Is being a one man developer too unrealistic?

Hello guys, this is my first thread so I’m new to this. Anyways, after many years of contemplation and seeing the success and potential of one man game developers( i.e. Undertale, Universium War Front, Fez, Lost Soul Aside, etc.) In terms of realism, I was wondering if I, someone with no experience, could learn all the necessary skills(drawing, programming, animation, audio,etc.) and knowledge needed to create a game near or greater than the scale of Lost Soul Aside. You see, I love making stories, and I was originally going to start making graphic novels (I have no drawing skills so I was going to learn) as I have a vivid imagination. However video games have much more potential since it combines the visual and audio elements of movies, comics and tv shows, but has its own unique component of interactivity. So i guess the overall question is whether or not it is possible for someone like me to create such a game, taking into account learning everything necessary, within say 5 to 6 years. I have multiple different software like UE4, Krita and Blender already.

It really depends in how motivated you are. Realistically, you should try to focus on a more specific area and try to do a project that uses those skills the most. So if you want to get into 3D then you would do a graphical showcase rather than trying to also learn programming, sound design, etc.
Most of the time when people are able to accomplish a big project by themselves they have many years of experience already.

Yes its possible! Some guestimates below in order of difficulty…
(BTW: Kudos for coming up with a realistic scenario for yourself)

  1. Undertale -> 6mths - 1 year. Maybe look into the making of games like Papers Please.
  2. Fex -> Looks quite simple but deceptively complex -> Watch Indie Game: The Movie.
  3. Lost Soul Aside -> Follow UE4 / UDK Work in Progress to see similar games [2-5 years].
  4. Universium War Front -> Serious talent that might take other mere mortals 5-10 years.

Yes its possible! Some guestimates below in order of difficulty…
(BTW: Kudos for coming up with a realistic scenario for yourself)

  1. Undertale -> 6mths - 1 year. Maybe look into the making of games like Papers Please.
  2. Fez -> Looks quite simple but deceptively complex -> Watch Indie Game: The Movie.
  3. Lost Soul Aside -> Follow UE4 / UDK Work in Progress to see similar games [2-5 years].
  4. Universium War Front -> Serious talent that might take other mere mortals 5-10 years.

Good list. I think you mean Fez? here.


Good catch, fixed now…

You can, look at StardewValley. That was 1 developer. He went to school and got a computer science degree before he started on it though. It took him 4 years. Fez wasn’t one developer even though it looked like it from the movie.

Axiom Verge was made by one guy, Tom Happ.
It’s only right to mention he was in the game industry for a while before making this game.

Antichamber created by one man in UDK. But he developed it about six years.

And note that it doesn’t have much in the way of graphics, that’s how you play to your strengths instead of trying to learn everything

My long-term goal is to become a completely self-sufficient independent game developer. I do not think it is unrealistic at all, but I also do not expect to be nearly as proficient as I would like for at least a few more years.

The challenge is the 2 main aspects of game development, Software Development and 3D Art, are massive undertakings in themselves. I’m a software dev trying to learn 3D art and it’s an absolute killer. There is so much stuff you have to do and learn its not even funny. Then artist feel the same way about software development.

It’s totally possible, just extremely difficult. I am also a solo developer, building an action RPG in UE4.

If your experience is anything like mine, here’s what you can expect:

  • Expect everything to take longer than you estimate. Multiply everything by about 2.5.
  • Expect everyone you meet to not take you seriously until you’ve released something. Maybe not even then.
  • Expect to make sacrifices in other areas of your life to accommodate your game development, such as forgoing time with friends and family.
  • Expect to be 100% broke until you release your game commercially. You might still be broke after release, so plan for that.
  • Expect to not be able to quit your day job.
  • Expect to not be good at everything, so you must learn to recognize where you need to improve or when to get outside help for the things you suck at.
  • Expect to learn a lot of things indirectly related to game development, such as business, marketing, law, accounting, servers, websites, networking, etc
  • Expect a lot of people to totally not care at all about what you are doing.

