The video game industry is one of the most vibrant entertainment industries in the country. More than many others, video games are a rare medium where art meets an incredibly large and eager customer base making it often both lucrative and satisfying. Breaking into the industry can be complicated as many different types of people are needed, specialized programmers, engineers, physicists, graphic artists and more; designers are the ones that bring these varied individuals together to create a cohesive interactive entertainment experience. Getting a job in the industry can be a major challenge. Many schools are offering quality game design programs but there are things about design that can only be learned through experience. Many developers are hesitant to hire an unproven designer without a portfolio to run a project as even the smallest projects can have very high costs. What is the best way to break into the industry? Well a degree is a good start, but experience is even more important. Chet Faliszek, one of the lead video game writers for major developer Valve said it best
“How do you get yourself a job in the games industry? You just give yourself one… You’re in control of your own destiny… I’m being serious. There are no gatekeepers. There are no requirements.”
As technology has advanced throughout the years it has become more possible for small collections of developers to make high quality, successful games without the backing of major development houses. Mr. Faliszek means that the best way to land a job in the games industry is to create something good, make your own resume.
This resource guide is devoted to helping budding developers, game design students and people that are just interested in making video games find some of the best resources available to an independent developer. The guide lists some of the best game design theory websites, tutorials, tools, developer communities, blogs, conferences and digital retailers. These resources can be exactly what you need to help you give yourself a job in the games industry.
Gamasutra: Gamasutra is a new media hybrid falling somewhere between blogs and video game journalism. Content is primarily editorial and many of the contributors either are or have been involved in game development. There are many articles centered on game development and design particularly theory.
Game Developer Magazine: Game Developer Magazine is a traditional magazine publication targeted directly at up and coming developers. GDM is owned by UBM Tech, the parent company of Gamasutra.
Game Career Guide: Game Career Guide is a Gamasutra property focusing on publishing articles to aid prospective game developers break into the industry from all angles, whether it be ascending from the depths of QA or breaking through after earning a degree.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun: Rock, Paper, Shotgun is another new media games journalism website chock full of everything from tips for developers to reviews of new video games. Rock, Paper, Shotgun, covers all the big AAA titles but really likes to find hidden independent gems and what makes them so good.
Indie Games: Indie Games is another property of the Gamasutra brand focused solely on covering the rich world of independent games.
Tutorials and Design Theory
Music Remixing Tutorial: This is a music remixing tutorial aimed at independent game developers. One thing necessary for an indie developer is to be a bit of a jack of all trades and this means many people are forced to grow outside their realm of knowledge, basic tutorials such as this are a good thing to look for because you never know when you’ll need one.
Game Music Beginner’s Tutorial: This tutorial is for music as well the tutorial is not focused just on remixes, rather it provides a broad tutorial for new developers to use to get their feet wet and start learning the ropes.
Designer Do-s and Don’t-s: This is a list of Do-s and Don’t-s for independent game design. This article is one example of the kinds of things that aspiring devs can find in the archives of Gamasutra.
How to Design a Game that Doesn’t Suck: This is an in depth article on designing games that don’t suck. It’s full of useful design theory and principles that apply to design rather than the mechanics of making the game, meaning even though it was published in 2009, it is still relevant and will be for a long time.
Fundamental Design Theory: Another design theory article, this one focusing on the fundamentals of design from a designer that has been in the industry for a long time, his first major project being Ultima Online which was released in 1997.
13 Basic Design Principles: Another Gamasutra article focusing on game design principles. The author has worked for major studios such as EA and Page44 and in this article he repurposes the 12 principles of animation and applies similar tenets to the game development process.
Avoiding Common Mistakes: This is an old article detailing oft repeated mistakes made in the process of designing video games and how to avoid them. The author decided to write the article after playing many older games and realizing modern games were still making many of the same mistakes.
AI Development Resource: This is a resource website devoted to the development of one of the most important aspect of game development often overlooked by new developers, the artificial intelligence. The website features articles on AI development and different types of AI appropriate for different styles of game.
Tools and Development Resources
Screenflow: Screen recording is important for budding developers and this is a mac based screen recording tool for developers that have reached the stage where they are ready to capture some of their game and show it to the world.
FRAPS: FRAPS is a cheap screen recording program for the Windows system. It’s often used by gamers to record in game footage. FRAPS also measures the FPS giving devs a good idea of what kind of frame rate their game is achieving on specific systems.
Sony Vegas: Sony Vegas is a high quality video editing software suite that is affordable enough to be accessible to often underfunded independent game developers but high quality so as to ensure that videos are professional grade.
Final Cut Pro: Final Cut Pro is an expensive professional video editing software suite for the Mac but there is an express version that is priced affordably enough for independent developers and still provides an extremely high quality video editing environment.
GIMP: GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and is a free, open source image editing software and a strong option for the creation of character designs and graphics for the budget conscious budding developer.
Photoshop: Photoshop is the undisputed king of image editing and is one of the most powerful professional tools available for game developers seeking to create high quality, professional grade graphics. The only drawback of photoshop is that it does come with a professional grade price tag.
Jewel Beat: New developers often can’t afford the premium royalty rates of musical artist’s existing works. Jewel Beat is a service for independent game developers and movie makers that provides over 4,000 royalty free sound effects and musical scores.
FL Studio: FL Studio is a powerful music creation suite perfect for those developers that prefer to create their own music and sound effects. The software is affordably priced and a strong option for musically inclined developers.
