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The Pros and Cons of Indie Game Development (for beginners)

There are many things to learn, and so much time to learn what you can (That's not a typo, btw).

Patrick Mason, Blogger

March 18, 2015

7 Min Read

To my Annie. You are my greatest inspiration. I love you.

Before I start, I would like to make it clear that I'm not a Veteran Game Developer - I'm just starting out in this business and sharing with you the pros and cons I've learned along the way ao far. Take them with a grain of salt, as you may or may not have fallen into the same pros and cons as I have.

With that said, let us begin.

I have been working on my RPG game for about a year and a quarter. It's been an interesting ride. Plenty of ups and downs, progress and lack thereof. Changes and improvements, setbacks and errors...

And I couldn't be happier.

Making a game, no matter what kind it is, or how you choose to make it, is a learning process that's never a one-note song. It's always changing, no matter what. And through that change, you start to learn quickly the pros and cons of making a game all by yourself (or with others).

I'm going to share with you some of the Pros and Cons I've experienced thus far.

Pro: You can dress any way you want!

Yes, this is something that I have always enjoyed since I started this journey. You don't have to wake up early in the morning, wear business attire, and go to some dusty office building, filling out reports and doing the same old thing from 9-to-whenever, day in and day out. You can go at your own pace, and enjoy making your game as comfortable as you desire. 

And for those wondering: no, I have not and will not do game design in my birthday suit. I have my limits too.

Con: Getting lapse in keeping up with good hygiene 

Even though you are enjoying not having to answer to anyone but yourself, and working your own hours, you might get a little too relaxed about doing certain things that are vital to your health and appearance, like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, changing your underwear in a timely fashion, brushing your hair, stepping outside once and awhile, eating food, etc...

Make no mistake: With all that freedom to go at your own pace, it is very easy to get lost in your work, and neglect certain personal tasks that you must do on a regular, daily basis. You may not neglect all of those things I just mentioned, but it is possible that you might skip a few steps in your daily routine. Just be cautious, and learn to adapt to making changes to your routine, so it works for you without becoming lax or overwhelming. Find a balance.

Pro: You can make your game as big as you wish. Skies the limit!

This is the cornerstone of being a Game Developer - you can design your game any way you want, and can make it as big or small as you like. You could if you have the skills, make a game so huge that it could months to make, and years to finish. The possibilities are endless. Oh yeah!

Con: You are just one or a few people. 

Look, just because you have the ability to do something big, doesn't mean you have to. I'm not saying that you can't - if you want to take a shot at it, go for it. I wish you the best of luck. But just remember that you too, have limits as to what you can do. Don't take on more than what you can handle. Make your game as big as it NEEDS to be.

Pro: I can keep my game a secret from anyone. I don't need to tell everyone about it.

As a developer, you can tell anyone about your game. A few select people if you want. Just keep it to the inner circle of your closest friends - the ones that won't take your idea, and make it their own. Loose lips sink ships. Genius.

Con: No one knows about your game, because you didn't tell them about it.

Just so we are clear: the above "PRO" is NOT genius. It's a con in sheep's clothing. This is a trap that most people fall into all the time. One thing to remember is that you are making a game. It's not some top secret formula that you discovered, or the next element in the periodic table - IT'S A GAME. Tell everyone and their mother about it. You are trying to get attention and interest about it, especially if you want to make some money in this line of work. You are both a developer and a salesmen. You have to get word of mouth out there, get people talking.

What you don't have to give them, is the code that makes the game. You can keep THAT to yourself and a select few who might be helping you to develop it, if the need calls for it. Tell them what your game is about, and that you are making it. Put yourself out there. People won't play your game, if they don't know it exists.

To use a metaphor - Most people don't really care how the sausage is made: they just want the sausage, so give it to them (the sausage is the game, if you didn't get that).

Pro: I don't have to set a deadline for anything.

This is major pro, IMHO. You can go at your own pace in making your game. You can release it when you are good and ready.

Con: You never finish making the game.

Game Development is a time-consuming process. It will take time to make a proper game, no matter how big or small it is. But Game Development is also a Goal-Making process: you have to be willing and confident to make plans to release your game in a timely fashion. You have to make a deadline for when you want certain things completed in the development process, and make an effort to achieve those goals. It's a good form of character-building. Never rush yourself, and don't give yourself too much slack. Doing one or the other, will make sure the game never gets done. I didn't set a deadline for the first year of Development, and I ended up slacking off and falling behind on what needed to be done. I wanted the game done by October, 2014. As I write this, it's the middle of March, 2015. This is a business, after all. You may have fringe benefits, but you also have responsibilities to finish and release your work on-time. If you set a deadline, and feel you might miss it, you can extend the release date as needed. 

And lastly:

Pro: You can have fun making games.

Con: There is no con, you should have fun.

There are going to be days that you have zero inspiration or drive to work on your game. There will be times when you don't want to even sit at your computer and work on it. There are going to be times where you might even feel that you suck at this...

But those days exist in all of our lives, no matter what we are doing. Making games can be hard at times, but it can also be enjoyable. You should always do something that gives you the most joy. In this line of work, it pays to have a positive attitude towards your development. You don't have to work on it all the time. It's important to take a break every now and then. Kick back and relax from time to time. Sometimes you need to take a step back, to take a major leap forward. It's normal and it does happen to everyone. Always take joy in your work, and don't be afraid to have fun.

I find that it helps to actually play a video game or two, after spending so much time developing one. More so if you have someone else to play those games with, like I do. Game Development is a mix of varying difficulties...always find a way to have fun and enjoy yourself, No matter what.

I hope that I have enlightened those of you who are just starting out in the world of Game Development. Now go out there, and make some video games. 

Happy Development, and Happy Gaming.

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