"Tools" every independent game developer needs (and that no one thought to mention)
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I recently released my first publicly available game; a physics platformer for iOS called “Jumping Bllux
.” As I started on my next project, I found myself thinking of specific “tools” without which I would not have been able to complete and release my first game. By “tools” I am not referring to software or plugins, but physical and metaphysical items that helped me along my journey to completing “Jumping Bllux.”
This list is primarily targeted to others just starting out on their journey as independent game developers, but I believe any developer (independent or not) can benefit from the list. These things were never told to me directly, or presented as things I would need; in fact they were never talked about at any time while I was earning my degree in Simulation and Game Development.
These things were a requirement for my being able to release my game, and to start work on the next one.
Here are the top 6 “tools” every independent game developer needs (and that no one thought to mention); in order of importance:
- A loving, understanding, supportive significant other (or roommate, though the loving portion is then optional). This is coming from my being an independent developer, but it’s still something that’s better to have than to not, no matter your development position or status. You need someone who will be there through the crazy hours, the stress only other developers can understand, and all the other things that come with life as a developer, independent or otherwise. Someone who will support you, no matter what. I am so thankful to have an amazing wife who is all those things are more.
- Perseverance, and a dedication of the stubborn sort. There will be times you want to quit. There will be times you feel completely alone. You’ll miss your friends, because chances are (at least at first) they aren’t Independent Developers and they won’t “get it.” The long hours toiling away in front of your computer, away from those you love, will be worth it in the end. Just don’t quit. And finish what you start.
- Willingness and (again) dedication, to teach yourself new skills. The vast majority of the skills I use to create games I taught myself. That being said, I am happy that I earned the two collegiate degrees I did; as they opened a lot of doors and forced me to get into some very good habits. But you can only learn so much in a formal setting, as there is just too much to learn and such a short time to be in a classroom in front of a professor. Just because you don’t know how to do something shouldn’t stop you from doing it; take the time to learn.
- A firm grasp of the English language, its grammar, and a commanding skill of the written word. Communication is super key to all developers, and even more so to independent developers. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been sent an email with such bad grammar that it’s laughable. That is not a good first impression. And it sticks. Learn how to write, and write well. If that means having someone proof read every single email you send, then do it. This also extends beyond emails, as you will need to do things like write marketing copy, post on websites and social media, among other important written materials. All of which will directly reflect upon you, your game, and your professionalism. Don’t screw it up by not knowing the difference between “their” and “there.”
- Math. If you plan on going into game development, you must learn Vector math and other forms of 3D mathematics (like matrices). In all the schooling I’ve been through (elementary, middle, high, and two college degrees) not once was I formally taught anything about Vectors. Now as a game developer I deal with them all the time, and I had to teach myself (see point 3 again). Even if you don’t plan on becoming a programmer but are going into the game industry, it will behoove you to at least know the basics, since math is so important for all video games.
- A really good pair of noise-canceling headphones. Distractions can easily get you out of the groove when programming or designing. Having a nice pair of headphones will help keep those distractions in check, and allow for the utmost focus on the task at hand. I personally own a pair of red Sony X10 headphones, which are amazing. They don’t have active noise-cancellation, but due to the memory foam ear pieces they block out almost all sound (as I write this I can’t hear myself typing on my keyboard).
In the future I may add more "tools" to this list; as I am sure I will discover more as I continue on my journey as an independent developer.
I’d be interested in hearing others’ take on what tools they deem necessary as an independent developer. Leave a comment on this post, or you can reach me on Twitter: @JonathanADaley