Reply @toneddu about indie game dev

@toneddu: I doubt that the STRAFE Kickstarter trailer required hiring a lot of professional artists. They just hit a nerve of what people wanted to see.

An indie game really shouldn’t employ AAA artists and animators precisely because that’s too expensive. An indie game is an indie game because it’s made by small independent guys. If you’re hiring professional artists for 15K € then you’re really trying to compete with bigger studios and failing. That’s precisely what you shouldn’t do. Indie dev is supposed to be largely do-it-yourself. Wanting to buy assets is wanting to take a shortcut, but trying to take shortcuts to avoid the learning curve and time investment of doing your own assets is not good. You need to invest that time and learning.

I’ve met several people now who were always looking for shortcuts. Such as wanting to do motion capture for an indie game instead of learning how to animate. Or using rigify instead of learning how to rig a character. Or, of course, asking for 100K dollars at Kickstarter and failing. It seems to me that when you’re looking for shortcuts, you’re trying to avoid having to get better at game development. But you really just have to suck it up.

Regarding time, if someone just spends 2-3 hours most days on practicing art or programming (I spend less on average), they would improve very quickly. Even if you just use the weekends to practice, you’d be pretty advanced after a year and you’d be starting to get good after 2 years. It is not about being mega talented, just about regular practice and discipline, and doing that for years. Throw out your TV, throw out your game console. Use that time on practicing.

I think that trying to basically make indie games by asking for and spending a lot of money is the wrong way; the project leader themselves needs to be good or very good at least at one thing (programming, 3D art or level design.) It helps if you’re good at one of these, and decent at another. And programming should be one of those two. If you’re good at none of these things, no amount of money will help you.

I think that everyone knows that making indie games is not the way to become a star, too 😉 I hope so.

Yes, it is true that people expect a lot these days. Well, but look at Flappy Bird. That was a very simple game that did not even look very good. It was probably made in a few weeks. But it was mega successful. So if the expectation for 3D games is too high, you can always make 2D games. Or simpler games.

Or pick up an open source game and make it awesome. I recently did some coding on Freeciv. That’s also fun, and a way to get a lot of practice without so much pressure.

And I think if you already have a really good looking vertical slice (remember, that means basically everything is implemented already, such as gameplay, visual style, main characters, sound & music) then you only need to expand it horizontally, which is basically just grunt work. I believe in such a case you don’t need to ask for 100K because the game basically exists already. The hard part, I agree, is getting there.

You see that Scout’s Journey already took 3 years. That’s because I have no money and need to do everything myself in order to get to a vertical slice. And part of it is because it started as a Quake mod, which turned out to be a burden in several ways. I had to switch engine, even. Yes, that’s a lot of time. I could have made 10 android games in the same time. But I decided that this is what I want to do with my life, at least currently.

Admittedly I had a good start. I learned basic drawing and appreciated art as a teen already, I was lucky to have good teachers. Similarly, I learned composing and home recording pretty early by being in bands and writing my own songs. I picked up programming years before I started SJ (largely by modding), as well as level design. I was on a mod team where 5 other mappers (all better than me) were breathing down my neck. That kind of thing makes you “learn or bust.” It was a huge boost. Because of that, the only thing I really have to learn from scratch for SJ is high-poly modelling. And that is doable. There is a lot of great documentation about it and people at Polycount are very helpful. Blender is free, and knowledge is free. Only practice required. Currently I’m about at the halfway point – I can do hipoly assets but am still practicing character art. Yep, that is incredibly slow progress. But it is progress. And I’m not aiming for next-gen visuals, of course.

Obviously SJ is not the first thing I ever did in the world of games. I had to climb a mountain of pain to get there. I started modding games 10 years ago. It is mostly the constant, slow, but measurable progress that keeps me motivated.

So, IMHO, slow and steady wins the race. It seems to work for me. Yes, there are times when it looks like an impossibly steep hill to climb. Just keep your eyes on the path, keep practicing, don’t try to take shortcuts (it’s a waste of time), don’t try to throw money or technology at problems to solve them (instead acquire the skills to solve them, and have the patience required) and after a year or two, you’ll notice you have come a long way.

And then just keep doing it for however long it takes.


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