I for one love to make games and apps on my own. I love the whole process from the first idea over the concept phase to implementing the juice and in the end, trying to sell the game. And in my opinion, there was never a better time to start making games completely on your own, if that is what you want to do. So why is that, you may ask? Let me tell you here. Keep in mind, that all mentioned here, is my opinion and my experiences. You should definitely go out, and make up your own mind!
First, let me address some points, that you should consider, before quitting your job and start trying to making a solo career as an indie developer:
You Have to Have a Long Breath
Sure, it is possible that the dream come true, and your first try is a smash hit. But chances are, that that is not the case. So be prepared to see through at least a couple of projects before you earn enough to make a living. I recently released my second project on Steam, but I am far from being able to live from my games (so take everything I say with a grain of salt, I guess).
Be Prepared for a Lot of Competition
And I mean really a lot. In the year 2017, about 20 new games were released every day on Steam. And if you ask me, it only went up since then. So, why is that? Well, because it has become that easy to start developing your own games, so a lot of people try their luck. Sure, a lot of the games released may not be the crème de la crème. But you should also not expect, that your first game will be as polished as a Blizzard game (at least when they released games in the good old days).
You Have to Do Everything
All the repetitive jobs are not done by the intern. You have to do them yourself.
So Why Even Bother?
If it is that hard, then why not just abandon that idea? Well, here I list a few reasons why I want to make games on my own. And maybe one or two reasons also apply to you.
You Create Something
The act of creating something, real or virtual, was always a joy for me.
Video Games CAN Definitely be Art
In the same way, a drawing can be just that, a drawing, or a piece of art, a video game also can be, executed in the right way, art (or not).
Creating a Game on Your Own Teaches You a Lot
You are responsible for the art, coding, music, sound effects, balance, bug finding, bug fixing, marketing, and for selling. You learn a lot in all of these disciplines if the only person responsible for it is you.
Not only that, but I would consider creating games as a form of passive income, similar to good books or good movies. If you make a good, polished game, chances are, that you will profit from that even years down the line. Good classic games still sell copies, even many years later.
So, are you still interested? Great, then let me give you all my arguments, for why making a game completely on your own was never easier than now:
Making Games on Your Own was Never Easier
Many Different Game Engines
There are a lot of very good, free, free-to-start, or cheap (in terms of costs for indie developers) game engines out there. To name only the most popular:
There is Unity, Godot, Unreal, Cocos2d, and many, many more.
Always do your diligence when it comes to choosing an engine. Check, what resources and documentation are available.
- How much do you have to pay to use it?
- What does it cost you later down the line?
- Which systems are supported?
- What kind of games can you make with the engine?
- Can you export your work easily into universal formats? Or is it locked into the engine?
Which one Should I Use?
Unity and Unreal are in my opinion great engines to start. They are very user-friendly and you will find a lot of documentation and help on the internet. They also support a wide variety of systems. But, and this is a big but, they are commercial engines, with all their advantages and disadvantages. If you want to own 100% of your game, with no strings attached, then Godot is a very good option. Disclaimer: I love Godot, and it is the reason I make this website. But, since Godot is open source, it sometimes needs one or the other workaround and it may result in more work overall. But there are a whole lot of good game engines out there. So to conclude: Try out different engines. Read into them a little bit, play around with some demo projects, and check, if everything you want to make can be done.
Coding for Dummies
In my opinion, learning coding was never easier. There are tons of resources for the different languages online, and most editors even help you write code. I am not saying, that coding is a piece of cake or child’s play. But compared to 10 or 20 years ago, in my view, coding did become a lot easier to learn. Sure, if you never wrote a line of code in your life, you need to cover a lot of ground first in order to understand how coding works overall. But, all that I am saying is, that you will get a lot of help on the internet, as well as in apps and books to learn to code if you so desire.
No Budget Available
The sheer amount of great, free tools available is astonishing in my opinion. You can cover the whole process of making a game with exclusively free tools. Of course, a lot of those tools have a commercial “counterpart”, which in many cases (not all cases though) are feature-richer and more user-friendly. Most of the time, there is also a somewhat cheap commercial alternative available, which is often a great tradeoff. So, if you are willing to put the time in to learn using the different free tools out there, then you need almost no budget in order to start game development (you need a PC though). Check out this post, for a list of my favorite free game development tools.
Buy Pre-made Assets
If you want to make games on your own, you can choose to write every line of code, and make every model and every sound effect on your own. This is entirely possible. Just keep in mind, that the more of the game you make completely on your own, the longer the project will take to finish. To stay in a reasonable time frame, the scope of the game has to shrink accordingly. But that is completely OK! People buy small games if they are good and have a fair price tag. But if you have bigger scopes in mind, then pre-made assets are a great way to shorten the development process by outsourcing parts of the development.
I am convinced, that it is completely OK to buy assets from an asset store. Or sound effects, music, and artwork for that matter. Even (especially) big companies buy a lot of their assets. Or they let them be drawn and modeled by 3rd party companies like Virtuos. But if you decide to use pre-made assets, always keep one thing in mind. Do not make a so-called “Asset Flipper”: You have to personalize those assets. Find assets, that share a style for example. Use them in a distinct art style. Modify them. Do with them whatever is necessary, so that those assets have your signature on them. This way you are not at risk to produce an Asset Flip.
Use Freelancing Services
Similar to pre-made assets, Freelancing is also a way to outsource some work. For example, I recently made an English trailer for a game I made. But I am not a native speaker (as you probably can tell). So instead of talking with a bad accent, most probably errors, and recording it with bad quality (because I do not have a professional audio studio set up) over my trailer, I hired a movie trailer voice guy to read my lines. It was certainly a hundred times better than whatever I could have produced and also pretty affordable.
But there is also a catch: Sometimes the service can turn out in a way you do not like. I, for example, had a bad experience with a translator, who did translate my English sentences into very bad French, which resulted in bad reviews from French buyers (and rightfully so). Be especially careful with very cheap and fast translators, since they often rely on Google Translate. This can be ok if the translator proofreads it thoroughly afterward. But it also can backfire pretty hefty, as seen in my case. So try to make yourself a nice little spreadsheet with good service providers and bad ones.