Indieklem : do you want to start a new game ?
Hi, my name is Clément "Indieklem" Jacquelin and this article is the beginning of a new adventure for me. Indeed, after more than seven years juggling between web development and interface design, I have the great pleasure to start creating video games on my own (you can pop the champagne for me, or wait for my first game to be released).
Through this blog, my main goal is to share my experience as a creator. This includes regularly reviewing the progress of my game, explaining the different stages and processes of creation, from conception to release, describing the implementation of a monetization strategy and highlighting the successes and failures of this new adventure.
This blog is for you if :
- You want to understand the behind-the-scenes process of creating a video game
- You like to discover games that are off the beaten path
- You like pixel art
- Game Maker Studio and Aseprite have no secrets for you
- You are interested in the entrepreneurial adventure
- You aspire to live from your projects
- You want to know how to monetize your game
- If I do not answer
morenot on Instagram and you want to hear from me
What is an independent video game?
The video game industry is full of multiple and varied professions, and the conception of a triple A game can require the participation of several hundred different people (developers, game designers, concept artists, etc.) for years. But this is not (necessarily) the case for independent video games. Designing an independent video game (or indie game for our English-speaking friends) often means having to work alone or with a relatively small development team, without any real financial support, but still benefiting from a creative independence that is sometimes lacking in studios with a publishing house.
What skills does this require?
In my case, I feel comfortable enough in the mastery of development, design and marketing to be able to manage these main lines alone. Armed with a BTS SIO that taught me development, I am self-taught in design and pixel art, and I had the opportunity to take part in several entrepreneurial adventures that gave me a good hand for the marketing part. In the end, only some music, illustrations and videos will be made with help, simply because these are skills I don't have at the moment, and I consider that it would take me too much time to acquire them and release my game in time. Creating as a freelancer, it means to be a game designer, a developer, a pixel artist, a tester, a level designer, a social media manager, a sound designer... Filling a multitude of roles, having the ability to switch from one subject to another, being constantly learning and challenging yourself. I think you get the idea.
What will my creative process be?
My typical course for the next few months:
If I share with you the roadmap I have in mind at the moment T, it looks like this:
- Find a game concept , preferably with an original gameplay or graphic style, which can be capitalized on for marketing purposes
- Thinking about game design, defining rules, understanding the limits and constraints to be imposed on the player
- Develop game mechanics, fix bugs, worry about performance
- Design graphic assets, animate them, add light and particle effects
- Test the game, take feedback, adjust the difficulty, understand the irritants
- Create music, add sound design
- Communicate on social networks, create a newsletter, develop your audience through a discord server
- Create a trailer of the game, add it on YouTube and collect the first orders
- Put the game on sale on download platforms such as Steam, the Nintendo store or GoG
- Gathering the mullabuy a house in the Landes and retire at 30 (and marry my wonderful girl)
Obviously, there is nothing exhaustive in this. I guess there are as many ways to design a game as there are games, but this gives you an idea of the (colossal) amount of work involved. It's not by chance that licenses like Skyrim, Zelda or Elden Ring require considerable resources that are spread over several years. And if some games end up becoming classics, reaching the top of the charts and breaking all sales records, it's not the case for some titles that are still highly anticipated by the public. I'm thinking in particular of No Man Sky and Cyberpunk, which, despite the resources committed, the media success and the expectation generated, experienced numerous setbacks during their release.
My sources of inspiration and favorite designers
The games that made an impression on me
I am a huge fan of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), and very specifically of World Of Warcraft, on which I spend countless hours of happiness. I also spent a lot of time on Guild Wars, which is part of the CORPG category (Competitive Online Role Playing Game - yes I'm discovering this word as I write this article).
What attracts me to these games is mainly the PvP (Player vs Player) aspect, the RPG side and the multiplayer. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my free time), it is almost impossible to develop and keep afloat these types of games as an independent, mainly because of the many technical constraints of content creation and balancing. Still, I'm sure I'll draw heavily from the gameplay of these titles to build my universe.
Independent games, stories, mechanics and graphics
I also play a lot of indie games like Celeste, Dead Cells, Stardew Valley, Hades, Fez, Loop Hero, Don't Starve, Baba Is You, Risk of Rain 2... to name a few. All of them offer an incomparable experience, whether it is the story of Celeste, the gameplay of Fez or the graphics of Loop Hero.
