8 Recurring Mistakes Indie Video Game Developers Make

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Being an independent video game developer is a very difficult thing. Especially because it is about developing a creative and technical work that will be ready in 2-3 years. During this time, the developer has no sources of income, unless he or she has a job on the side, but this slows him down on his or her project since he or she cannot devote himself or herself 100% to it.

Developing a video game requires many skills: programming of course, but also artistic, communication, social, game design and I forget many others. You either have to know how to combine everything yourself, or you have to work with people you have to pay. So you have to start with savings or know how to convince investors.

Add to that a complete saturation of the video game market in 2023, the number of releases is unbearable for everyone, and we wonder if the developers are crazy or brave to do what they do! 😀

To continue to overwhelm them, there are people from the media who analyze them and spot recurring errors across the various game releases. Like me!

Joking aside, I’m not writing this to overwhelm or mock me, it’s just to warn aspiring game developers of what awaits them. And then I was able to make a lot of mistakes myself with this Split Screen media and all my previous cancelled projects.

And of course, not all studios, regardless of their size, are immune to making mistakes, quite the contrary. If one day I make a game, you can also return my item to me.

Without further ado, here’s what I was able to observe:

1) Scope

Scope is the English word for the scope of the project. In the industry, it’s definitely the English word that’s the most common. All of this is to say that the scope of a video game project is often too great. Each genre of game, each project requires a certain amount of time, number of people before the release of the game but also after.

Multiplayer games have additional difficulties, online games as well, long games as well. Imagine my surprise when I see developers introducing themselves like this:

“Hello, I’m developing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game on my own.”

It’s hard enough to make a small game from scratch, so making a game that’s supposed to be played by millions of players is an impossible task on its own. Even the biggest studios don’t always get it right.

World of Warcraft Screenshot 3 Split Screen

2) History of video games

A lot of people jump into game development without knowing what has been done before. Are you playing a shooter? Look at previous games in the same genre, strengths and weaknesses, and find out what your differences and strengths are going to be.

Making mistakes already made by others will waste a lot of time and credibility. There are a lot of documentaries now available on video or as books, so take the time to check them out.

3) Research the market

What’s working right now, and what’s not? Even if your game comes out in 2-3 years, you have to stay on top of what’s going on. Releasing a platformer at the same time as a new Super Mario Bros? Bad idea. Even Sonic can’t do it.

Not being aware that the company that develops the engine of the game you are using is about to shut down and will stop updates soon? Bad idea too.

The balance between “there’s still room for my game” and “I’d better wait or change something to differentiate myself” is very difficult to find.

Super Mario Bros Wonder screenshot 1 split-screen
Super Mario Bros Wonder screenshot 1 split-screen

4) Art Direction

The game should look good, have beautiful graphics to catch the eye and make it look like it’s professionally designed.

Yes, it’s easier said than done without a graphic designer on your team, but to stand out in a saturated market, you have to make people want to play it.

Before that, just having beautiful concept art and visuals can help sell and convince investors, publishers, future clients, and even your development team to follow you in your development.

Nevertheless, there is still a glimmer of hope for teams without graphics or for projects with rudimentary graphics, some games manage to sell this very well, or at least manage to find a dedicated user pool. This is more of an exception to the rule than something that is often possible, and in general it takes an outside help: a well-known streamer or influencer, a post on a network that goes viral.

Among Us Screenshot 2
Among Us

5) QA Testing

Your game has, has had, and will have bugs, it’s inevitable. While you are focusing on the multiple tasks to develop and promote this project, it will accumulate more and more bugs. It’s also because other people will test your game differently than you, because you’ve designed it and you know how to play it.

To avoid this, you need as many people as possible to test the game during development, if possible QA professionals, or QA testers, in order to spot and report as many bugs as possible before release.

6) Marketing

Marketing is the set of strategies used to promote a product or service. It’s also a part of game development that’s often overlooked. The public needs to be aware that your game has been released or will be released soon! If it’s just on one Steam page among the 35,000 pages of Steam games added every year, it’s done.

As written above, games that go viral in the mass are very rare, and we can’t expect to get the success of Flappy Bird.

You will therefore have to use all possible means to get people talking about your game: media, influencers, forums, video trailers, advertising displays. It can also be physical initiatives such as travelling to events, conventions, having your own stand.

MIGS 23 Photo 9 Shared Screen
MIGS 23 Photo 9 Shared Screen

7) Playtesting

Playtesting is different from QA Testing. Playtesting allows you to collect players’ impressions before release with a playable and fairly advanced product. This allows you to know if the project is going in the right direction, to whom you should address the advertisements, what you need to rectify in this one. It’s not the most expensive part of game development, but it’s still necessary to know what people think.

8) Biz dev

This is the colloquial term used to refer to Business Development. It’s going to take a business developer on the game team. What for? To talk to people outside the studio! Investors, publishers, colleagues in the industry, cooperatives, associations, media, there are plenty of people who can help the success of the game and it’s all about maintaining long-term relationships, before, during and after the game.

Many people have gone through the same stages as you, and have experiences to share. By meeting and talking to everyone, you can potentially learn a lot and avoid mistakes

Do you see any other recurring mistakes that indie developers make?

Write them in the comments below.

About Marc Shakour

Former video game programmer, columnist, teacher, competitor ... Marc has always been very familiar with the world and industry of video games. He decided to help neophytes about it, to discover new universes, worlds and fantastic creatures.

View all posts by Marc Shakour

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