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A Lesson For Wannabe Game Developers

What started off as a simple project has turned into a monster. This very brief post sums up my progress so far on my first working title.

David Donnellan, Blogger

April 23, 2015

4 Min Read

In the summer of 2014, bored, hungover and looking to be entertained by the God that is 'Netflix', I stumbled across a documentary titled 'Indie Game'. 
Having heard nothing about the documentary, I decided to give it a go. What harm could it do? After all, I had already re-watched all of 'It's always Sunny in Philadelphia' for the 100th time.
The Indie Game documentary followed a couple of Indie Game Developers as they worked on and released their games to Xbox Live. Teams of two people were creating beautiful interactive art and making tons of money from it! 

Over the course of 90 minutes, my whole career path had changed. That is exactly what I wanted! Who wouldn't want to do that for a living?? :) I had never been more inspired by a piece of film. I was going to become a successful Indie Game Developer! 

I spent the following few hours googling information about game development. One of the pieces of advice I read online was to just 'make something small first and learn how everything works before developing something big'. (Probably the best advice any Game Developer could give!)  

That evening, I downloaded Unity 3D and began to explore. I decided that I was going to make a simple asteroid defence game for Android within 2 weeks! (At least, that was the plan...)
I thought that making a game for mobile would be a good place to start off since releasing a game is very easy on Android. 

Within a week I had built a really simple game. The aim of the game was to protect Earth an endless number of asteroids. The artwork was OK. The controls were simple. I built the game to my tablet and showed it to my brother(who like me, is also a software developer). He thought it was cool but really boring. He was right but I explained that this was just a simple project for me to learn about game development. He suggested adding guns to the planet so that there was a connection between it and the player. I said I would explore it and come back to him next week with an update.


Fast forward 8 months, that simple asteroid defence game is still in development. What started off as a fun and educational mini-project has turned into the most stressful few months of my life. 
I left my job as a software developer at Apple to work somewhere where I could work on the game outside of work hours. (Apple doesn't let staff make apps outside of work..). 
I've started a media company on the side along with my brother. We dedicate all of our spare time to our first game. The both of us have become obsessed!


Without going into too much detail, there are days where I hate myself. Hate the game. Hate everything about it. Hate the characters. Hate the music. Hate the overall concept. Hate that the game has taken all of my free time away.
But there are also days(not as many) where I am full of pride, like when I get a new feature working in the game and inch that little bit closer to getting it finished. 
I am still very much in love the idea of creating an interactive piece of art from absolutely nothing and sharing it with the world.  

Anyway I won't babble on too much. There is a lot more I could say but I'm supposed to be hard at work :) I wrote this as I sit here frustrated at my new web development job, preparing for tonight's workload. 
The realisation has set in that I am not going to make money from this game. Every second day I read a new article about game failures or about yet another Indie Developer struggling. The mobile market is incredibly difficult. No matter what happens, I am going to finish my game. It isn't for money, it is for me and hopefully others out there like me. 

I was so confident that I was different from every other struggling developer. I thought that failure was only for those who don't work hard enough. I was incredibly naive. 

If I could offer advice to anyone interested in starting game development for the first game, it is this...'Make something EXTREMELY SMALL first and learn how everything works before developing something big'

P.S. Damn you Super Meat Boy! Damn you to hell! :D

PLUG: You can follow my progress at @DakidoMedia

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