Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Learn from the veterans

I was watching a video of a talk by an indie game dev recently, where they outlined all of the huge mistakes they made with their first indie game. They were very clever, very capable programmers with a huge amount of mainstream industry experience, and this was their first indie game. They made pretty much every mistake in the book. They picked a vastly complex and huge project without testing the code gameplay first, they aimed it at consoles instead of the (much easier, open market) PC, they took YEARS to make it, got burned out, kept re-designing it…

All the stuff that old and grizzled indie devs like me keep telling people not to do. Why do new indies do this? My theories:

  1. They thought they were not NEW to this. They confused being part of a AAA team to being a sole coder/designer/artist/businessperson in an indie team. In other words, they thought they had experience in something they did not.
  2. They were arrogant, and thought they were better than the devs such advice is aimed at. This isn’t as critical as it sounds. I’m pretty arrogant too. Most people who think they can design whole worlds to entertain others are arrogant. It’s important to at least *know* you have this trait, so you can check it now and then.
  3. They were stuck in AAA development habits. In their experience, games take years, they take big teams, they are done for console, they are done with crunch. Why would it occur to them to work any other way?
  4. They think people only buy AAA games, so they aim to compete with the games they are used to working on. Not true. Just ask notch :D

I don’t think anyone can change all this. Those reasons all seem pretty *real* to me. I fumbled and made mistakes and screwed up as a new indie dev myself. The good news was I did that as a hobby, with a secure job, and I never spent years on a game to learn that lesson. I probably shouldn’t expect anyone to take a more considered approach to seeking advice than I did (although to be fair there were VERY few indies back then. these days we are swamped with experienced devs offering advice).

Still… It does make me cringe when I see first-time indies outlining their 3D MMO ideas on the day they quit their jobs. Don’t do that :D