Game Maker: Game Maker is the premier software suite for the creation of 2d games. It features an easy to learn, difficult to master interface that allows developers to keep things as simple or complex as their skill level demands. One of the other great perks of this powerful software is that you can try it out with the free version and if you want to purchase it, the $40.00 price tag is very affordable.
Clickteam: Clickteam produces a powerful game development suite geared toward people wishing to develop for any of many multiple platforms whether it’s the iPhone, Andriod, Xbox Live Arcade, or the PC. It’s another development suite designed to provide optimum power for experienced programs and inexperienced programmers alike. Their products range in price from $70.00 to $370.00 dollars.
Unreal Development Kit: The Unreal Development Kit gives developers access to the industry titan Unreal III engine completely free for non-commercial or educational use. This means that for developers seeking to create something not in order to make a profit, but in order to show their chops, don’t have to pay a dime. Independent developers looking to use the UDK for commercial reasons can review the terms of the licensing agreement which does cater to independent developers and while expensive, is still free until you are ready to deploy a commercial product.
Unity Engine: The Unity Engine is behind such games as Mechwarrior Tactics and indie success Slender in addition to many others. Unity Pro has high costs both for the basic programs and its various addons but is an extremely powerful choice for developers looking to work in 3d.
Trello: Trello is a free collaboration tool, mindmapping, and workflow chart. Organization, delegation and a clear, concise record of the entire development process are key to the success of game development and Trello gives indie developers the tool to do this at no cost.
Communities and Networking
Game Dev: Game Dev is both an active developer community where devs from all over the industry share their insights, wisdom, and stories; an incredible resource for people interested in breaking into the gaming industry.
TIGSource: TIG Source is one of the most vibrant, helpful indie game development communities on the internet. If you are interested in breaking into the industry by creating something amazing, this community can help you get there.
Reddit: This is the indie gaming community of reddit. Community members post news and articles from all over the independent game development and fan worlds.
Indie Gamer Forums: The forums at Indie Gamer include an active developer discussion board where developers can share techniques, recruit talent, and find tutorials.
Game Maker Community: The Gamer Maker Community is an entire community built around the tool Game Maker which is one of the premier 2d indie development tools. This community knows everything about the program, all its ins and outs and can help budding developers master it in a short period of time.
Action Script Community: If Flash games are your interest, the forums at actionscript.org are the place to be. A vibrant community of people passionate about creating great flash games, this is a great resource for any prospective flash developer.
How to Not Suck at Game Design: How to Not Suck at Game Design is a blog devoted to helping new developers avoid the pitfalls that often lead to the dismal failure of promising projects.
Jeff Vogel Blog: This blog is run by a prominent indie game designer and features his thoughts on what makes games successful or unsuccessful.
What Games Are: What Games Are is a blog about game design and development and also tackles issues such as “games as art”, the culture of gaming, and the state of the industry.
Untold Entertainment: The blog of Untold Entertainment features musings on growing your games, the usefulness of certain resources, and just about everything else going on in the industry.
Indie Dev Stories: Indie Dev Stories regales readers with tales from the indie game development community.
Penny-Arcade: Penny-Arcade has been a gaming blog since almost before gaming blogs were even a thing. The website features three comics and news posts per week and Penny-Arcade has become one of the major forces in the industry spawning things such as the wildly successful conference, The Penny-Arcade Expo.
Penny-Arcade Developers Expo: PAX Dev is a conference put together by Penny-Arcade, the originators of PAX, the Penny-Arcade Expo. This is a developers only conference designed as a safe place away from prying eyes and media for developers of all stripes to get together and share insights into the gaming industry.
Penny-Arcade Expo: PAX, the Penny-Arcade Expo is a convention for gamers, by gamers and is quickly becoming the premier venue for major developers and indie developers alike to showcase their projects.
Game Developers Conference: The Game Developers Conference is the largest conference of its kind in the world and is held in multiple locations around the globe every year. A conference showcasing new technologies, ideas, and methods for developers.
Indie Games Festival: The Indie Games Festival is the longest running gaming festival focused exclusively on independent games. Top indie games are showcased and many developers attend to present their products. The festival is thrown by Gamasutra.
Indie Games Festival: Indiecade is an Indie Game focused festival that is open to developers and gamers alike and is one of the top venues in which to launch an indie game due to increased exposure to the developer’s target demographic, indie game enthusiasts.
Indiecade: The Game Design Conference is a gathering of designers from all aspect of the industry coming together to share insights, stories, and professional practices.
Digital Retailers and Marketing Tips
Ben Kuchera Marketing Lecture: This is a 50 minute lecture given by Ben Kuchera, former editor and writer for Ars Technica’s video game arm and now lead editor and writer for the Penny-Arcade Report. The lecture is full of useful insights and tips from an industry insider on the best marketing strategies for independent developers.
Zero Budget Marketing: An article from a South African game development magazine on the zero budget strategies for independent marketing.
STEAM: STEAM is the premier PC and Mac digital distribution platform for video games of all levels from AAA titles to tiny indie game projects. STEAM’s “Project Greenlight” turns to its customers to crowdsource the method by which they pick independent games to sell on the platform.
Gamer’s Gate: Gamer’s Gate is another leading digital distribution platform for PC and Mac with over 4,000 titles from major developers and independent developers alike.
Desurea: Desura is a community driven digital distribution platform dedicated to putting the best major games, mods and independent games on the map.
GOG: GOG is a platform that appeals to many independent developers as it specializes in games without digital rights management (DRM) and a built in indie fan demographic.