You will have understood from this list that I have a real passion for pixel art. It's with this graphic style in mind that I'm going to design my future indie game, first of all because I love it, visually it's very pleasant and it leaves a lot of room to the player's imagination. Then, from a technical point of view, it's a style I've been using for a few years now and it's more affordable than 3D or illustration.
I have a lot of ideas for concepts at the moment, but I'll have to sort out my ideas and focus them to come up with something feasible. To help me in this quest, I'm taking the opportunity to dust off my Steam library and test a lot of new games I had in my wishlist: VRising, Slay the Spire, Borderlands 2...
Anyway, for now I only know for sure that it will be a pixel art multiplayer game. It's something.
YouTube channels to follow
It is important for me to share with you the channels of these few Youtubers whose advice has carried me so far:
- Game Anatomy - here we talk about creation, video games and everything that comes close to it.
- Game Next Door - "columns where we talk about video games as we would like to be talked about".
- Game Maker's Toolkit - A program about level design, game creation and production.
- PAUSE PROCESS - chronicle on the technique and aesthetics of video games.
- Game Spectrum - free and independent documentaries on video games and their relationship to the world.
- Shaun Spalding and Pixelated Pope - two great references for Game Maker Studio development.
- Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games - trying to help make the world's games a little more fun by the creator of Kirby & Super Smash Bros.
If you have any other channels to recommend, I'll gladly take them!
The difficulties I will encounter as a freelancer
For me, there are three major difficulties in creating an independent video game:
- Money - how do I live while I'm designing?
- Technical difficulties - what if I don't know how to develop or design?
- Time - how long will it take me?
When it comes to money, there are many ways to stand your ground and get financial support. Examples I can think of include Kickstarter, or the subscription system on Patreon. Some creators live on their reserves, others manage to negotiate a severance package and secure peace of mind through unemployment. There is also the solution of turning to a publisher, at the risk of losing freedom. I don't think there is a right or wrong situation, the best one is and will always be the one that works for you. You also have to keep in mind that 50% of the independent games that are released don't generate more than 4000$ (I could write an article on the why and how if you're interested), which is very little to be able to hope to make a living from it.
Concerning the technical difficulties, I had the chance to develop skills related to video game creation (development, design), either during my studies or in the working world. Even if it's not going to be easy (I already see myself sweating with the implementation of lights or the generation of levels), I can breathe a little bit on that side.
I plan to use tools I know well: Game Maker Studio for the development, Aseprite for the pixel art and Figma for my marketing assets. As written above, I'll make sure to ask for help for the parts I don't know as well as music, illustrations or video creation for a future trailer, for example.
Knowing me, the biggest difficulty will be not to spread myself too thin, whether it's the graphic style, the story or the gameplay. I have the bad habit of wanting to do 1000 things at once, and never finish anything. This is without a doubt one of the biggest challenges for me: to stay the course. I'm lucky enough to be unemployed at the moment, but I don't have an unlimited creation time either. My game will have to pay off at some point. In order to do that, I will first think carefully about what I want to create, set deadlines, and then develop a game that I like and that is like me above all. One of the biggest mistakes I make is to try to design a game based only on what works best at the moment. Far be it from me to criticize the studios that surf on the trends, following this logic we still see some very good games, but I know that I won't be able to motivate myself if I proceed this way.
This site, a compendium of motivation and sharing
This site is first and foremost a space that will allow me to keep my motivation intact as time goes on. Creating a writing routine and seeing my work exposed to the public is a good way to stay motivated. I'll also be able to share more easily games, development tutorials and other graphic inspirations that come my way and hopefully help other video game creators. Finally, this blog is one more brick in the construction of a community around independent games. If you want to be alerted when I publish a new article, or when I'm looking for beta testers for my game, I invite you to follow me on the networks or subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of the page!
My final goal
As you can see, creating a business on your own is above all about knowing how to combine different complementary skills, having the mental capacity to hold on for the long term and optimizing your resources to reach your goal. It is a long process that can be tiring, demotivating and time consuming. Success is never guaranteed, and many independent creators do not manage to live from their creations. Personally, this is my goal: to make a living from my games. Developing one? It seems feasible. Sell it? I need to sell a few. To be able to live from it? That's really the ideal and that's my first goal.
The last word
Thanks for reading, this is the very first article here and I can't wait to see what's next. In the meantime, I invite you to follow me on Twitter, that's where I'm most active. If you have any questions or remarks, there's a fresh comment space a few pixels below these lines. As for me, I'm going back to my next step: deciding which game concept I'm going to spend the next few years on.
See you later!