This article will look at how to develop an Indie Game, how Indie games become a genre, the pros, and cons of Indie games, tips to make successful Indie games, and the cost of Indie game development.
One of the most hyped-out areas of the mobile game development Industry is Indie Game Development. Many Indie Game Developers have shown immense talent and dedication and have created games that were not just a game but were a trendsetter for the game development industry.
What Does Indie Game Genre Mean?
Indie is short for “Individual”, and therefore Indie Game refers to a game that is developed by an individual person or by a small team.
Developing an indie game offers immense possibilities for creativity, but it comes with many challenges. Anyone who has worked on a solo project by choice or compulsion can understand how hard it can be to work solo, as there is no one you can rely on.
From planning to managing to completing the project, you have to take care of it all. The time needed to develop the game and the cost of the gameplay is the main difficulties faced by the developer in developing an Indie Game.
What is an Indie Game?
Indie game development is a type of game development created by a single person or a small team of developers without financial or technical support from a game publisher.
The developer has no time limit to complete the game or is working for no one. They have their freedom cashed in their pockets. It inspires the developers to focus on innovation, creativity, and engagement in the game.
This way, the developers can create something unique that works as a stepping stone of a new trend or genre for the gaming industry.
The power of Indie games lies in their limitations. The lack of technology, budget, and experience pushes the developers to create the best product from the limited resources, which is how the wonder of Indie games work.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Indie Game Development
As a developer, if you are still not sure if you should develop an Indie game or not, here are the pros and cons of Indie Game Development. Have a look and decide for yourself in the pros vs. cons of Indie Game development, who over-weights the other:
— Creative and Professional Freedom
The most significant advantage and the biggest temptation of Indie Game Development for the developers are creative and professional freedom.
When you work on the project of others, you have to develop the game according to the needs and wants of your client; however, in the Indie game scenario, you are the developer as well as the client, and therefore, you can add whatever you want in the game. Consequently, you have creative freedom, and that’s why you can pour your soul out in your game and shape it as per your vision. There is no need to push yourself to meet the milestones, as there is no deadline, and therefore you can work on the game as and when you want.
— Improve your skills
When you work for a team, you work only on the things that you have knowledge about, however, to develop a complete Indie Game, you will have to gain new skills to work on game design, sound/music, and a lot more as you advance in your game.
As there are no time restrictions, you can experiment as much as you want to get new and unique ideas and concepts. Moreover, you can also learn new skills by taking your time, and then you can use the same in the game.
— Get your name in the credits
As in the job, you work for the company, and therefore the name of the company will appear in the credits, and you will just be part of the large team of developers that have contributed to developing the game.
However, when you develop the game yourself, you are the owner and the developer of the game, and therefore you can get your name out there in the game. You will be recognized for your hard work, and with the popularity of your game, yours will rise too.
— Develop the next trend for the industry
Indie Games are known to be a trendsetter in the gaming industry, and they serve as an opportunity for the developers to shape their ideas and concepts into a game that can become the next trend of the game development industry.
With your experiments, knowledge, skills, and ideas, you can develop a unique game that can replace the repetitive and boring trends of the gaming industry with a new and fresh trend.
— Little or No Funds
One of the major stepping stones for the developers developing Indie Games is the limitation of funds.
As the developer is the client, they have to invest in their game, however, the cost of developing a game is quite high, and therefore, this con is the biggest and the hardest one that the developers have to face.
The investment will start producing returns a long time after the game is released, and therefore, the developer has to plan their finances after considering this. They usually have to work as an employee, and they can work on the game after their job.
— No Big Project
One of the biggest benefits of working for game studios is that you get to work on huge and successful projects. However, if you want to develop an Indie Game, your Indie game has to be a small game, as huge games need huge budgets, and that is something you cannot spare.
You are limited by time and budget, and therefore the best option for you, while you are developing the game is that you develop a small game with the basic mechanics and concept, and once the game starts earning revenue, you can expand it, and you can add as many features and functionalities as you want.
— Lack of experience
Being a part of the team while developing a game and developing a complete game by yourself are two totally different things.
When you work with a team as a developer, you just perform the work based on your skills, for example, if you are a unity 3D developer, you will work on the coding work with Unity 3D, however, a lot more is needed to develop the game.
