The 7 Best Things (and Challenges) of Indie Gaming Development
In the past decade, we’ve been treated to hundreds of indie games. A great deal of which became household names, with Stardew Valley, Hollow Knight, and Celeste being fantastic examples.
In a way, indie titles are passion projects, created by a team of extremely creative and dedicated people. Being in the industry is a fantastic feeling but at the same time, it has its own set of challenges. Sure, we’ve all seen the award-winning projects but not the work and sacrifices underneath the pixels.
So, let’s take a look at some of the best parts and challenges in the industry:
Good: Creating a game in line with your vision
All of the best games start with an idea. By being an indie developer, you have full creative freedom with your game’s assets. Depending on your (and your team’s) skillset, you can make the game the way you want it to be. Moreover, it gives you complete control of your working hours - especially if you’re working on it alone or with a small, flexible team.
Challenge: Turning ideas tangible
Thinking of various ideas for a game is great. The hard part is implementing and putting them in. Developing one isn’t just like placing blocks on Minecraft, but requires serious coding, animation, and hundreds of hours of work. One idea can equate to more time behind the desk, so you’ll need a lot of support from your team and might have to cut a few things.
Good: You can take your time
Many indie games started as part-time projects. Some took years to develop, like Stardew Valley (four years). It would have taken more if Chucklefish Games didn’t step in and offered to publish it.
With that said, being an indie developer gives you the complete say in managing your time and how long you want your game. It exempts you from the crunch and strict deadlines many triple-A large studios face. However, if you do find a publisher, you might have to cut on the laxity.
Challenge: Finding funding, platforms, and a publisher
Funding is undoubtedly the biggest problem in indie game development. To remedy this, developers try to take in publishers by pitching their titles. Some even promote their work heavily on social media to catch the attention of interested parties. Prior to pitching though, developers need to have their game’s solid structure, know their audience, and have a concrete post-release plan. Another means to get funding is by running campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
In addition, there’s also the issue of deciding which platform and hardware. Should you release on mobile to reach a mass audience? Perhaps you’d want to go for consoles like the Switch, or put it on PC via Steam? Regardless of your choice, there are always risks involved. Focus on one and you’ll isolate a huge chunk of your potential players. If you go for multiple platforms though, you’ll have to deal with optimization issues.
Good: The feeling of fulfillment post-release
Nothing compares to seeing your game finally out and about in the open. When the reviews, tweets, and social media posts tackling it start trickling in, it’s just a surreal feeling. After all, finishing a product you’ve spent years on and getting the results is nothing short of heavenly.
Challenge: Pre and post-release dilemmas
Much like any other game, the release isn’t just the end of the story. Prior to it, you’ll need to heavily market it and spread the word on social media. After it goes online, your team will have to deal with issues including bug fixes. In addition, if it’s an online game, you’ll also need to introduce new content and work on the post-launch roadmap (if you have one) to keep your player-base interested.
Good: Building a community around your game
Undoubtedly one of the best things about developing an indie is seeing the community forming around it. For example, you’ll see dedicated players discussing it on forums, creating videos on YouTube, and making guides and walkthroughs. You can also interact with your players on social media, receive feedback and suggestions from a passionate group of users.
Overall, indie game development is on the rise. Almost anyone, even those who are totally new to the software and engines, has ideas that can become a pioneer in the industry. If working in the industry is your dream, the road will be arduous and the challenges many. Once you’ve turned your ideas into a tangible game you and the others can enjoy, it’ll all be worth it.