By checking my own games projects and games created by other developers, I spotted 9 common elements that many of these projects had (or should have had…). Here’s my list of 9 items, in no particular order. If you cover 7-9 of these, I think you greatly improve your odds of a creating a fine product, in comparison to having only 5-6.
#1 – Scope
Indie game devs need to think about the scope of the project. I know all game projects start small, and they then have the danger of growing into huge gigantic several year taking projects. Watching the scope is important. Splitting the game into episodes, using procedural content, user generated content, not getting too attached to creating huge asset piles (artwise, graphicwise) all need to be considered. Scope is important. Too small, and game is too simple. Too much and it’ll becomes too big mess to handle.
#2 – Money
Money can fix many things. I wasn’t too thrilled about having budgets, but at later age I think it might be good idea to have some sense about what range you are willing to take. Is it 10 bucks, 100 bucks, 10 000 bucks or 100 000 bucks gives some rough idea what will be possible and what won’t be possible, saving you precious time when you need to consider different features.
Money can also be used to cover areas you are not good at, which in return might save you a lot of time.
As a sidenote: it’s perfectly okay to go with zero budget too. The worse the graphics, the greater the story when your game becomes the next hit…
#3 – Time
Very important. If you don’t have time to make games, then your chances of making games drop to zero. Here’s a post about 100 ways to be more productive. It’s from year 2008 and still pretty valid if I may say so.
#4 – Skill
You need to be skilled in something. I’ve always thought that being a skilled in programming is the most important part, as I believe programming is most work. With new and easier to use tools, I see that graphically talented folks have more opportunities to create fine games.
Besides these, a solid understanding of game design is a pretty good idea in case you plan to make the game any fun. Understanding some fundamentals just simply makes decision simpler, when you have some more understanding on why something is or isn’t fun. (Book of Lenses is a good starting point by the way).
#5 – Motivation
If you are not motivated to create your game, it shows. Motivation is hard thing to have. One simply gotta be willing to spend countless hours doing something, working in the dark. It’s persistance.
If the work you do is fun, no matter what is the final result, then you probably are in the right track on this.
#6 – Momentum
I’ve noticed that if I don’t work on my game for some time (let’s say 2 weeks, for example when having bit of summer holiday), it’s always harder to come back. When I eventually come back and continue, things are fine again. It’s just that keeping up the momentum is important. You don’t finish a marathon by sitting down every few hundred meters. You gotta keep pushing, keep going and keep the momentum going.
#7 – Twist
I like to believe that fine indie games also need something unique, something different. Some sort of twist that makes them different from what we’ve seen earlier. I don’t know what that might be, but if there’s something special in the game, it makes a good story. And who knows, maybe even a fun experience too.
#8 – Release
Second most important part of the puzzle (#9 being perhaps most important). By releasing your game, you’ve reached something truly important. Continuing from here gets easier. If you plan to do multiple releases, that’s fine (and recommended too).
By doing release (or releases) you make your dream come more true.
#9 – Polish
Perhaps the most important part of a successful indie game: polishing. It’s the hardest part: fixing nasty bugs, adding features, honing features, changing things, getting rid of some of the bad stuff, getting better art, getting better sounds, spending tons of hours into very many things…
… and then you really have something great in your hands. And perhaps others see it too.
If you have some items to add to this list, please feel free to comment the blog post.