You will lack the experience and skills of setting up the graphics, designing the characters, creating the soundtracks, and therefore this serves as a severe setback for the game development.
— Time and expectations
When you start your Indie Game Project, you prepare a plan, or you will have an expected deadline when you are going to be done with the development, however, as you have to work as a professional and on your personal project too, the burden on your shoulders will not let you complete the Indie Game Project on time.
You will have to face delays due to many reasons, and the project will not go as per your expectation. One benefit of Indie Game Development is that there is no deadline that you have to follow, however, on the contrary, no deadline means you don’t know when your project will be completed, and therefore the lengthy project can work as an opponent of hope for you.
How to Develop an Indie Game?
When it comes to developing an Indie game and becoming an Indie Developer, you can develop and become one anytime.
From a student to a full-time professional, anyone can become an Indie Game Developer. Whatever your game development skills are, start using them or use them with your team of developers with full dedication, and in some time, your game will be ready to be launched.
Here are the steps of developing an Indie Game for your referral:
1. Think of an Idea
Naturally, we are inspired by the games that we play. All the newcomers to the Indie game development field will want to develop the game that they play the most. Let’s say you want to develop a battle royal and FPS game like PUBG.
Now PUBG is a very complex game, and it certainly requires a huge team of developers to develop the game and a huge amount of budget for the same. Therefore, starting with your favorite game, type, or genre can be a rookie mistake.
Instead, you should come up with a game idea that can be played simple and core functions like jump, player movement, and a win condition.
2. Pick your Engine or Framework
Game Engines are packed with a graphical interface and come with most of the built-in functionalities.
Frameworks and libraries are code-based, and they can be used to develop mobile games using the existing programming languages.
Choosing the right framework or game engine for your game development project can be overwhelming as there are various options available, however, you should choose your engine or framework based on the requirements of your project.
If you are a programmer, you should choose a game framework that works with the language that you are familiar with. If you are not a programmer, you should start with engines like Unity or Godot. They offer a graphical interface, and therefore, you will be able to start developing your game without fully mastering the programming language.
The engine or framework that you choose also depends on whether your game is a 2D game or a 3D game. The framework or engine will be the base of your app, and therefore thoroughly research the same and then choose the perfect one for you.
3. Create the Prototype
Let the development begin!
Your goal in this stage is to develop an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). It means that your product will focus only on the core functionality, and there will be no space for unnecessary things. Don’t worry about the sound and art in this stage, just focus on the core functionality of the game.
This limits your goal to the core functionality, and therefore, you have all the time needed to polish and develop the perfect experience. Let’s say you are developing a game in which the protagonist jumps and runs, your main focus should be on polishing these moves.
How fast or slow the character runs, how long or high the character jumps, how smooth all the transitions are, is what defines the experience of your game. If these basic mechanics are well polished and perfectly executed, it brings out the real potential of your game.
Experiment with your core mechanics and make them feel the best.
4. Find the Assets
This is the step where you add art and sound to your game. If you know how to and if you are interested in making your own art and sound, you can do that. Also, there are various sites like itch.io, OpenGameArt, and many more, that you can use to look for free assets.
Experiment using various arts and sounds. The arts will highlight the looks of your game, and the sound will highlight the feel of your game. You will notice that sound will work as a medium that will connect your game’s story or emotion to the audience in a stronger way.
5. Select the Monetization Strategy
The monetization strategy that you chose will not only affect you but the end-user as well. Therefore, choose the monetization strategy by considering both aspects.
There are various monetization strategies that you can choose from, let’s have a look at them.
In this strategy, you can list your game as a paid game on the app stores, and therefore if the user wants to download your game, they will have to pay for the game first.
However, before launching your game as a paid one, do have a look at the graph below
When there are so many free games available in the app stores, what makes your game so special that users will be ready to pay for your game upfront? Moreover, the paid games observe a very low download rate.
This is the monetization strategy that is used by most games, and this monetization strategy is considered one of the most successful ones for mobile games.
You can show advertisements to your users in the game, and you can earn from the same. However, as the user will have to see the advertisement again and again, it may impact their user experience. The smarter solution here is to provide the users with in-game items when they see the full advertisement. This will lure them into watching the full advertisement, and they will not even mind seeing it again and again.
