I am not by any means an expert at any of this. I’m just some guy that enjoys making stuff. I am not in the business of making games, I am in the hobby of making games. This is a list of advice I’ve come to believe based on observations of successful independent persons of any creative field that are actually making enough money to work on their dream game full-time and be able to support themselves. This is my personal philosophy on the subject adapted and molded from the advice of others. I may come back to this later and decide some of this is no longer the case so…. yeah. Suffice it to say “Your mileage may vary” as with most advice.
So this post began as a comment that kept growing. Someone in a game dev group asked a pretty common question. “How can someone make money-making games #indie” and perceived by anyone who has some knowledge of the topic to be the same as a “How do I make money writing a book?” or “How do I make money from my art?” which are the sort of questions one does at least a cursory search for and understands both the simplicity and the complexity at which the answer would come. The simple part of the answer being “Simply make fun games and sell them.” and the complex being “How do I make fun games?” Because of the nature of the question many if not most of the folks in the comments took the OP to either be a troll or a person that thinks it’s as simple as Do the Thing….
And make the money
Knowing my efforts might be wasted, I decided against my better judgment to answer the question anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like this was the first time I answered a question like this and this would not be the last. But then I remembered DRY and decided to just turn my comment into a blog post. So I can just post this for every new kid that thinks it’s just that simple.
Make the things
Make small games and keep making them. Don’t get too attached to a single idea or way of doing things at this point. Be ready to throw ideas out even if you have some parts of them implemented. Scope creep is the bane of the developer and should continue as something you are thinking about in the back of your head. Think puzzle or platformer not MMO or FPS) Share those games with others. They will more than likely suck at first but try to learn from those experiences. Learn to take criticism and grow.
I’d highly recommend you check out Derek Yu‘s post where he writes about what it takes to Finish Your Game. I go over it myself every couple months to keep myself on track. (Derek Yu : Developer of Aquaria and Spelunky)
Jam It Out
Go make things in game jams with others and grow. (Calendar of Game Jams) Game jams are a great way to learn the way of prototyping. It forces you to think your idea from beginning to end in a short time period. You realize the difficulty of implementing the simplest ideas when you have to follow them through to completion.
Game jams are also a nice way of getting to the social aspect of game development. In some competitions you can team up with other developers. Teaming up is a pretty sweet way of getting to know how others game designers get things done. You pick up on what tools and techniques are used graphic design, programming and audio. In many game jam you judge each other’s games at the end of the jam. This allows to get to know your game development community. The can get your name out to like-minded people looking to make stuff. This could lead to potential mentor-ship or full on future collaborations between yourself and them.
Learn By Teaching
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Once you have some confidence with your gamedev tool-set and the concepts, take it to the next level. Share what you know or at least what you think you know. Giving a solid, well prepared, presentation about a topic is a sure-fire way to put your knowledge to the test. This also helps you by giving you some legitimacy in your knowledge of the subject, positive publicity
Teach what you know to others and grow.
Get your name out by doing awesome things and grow.
If at this point you have something viable to sell then sell (I.E. it is actually fun) it and maybe those connections you have made over the course of your time growing will help you plug your game. Either way look to advertising yourself. Get your name out for being awesome.
- Make small games on your own
- Make small games with others
- Do awesome things for others
If that doesn’t work out repeat steps 1-4 until you achieve enlightenment or make enough money consistently to consider maybe quitting your day job (see an accountant to find out if this is the case) and making games full-time assuming you have a day job. Understand that this could take years or possibly never happen.
If you are just in this for the money there are easier ways to make money and you should go make an app or SAAS product or something. If you really want to create awesome games then go and get started with the understanding that making money by making games is more of a possible side effect of making something great than it is the end goal in itself. Accepting the possibility that you may never make the next Angry Birds or Braid but keep going because it’s something you love.
As I stated before, this is just my opinion as a hobbyist. If there is something here that rings especially true or false then please let me know in the comments below.