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General Indie Game Questions and Information Gathering

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kasigawa vertex

I have compiled a detailed list of questions I have accumulated this past year and thought it would be a good idea to find answers to them if possible. I think having this resource could be useful to other indie developers searching for a specific answer. Perhaps it can even help them minimize the risk of failure or maximize success for their projects.
In general, I think it would be great to make this a large game resource for indie developers with similar questions.
It's not necessary to answer all the questions, feel free to choose any question to answer. If proven very effective, I will be linking this to other indie sites as a resource to help other developers and their projects. Furthermore, all answers are greatly appreciated.

What should a developer know before making an indie game project?
What personal skills should they have or practice before joining or hosting an indie game project?
What are the best practices for some making an indie game project? What materials should they make for their project? Should they make a Game design document? Should they make illustrations, scripts, or game assets to get the attention of other developers to join their project?
Should developers create a list of assets they need for their game or design flexibly?
What are the best practices for making an indie game project for someone who has to balance between work or school?
What are items that should be on a game design document that are critical for indie developers?
What does it take to be a leader in an indie game project?

How do you find functional team members?
What qualities should be valued and what should be red flags?
What is the best practice to get developers to think on the same page? Will a game design document be the only thing necessary?
How much value does an indie game have for a developer wanting to get a job in the game industry?
What are the best practices when making a game with developers in other parts of the world? Is it a good idea to have a schedule because of Time zones or should it be relaxed and flexible?
What are good video conference sites or application developers can use to make their game?
What is a good way to find developers locally? What is a good way to start a team with them?

What would be a functional development cycle for indie games?
What is the best practice for teams? Communication?
What is a good way to have a flexible and stress free development cycle?
What constitutes a bad game idea? What should developers watch out for when joining another person's game project?
What is the best way to keep moral for the team high? What is a way to keep the team productive? Is an early prototype a good idea?
What is the best practice for creating a development culture?
How long or how much time should an indie game be if it's story driven? How long does it need to be for players to enjoy the game? Does it all depend on gameplay and content?
What are typical duration or scope for an indie game project? 3 months?
What are good milestones to reach for an indie game project?
What is a good way to develop a game to be multi-platform?
Should indie teams with original idea develop their game in silence from the risk of having their ideas stolen or should they develop their game openly allowing others to see what they are working on?
Is it a good idea to have developers to make a list of ideas they would want to add for their game project?
Should developers design their game based on their audience's desires, their game's gameplay feel and game mechanics, or around their team or their own desires?
Should developers experiment with their own game or build accordingly to what they know works?

What is the best or most widely used platform to use for an indie game? Steam?
What are the best methods for marketing an indie game?
How important is attending a convention like PAX? How much does it cost to attend a convention? How do you set up a booth at a convention?
How can developers obtain publicity when developing their game? Is live streaming, like on Twicth, a good idea?
What marketing strategy can indie game developers use for marketing a game with controversial, inappropriate, or adult content? Is there such a market?
How important is feedback?
Are there other not-so-common ways to market an indie game? Memes?

What is the best practice for financing an indie game project? Crowdfunding?
If done by royalty, what is the best percentages to pay your team of developers?
When an indie begins to accumulate sales, what financial structure should they use? How do developers get paid?
What is the best method for getting income from sales?
What is the best method of payment for developers?
What are the typical costs of making an indie game?
How much profit can an indie game generate?
Do 3D games make more money that 2D games?
How do you send money to developers outside the country? Are there tax or bank penalty issues?
What are taxes like? Are there ways to reduce paying taxes?
Should money be put aside for making another indie game title or to create an indie game company?
For the sake of increasing profit among developers, should teams limit themselves in size?

What is the best business structure for indie game companies? Japanese game company structure? Valve's workstation-collaboration game structure? An average or common corporate game structure?
What is the best way to get a hold of large publishers or mainstream brands like Sony, Microsoft Games, or Nintendo?
Can you sell a game idea to a publisher? If possible, how?
What are the best marketing pitch methods to use to capture the attention of a publisher or brand?

Should a starting indie game team, of friends for example, worry about any legal structure?
When a game makes money and the developers decide to make a company, what should they do? Should they become an LLC?
In general, how can developers protect their indie game?
If there is legal conflict, what is the best way to find a lawyer, how much do they cost? Is there anything a person should know before going to court if there is legal conflicts? What is the process?

Websites I found to join or host indie game projects:


  • Eric Chadwick
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    What are your answers so far?

    This would be great info to add to our wiki. Would you like an account?
  • krraej
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    krraej triangle
    http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php is also a good place to talk to indie devs and browse what they're working on.
  • kasigawa
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    kasigawa vertex
    What are your answers so far?

    This would be great info to add to our wiki. Would you like an account?
    I appreciate the offer;  however, I'm unfamiliar of how to operate a wiki page. I'm also in the middle of a personal game project. None-the-less, feel free to use the content on this thread, and I can also share the resources and information I have gathered so far.

