I was walking home late one evening thinking over all of the various admin that I’ve had to deal with through the creation of Standpoint (which has only gotten more intense as we near release), and I thought “man I wish I could just make games”. And yet the more I thought about it, the more I realised “just making games” was never going to be, and could never be as easy as it sounds. It’s commonly mentioned that becoming an indie developer means “wearing many hats”, a.k.a carrying out more roles than just a developer, however it’s not often mentioned just how much of your time can potentially get taken up by all the “side-jobs”. So I dedicate this blog to everything other than actually creating a game.
Oh accounting… Easily my least favourite side job so, just as when it comes to doing it, I’m going to get this one out of the way first. If you’re intending to make money from your games, you’re going to encounter the accounting beast. And if you haven’t thought about it early, it’s gonna be a whole load of trouble. If you went through the route I did of setting up a company to develop your games, my advice: Get an accountant straight away. Like your first investment: accountant. It’ll save you a load of brain-ache. For the first year of my company’s life I’ve taken care of my own accounts, and while completely do-able so far, I know I’ve definitely made some mistakes that will cost us more than it needed to. Having an expert opinion will provide you with more peace of mind that your tax & accounts will be in order.
Even if you’re just a solo developer, when one of your games starts making money, you’re going to have to start worrying about things such as Self-Assements. One thing that’s massively made my life easier is maintaining a separate bank account for all business related expenses (this is pretty much a requirement for companies, but it’s really helped with my organising my freelancing wages as well). You’ll find having a quick reference to all the ins and outs purely relating to business available at a moments notice an absolute godsend when filling out forms or pieces of software. It even makes things easier on your accountant when/if you have one. If you’re doing your accounts yourself, prepare to devote a couple of days a month to organising your expenses and filling in various forms. I recommend the software Manager.io as a helpful tool to keep you organised!
Sweet lord marketing. Everyone says marketing is 60% of the job but holy hell you won’t believe it until you’re doing it. There is an ocean of indie games out on the market and coming out at the moment, and if you don’t really push hard, you’re game’s never going to be noticed among the swathes. It’s never to early to market is the conventional wisdom, and that’s something I really agree with, but I have a few things to note. Firstly: It doesn’t matter how fun, interesting, unique or novel your game is, if it looks bad, no-one will pay it any attention. I really pride myself on gameplay design and creating engaging experiences, but have discovered that by leaving art as one of the last things to be done on Standpoint, it’s really cost us a lot of marketing opportunities. Not a mistake I would make again.
Over the lifetime of your game, there are different marketing methods you should be using. There’s not much use e-mailing youtubers and press when you have a barely playable alpha. Running a devlog on the Tigsource Forums is a great way to get a starting following for your game in it’s early days. An important part of running a devlog is consistency! Consistency is what brings people to keep reading!! Additionally, streaming the development of your game is another good way to get an early crowd.
Events!! Events are so incredibly underrated as a marketing tool. If you’re making a (reasonably) large project, and you haven’t considered demo-ing your game at an event (or have thought of it as a fun thing to do later), you’re doing it wrong! Taking builds of your game to events provides really valuable exposure, and also acts as a good method of getting feedback about your game. Getting a member of press to check out and play your game when they’re RIGHT THERE is far easier (and more fun) than e-mailing dozens of members It’s true that some events are extremely expensive to demo at, but keep an eye out for applications for smaller developers, such as Insomnia’s Indie Zone in the UK, or smaller events altogether.
If you’ve got builds ready to send to various press and youtubers, Vlambeer’s distribute() is an awesome piece of kit, that’s replaced our previous press key organisation system. If you’ve not checked it(or presskit() in fact) out, and I recommend giving it a looksee.
Originally this was going to be a single post but it’s grown into a mammoth, so I’ll continue on with more non-dev roles you’ll be filling next week!