Making a Commercial Video Game All By Yourself, Part 1.

Introducing an ongoing narrative in which I document the production of a commercially viable game, entirely unaided. Each week I'll cover diverse topics, casting light into the shadowy world of doing absolutely everything yourself.

Time is the elimination of possibility, from all that could take place to that which did.

It’s a gloomy Thursday evening in early February. I just lugged my 4kg laptop – actually just a graphics card with a keyboard strapped to it – through the wind and rain, got home then collapsed into my sofa. I’m probably going to order out. Oh, I love to cook. But if I stop working I'll never get this game out. Cooking was one of the first things sacrificed to appease Old Father Time.

I have to get those NDAs signed for the console partner programmes. I really need to keep on top of the social media marketing that I started only last week. And work out how much I should be paying for my spot at EGX this year. Then there’s the game itself; that still needs more work than I’ll probably admit to myself. A lot more. I just need more time.

I’ve decided to write this series recounting my experiences in making an entire commercial video game by myself. Entirely. Design; programming; 3D modelling; 2D art; animation. And the music of course. Plus, the business, legal, marketing and everything else.

As I document the journey so far, as well as my ongoing efforts, I expect to cover all of the aspects of the game’s development, in the hope that anyone out there aspiring to do the same may find something useful, as well as arriving at an appreciation of the following:

  1. Doing everything yourself is very, very difficult.
  2. Nothing is impossible.
  3. Apart from maybe dragons.

Notice that the title of this blog does not contain the word ‘successful’. The success of my as-yet unreleased game Minesheeper at this point is an arbitrary concept that remains to be defined. But it will certainly compete commercially. With that said, let’s begin at the beginning.

“Specialization is for insects.”

-Robert A. Heinlein

Being a solo dev isn’t for everyone. While this is my first attempt at a professional game in adulthood, well… let’s just say I’ve been around. If you like to just do one thing really, really well, like 3D art or coding, then you should probably go find some friends or a boat-load of cash in order to make your game. But if you’re one of those people that resonates with terms like Polymath, Renaissance Person, Scanner or even Multipotentialite then you’re a likely candidate to take on such a challenge. Provided that you can stay on task.

Why would anyone want to make a videogame on their own? I can think of a few reasons, each with varying degrees of credibility. First, maybe it’s just nice to think that there’s no one to answer to. You’re the boss and everything will go exactly the way you want, right down to the background colour on that icon and nobody else need be trusted.

Assuming you’re marginally less sociopathic than this, then perhaps you simply enjoy every aspect of the game creation process itself? Personally, I love coding cool stuff; animating my modelled and textured creations in 3D; crafting UI elements and yes, dropping those ‘sick-ass’ beats in my music software, as the kids are probably not even remotely saying these days. It’s the process that you love and seeing it all come together is your ultimate fix.

Either way, I think the only truly valid reason to make a game on your own is because you can.

Right, my food’s arrived. Now that I know who you are and you have a fleeting idea of who I am, we can progress to the next level, wherein we identify a project that we can fool ourselves into believing we are able to complete to a professional standard. Preferably before the end of time.

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