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Before you drop the I word

Online Games Bay

Or rather the IGMMOIG word. I know, it's not really a word, it's acronym, but "I'm Gonna Make My Own Indie Game" is such a long thing to say. Yes, each week, each month, perhaps even each day someone drops that word. Fine, acronym.

Before you drop the I word

If you will take a hard look at the hundreds of new games you can find on Steam and other online services each week you must think gaming industry is so exciting and you miss out all the fun. While it might be a great idea for you to make an indie game, perhaps it will be a very successful project, you should know about few aspects of making games, especially the online games, that you should take under consideration. Of course don’t treat this article as way to persuade you not to start your project, those are just the things you might not realize before you start.


It takes butt-load of time to make a game. Even more if you want it to be any good. Yes, it will take minutes to install game, weeks to master it, but this is nothing comparing to what it takes to actually make a game. Just like a movie - it takes couple of months to shoot the film that will last less than two hours. In case of games it usually takes months to reach level you won’t be ashamed to show people. Of course, it depends on the project itself. I remember interview with a guy, who said "I wrote it in 2 days" and the game was successful, but it was a very simple mobile game. The bigger projects, even the browser online games, will take months, if not years of your life. Even if you are genius, if you are the luckiest man (or woman) on Earth, even if you have a great team of talented people on your side, there are things you can’t just skip in making a game.


I know it will come as a shock, but playing games does not make you a game creator, just like watching porn will not make you a great lover. Yes, you will know the basics, some of the tricks, but making game, just like making love, takes more skills and experience than it looks. How many times have you stumbled upon "new, open world, completely free massive multiplayer online game with plenty of ways to play it" only to learn few years later that, shockingly, it is still in development? Most of the indie teams start with over-ambitious targets they will never be able to fulfill. Remember No Man’s Sky? Yes, they did deliver all the goods, years after game premiere. If you want to make huge project how about starting with something really small and work your way up towards those ambitious ones? Your first projects, unless you are an extremely gifted game maker, will be crap, so don’t expect to make tons of money on them and at the same time don’t let the lack of instant success discourage you. If you believe in your idea and your project then you should at least try it. Disney-like motivation speach, check!


There are two ways to make a game - be a good programmer and designer and make everything yourself or hire someone, who has the skills that you lack. First of the options requires time, money, experience and talent. Other option requires money, more money, project management skills and some more money. Even simple game, like Tetris or Snake requires a lot of programming skills to make them simple and functional. Just because they look simple, it doesn’t mean they are simple in making. Big game, like any open world project, will require a lot of talented programmers and at least few times more art designers. Of course Unreal or Unity engine could be a great asset, but without skills they are just like instructions written in Japanese - they look nice, but are not really that helpful.


Once you start your project it will be amazing - every bit of the interface, of the game world will give you a buzz, the morale will be high, everything will look great. And then you will reach the point, in which you are not creating anymore, you have to deal with testing and fixing your project, which will wear out even the best ones of us. It is boring, it is tedious, it is unfulfilling and you will hate that part of your project. And here is the worst bit - about 30% of your project will the creating part, rest of it will be the tedious taking care of the details. Imagine that making a game is like making a painting - when you sketch the outlines of the characters it is amazing, you make quick decisions, you change the whole concept in a moment, but once you start to actually paint it becomes just a chore that you will spend next months doing.


Making a game is not the same as playing the game. Most of the creators of indie games start their project thinking "only I know how to make the perfect game" and some of them are right. But they miss one tiny bit of information - once you make a perfect game you will be the one who won’t enjoy playing it. Why? Because you will know all the mechanics and all the hidden rules, not to mention that you will spend many days, weeks and months playing it during testing and after that it won’t be fun any more. So even if you manage to reach your target and make the perfect game of the genre, in the process you will lose the pleasure of playing it. And in some cases playing any games of the genre. It is one of those "ignorance is bliss" cases.


As I mentioned even if you are making a free game you will need money or skills, or both. Many people start their project just for fun of making it, but after they realize how much time they have to spend on it, they also realize that their day job is in the way. The problem is once you give the game away, you won’t make money on it later, so you can’t just give up the day job. It is great that you want to share your game for free with other people, some of them will appreciate that, but at the same time, you are actually paying for that game every day. You pay with your time, your skills and you cover the expenses (f.e. server or Internet access to manage the game). If you are hiring someone to help you with the project you will need to pay them, thus increasing the costs.


Let’s face it - people are assholes and sooner or later they will show their nasty side. Of course there are good people in the world, just like there are unicorns - mostly in fairy tales and Disney movies. Just take a stroll down the chats in World of Tanks or similar games and you will stumble upon trolls spoiling the game for the others, being nasty in many different languages or abusing the loopholes in the game. And now imagine that some of them will invade your game - how much will you enjoy sharing your precious project with them? You might be lucky, you might not, and your game could be bombarded by trolls. How will you find the motivation then? How will you deal with such situations?

There are dozens of other factors that you have to take under consideration when you start your indie game, like working in team, forcing people to finish their job, taking care of budget, finding best way to advertise and provide social media connection, just to name few. Making even a small indie game could be a large task that requires a lot from you and other people involved. Just think about it before you will become another soul lost in the development hell and another unfinished "perfect game".


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