Developing games is a dream, and what a time to start your journey in indie game development!
There are numerous tools and engines to get you started, countless tutorials online, and
platforms like the Switch and Steam filled with players clamouring for next great indie
When we first started making games, we were wide-eyed, committed, full of ideas and energy,
and nothing was gonna stop us.
And you know what - nothing did!
BUT we made more than a few mistakes along the way that cost us time, money, and opportunities.
In this video, we’ll go over these mistakes, so that you don’t have to repeat them!
We are Ask Gamedev, and here are 8 mistakes to avoid when making your first game
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With that, let’s get on to….
Making a game for no one.
This isn’t exactly accurate because you should be making your game for at least yourself.
What we mean by this is making a game where your potential audience is minimal.
Before embarking on your gamedev journey, it would be good to know that you have a potential
audience for your game, and what the size of that audience is.
To do this, look for sales or install numbers of similar titles.
If your game is going to be on Steam, use SteamSpy to see how many people own and play
If its on Mobile, Check App Annie for competitor data.
Another thing you want to do is see if you’re going with or against any trends.
You can do this with a simple exercise: Step 1: Find the top selling titles that are
similar to yours Step 2: Write down the number of owners each
one has, as found on SteamSpy Step 3: Group the titles by release year
Step 4: Analyze - do the top selling titles this year still sell as well as the previous
If so, you’re in a trending space!
If not, the market for your title may be dwindling.
Trying to create an engine
For whatever reasons, a common thing that we’ve noticed with devs starting out with
their first game, is a desire to make their own engine.
Some devs might just have that inherent need to create things from scratch.
Some just might love the thrill of the challenge.
Whatever the reason may be - it’s not a good route go down.
There are more than enough engines to use, and they’ll all save you time and money.
Benefits to using an existing engine are countless, but here are few anyways:
Engines like Unity and Gamemaker have countless tutorial available online and even in print.
The knowledge base for engines likes these is fully developed and easily accessible.
If you’re going through an issue, you can be sure that your issue is not unique and
that someone has probably posted about it a support forum already.
And if not, these communities are so vibrant and helpful, you should be able to find someone
to answer your questions in a forum.
Need ready-made assets for your game?
How about a tool to build levels.
Or maybe you need a physics engine for more realistic water?
Engines like Unity have complete asset stores where you can buy tools and assets to use
for your game.
Building costly features and tech to support a huge user base before achieving any sort
It’s good to have high aspirations but it’s also important to ship!
We’ve seen teams work on expensive features because they wanted their game to support
huge user bases - they then release, and instead of the millions they were expecting, only
hundreds show up.
Working on those extra features delayed shipping, and also may have been wasted work.
Instead, just focus on creating a minimum viable product, and scale once you have the
numbers to prove that it would be a wise investment.
Not identifying critical path and having a backup plan
This one is a two-parter.
First let's talk about critical path.
Critical path is the sequence of events, that if any are delayed, will delay the entire
It’s important to identify critical path at the very start of your project.
Once you have that identified, it’s time to mitigate any risks that you foresee - you
need a backup plan.
For example, what if that a person crucial to a sequence in the path, gets sick or hit
by a bus.
If that happens, the cost of the whole team continues while development effectively stalls.
Not having a backup plan for situations like this can end a project.
Not planning for certification
Allocating time for certification can often be overlooked.
Certification is basically the process that your game goes through when submitting your
game to specific platform.
If you’re developing for a unique console like the Nintendo Switch, there might be specific
guidelines on how your game should interact.
With the Joycon alone, one can imagine a number of scenarios that have to be accounted for,
like what happens when a joycon is removed mid-game?
You need to allot time to read over all of the certification guidelines, and then allot
more time to execute on them.
It might feel a little tedious, but doing this is only way to get on your desired platform,
and on the bright-side it makes you an expert on that platform for future titles.
Not reading postmortems.
What is a postmortem?
A postmortem is a process, usually performed after a game is released, to determine and
analyze elements of the project and document what went wrong, and what went right.
Organizations use them as tools to guide follow up projects.
A lot of devs have been where you are, some have failed, some have done ok for themselves,
and some have captured lighting in a bottle.
What’s great is that a lot of them tell their stories.
That’s what’s so awesome about the indie community.
You have people sharing their mistakes and providing solid advice on what not to do,
and you also have other devs sharing their tools and secrets to their success.
Read as many post-mortems as you can - a post-mortem from a dev can be more valuable than any lesson
in a textbook.
This is 1st-hand experience in a market that you’re about to enter.
The best place to read indie dev post-mortems is gamasutra.com.
A simple search for “post-mortem” yields results from the devs of: Rogue Legacy, Shadow
Tactics, Epistory, Costume Quest 2, and more.
You can also check out the GDC vault for video post-mortems.
Being too secretive during development
One thing that we all have the natural tendency to do is keep our games a secret until we
want to show them to the world.
Either, we’re holding off because we want to make it perfect, we’re too nervous to
show people, or we think people will steal our ideas!
The problem is, you can’t just flip a switch, and have the world see your game.
Getting people to just even see your game is a struggle.
In today’s market, you need to start building an audience from day one, and sharing your
progress along the way.
Here are a few things you can do to be more public with your development.
Create a social accounts for your game or studio, and get involved in the community.
Follow other indies, and spark or join conversation.
Use your socials as platform to slowly build awareness and distribute content from your
Have new concept art?
Toying with new gameplay mechanics, post a video of it!
Create a dev blog.
Keep track of your progress on a dev blog.
Sharing your progress is a great way to keep your followers engaged with your game.
Every major city has meetups for game development.
Our city for example has meetups for indie development, vr development, mobile development,
and Twitch streaming.
Join them, bring your demo, and get feedback from your local community.
To find a meetup, just go to meetup.com and search for game development.
And finally, 8.
Not optimizing your store page
It’s not enough to just add your game on a platform, you need to optimize your store
In a recent video we shared 7 tips on how promote your game on Steam.
You can watch the video here, but if you want the gist of it, here are the 7 tips:
Time your discounts and take advantage of all of Steam’s sale opportunities
Optimize your visibility and page activity during Steam’s sales
A/B test your game’s thumbnail to make sure you’re using the one that converts
Utilize Curator Connect Utilize visibility rounds
Utilize community coupons And start building your wishlist numbers early.
A lot of these recommendations came from post-mortems from other devs, and other can be found in
For more details on each one, check out the video!
If you’re developing on mobile, do the same and read post-mortems from other mobile devs
and go through Google Play and the App Store’s documentation on marketing and promotion.
We have links to each in the description.
Thanks for watching, we are Ask Gamedev, and we make videos on games, the game industry
If you like our content, please subscribe!
We’ll be back next week with a new video, in the meantime, let us know if you have any
gamedev mistakes that we should avoid!
Share your tips in the comments!