The 10 pitfalls of independent game development.
10 ) Blogs – Writing them or reading them. Sure they are fun, interesting and quirky. But you will learn a lot more by experimenting with a tool or writing some code then you could reading about it in a blog.
9) Forums – Writing takes more time than you realize, and it seductively feels like you are working because you are thinking about game development type stuff. But in the end all you have is some paragraphs buried away inside a mountain of rants, ravings and flame wars and zero progress on your game.
8. Treat your game like it is a job – Because most of us are employees it feels natural to apply the rules of the office to their game development efforts. This is a big mistake because you aren’t an employee any more, you are an artist. You should approach your game as a creative, passionate expression of your ideas. A grand experiment! Not some sort of assembly line, or analytical work that you need to slog through. This is about playing with ideas, having fun, and freedom. If you make it into a job, you will create uninspired and boring games that don’t stand out from the pack. You’ll also find it harder and harder to get much done because you’re treating it just like another job.
7) Game development contests – these contests are wonderful fun but they aren’t going to help you finish the game you’ve started. If you don’t have any ideas, and you haven’t started a game yet, then do a contest, otherwise skip them and just work on you game.
6) Underestimating the difficulty of self-directed projects – this one is a biggy and is related to the “treat your game like it is a job.” When you are your own boss, all your flaws and inner demons are magnified. Many of our inner flaws don’t cause us a lot of problems when working for someone else because of the social pressure to do a good job, please others and the financial incentive to keep said job. All this goes out the window when you are only answerable to yourself.
5) Grand plans – are bad mainly they take up a lot of time and that effort doesn’t have a big payoff. Part of this comes from the amount future prediction involved. Predicting the future is not something people are good at. The second problem is the battle field is constantly changing. So you spend time planning out something that ends up not being useful or worst you follow it when it no longer applies. It is much better to know what the ultimate goal is (finish game) and focus on what is important right now (must sit down and code.) I think another problem with grand plans is you end up looking at what other people are doing and what is working for them and it is very tempting to copy them instead of blazing your own trail.
4) Ignoring your skills and strengths – you are only one person or a small team and you can’t do everything that seems important. You’ve got to do what you are good at and find away to ignore the things you aren’t. Don’t try to teach yourself a new skill because it seems important. This is a very poor use of your time. Instead find a way not to need it, or find a new team member who is skilled at it.
3) Research a new shortcut to save time – This is one of my biggest problems. If you read my blog regularly you’ve probably noticed how I’m always checking out new game engines. If I just redirected the time I spend evaluating every new engine I come across into my game instead I’d probably be done. The problem with new things is it takes a while to figure out if they are really useful, and usually they aren’t going to get you to a finished game any faster than what you are already doing. So ignore the shinny new thingy and just plug away at your game.
2) Putting the cart for the horse – a lot of the activities above are things that could help you sell more copies of you game, but only AFTER YOU HAVE ONE! Make the game, and then start blogging, participating in the forums, growing new skills and strengths, checking out new tools and technology, participating in some game development contests etc.
1) Following the advice of others – this is the most important lesson to learn in life. It is very temping to look up to others who seem to be where we want to be and ask, “How did they do it.” On the surface is seems perfectly natural to copy the methods of others. The problem is we as humans are all very different. We have different needs, flaws, hopes, dreams and expectations. The advice of others can not take into account our particular flaws or needs. This means all advice has the potential to cause more hard than good. It might even use up a lot of our time for no real results. The other problem with advice is what seemed important to the successful person might not actually be why they succeeded. So please, when you hear someone giving advice, stop and think. Don’t accept what they say as valid advice for you. The reality is you are doing something different than anyone else, so you are own your own and it is time to just buckle down and focus on the work right in front of you.