If you’re ok with that stuff, solo game development can be extremely rewarding. I love watching strangers play my game and tell me what they think about it, it can be an extremely validating experience after spending so much of my time building something.

If you’re committed, here’s my quick tips for any other aspiring solo game devs:

  • Seriously, don’t quit your day job.
  • Don’t start a company until it’s absolutely necessary. It’s only necessary when you’re ready to start accepting money in exchange for your game.
  • When you do start a company, do not use your cell phone number to register the business license.
  • Get an actual domain, and an actual website. Never host your game’s primary landing page on a third party service.
  • Use your actual domain email address. Do not self-host your own email server.
  • Be active on social media. Don’t act like a huge ******* and don’t engage in arguments in comments sections.
  • Seriously, don’t quit your day job.
  • Use every tool at your disposal. Actively search for ways to decrease expenditures while increasing your abilities and longevity.
  • If you plan to work in a Windows environment, I highly recommend applying for Microsoft’s BizSpark program.
  • You should go out of your way to be a part of your local game dev community. Social networking is more valuable in a physical space.
  • Don’t give out equity in your company if you can avoid it.
  • Don’t hire anyone you can’t afford to pay with cold hard cash.
  • Be very careful about who you hire. Do you homework before extending an offer. Never hire anyone without at least seeing their portfolio.
  • Seriously, don’t quit your day job.
  • Engage with everyone who takes the time to play your game. Collect as much actionable feedback as possible, and constantly iterate.
  • Don’t sign any legal agreements without totally understanding exactly what you’re signing.
  • Remember that if it’s important, it should be in writing.
  • Don’t answer any unsolicited mailings, calls, or messages. Don’t take that pre-approved loan, don’t apply for that business credit card, etc.
  • Use source control.
  • Make daily backups in more than one place. One of these places should be off-site. Take comfort in the knowledge that you’d be able to restore your data even if your whole operation literally went up in flames.
  • Seriously, don’t quit your day job.

Best of luck! I’m looking forward to seeing more solo developers take advantage of the real power UE4 has given us.

I’m probably going to be writing about this a lot more frequently when I finish up my publisher demo, but basically: yes it’s possible. It’s hard as ****. And frequently you’re likely to feel like you’re constantly hitting a brick wall.

But that’s part of the fun.

If your aim is to go commercial: (as stated above) don’t quit your day job until you have your game financed externally. Work your network of friends and acquaintances (though I always tell everyone: in this industry, make friends, not contacts). See where there’s support. Have a solid business plan. Have a solid business plan. Have a solid business plan. Have a solid business plan.

But, ultimately, have a good god **** game. Make sure there’s a market for your game.

And – knowing this isn’t something that can be easily acquired – experience is really a huge factor. I’ve been making games for just about a decade from hardcore PC strategy games to a AAA third-person shooter with Sony to a crowdsourced MMO to a whole lot of mobile games. And also (currently) a stint in ed-tech. But ultimately, I want to make the game I’ve been working on and doing R&D on for the better part of six months. It’s very doable, but I’m employing the best practices that I can drawing from a pretty wide variety of different games that I’ve developed/designed/contributed otherwise to fully realize the best method of approaching taking my game into full-on production.

And I also have no intention of doing entering production by myself. I can if I have to, but that’s not the plan.

That all said, I have a somewhat unique skillset in that I’ve professionally done: engine programming, graphics programming, gameplay programming, game design, system design, creative direction, executive production, technical artist, VFX art, and… Nope, I think that about sums it up. And being able to draw upon all those different skills has been SO SO SO SO SO SO SO useful. So useful. I don’t recommend everyone take a generalist path (because, really, in this industry you can’t just be a generalist – you have to specialize in something. Mine is lighting/shading and system design), but if you can hack it beyond just an “adequate” degree, it can open a lot of doors.