This is a successful strategy for games in which the users spend a lot of time, for example – PUBG. Players play the game for hours, and therefore they are ready to purchase in-game items that can enhance the look or the performance of their player.
You can put various in-game items like power-ups, clothes, accessories, etc., as in-game purchasable items.
Real Money Game
The new and emerging trend in monetization strategy is the real money game. This is more of a genre than a strategy. In this genre, your game is played for real money by real-time players, the players have to pay a certain amount to participate in the game, and the winner takes it all.
You will get a commission out of the money that the players bet, and therefore you will earn every time a player plays a game.
6. Turn it into a complete game
Now, you have a small game with game mechanics, art, sounds, and monetization strategy, therefore this is the time to complete the game.
Completing the game does not mean that there will be no changes afterward. Completing the game means implementing a game loop where the player can win, lose, and start the game again and again.
It is natural that not all games will have a win/lose condition, and they will be based on the score that the users earn. Then you should implement the game journey in that way.
Do whatever you feel is right for your game and for your idea, just make sure that it is complete, and the user can play it as many times as they want, and that too should be a seamless process.
7. Work on bugs or updates
Congratulations on completing and launching your game!
Now is the time to polish your game. Get rid of all the bugs of your game, as the bugs have a daily visit with your game, and to provide a seamless and effective experience to your users, you will have to get rid of them all, and that too again and again.
Push various updates that fix the bugs and try to improve your game in the updates too. As your game is being played and loved by users, now you can add as many features as you want. Expand your game and its scope and add new and interesting features to your game.
Launch various events and seasons to keep the game engaging.
Top 9 Tips to develop a successful Indie Game in 2022
If the pros outweigh the cons for you and you are ready to work on your Indie Game Project, here are some tips that will help in developing a successful Indie Game:
1. Get your foundation clear
Developing a mobile game is a huge task and the completion of the same needs various skills and knowledge that you may or may not possess.
You cannot paint a perfect picture when you do not know how to work with colors. In the same way, you cannot develop a game if you do not know your way with the codes.
Moreover, developing a game is far bigger than just coding, you will need artistic skills to develop the graphics and character, and musical skills to create epic soundtracks for your game, or at least to select the right ones from the store.
2. Have a goal in mind
What is the reason because of which you are developing this Indie Game?
The answer to this question is your goal.
For example, for some, it can be to develop a game so that they can earn extra money, and when the game becomes a hit, they can leave their job and start focusing totally on their game, as the game will be able to produce more revenue than your salary.
Therefore your goal is to create a new and major source of income for yourself. Now, whenever you want motivation while working on your Indie game, just think about this answer, and you will be motivated.
3. Be ready to be flexible
Here, flexibility is not just about the time when you work on your project, but also about the plan of your project.
You may start your game as a runner and jump game, however, after some time, when you are learning new skills, techniques, and technologies for your game, if you find something new that can change your game, and in turn, make it better, go for it. Don’t stick to your plan, but keep on making changes to improve it.
Let’s say after some time you come across VR, and now you want a VR game, then you should be flexible enough to change your game, and transform it into something better.
4. Get help when needed
It will be really awesome if you are able to develop the whole game by yourself!
You will have to not only learn, but also master the skills to develop the perfect game, however even if you are a jack of all trades, it is quite possible that you may not be able to master some of the skills, and therefore the best option here is to get help from someone or to outsource that task to the professionals.
This little help will help you in getting the perfect asset for your game, and it will, in turn, improve the quality of your game.
5. Realize when something is not worth it
Flexibility is a part of your Indie Game Development Project. Therefore if you come across something that you have planned, but as of now, the asset or the part of the game doesn’t look or feel good for the game, be ready to let go of that part.
Moreover, if there is any part of the game that exceeds the budget, it should be removed if it is not part of the basic mechanism, and some other alternative should be used instead. Therefore, you should be ready to remove something if it is not worth it.
6. Make do with what you have
Indie game development projects are limited by the budget, and therefore you have no option but to make do with what you have.
The limited assets are what will make you explore your creative side, and you will be able to do wonders with what you have.
