lv/articles/my-friend-pedro-sold-25000-units-in-a-week/
    these stories pop up from time to time, but there are so many things that can determine your success its not even funny
    on top of that you obviously need the skills and determination to pull it off along with the money to support your development
    i would highly recommend to get a stable job and develop your game in your free time
     
  5. ShilohGames

    ShilohGames

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    The only way to make a good game is to make lots of bad games first. Every story of sudden overnight success is actually a story that took years of practice to get there. If you want to make games, go for it. But always make sure you have a day job to pay your bills.

    At this point, we need to think of indie game devs in the same way we think of a garage band. There is a small group of people making a fortune in music, but the vast majority of talented musicians create music as a hobby and have a day job to pay their bills.
     
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  6. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I agree with the sentiment of this, but I don't think it's quite the same thing. From what I have seen, my estimation is that if you have decent skills in every area of game dev, and you make a decent game in a reasonably efficient way (i.e. not rebuilding the game multiple times or tweaking things for years) in a genre that is not totally overrun such as 2D platformers, it will at least break even. I don't think the same can be said for music.

    To get a stable result, game dev is not something where any piece of the puzzle (not a particularly complicated one but still something that requires understanding) can be left undone. The problem with almost any hobby-led product is that unless someone is very, very disciplined it becomes overbalanced in the direction of whatever the dev felt like working on the most. Sometimes that's more than enough to make a hit if it's unique or really well done, but it's not a stable way to succeed. Every time I read a post-mortem, there's at least one clear mistake - no market research, no marketing, no play testing, no budgeting, no schedule, graphics at the cost of gameplay, gameplay at the cost of graphics, etc etc

    I think perhaps the most important thing as a hobbyist trying to make a profit, there has to be a clear idea of investment vs return. I think a lot of devs find it okay to go around tweaking bits and pieces forever (I know I'm sorely tempted and sometimes get trapped in it) but it's not okay. No company would put up with that because they know it would tip the investment scales way too hard. But it's okay for an amateur because it's fun (except in the long run it's not) And then there are tragic stories of games that were in development for 4-5 years that didn't break even, when 4-5 years is 10x the amount of time really required to do a game of that type. Of course a game that takes 10x longer than the competition to make and isn't particularly better is going to do 10% as well as the competition (which, in game dev, means a hard fail).

    My point is simply that with a good strategy, good discipline and good skills (nothing extraordinary) I think the path to reasonable success in game dev is very clear, whereas with painting or music or acting it's much, much more difficult than that. Part of the problem I think is also that people don't like to think about game dev in strategic terms, they like to think of it in emotional, artistic, adoration and virality terms. If you're really good you can afford to think like that but it's not a good way to play the game.
     
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  7. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    I love making games, but even I don't get the specific pull that "full time indie" seems to have for many people.

    Why does it have to be full time?

    If you get successful then going full time is definitely an option. What I mean is that I don't see why so many people want to start from the full time position. It increases your risk and as a result probably decreases your chances of success. Along the way it's going to add a whole bunch of stress (what if any given project isn't commercially successful?) which can absolutely impact your performance, creativity, and generally just make a thing you love less fun.

    In short... my thoughts are that you should first look after your own financial security, then do the stuff you love doing. If you want to turn the latter into an income stream then treat it like a business, and that business may grow to the point where it sustains itself and pays for more of your time, and ultimately for you to grow your team.
     
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  8. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Most the developers here will have a lot more experience than me, so this is a question, not a statement, but, how can you work on a game part time and complete it in a reasonable time frame and quality? Like, when do you eat? Spend time with the family?

    Reason I ask is because, game I've been working on has me working 10-15 hours a day usually 6 days a week. Obviously I don't work, so I can put these hours in. And this is on a relatively simple game. No animation, no rigging, all FX and sound coming from asset store... I'm not trying to naysay, but is it really feasible that a person could gain significant traction working part-time? I'm sure it has been done and can be done, but throughout most of my life I've met very few people who work more diligently than me and strive to always improve efficiency (toot toot goes my liittle horn), but i dont think there is any way I could build a siginificant, marketable game while only working at it part time.


    great thread btw
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
  9. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    I've seen it happen, so yeah, it's definitely feasible... depending on the project's scope and your level of skill, of course.

