An Inside Look Into Freelance Game Development

It’s been several months since this blog first started. Today is a another “first”. The first guest post comes from Aaron. Aaron is an experienced game developer who shares his experience as a game contractor/freelance developer. Happy to have him here to share his insights and experience so far.

Enter Aaron,

Hi all – great to ‘be’ here. First, a quick shout-out for Tomasz – it’s awesome to see how another game contractor is making it work, so thanks for being so open. I hope my post adds something to the conversation.

I’ve been developing games since 1995, and mostly as a Designer, though recently as a Project Manager / Executive Producer. My background is Computer Science, with an Art minor – I know my way around Photoshop, Illustrator, and a sketchbook, and spent 5 years building levels in 3D Studio Max.

I mention this because as a freelance developer, you never know which skillset you’ll be called on to use in a given day. The client may need artwork cleaned up, or a prototype written, or a new feature implemented. As you delve into various tasks, of course, you’ll need to have the “Producer” hat on at all times to be asking “Is this getting me towards the client’s goals”, and “Am I on track?”

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Depth of Engagement

There are different levels of engagement/commitment to any specific task or project. I’ve been thinking recently about the different tasks a game developer has and trying to decide at what level of depth I’d like to get involved in each.

Let’s take Photoshop as an example.

I’ve used Photoshop for many years but until recently never dug very deep behind the basics. Photoshop is an interesting example because it’s used by both amateurs and professionals. At the most basic level Photoshop is an image editing program and at that level it does what it needs to. Perhaps a person who just wants to edit a photo they took of their dog might learn how to open a document, use different selection tools, crop the image and perhaps do basic colour manipulation.

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It’s always nice to have something read in your own native language. Yes, a lot of people now do speak basic English but a lot still don’t.

The current game offering I’m cooking up is not very text heavy, I recon I’d need less than 30 words to communicate all I need and I’m trying to reduce that as much as possible. (Currently replacing the “Play” button with the “Play” icon).  I’ve been focusing on trying to communicate as much as possible visually and hopefully that has a bit more of an international appeal.

A game released on the app stores spreads across the whole world with one single click. Having traveled over the years, I know how much being able to say even simple things in the local language is appriciated. So I decided to localize my game into several languages… it’s not that much extra effort for this current game.(this obviously changes based on the type of game you’re making) A lot of the translations are basic one word translation which I was easily able to find online. I’ve already implemented a language button that toggles between several languages and I’ll be thinking of adding more with updates.

So who knows, if you’re native language is not English, you might just enjoy my future game in your own language. Not that it’s a requirement for the game but just because it might be nice.

Indie Game Developer Mindset Check

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.

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Pigment Hunt -Born in a Flash

The Hook

Out of nowhere on Dec. 23 in the early hours of the night I get email from Unity3D informing that a new 3.5 Beta and a Developer preview is available for download. Included was news about a Flash in a Flash contest with a Jan 5 Deadline. What transpires is a two week fairly intense game jamming session where the result is Pigment Hunt. Three levels of Pigment collectin fun while avoiding oinkers full of… you guess it, pigment.

First Contest Ever

I’ve never entered a game contest before. I’ve always somehow found an excuse not to enter. This time was no different, it was Christmas and holidays, I had plans, my automatic response was no way. The plans changed once a friend of mine had to cancel last minute due to family reasons. No more excuses, I decided to give it a shot.

The rules were simple and fairly open, use Unity3D 3.5 Developer Preview and make a game or interactive presentation using the new Flash Export. Submit a link before the Jan. 5 deadline.

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