It is proven that when we have limited assets, we use them to the maximum, and we use our creative side to get the best out of the same, on the other hand, if you have unlimited assets, you will be careless, and you will use everything to get the work done easily.
7. Take inspiration from everywhere
There is inspiration everywhere; it’s just how you look at it. You can get inspiration for the character from the people around you or from the series and animations that you watch. The inspiration for the mechanics can be taken from the games that you play, or from the games that are played in the outside world.
For example, you can go to the skate park if you want to develop a skating game, and then you can learn various moves and techniques by observing the skaters around.
You can take the background inspiration for the nature around you, and therefore just open yourself to be inspired, and you will see inspiration in everything around you.
8. You might fail
The lack of investors, the limitation of budget, and the endless flights of developing the game with no definite timeline can have a heavy toll on your motivation and dedication. This will affect your productivity, and you may fail in even developing the game.
It is a possibility, and therefore it should be considered before starting Indie Game Development. However, do consider that when you fail, all the time and money that you invested in your game will be lost, and therefore, if you want to save it, get back on your feet or else say goodbye.
9. Don’t give up
Giving up means losing your money, your time, and most importantly, your dream and your hope. Giving up is not an option here. If the financial conditions become bad in the worst case, you can take a break for a while, and when everything is ok, you can continue.
Don’t keep giving up as an option at all. This is your future and your hope, and you cannot abandon it.
How much does it cost to develop an Indie Game?
Indie Game Development can cost around $200k – $350k.
Here’s a breakdown:
- $50,000 to $100,000 per person per year.
- If you have worked for 1 year with a team of 5 members, it will be $50,000 *1*5 = $250k.
When you come across articles like this – Indie Dev Spent $140,000 To Make New Game, Has Made $0 So Far, this price does not consist of the developers’ salaries as, on average, the developers in many cities make more than $100k per year.
Factors like the project’s timeline, the number of members in the project, the scope and technologies of the project affect the development cost of the Indie Game. On average, the real development cost of an Indie game is around $250,000 to $1,000,000.
Most Successful Indie Games
1. Minecraft: The most successful Indie Game
Minecraft is a game that many of us have played or at least heard about, but what many of us don’t know is that Minecraft was developed as an Indie Game.
The developer started developing Minecraft as an Indie Game in 2009, and it was completed and launched at the end of 2011. Soon, the game became an instant hit, and the capability of this epic adventure world in which there are endless possibilities of block building was recognized by big-shot companies. Finally, in the year 2014, Microsoft bought the game for $2.5 billion, and the game is still the favorite game of millions of users worldwide.
2. Among Us: The new Indie Game Phenomenon
Unarguably the most played game and the most hyped game of 2020 – Among us was developed as an Indie game.
The game has launched in the year 2018 by an Indie game development company, however, the game received little fanfare till the pandemic of 2020. Eager to keep viewers entertained during quarantine, Chance Morris, known online as Sodapoppin, began streaming the game, created by InnerSloth, to his 2.8 million followers on Twitch in July.
The game then started spreading like wildfire and became one of the most successful Indie games.
What is the Alternative of Indie Game Development?
If you are a developer, the alternative for you is to work as a developer in a game studio or game development company. In this, you will be a part of a large team of developers who work on game development projects for different clients, and you will receive a fixed monthly salary.
If you just want to get your game developed, the alternative for you is to hire a game development company that can develop the game for you, and therefore you don’t have to worry about the development process. Just pay their fee, and in a few weeks, your game will be ready to be launched on all the platforms that you target.
Get the help of experts
Although you or your small team are the only members that will work on your project, there is nothing wrong with taking the help of experts in areas where you lack.
Capermint technology is a full-fledged app and game development company that offers various services that you can get the benefit of. You can get help in character designing, Virtual Reality projects, Augmented Reality projects, Mixed Reality projects, Graphic Designing, and many more areas.
Indie Game Development will help you in becoming independent. It is quite fun, and it offers limitless opportunities for innovation. You might encounter several hurdles while developing your Indie game; however, if you are able to successfully dodge them, you will be able to achieve your goals.
Get ready and turn your idea into a full-fledged Indie game by opting for Indie Game Development.