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5 Pitfalls of Indie Game Development

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When making your own game, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement – after all there are so many things to consider. What type of game will you make? Will it be an RPG, a FPS or strategy? What kind of setting do you want? Do you go plot heavy?

But while you’re considering these exciting points, make sure you don’t tumble into indie game development pitfalls without realising it. To help you out, we’ve listed 5 common issues below.

1. Starting too large

Have an awareness of what you can achieve. When you’re getting wrapped up in the excitement of finally working on your idea, it’s easy to get carried away. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, try to remember that you will have limits.  You’ll need to accept that as an indie developer, you probably won’t have the time or the resources to make the next big MMORPG.

Make sure your plans are manageable, especially if it’s one of your first forays into game development. Consider how complex you can reasonably make the combat and crafting system. Think about how good you and your team are at creating characters, worlds and stories. Can your software and hardware keep up with your demands? How much time have you got?

And while you may want to make your perfect game, don’t technically or conceptually overstretch yourself.

2. No clear business plan or goal

Many drown or struggle with the business side of things when starting up their own game. Issues can come from many things, such as getting the wrong accountant or even choosing the wrong software. The industry is notoriously difficult to predict and even those with the best made plans will need to be adaptable. Both your sales and development will change during the process.

When creating your game, you need to consider what you want to achieve from it; other than just creating it. Do you plan to earn income from your game? If so, who is your audience? If it’s a niche game, you could probably charge a premium. If it covers broader interests, you might want to consider the free-to-play route.

If you’re developing your game with a team, make sure you have conversations about the direction of the game and your plans for it. What’s the key selling point? What theme will the game have? How long should each section of the game take to develop? This will stop disagreements within the team later on and will speed up the production of the game.

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3. Not allowing time to play

This covers playing both your own game and other titles.

If you’ve decided to create a game within a particular genre, make sure you give yourself time to research and play the popular/recent releases within that genre. This will allow you to get a feel for game design, new features and common themes that could be relevant. Whilst you won’t want to (and shouldn’t) make a carbon copy, it’s good to know what features you might need to consider. Or to think about any boundaries you might want to push and challenge.

While play testing your own game is important, be aware that you are close to the project. The critical point will be getting your game into the hands of your audience and watching them play. Make sure you don’t support them or tell them what to do. It can be very easy, for example, to think your input method works perfectly, only to find that when you get to public it makes no sense to them at all.

And don’t forget, when considering what to implement, think about what the world might want, not what seems better to you.

4. Consider other cultures

Whilst you may only be thinking about the country and gamers you’re used to seeing, be aware that the moment your game becomes available online, it’ll be available to purchase and download anywhere in the world. Indie games are popular on a global scale, so it shouldn’t be too surprising if your game starts getting downloads in China, India or Russia.

For this reason, you should make sure your game title doesn’t alienate certain cultures. Take an example from a marketing campaign from the bank HSBC in 2009. Their campaign slogan was, “Assume Nothing”. Unfortunately, when this was translated the slogan became, “Do Nothing”, in a number of countries. Not a great tagline when you’re trying to get customers to join your service.

You should also consider changing your character and place names if you plan to release officially in other countries. People like to relate to the characters they control, and whilst being called Jake might be normal in the West, it isn’t in Asian countries. Consider this also when designing things like your HUD displays and UI.

Also, don’t forget that age ratings will differ from country to country. What might be acceptable in the UK might not be ok somewhere else. For example, Australia has some of the strictest laws on what can and can’t be in games. Be aware of these differences when marketing your game. If the age rating is higher or lower in another country, you may need to change the tone of your marketing materials.

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5. Don’t forget to market

Marketing can kill a project. And while it can seem like a terrifying beast to take on, it’s not something you can ignore if you want your game to be a success. You’ll need to be aware of what, where and how you spend your time on this.

You need to make a buzz around your game before it releases. And it can take several months to build up a good level of anticipation. Think about using some of the ideas below to help generate excitement. But be mindful, whenever you’re working on marketing, you’re not working on your game.

  • Create a holding page on your website. Something as simple as just the game logo and a few words can help build up mystery. Get people to sign up with their email while they’re there so you can tell them about the game at launch.
  • Contact journalists so their articles help promote your game.
  • Set up social media accounts. Tease snippets of your game and release game development videos to get followers before your release date.
  • Take risks. What’s special about your product? If you have an average product with an average story, it’ll get lost. Focus on what makes yours unique and consider doing something a little bit unusual to get people talking about it.
  • Enter competitions

For other ideas, take a look at one of our other articles for more advice.

When marketing your game, you’re likely to get feedback, both positive and negative. Be ready for this; feedback can both be exhilarating and heart-breaking to read.  Consider how you will react to this feedback. Be mindful that that at the end of the day, the people who are playing your game will become your salespeople and your ambassadors.

Did we miss anything?

These are our thoughts on some of the common pitfalls indie game developers fall into, but what are your opinions? Did we miss something important? Is there anything you think could pose another problem? Let us know!