Game Career Guide is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Get the latest Education e-news
  • Doing The Impossible: The Guts And Glory Success Story

    - Jedediah Steen

  • Set a schedule and stick to it

    How much time you spend on game development is less important than how well you spend that time. When I first started, I could only allocate 10 hours per week on gamedev. This broke down to roughly 1 hour on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends. This is not much time at all to learn and apply such a complex subject.

    However, I made the most of this by religiously sticking to two rules:

    RULE #1: Work the allotted time no matter what.

    Every. Single. Day. Sometimes this means staying up late, getting up early, or working on lunch breaks.

    RULE #2: Keep each session laser-focused.

    Pick a thing to learn or do and work only on that task until complete.Zero distractions.

    Eventually, I was able to increase my schedule, which brings me to the next point.

    Carve out new time

    Once you can stick with a disciplined schedule, it's time to start carving out more time. Think about your current job, for example. How much time in each day is truly productive work? Are there ways to do things faster? Are there things that could be cut out completely or delegated? Is telecommuting an option? Can you work on your game or study during breaks?

    I worked 50-60 hour weeks at a demanding Fortune 500 company. Finding more time seemed impossible at first. However, after learning a few productivity/time management techniques and convincing my boss to let me telecommute, I was eventually able to reduce my work weeks down to only 30-40 hours per week. Again, a whole article could be written on this subject, but I'll save that for another time.

    Focus your scope

    While we're on the subject of time, let's talk about project scope and feature creep. Like most beginners, I made huge mistakes in this area and over-committed myself early in the project. This led me to become very frustrated and burnt out. It was only by pure discipline and necessity that I was able to push through the final months of development and complete the game. (It's in the publisher QA and porting stage now.)

    To avoid this hell, it's very important that you keep the scope of your first projects small... like really small. Once you've decided on a game idea, cut it in half... then in half again... and again. Boil it down to just the essential elements that will make a fun game. Forcing yourself to work within very limiting constraints will allow your creativity to grow.

    Also realize that it will take you 2-4 times longer to complete a given game development task than you estimate. I've had a lot of conversations with other indie developers over the past year, and this is a recurring theme. Trust me, your game project will always take longer than you initially planned!

    In retrospect, I believe I could have built Guts and Glory with only bicycles and it would have been just as successful. I could have put more effort into polishing those mechanics and building content around it. In the end, I think I would have ended up with an even better game and more success, so consider that when you are planning the scope of your own indie game project.

    Work smarter not harder

    If you're a solo game developer like me, or a small team, it's critical that you find every advantage possible. Here are a handful of resources that I found very useful during the development of Guts and Glory.

    ATracker: Fast and easy time tracking app. Knowing how you spend your time is key to optimizing it. Time is your most valuable resource; you can always make more money, but you can't make more time.

    Evernote: One notepad to rule them all! Keeping all your game ideas, development notes, learning resources, links, etc. in one place makes it easy to reference them later.

    Trello: Don't make the mistake of thinking you don't need to write out a plan just because you're a solo game developer or duo. As the old saying goes, "measure twice, cut once." Planning ahead forces you to think through the steps and workload needed to actually complete the project. Planning in Trello is about as lightweight and fast as it gets! If you manage a team, consider something like HacknPlan.

    Asset Stores: Why build a 3D barrel model from scratch when there are already hundreds of pre-built models out there that you could use or modify to fit your aesthetic? If you're going to spend money, then take advantage of marketplaces such as the Unity Asset Store to save time where possible. This applies to programming as well. If you get stuck in your project, sometimes you can find a solution in the asset store that will either directly solve the issue or, better yet, provide you with a hands-on learning resource. It always better to learn than to become reliant on solutions that may or may not be supported in the future. I've found this to be a much faster way to learn than books alone.

    Reallusion Software: If you want a fast and easy way to produce high quality 3D characters or animations for your project, then I highly recommend checking out Reallusion's software suite. I discovered these tools rather late in development but found them very valuable. So valuable, that I reached out to the company and now I'm working with them to help shape future versions of the software specifically for game development! They have some very exciting features coming out this year for gamedevs!

    You can learn more about how I used Reallusion's current tools here.

    Round out your education

    Learn business and marketing skills. If you want to make games as your primary source of income, you need to remind yourself that you're running a business. Even if you partner with a publisher, having business skills at your disposal will give you a big advantage.

    My professional background is in marketing, sales, and analytics, and these skills have proven useful for HakJak Productions time and time again.


comments powered by Disqus