    In the cases where I've seen it be successful the developers were very careful to pick something that a) aligned with their strengths and weaknesses and b) of a scope that fits available resources (including time), and c) filled a market gap. So maybe they're key factors?

    In my previous commercial work very few projects got the team's full, dedicated attention for an extended period, as we were usually working on more than one project at a time.

    However, also consider from the other perspective. If you don't have income and are working on a game full time, how are you looking after yourself? If you're in a situation where you can look after yourself (or are being looked after) then go for it, but please make sure you're looking after yourself!

    Making non-trivial games to a commercial quality is a big task, so it's always going to be a balancing act and it'll be different for each person. It's a challenge, no arguments there!
     
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  10. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    To make all the right choices with these factors, you'd have to have some kind of relevant experience, right? Like, you work as a programmer in your day job for some years, understand software development, or maybe tinkered as a hobbyist for many years?

    What I am getting at is, the true beginner, i.e. somebody whose only initiation with games is "they've played a lotta them," (i.e. me), I think the only realistic outlook is that you're gonna need a few years minimum of full time practice, or equivalent amount of part-time (as in, triple the years most likely), to even get to a point where you would understand these key factors.

    I mean, I am basing this all of my own experience and extrapolating from that. I am sure there are many people much smarter than me -- I dunno really I've mostly only worked with real boneheads in dirty-hands type of work -- but I just can't imagine any scenario where somebody could pick up game dev as a hobby with no prior development experience, and just working nights and weekends produce something beyond the simplest phone game within a few years.
     
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  11. Billy4184

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    I think it takes at least a couple of years to have decent skill as a game dev generalist, from knowing nothing. I certainly don't think a complete beginner can expect to make a successful game working from day 1 on lets say a 6 month schedule, unless it's something rather abstract and simple in presentation and happens to not have been thought of before.
     
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  12. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    For instance, the programmer I am working with to make a game currently, he works really fast as far as I can tell, puts in a full work day most days, generally solves problems as fast as I create them :), but he's been writing code for 20 years, I think. Not games, but still writing code.

    Not meaning to put him on the spot or anything, but like, he's been busting balls to get our game done inside of two months. I am certain there are some programmers more clever and efficient -- there's always someone better -- but I dunno, just makes it seem crazy to expect someone whose been coding for like 2 years to build a game over the course of nights and weekend for half a year that stands a chance in an oversaturated market. And this is just talking about pure production. Factor in all the problems that come with artistic creation: insecurity, tinkering, procrastination, losing focus, etc -- the main things I see destroying hopes and dreams consistently -- and it just seems really unrealistic for anybody that either doesn't have like, infinite time or lots of related experience. The technical side is small beans really, I think the make-it-or-break-it factors really come down to professionalism and knowing how to be both the queen bee and the worker at the same time. It's a very rare personality, I think, that can maintain that balance.




    and I apologize to OP, not meaning to make this thread about myself. Just trying to pry more from these guys since its a good discussion with some great replies so far.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
  13. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    So... how much do you think that going to full time increases the game's chances of success?

    I think it's important to prioritise your own stability first because you can't rely on any particular project being a success. You can maximise chances, but you can't know the outcome.
     
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  14. Billy4184

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    I think it probably depends. Some people like to work in fits and starts and part time is fine. I like to work like a maniac before my motivation runs out.

    In the end you said it yourself, the person who can be the queen bee and the worker at the same time will succeed the most - because part of being the queen bee is that you should have the capability to decide what needs to be done - how to organize everything so that money doesn't dry up and sufficient progress is made - and you stick to it no matter what. It's very hard to do that alone, among all the other difficult aspects of being a generalist.
     
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  15. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    If you make a complex game it will take time doing it part time yes. Take us for example two guys, started working on the game in May 2016, still not feature complete. All though we have a pretty polished experience.

