Getting into game development

After quitting my job at Codurance to work on my own projects, and considering different options, I decided to finally get into indie game development.

Wait, what about the famous indiepocalypse?

I know. The market is crowded, there’s lots of shovelware and discoverability is a problem. Indies make peanuts in average. All looks terrible. But, let’s look at the past, when has game development been easy?

Discoverability problems? Yeah, tell those folks how had to sell their games in magazines.
Overcrowded market with clones? Sure, as it happened a few decades ago with arcade machines cloning Pong.
Most indies making little money? True, yet this is no news really.

It is hard. It’s always been hard, and will keep being hard. Now, the barrier entry is lower than ever (download Unity or Game Maker, follow a few tutorials, and you will agree with me). The mobile apps stores and Steam opened the floodgates and now there are dozens of games released every day.

Let’s be honest: indie game dev is probably an unwise path. It’s becoming more similar to being a musician and competing with other thousands of bands for a limited pie, than what it used to be (at least, there was a technical entry barrier). I could be writing web/mobile/backend applications for a stable income. Yet, I’m going for game development.


And, why not?

Maybe it’s just some sort of silly mid-life crisis, but I’ve been delaying this forever, and it feels like I’m missing the train and betraying myself. I registered for a Computer Sciences degree because I wanted to know how to make games. Even after parking my degree for two years (music went in the way, and I studied that full-time), I spent my spare time setting registers in C to learn how to program the Game Boy Advance and make small demos. Game development was always there. But I always took the “safe path” (business software) and discarded becoming a game developer because of its job instability. I even had an affair again in the middle of my career, a few years ago, and got a job offer as a game developer at a games studio (which I refused for several reasons).

I keep telling myself that I will make games (and I have actually done some stuff in my spare time), but working full-time and having passed my thirties doesn’t give much time and energy left for something as demanding as making and finishing games. If I don’t do this now that I don’t have any constraints and can keep my living expenses low and take the “risk”, when will I do it? In the worst case scenario, I should be able to update my resume and get a job again as a software developer, so it’s not that risky (opportunity cost apart).

I feel like it took to long to make this decision, although I don’t regret having taken the path I took, as I met some awesome developers and enjoyed my time in some companies, especially at Codurance. But time passes and there is a point where you can’t keep delaying the important things, otherwise someday becomes never. Remembering that you only live once, helps to sort priorities accordingly 🙂

What now?

I’m spending a few months learning about game development. I already did, during these years, but I felt like I needed to catch up with things like art, current tools, and specially business and marketing.

I will probably make a small -but complete- game first, to level up my skills. After that, I have some commercial games mind, which will probably take one year or longer. But, ideally, I would look for something that takes no longer than 6-9 months, for a first commercial game, before feeling comfortable with spending any longer. It’s easy to get trapped and spend years on a game, so keeping this in mind before starting is very important.

What if if doesn’t work out?

This is more than likely. Most business fail. Even more indie devs fail. I do this for myself first, but I want to succeed, so I can keep making games (or other projects) for as long as I want without worrying about money. This is probably every indie dev’s dream. If it doesn’t work out, I will have had fun, done what I really wanted to do since long time ago, and I’ll be ready for going back to working on other kind of personal projects, or even to a day job. That’s fine, and it’s not the end of the world. Regretting later for not doing what you feel that you are postponing for too long, seems much worse to me.