    From what little information I have obtained so far, I have written them down bellow:

    The information are as followed:

    1. Documentation: A team should have a complete source for documentation. A game’s documentation should consist of: scripts, storyline, references, sketches, a complete asset list, controls reference, and visual diagrams for the story, controls, and animations. Developers should also perhaps have a documented design strategy where they can have a diagram of what assets are needed and when. A good strategy for designing an indie game is to start simple and innovate. Other documents a game should have is a marketing plan, a desired company business model or business plan, and most importantly a game design document (GDD; the game design document should be very comprehensive and it’s also a good idea to consist of a simplified and easy-to-read summery of each category within the document). Within the main body of a game design document, it should consist of the following categories: Title, high concept, game genre, gameplay, key features, setting, game story, controls, conditions, overall level, target audience, hardware platforms, competitive analysis, team, risk analysis, summery, and appendix which should contain: reference art (characters, overworld maps, UI, HUD…ect.). You can also add a list of brainstormed ideas, a list of needed assets, controller schemes, animation diagrams, needed team positions, milestone/schedule to reach, and of course your business plan, marketing plan, and design strategy. Not all of these are necessary, however. All you really need is a game design document, but having all the needed material can ensure success of the completion of the game and perhaps a template for business.

    I have a game design document example I written in college which can be found here:


    2. Pre-production work is valuable to show your dedicated, serious, and acquire the heavy assets needed before development. It’s a good idea for a developer who is interested in making their own game or team to go through a pre-production stage where they create art assets, environment art, scripts or reference material before a game goes into the design/ development phase. It’s also good practice to pump out a quick playable prototype of the game project. A good idea is to do " grey boxing" (or white boxing) which is making a template for your game which can be used to experiment gameplay. This can be done by creating level layouts out of simple geometry from illustrated concepts and position temporary props also made from simple geometry without textures. Later when in development, the template and temporary art can be replaced with complete models.

    Some good reference to this can be found here:



    3. Finding teammates can be tedious without any resources. A good way to acquire teammates is by searching through the following websites: IndieCG.com, IndieDB.com, meetup.com, forums.unrealengine.com, forum.unity3d.com/, cryengine.com/community/, indieteamup.com/, and teamups.net.

    4. For good communication, a place to meetup online is a good idea for the completion of a project. We recommend: Twitch, Kageshi, Tinychat, Skype, Oovoo, and custom website or forums. Texting and facebook are also decent communication resources.

    5. For developers in a project the use of communication, staying on track with the game design document, and reaching milestones is important. It’s very easy for people to get off track, ignore, or feel abandoned by a project. Keeping in touch and having a certain level of professionalism and honesty (with oneself and others) of what you’re feeling and what you want to do is important.

    6. One of the best ways of keeping the game productive is developing internal culture and keeping moral and motivation high for teammates. Creating internal culture can be a valuable tool for making a project more than a project. When a person makes a game, they want to participate in a way where they believe they are breathing life into a game. Developing internal culture can mean gathering every once in a while, judgment free, and doing something aside from working on the game. It can mean gathering in a public place, playing online games together, having a Skype discussion gathering, dressing up or pretending to be as your favorite character in the game you’re making, or something as simple as making a drawing competition.

    7. Having a document where all teammates can write down and add to a list of written ideas can motivate the team and introduce new interesting or original concepts to a game.

    8. Test, analyze/ research, and refine. It’s okay to start as a clone, but then differentiate and innovate. Try to make the game even more fun. Experimenting can be important  to see what's fun, unique, original, and maybe hasn't been done before. An idea I came up with is construct by thought, design by playing. Also when it comes to gameplay, add interesting decisions, player options and choices.

    9. A few possible ways I came up with to market a game is by using social media, game sites (like Kotaku or Gamasutra), Twitch, early access, show off some of the game’s models and art to people in the art industry, attend Pax and playtest at conventions, create entertaining internal game skits and memes.

    10. It’s important to document feedback, prototype new adjustments, and test some more.

    11. If possible, make tournaments, art challenges, and prize giveaways.

    12. I came up with an idea that can perhaps be utilized by the modding community. Although it may be a bad decision, I want to propose the idea that when a game is finished, if the project is not planning to have a sequel, release the game’s source files, or allow for a way to release a game’s source files (maybe by creative license or limited rights), and allow for other people to mod the game.

    13. If the game develops its own culture and fan base, facilitate user created content.

    14. Always have a backup of everything. Murphy's law, “What can go wrong, will go wrong”. Bad juju has a nasty habit of interfering in production.

    A good source I found online referring to the original post is an article I found on gamasutra which can be found here:


     The use of psychology and indie game development can help a team succeed. Here are two articles I found regarding the creation of internal culture:

  • kasigawa
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    kasigawa vertex
    I found this interesting article related to Japanese game design. Not necessarily indie game design, but I think still can be relevant if a person wants to model after a Japanese game company.

