Before I made the decision to go indie. I thought about my strengths and weaknesses as a game developer. It’s an honest exercise to see if the skill sets align to make sure I have what it takes to be able to make it as an indie. A lone game developer has a lot on his plate. Artistic ability, technical ability, design skills, business, self-promotion etc. All this required knowledge could be intimidating at first. That’s why I think the most important ability in indie game development is having the right mindset.
So is the decision to go indie crazy? It’s the question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. On one hand the opportunity to work on self directed game project is very intriguing on the other hand I do realize the sheer amount of work that it takes to improve on the current skill set to be able to release something that I’d be happy with. The scope of knowledge required is a challenge and a learning opportunity for me. It will require recognizing strengths and weaknesses and finding the time and putting in the effort to improve upon them.
Working at a game studio where you have a specific job description makes you very good at one thing. By doing the same thing everyday you become an expert very quick in that one area. And that’s great, if thats what your goal is. I have a lot of respect for people who are able to focus on one area such as concept art or animation and become true masters in their domain.
For me the exciting part about making games is the synergetic process of putting all the different elements together. I guess The Jack of all trades but a Master of None fits the description. Now is being a Jack of All Trades and a Master of None enough to make quality games? I think yes, but it requires some self-awareness and the right mindset.
Are you an artist? most people would say no and right away think that art is some inherit skill available to only selected few. I don’t really consider myself an artist but I know that if I gather the right reference material, establish the art style using reference sheets, follow the process and spend long enough time on mixing and experimenting. I’m able to achieve results I’m happy with. It might not make me the most efficient artist out there and the quality can’t compare to full timers. But oftentimes it gets me far enough.
Coding is another example. The complexity and scope of game programming is huge and it’s something that will take a long time to master. I don’t consider myself a programmer. My goal is to make games and not be the best programmer in the world. The code I write is messy, and there is a lot that can be improved but there are a lot of great resources online and a lot of people ready to help you out if you ask. In most cases I’m able to accomplish what I set out to do but most importantly I’m not afraid to just jump in and write crappy code to get things done with a hope that with time and practice it will improve and I think thats an important mindset to have.
I’m about half way point of working on my first iOS/Android game. It’s been a really great experience so far. The mindset of creating a whole game by one person is so different from working on a team, where often you can pass off the decision making to someone else and not take responsibility for your work. It also forces you to go outside of your regular comfort zones and dive into and solve problems that you might have not had to worry about previously. At this time, although not always easy I’ve been able to push some of those comfort zones and so far accomplish most artistic and technical challenges.