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The skillsets required for game design - questions

in short, my question is what skillsets should one focus on if their goal is to design their own games, or be part of a small team with common interests to design games.

I am attracted to small indie style games because of the creative freedom offered in working alone or in small teams.

I have been learning everything I can for about a year now, developing the basic skills in all areas from coding to art. The idea was “I need to learn everything so I could hypothetically create an entire game myself”.

Recently I’ve updated that idea to “I’d like to have the basic knowledge of everything so I can incorporate my skills and work with others, but need to focus on one single talent.”

It’s awesome to be a jack of all trades but ultimately 3 specialists will produce better quality work than 3 jacks.

So with that in mind, I’d like to eventually get to a point where I am there producing my own games, or am part of a small team where my ideas have significant weight. Creative freedom.

I’ve e joyed all aspects of the journey. From programming basic gameplay to level design to 3D modeling. Now I feel it’s time to choose a focus and was wanting others input from experience.

Is it easiest to be a programmer and just buy art?

Is it practical/possible to be an artist who buys code?

Have any of you mastered both art and coding? Is it doable?

What skills are in highest demand?

While I do enjoy the art side, if I chose that as my focus I don’t want to be a contract worker or work commissions or be paid to do art for other people’s games. I still want to make my own games a reality.

Thoughts?

While both art and programming are in high demand, I find that programming has a bit more job security because you have to help maintain a project and they need you since you understand your work. For art, there’s definitely some in-demand jobs like character artists, but once you’ve done the work there’s no maintenance after that.

As for working on a small team or alone–some people can do a lot by themselves, there’s some very impressive games on Steam done by a single person. You can also check some games like Antichamber which has a nice visual style but is very simple 3D since his strength was programming. For artists, things like Blueprints have helped a lot to be able to do some gameplay without being an experienced programmer.

Maybe but it depends hugely on the specific game & what’s available on the marketplace…

Again depends hugely on the specific game & what’s available on the marketplace…
Realistically many will find themselves bartering art skills for programming time etc.

Check-out the UDK threads. About a dozen devs have managed it. But there are limits…
Online Multiplayer games done by a single person whose primarily an artist? Not many!

Its all relative, basically anyone with good skills is in demand a lot of the time, but at a guess:
Coding: Steam Multiplayer plumbing / Advanced Procedural Tools / Gutsy Engine tweaks + fixes
3D: Luscious landscapes + foliage, captivating characters + anims, incredible realism / lighting.

You probably need to be prepared to do everything namely:
Work a day job or two (hopefully one is actually in gaming).
Work on other people’s projects that have funding or cash.
Make / sell your own games and or sell marketplace assets.

Sounds like you set a longterm deadline for yourself when you ask if mastering both “art and coding” is doable - art being 3d art? And I’m assuming what you mean by “mastering” is raising your understanding of “art and coding” to a high enough level to be able to be useful to indie gamedev teams? If this is the case, for it being doable I can’t see why it wouldn’t be with enough time and dedication; you can teach yourself a lot by then. But if you did set a deadline for yourself in order to reach this level of, what you call, “masterful” level of programming and art, it may or may not be doable depending on what caliber of mastery you have in your mind.

If you can afford to, I would just work hard at either skill, which one you prefer will be a product of your own self-interest and the current circumstances. The proper choice should reveal itself in time. But if you’re trying to go for the most efficient choice, if you’re trying to keep your options open, I would go with coding. Art can’t offer anything to code a game, but coding skills can easily translate to something like MEL scripting which can be used to develop sophisticated rigging scripts for the models you create, in addition to coding the game itself. Also programming is just an overall flexible and sought-after skill to have, if you’re good at it.