After reading Rework by Jason Fried, I decided to take some of the lessons from the text and apply it to indie game development. Let’s get right into it! Here are the fundamentals every indie needs to know about game development.
When creating a game, create one you want to play
Trying to build something in anticipation of what gamers will want is very difficult. Instead, build something that you really want to play. If you like shooters, don’t make a puzzle game. Seems simple but I see many people make this mistake when chasing a new trend or hot category. Don’t. By scratching your own itch and solving the problems that matter most to you, you create something that is actually valuable.
Learn from your successes, not your failures
This rule goes against what many people say, but the truth is learning from your failures doesn’t help you out as much. Sure, it shows you what not to do again, but it doesn’t tell you what you need to do next. Instead, study your successes, continue doing them, improve on them and make those successes more efficient.
Planning is guessing
You can make all the plans in the world, but most often your project or goal won’t go according to plan. Humans are notoriously horrible at estimating and planning. You don’t know what you don’t know, so how can you plan for it? Instead, know the direction you want to head in, understand what the most important things are and get those done first. The rest will follow. Creating games is an iterative process, not a concrete one.
Chip away until you reach the core
We are constantly trying to add new features. New feature this, new feature that. The strength of a game comes from what it is meant to do: the core action loop of the game. Your core action loop will define the game’s success or failure, not the features surrounding it. So if your core action loop suffers because of other features, that is not a good tradeoff. Know what your product is supposed to do and make sure it does it really well. Ask, “If I took this feature away, would what I’m trying to create still exist?”
Focus on what won’t change
At first glance this sounds counter intuitive, as we live in a world that is constantly trying to innovate and create the next big thing. Trying to stay ahead of the curve is a lot of work, and there’s no guarantee that what you’re doing will succeed. Focusing on what will be around forever is the surest way to know that what you’re creating will last the test of time. It doesn’t mean you can’t be creative, original or innovative, but why reinvent the wheel when you can improve it instead and create value.
Be influenced, but don’t steal
On the flip side, explicitly doing something someone else has already done just puts you behind the curve. We’ve all seen those Flappy Bird clones. Stealing an idea, product, or art doesn’t help you understand why it works. Instead of copying, deconstruct what you like about the experience and learn from it. Then, take that knowledge and go build something unique based around that idea.
Don’t shy away from the fact that your game doesn’t have a ton of features
Embrace simplicity. It is better to do one thing extremely well, than a bunch of things “just ok”. More features does not equal a better game. Can you imagine Flappy Bird with a ton of features and menus?
And that’s it. Though not about game development, I highly recommend reading Rework by Jason Fried for anyone with creative and entrepreneurial pursuits. Remember, great game developers do two things better than anyone else: They play games. They make games.
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