The arcade and console gaming industry was established and spurred on by creativity and true genius in its early years. The late 70s and early 80s saw an explosion of games based on the abilities of individual developers or small talented teams skilled in graphics optimization and backed by conscientious investors. Everyone remembers and loves the likes of Brick Breaker, Pac Man and Donkey Kong. Unfortunately, the industry is in the grip of a decades-long cycle of repeats in concepts and name upgrades. Year after year the “top” gaming prospects are determined by the companies that win by having loudest voices and the brightest colors.
The beginning of the 21st century, however, has seen a rise in more of the buck-the-system styles of independent–or indie–developers. As a result variety is seeping back into the market and there seems to be more of a place for those looking to express creativity.
But why now, when everyone is being driven toward big money? A few possibilities beg for our acknowledgement. Mass platforms like Facebook have become convenient outlets for gamers. No more jostling for a quick demo in an elusive limelight. Developers can now play all the cards. This is the story of smaller squads run by guys like Jonathan Blow, creator of the Braid game. Another reason for the growth of indie game development is the influx of developers from the mainstream sector. This exodus, while not exactly pilfering the mainstream markets of its talent, gives indie game developers a tint of viability.
So, you’re an aspiring developer; and you have enough business sense to understand that skill with coding and stand-out creativity will not be enough to keep you afloat. We have a few tips that may be helpful to you.
Find a Niche
Knowing where you are and what you have offer will give you sure footing in the development game. The strength of indie game production is in niches. The best and brightest produce a game that helps them stand out. Most game devs who go indie are attracted to it because of unique concepts that aren’t available except in the developer’s chosen outlet.
Don’t Go for it Alone
Build a solid team around yourself. Although it could be rewarding to hock out an award winner all on your own, it’s not likely. The best indie games are produced by teams built of passionate experts in their field, and use already-established graphics optimization companies. You may not be the best at what you do and you may not be able to get the best sound developer or designer, but you can put together a solid and dedicated team.
Capital, Capital, and more Capital
Yes “capital” is a dirty word in the world of indie gaming, but you must come up with creative ways to fund your projects. You and your team have to eat. Keep your day job. Try and raise capital investors from interests groups that line up with your concept interests or avid gamers that you know.
Consider Seeking Out and Joining an Already Established Team or Start-Up
If you are confident in your skill level, you may be able to go the route of some of the professionals who got their start in the mainstream. Although you won’t have as much of an appeal there are probably more than a few budding teams that share you drive and determination but lack that necessary ingredient: a team member like you.
Above All, Stay Positive
As the indie industry grows so will the competition. But staying positive will allow you to continue to develop in your skill area, suffer setbacks and move forward until you see daylight. Don’t be discouraged at this, but you may have to go through a few teams and projects before anything chalks up to a worthy gaming experience on the other end. Keep the faith and go forward.