After thinking this through over and over and over again, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge, quit my day job and become a fulltime indie game developer!
But it was a successful failure in a sense, because I learned a great deal, and I’m going to take those lessons to heart. Plus, of course, I now have almost five years more experience in developing software, which can’t hurt. Let’s see what I’m going to do differently this time round.
Make a game, not an engine
The fluid simulation that I worked on for half a year didn’t go anywhere. In part, this was because whatever game it would have been would be too much for an inexperienced me to complete. But the bigger reason was that I didn’t really know how to make my engine into a game. (I did license the engine in the end, which was pretty cool, even though it did not cover the development costs.)
So the takeaway is: as long as your “thing” isn’t a game, the primary focus should be to make it a game. It should be playable literally from day one.
Smaller is better
The #1 problem among indies seems to be that they are unable to finish anything. I’m guilty of this myself, but I have gotten better, and I intend to get better still. This means getting more practice finishing stuff, which means the stuff needs to be small enough to be easily finishable. In fact, I’ll start my new career by finishing some long overdue projects.
Through the experience of several game jams, I’ve become pretty good at delivering playable, even somewhat polished games in just a few days of development time. I intend to keep that spirit and produce at least one game a month, hopefully more. Small batches, small iterations, short feedback cycles. Agile. Lean. Third appropriate buzzword.
Learn to monetize
Even a finished game, by itself, does you no good. To actually make a living, publishing it is a pretty crucial step! I now have the experience of publishing Patchy on the Play Store, and it made a decent amount of money considering that it took me less than a week to build.
Monetizing is a skill in itself, and it takes a lot of time. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no good at it yet, which is exactly why making and selling many small games is the best I can do right now, just so I can learn the ropes.
Seek out company
Working from home by myself got pretty lonely after a while. Worse, I didn’t have anyone around to grab for a quick round of playtesting. Very few people even saw the games that I worked on in 2010, and I’m not sure if anyone ever played them but me.
So this time, I’m reaching out to other indie developers. There’s a nice meetup group that convenes every month (met some great people there already), and I hear there is a place where some of them go to work on a daily basis. I have yet to talk to them, but working in company (even if everyone is doing their own thing) will be so much better than going solo.
Last time, I went in with an actual business plan, although it was just two pages. This time, it is even shorter. In fact, it’s just one word:
Figure out what works. Do more of that. Figure out what doesn’t work, and do less of that. Easy, right?