    You could probably do it a little faster if you were younger and didn't have kids and family.
     
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  16. frosted

    frosted

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    WTF, no. I am literally the best programmer there is. Nobody is more clever or efficient!

    Literally the best.

    Seriously though, the workload for me on Hell's Crusade is/was kinda weird. I think I finished the main body of the code at around 3 weeks. The rest of the time was devoted to stuff like, designing the UX, organizing prefabs, setting up stats, perks, building tools, fixing tools, building content, setting up sound, etc, etc, etc.

    I would say that under half my time is really spent on traditional code. Most is a weird mix of generalist game dev stuff that generalist game devs need to do to make a game work.

    I think there are still some great games that aren't super labor intensive left undiscovered. But yeah, not that many, and with so many games being produced, any specific random dude having a shot at stumbling into one of those is slim.
     
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  17. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Btw, if you add network to the mix, and more so networked physics in VR add a few hundred procent to the effort needed :p
     
  18. frosted

    frosted

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    whatever, arena shooters are the most content light genre of game there is.

    You don't know real pain :p

    And don't forget @AndersMalmgren I am literally the best developer there is.
     
  19. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    It was not a response to yours but and addition to mine :D Yeah a arena shooter with low amount of synced content isnt that hard. But still, you will have hard to track bugs always when dealing with net code.
     
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  20. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Just a hunch, but a lot. Full-time means you can put your heart and soul into the thing with abandon. I dunno about ya'll, but it takes about 4 hours of disciplined grind before my head really gets into the work, then once I'm in the zone six hours of high focus work goes by in a flash.

    Does putting your heart and soul into the game guarantee anything? Maybe not. But I don't think as a consumer I've ever enjoyed a game that didn't seem like it was made with all the passion in the world. I can always tell, and I think a lot of gamers, to greater or lesser degrees, probably can too.

    But, that's purely a matter of opinion and preference, really. Most the big games selling millions were clearly made with the sole intent to make money. Games made by committee, based on science more than passion and art. And I think mobile developers making a consistent living operate more like content creators selling on the asset stores. That is, they churn out a generic quantity of stuffs, letting volume be their weapon more than a laser focused attack. But I don't really know, just the impression I get from reading stuff on the internet.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
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  21. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Really? How do you know that?

    Either way, if I can be passionate about something for 40+ hours per week I can sure as heck be passionate about it for 20 hours a week.

    That aside...

    For me it takes about an hour before I'm really in the zone, most of the time. However, "part time" does not have to mean "less than 4 hours per day". It could just as well mean 2 x 12 hour days each week, or something like that. So while I agree that having large chunks of time will help many people be more productive, I don't think that you need to increase the overall number of hours spent on the game to achieve that, just organise them differently.

    My real point, which I didn't make very clear, is that doubling the scope of your game does not necessarily double its chances of commercial success once completed. However, I strongly suspect that it does make it at least twice as hard to complete.
     
  22. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Same way I can tell if somebody is lying or not. It's not 100%, but its like 90%. Just experience. There's no magic there. Most primates are extremely accurate in reading subtle expression. Probably people are getting worse at stuff like this cause always looking at the cell phones.

    Anyway, that's nonsense off topic.

    I kinda forgot the discussion. I don't think I meant to imply increasing scope has anything to do with success -- only that, without a requisite amount of time to devote, the chances of success must be extraordinarily thin. But again, that's just my hunch based on my small experience so far.
     
  23. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    Don't forget that today's big AAA studios once were small indies. Every studio started somewhere. Now, of course you can think that it was easier back then but it wouldn't be true. It was different with different obstacles.

    If you desperately need money, find a day job and spend your free time making games until your hit or forever.
    And don't forget, life is b**ch. But only if you try you can make it your own.
     
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  24. jennifermcdonald

    jennifermcdonald

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  25. Antypodish

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    To OP, if quiting job was inspired by becoming an indie and making own games, while reading about game market as afterthought, rather than before decision, I think that is a bit wrong business plan. You would be better get back to a job, and reevaluate options, with steady mind.
     
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