But, yeah, have a game you’re passionate about. Very passionate about. Absolutely, 100% sure of your long-term interest and the viability of the game. Because it’s your life until you launch and then it’s still your life regardless of whatever your post-launch plans are.

Yep. And his game has huge advantage - it’s finished and published. :slight_smile: I also guess he gained a ton of useful experience during developing Antichamber.

Create a realistic goal. This is the main reason (i think) why a lot of Indie games never see the day of light. In movies it is, when you don’t have the knowledge, skill or budget to make a Lord of the Rings movie then don’t write one. If there is a scene in your script, in which a dragon destroys New York, you should come to the conclusion, that it will either look like Birdemic or cost A LOT MORE. If you don’t have A LOT MORE don’t write a scene like that. It’s the same with games. If you are alone and know nothing, don’t plan on making Final Fantasy XV-2 on your own. Work out a clever premise and stick to good old gameplay elements or work out a minimalist and clever/new mechanical foundation. Shovel Knight was a nice spin on Mega Man, Broforce was a great spin on the Metal Slug / Contra formula.
There is alot that can help you like reusing reskinned assets, using procedurally generated content. Still you should conceptualize your game to your skill, budget and man power. Not the other way around.
Also early on think deeply about your visual style. Can you use a minimalistic visuals as a sort of style without making it look cheap?

I work with a couple of others, let’s say it’s kind of task based, but basically it comes down that i have to do everything myself :slight_smile: When i begun about a year ago there was a passionate programmer on the team, he was a great asset but he had to leave. The problem at the time was that i planned that he would deliver the network part of the game. So i had to drop all my plans at the time and went to research multiplayer, setup server configurations in Google Cloud, Amazon, Azure etc. And now i’ve found what appears to be the solution for the multiplayer. And while i begun with a fresh project, i still have all the chunks of code, prepared assets and such, and still the main vision what i want the game to be. So while often when working in Unreal you encounter some problems (basically with everything you do for the first time), eventually you can move on, like climbing a ladder. Even if i had all the resources at my disposal, it wouldn’t change my current workflow, because i just need to put each puzzle piece into place. When public testing begins, and more work is needed, like for the support, legal, or if there are resources - income, i plan to hire people on a task basis for the creation of unique content. So while you most of the time work alone, eventually it will grow to a team effort i believe.

In regards to the question if you can do all alone, yes you can. But as someone else pointed out, you need experience, a lot, with various tools, how software works, and you need dedication. It will take years when you start from scratch. If someone just begins with game design, my best advice would be to join an existing project, almost all here are happy to hire for royalties. And then you start to work in the design environment, and just start. Imagine that there is a big dark forest, and you want to go past it. But there is no straight way.

You will fail, but you can respawn, and then you know some of the path you took earlier, you remember, and then eventually you make it through the forest one day.

Just a couple of points:

  1. Yes, it’s absolutely possible to be a one-man team. I’ve been working on a 2D RPG/roguelike in Lua for three years and I believe it’s playable and I’ve had players who played and liked it.
  2. Even if you plan to go commercial, having a free demo is awesome for the exposure and getting people hooked.
  3. Procedural generation is your friend. The bigger the scale of your game, the bigger the friend. Seriously. You can proc-gen almost everything. Textures, assets, levels, dialogue, quests…
  4. You don’t have to do absolutely everything from scratch. I’ve had tons of help from people sending me snippets of code (or just ideas, “you know you could make the orc do x”) or pointing me to sites with pixel art.
  5. If you’re not a great artist, stick to easier mediums (pixel art, voxels) and/or find assets on the net. There’s a ton of places where you can find free assets. Unity asset store is one. Even if you end up not liking the style for some reason, you can use them as references.
  6. Don’t quit your day job if you have one.

I completely agree with this one, *** well as the others.
Going procedural does take some work, but it’s creating a self managing system, which is cool.

Though you end up with lower quality, like No Man’s Sky