So You Want to Be an Indie Developer?

I get now and then questions where people ask me to “help them to become a game producer or developer”. These who have asked might have studied some subject like math and started to take programming courses and are interested to do games, but don’t know where to start.

What to do to be an indie game producer
The simplest – and perhaps the most efficient – answer I can give for those who want to be indie game developers is: Start making a game. That’s extremely simple answer, but you cannot be a game maker unless you make games. I’ve seen people dreaming about making games, planning about making games, talking about making games – but sometimes these guys don’t get any further than that. They have big plans and dreams, but for some reason they don’t like to get their hands dirty – and actually start writing code. We everybody have ideas, but unless one starts to put them in action ideas are worth nothing.

Alright, so let’s suppose you agree at least about the part that you need to start doing something to get anything finished. Then the next questions pops up: But how?

How you become an indie game producer
Luckily there’s plenty of resources available. When I first asked “How can I get 3D head moving on the screen?” I got guided that “you should pick C++ and then create a rendering engine, that shouldn’t take too long” and I thought “oh dear, that will take ages…”. Luckily there are alternatives for starting your game development. You can pick a ready made engines and use them. You don’t need to do everything by yourself. If full games seems difficult, you can always mod games.

Couple of quick recommendations for engines (at least to check out) are: Garage Games and Blitz. Torque game engine by GG is recommended by many developers, and so is Blitz3D/BlitzMax.

Who can help you become an indie game producer
Being “indie” doesn’t mean doing everything by yourself or talking to nobody. One of the best (and free) sites for indie (and especially casual game development) is Indiegamer.com which has a huge collection of threads and an established community to help you out. Besides Indiegamer, you should also check out GameDev.net. Association of Shareware Professionals has a good reputation and is a valuable source for all indies to consider – and their newsgroups and ASPect newsletter is filled with valuable information. They have yearly membership fee. GameProducer.net Insiders – set up by me – is a new community of game producer who want to succeed together. There’s a fee for those who want to join the Insiders.

There are plenty of other forums available as well and I recommend googling for more information. Engine specific forums are good places to learn and get help.

How much indies make money?
Most of the indies make nothing. Many indies are just doing games for fun, without ever profiting from them. There’s a big list of games and sales statistics available which can help you how much some indie games can sell, but you have to remember that these are games by other developers. Whatever others make doesn’t guarantee that you could make as much as they do, but it also doesn’t mean you couldn’t do better. If you want to find out how much indie games can sell, I don’t recommend taking debt and quitting your day job. I recommend (for most people – especially for those who are asking “How much indies make money”) making a small game part time and start selling it.

Was that all? Anything else I need to know?
I don’t think there’s a single indie who would know everything. The indies I’ve met seem to keep their eyes and mind open for opportunities and are learning something new every day. I recommend watching television, playing games, reading books. Books about programming are okay, but I recommend reading also books from different areas outside game development and programming like psychology, fiction (Terry Pratchett is naturally a must read), religions, philosophy, marketing, sales, business, project management, productivity, customer service, ecommerce and so on. There’s also audio tapes, blogs and – of course – actual game development that will help indies to learn new things.

Where to go next?
If you want to get more insight on being an indie game developer, check out these entries. These posts are all part of the ‘So you want to be an Indie Developer?’ blog project.


Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Hallo guys, nice site :)
    so listen, this is my storie, i’m from holland by the way my english sucks so, forgive me for the bad english.

    I would like to be a gameproducer, but not the technical part i dont know enythign about that.
    I would like to write the storie of the game, i love the most RPG games like final fantasy and suikoden and stuff like that.
    My stories are not bad, i Gave some examples to rpg gamers and they liked it, they sayed they would definitely play it, if it was a game

    So what can i do now, help me pls :D

  2. Posts which only contains :
    […] GameProducer […]

    are they spam? Or I’m missing their full version?

  3. Thanks for being informative. Most of these “So you want to be an indie developer” posts are opinions on the state of the indie game developer, or their own progress. This was simply a how to, and simple and no nonsense.


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