Advice for SA game developers

So you want to be an indie game developer? It’s so easy, anybody can do it. Right? Sort of.

In between mobile games, the Xbox LIVE Indie Games initiative, and Valve’s new Steam Greenlight project, it’s probably never been a better time for indie game development. But just because you have the best idea ever for an FPS doesn’t mean it’s going to be the next big thing, even if you’ve already got some sweet drawings of guns and body armour and a badass name for your protagonist.

We asked Lars Espeter at Cape Town’s Friends of Design school for some useful tips for South Africa’s aspiring game developers.

There are a couple of things:

  • Do not compare yourself with those “big ones” abroad and, on the other hand, do not think in terms of “games do not sell well in South Africa”. Those days are over. Today you click your mouse and your game gets published worldwide.
  • Do not listen to the naysayers. I heard the sentence: “Games are the next big thing, but you cannot create games in South Africa.” Well, you can. I did. Small ones, yes, as I do not have the time, but hey, that is how you should start anyway.
  • Start small! Do NOT try to create a new first person shooter. If you do it for fun, okay. But if you want to make a living out of it, create something simple that you can actually finish and sell.
  • Your most valuable assets is experience. Learn through projects.
  • Find people who are good at teamwork and know a little bit more about gaming than just the tools they use to do their stuff. Your 3D artist has to know about real-time 3D engines or you will keep readjusting his models over and over again. Coders need to know about 3D modelling and game engines or they will not be very productive.
  • Get involved with the community, ask for advice and help. Use social media to advertise your projects.
  • Have a production plan and a game design concept. Without that your project is very likely to end in development hell. You have to know exactly what the game will be about, how it works, what has to be programmed and what graphic assets (and sounds and locations and UI graphics … ) you will need.
  • Approach it as every other job. There are very exciting and creative times, but there are those times where you will have a lot of routine things to do, repetitive stuff and a lot of hard work and long hours – just like in any other job.
  • Analyse your target audience and never forget that you create something for others. You have to make sure that they have a good time playing the game – not only you.

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