The following article answers the most important questions about becoming an indie game developer.
Do You Need To Go to College To Be a Game Developer?
College or university can be great places to learn, acquire skills, and form relationships with people in the industry, which will serve you in your career. Higher education programs in game development typically cover a wide range of topics, including game design, programming, art and animation, audio, and project management. They can also provide access to valuable resources such as professional game development software and hardware.
Do You Need Formal Education To Become a Game Developer?
Whether you should get a formal education or not depends on your goals. If your dream job is working at a large game studio or you want to pursue a management role, then getting a formal education will be a great benefit to you. But if not, creating your own games is also possible thanks to the variety of modern game development tools.
Of course, you have to consider other factors, such as the time it takes to get the degree, the cost of it, the difficulty of achieving it, and other things that might affect your life. Since game development requires many skills, game studios will often require a degree from a known college or university.
The issue with going to college or university is that the technology in this field is developing so fast, institutions can’t keep up with the industry and constantly try to adapt to the changing environment. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean they will offer you the best information. They usually generalize the content of the courses to avoid teaching specific topics that might be outdated by the time you finish your degree. But when you think about it, general information can be found in many places outside of college or university, so the requirement of going to college becomes much more about the formal papers you receive, and less about the actual education and skills.
Can You Develop Games on Your Own?
Becoming an independent game developer is always an option. If getting a formal education is not a necessity to you, then there are many great examples of indie game developers who learned the entire set of skills required for game development and game design on their own. They learned from sources like YouTube, books, courses, and talking to people currently working in the games industry.
The difference between being an indie game developer and working in a large studio is that while a game studio will require you to mostly be good at a specific skill, indie game developers require not only the base skills, but many other skills too.
The required skills may include: how to market a video game, how to leverage social media and other platforms to distribute a game, how to beta test, how to release a game, how to support customers, and many more.
How Do You Make Money as an Indie Game Developer?
Indie game developers can make money in various ways. Whether you have a complete game or just a partial game, you can monetize the assets you have created so far, or plan to create in the future. You may need funding to sustain your life while you are developing your game, so earning some cash during the development phase may be crucial for you. The following answer will give you a general overview of the ways you can monetize your games. If you want to see the full article, it’s at Proven Strategies To Make Money As An Indie Game Developer.
Making Money With a Complete Game
Selling your game on large platforms such as Steam, Epic Games Store, or itch.io. These platforms will expose your game to a large audience without the need for additional advertising or marketing efforts. Keep in mind that these platforms will take a cut of your game’s revenue, typically 10-30%.
Integrating in-app purchases into your game. In-app purchases allow players to buy things while playing the game. You can also offer a free version of the game with the option to unlock premium content or features through purchases. This method is common in mobile games.
Selling additional content for the game through DLC (Downloadable Content) packs. This can include new levels, characters, weapons, or other items that players can download and use in the game.
Integrating advertisements in your game. By integrating advertisements you can receive royalties when players watch or click them.
Licensing your game to other companies. This can include third-party developers, publishers, or studios that want to use your game’s code, art, or other assets in their own projects.
Making Money with a Partially Completed Game
Selling game assets. Assets such as images, animation, 3D models, textures, sound effects, and music.
Securing sponsorships. Sponsorships can be obtained from companies, platforms, or individuals who will pay you in exchange for using their products, brands, or logos in the game.
Crowdfunding. Raising money from fans and supporters through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Patreon.
Signing a contract with a publisher. The publisher will pay you money upfront to develop and complete your game, and may provide additional developers or artists to help you. However, keep in mind that publishers will take a significant cut of the revenue, typically 20-50%.
How Long Does It Take To Make a Video Game?
The duration of a video game development process depends on several things.
Dimensions: 3D games usually take much longer to develop than 2D games because of the inherit complexity of creating 3D assets, animation, game mechanics, etc.
Genre: Large scale and complex games such as an open-world RPG will take a lot longer to develop than a City Builder because of the differences in world scale and object complexity.
Scope: Development time can vary even between games within the same genre. A simple open-world game will have a shorter development cycle than a complex open-world because of the depth and scope of the story, game mechanics and other requirements of the project.
Team: A larger team will typically get the job done much faster than a smaller team.
Toolchain: The tools used in the development may affect the time it takes. In-house development of tools such as the game engine itself, asset creation and management tools, editors and animation tools can take years to develop. Buying an out-of-the-box solution and adapting it to the game requirements is much faster.
Funding: Sufficient funding allows hiring additional developers and artists and purchase better tools. In case you are an indie game developer, it gives you an opportunity to completely devote yourself to the project.
A smaller, simpler game could potentially be created in just a few months by a small team, while a large, complex game could take several years and involve hundreds of people. The development and final testing phases of a typical AAA desktop game is targeted to be 3 – 5 years. A mobile game will usually take up to a year to develop. After the initial release of the game, there may be additional updates and bugfixes required to maintain the game.
How Can You Learn Game Development on Your Own?
