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How To Develop Your Game Industry Skills Alone

Fobula Games founder Berke Erem explores some practical ways for indie developers to improve their industry-relevant skills. The article is meant for indie studio founders and professionals. It is designed to be read within 5 minutes.

Many indie game developers struggle improving their skills. Since everyone has different backgrounds, it might feel tough to get better at a separate domain. A lot of software developers have trouble with art and game design skills. In this article I would like to suggest some practical tips.

I would like to list the industry skills as the following:

  • Any game starts with game design. Unfortunately, I believe game design is the hardest skill to improve by reading articles.
  • Any game design can be developed as a video game without any proper art at first. Some developers and players are quite happy at the end of this step.
  • After the game design is proven to be good the art skills come into play. I am not very interested or experienced on the 2D art but I can help you with 3D art.
  • Since games are (and should be) interactive experiences audio and music skills are very important as well. What a player sees is only half the experience.
  • If you want people to play your game they need to be aware that your game exists. For this to happen, you will need marketing skills which are heavily based on human psychology.

Apart from the skills above there are various essential soft skills as your company grows and you start working with other people. I will not cover these in this article.

 Let’s explore each skill in more detail.

 

Game Design Skills

 

A lot of indies involve developers unsure about their game design skills. I was actually one myself. Game design is not easy at all.

Don’t forget that you are designing an experience for other people, not yourself. So regardless of what product you design, you need constant feedback from the audience. It’s a long and an iterative process but I don’t know any good designs that was finalized alone, sitting in a desk.

How to find out if you can design? I joined a game jam before switching my job exactly to find this out. I was very insecure but it turns out my game, Freakyard was awarded with 2nd place in Spooktober Game Jam 2020. This way is very quick and effective. It’s also free, so you don’t lose anything by not doing it right and actually gain a lot by failing. Game jams provide constraints, so that you can design and implement something within a limited time.

To summarize; join game jams.

 

Development Skills

             

Developing a small game with less than 3-5 mechanics is an easy task. Just watch some tutorials and don’t get too crazy.

My industry veteran friends warn me to be ready to develop a lot of “trash code”; code that will never see the final version of a game. Developing quick and dirty is an asset. I’ve coded a mechanic within hours during game jams and after the jam it took me days to clear it up enough, so it looks professional. Check out SOLID coding practices. There is an infinite amount of YouTube videos on this.

Also, you should test early. Developing testable code will improve you as a developer early on. Your code will be clean and maintainable which is pretty much the only important thing on the long run. Number one reason for losing money on the long run is maintaining poorly designed code.

If you want to develop your skills to the fullest start learning software architecture. Robert Nystrom authored an awesome book called Game Programming Patterns (freely available here), based on the phenomenal book Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software which was based on A Pattern Language, which was based probably on some ancient Greek thing  smiley

 

3D Modeling and Animation Skills

             

I love and craft 3D art and I’m sorry that I won’t be much help for your 2D game.

3D is not hard but takes time to learn. Therefore, a jam is not the best practice grounds. Online tutorials will be the best resource and it will take time.

Used to be a professional 3D artist, I spent a lot of time in front of my old computer. It took hours to render just a few seconds of animation. But for your game you can always work with ready-made assets. Unity Asset Store offers thousands of quality assets. If your 3D skills are not there yet, managing 3D assets and developing a good eye for art styling is another way to go.

As for the art styling part, instead of playing many games I would recommend getting inspiration from other mediums such as cinema, architecture, performing arts and fine art. You can find a lot more novelty outside the industry.

 

Audio and Music

 

Your game won’t deliver a proper experience if the audio is flawed. Creating original sound effects is a tough job. Music is somewhat easier but simple soundscapes are so overused.

You can use services like Envato Elements for almost all your sound effects. They require an inexpensive subscription, then you have unlimited access to huge libraries, including music tracks.

Marketing Skills

 

A very economic and easy way to learn marketing is practicing digital marketing and asking questions as you go.

Marketing relates to human psychology. Although the subject is complicated, there are many books that you can learn from. It’s all about how human brain works and how to hack into the process, influencing behavior. But beware. Marketing is a deep profession and at some point, you should work with an expert.

As for ads, you can always do it yourself. Everyone knows something well and they can share their wisdom in a blog. How about promoting your blog post? Try spending 10$ for each ad you place for example in Google or Facebook. Play around with the target audience and try to understand how well your ad gets to these people. This is one of the cheapest ways to learning fast.

 

Can I Really Do It?

 

Yes, of course you can. No one had these skills from the start. Just be patient and keep practicing them regularly. I hope I was able to provide some practical suggestions to hone your skills.

Do you want to contribute as well? What are some other ways to practice these skills? What kind of resources do you benefit from? How can we get better rapidly and inexpensively?

I believe there is a lot more people that can benefit from community articles and guidance. Let’s help each other. Please like and share this article.

 

Attribution: The beautiful cover artwork is "Ekko - Fan Art" by PeterKmiecik, available on Deviantart

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