Learning how to develop a game on your own is not an easy task. The best way to learn and practice the entire process is to develop and publish your own simple game. It will require you to dedicate several hours every day for months, just to learn and practice the basics of every field you will have to be proficient at. Acquiring the knowledge is the first step, but practicing is much more important. Practicing will form most of your knowledge and skill in each subject you will master. The following steps will guide you through a very lean game development cycle.
1. Plan and Set Goals
The first step in our journey is to find a simple game idea, and set goals and milestones to achieve it. Form a clear vision of how your game will look like and what will be the end result in terms of your game’s genre, visual style, target audience, sales performance and financials. You should choose a simple game idea to avoid complications and getting stuck. Picking an idea too complicated might lead you to be frustrated and give up. Once you know what you need to learn and practice, set goals and define a concrete plan on how to achieve these goals in a reasonable timeline.
Setting goals is a crucial part of every project and might be the difference between failure and success. Setting goals is also a skill which you have to develop over time. The initial goals and milestones you set are not permanent and may change over time, depending on your execution, desires and other external circumstances. So, don’t invest too much time into it, pick simple goals and run with it.
2. Research Key Topics
The next step is to research the topics you need to learn. Create a list of the most important topics you need to learn. Be aware that if your list is too long, you might get overwhelmed or discouraged just by looking at it. So, don’t write every small subject you want to learn. Write the big, important stuff you must know for you to start development. You will learn the details later, during the refinement and debugging of your game.
The topics could vary depending on your game style and size. Topics can include game engine selection, 2D art, 3D art, code, game design, sound design, storytelling, character design, level design, project management, and debugging. It could also include non-game-related subjects such as marketing, social media, beta testing, launching the game, finance, and legal matters.
3. Find Resources
Great sources of information include game development blogs, YouTube videos, online game dev communities, books, and courses. The most effective way to learn quickly the game development process is to get a mentor. A mentor is someone who has some level of success at game development or has worked in the industry for a while, and can teach you personally how to do it.
If you are worried that some books and courses will be expensive, I will tell you something I have recently realized – if you don’t have a financial investment in your project, you will be less likely to commit and finish it. Think about that for a while. If you can’t afford the books or the courses, there are great YouTube videos you can watch that will teach you most of the basic stuff you need to know.
4. Practice Your Acquired Skills
The best way to learn something is through practice, so for each subject you learn, go practice it. If you just learned about 2D art, go draw something on a piece of paper, download a free drawing/illustration tool, and start experimenting. Coding? Download Visual Studio and create your first project. Game Engine? Download your preferred game engine and start playing with it. Try writing a story for your game and plan the mechanics of the game. When you feel you are done learning the basics, you can start working on your first project.
By the way, if you are ready to practice using a game engine, I suggest you read the Unity and Godot articles and start with those. If you find that both are too complex for you, you can start with GameMaker or a similar choice and go from there.
The first project should not be big or complex. If you shoot too high, you might lose motivation and confidence along the way and quit, so start small. The best learning experience comes from making mistakes, and I guarantee you will make many mistakes along the way. Everyone does, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. By the time you complete your first project, you will have most of the knowledge and skill to create a game.
5. Implement Your Game
At this point, you should have the basic necessary skills and knowledge to create a simple game. Now, put those skills into use and implement your game. The implementation and refinement stage is the heart of the process.
You will probably have difficulties and will be forced to go back to the drawing board and change your plan. But, don’t be discouraged and know that your game will eventually be completed. Keep in mind that with practice, your games will get better and better over time.
6. Publish Your Game
The final step in our learning journey is the publishing and maintenance. I know it seems like a simple step, but it is quite complex. After all, you need people to buy your game, right? So how do you get your game in front of people you don’t know? The easiest way is to publish on large gaming platforms such as Steam and Epic Games Store.
Check out the Best Websites to Publish Your Games article to get you started with the most popular game publishing platforms. It gives general information about the websites and explains the benefits and drawbacks of each.
You could also create accounts on social media and start posting regularly about the development process of your game, while you are developing it.
People love to experience a real-time story of the development of such a project. Once you have an audience, you can let them know about the publishing date of your game. There are many more ways to reach an audience like Facebook ads, reaching out to influencers and many more.
One more thing I will mention is that the game will probably require maintenance and bug resolution so don’t think you are in the clear after publishing it.
After releasing your first game, you will have completed the entire process to game development. From zero to hero. Now all you have to do is rinse and repeat the process.
Remember that game development is a continuous learning process and you should always be willing to learn and improve. With each game you develop, you will gain more experience and knowledge, and you will be able to create better and more complex games. Keep your goals and vision in mind and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And most importantly, have fun and enjoy the journey.
Want to learn how do develop your own games? Check out my blog at Night Quest Games Blog. There you will find a lot of relevant information that may help you achieve your goals and dreams. I hope you find success in your journey. Good luck!
Featured Image was created using the art of macrovector on Freepik.
The Education Question image was kindly provided by jcomp on Freepik.
The Money Question image was created by pch.vector on Freepik.
The Learning Question image was taken from the asset of pch.vector on Freepik.