    For art direction I discovered a video featuring Michel Pavalovich. He talks about art direction and production for game design. You can find his video here:

    This is another good source to catch up on recent game industry topics and learn new things about game development:

    Here's an important video on legal advice for indie developers.
    Here's a useful video on indie failure:

  • kasigawa
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    kasigawa vertex
    Although not so relative, I learned that people with the desire to hire artists are looking to be impressed. It's important that art pieces pop as soon as they go to check out a piece. I call this the Bam Factor.
  • kasigawa
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    kasigawa vertex
    I found the best method for communication, team management, and game production management is to use Kageshi.com where you can make a private room which will allow for group webcam live stream chat and live text chat. You can set a password, assign admins/ moderators, and even design your room. The next part of this method is using Google Drive, where you can swap and download files and create text documents. I learned the best method for productivity is to have each team member document what they are doing and working on (also with a date), perhaps provide with imaginary deadlines, and have a document for questions and suggestions where the project manager can look everyday at what a team member wrote and answer any questions or suggestion they might have. This allows for a dynamic and smooth progression for the game's development and team mate relationship and overall productivity.
  • kasigawa
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    kasigawa vertex
    Recruitment Method
    1. Create a Recruitment Plan. This plan should include places where you could capture the interest to potential developers. I am using  teamups.net, indieteamup.com, and indiecg.com. You can make a custom page so that all the project pages made on these sites can link to a central hub page. You can also select one of the three sites and link two of the other sites to it. On this central hub page, you can give interested developers to downlaod or see a Recruitment Document or Presentation and get them interested in joining or knowing more about the project.

    2. Create a Recruitment Document or Presentation. Create a document or presentation that provides either a summery and non-detailed information about the project (if you want the project kept secret) or a robust and completely detailed document or presentation about the project (if you are okay with exposing major details of the game). In the Recruitment Document or Presentation include the following categories: The project manager, communication methods, documentation methods, if there are any natures of the project, the development culture, and finally compensation.

    To go more in detail, the communication methods are the methods you will physically communicate with the team. This can be through skype, oovoo, kageshi.com, or tinychat. The documentation method is how documentation will be laid out. The way I have a team set up is all developers are required to update their documentation (with dates) to show what they are working on, what are their plans, and what they want to do. The other important document that the project manager needs to look at is the Suggestion and Questions document. This document allows the project manager to answer questions and provide feedback with ideas. Overall the more that's documented the more the team sees the progress of the project is moving forward. The nature of the game is also a possible important section to address. If the nature of the game involves nudity or sexuality, the team needs to know. The development culture is also important. Addressing the development culture will demonstrate what is to be expected. Will there be deadlines and milestones? Is it laid back and working at their own pace? What are the ethics of a team to maintain functionality and productivity? All of this can be addressed in this section. And finally, compensation. Will the team be compensated by royalty, part-time or full-time employment, contract, or freelance? Perhaps this can go into more detail as to how they will be paid, for example: percentage of the project, monthly, quarterly, lump sum, by money order, check, bank transfer (wire, Electronic transfer, email transfer; you can talk to your bank advisor)...ect.

    Be sure to have a list of all the positions needed for the project's development. For example: project designer, artist (perhaps specialized: environment artist, UI artist, 2D artist, character artist, concept artist), programmer (perhaps specialized: gameplay, AI, UI, network), composer, sound artist, web designer, level designer, animator, writer, marketer/marketing agent, business director, and perhaps legal.

    Another method to recruit developers is to gain project publicity by showing assets or looking for developers in other sites. Sites like: Artstation, 3DTotal, Facebook groups (Indie Game Development; Ten Thousand Hours; Pixologic Zbrush; Level UP!), Twitter, Pintrest, LinkedIn, Zerply, Deviantart, Polycount, ZbrushCentral, CGSociety, CG Plus, 3Dartist, Behance, Sketchfab, Cryengine community, Unreal Forums, Unity Forums, IndieDB, and even meetup.com ($10 a month).

    It might also be worth considering the use of demographics. For example, prioritizing on developers you think might be more fit for the project. For example, seeking females for a more feminine or cute style and visualization.

    3. Game Design Document (GGD). This is the most important document that will speak to all the developers on the team. Here's a quick list of the preferred items you will need in the document: Title, High concept, Game genre, Gameplay, Key features, Settings, Game story/ timeline, Controls, Conditions, Target audience, Hardware platform, Competitive analysis, Team, Risk Analysis, Summary, and Appendix (concepts, diagrams, other additional documents...etc).

  • Isaiah Sherman
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    Isaiah Sherman polycounter lvl 14
    Just wanted to chime in and say a lot of this information is quite useful. Particularly liked the links to the GDC talks!
  • Biomag
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    Biomag sublime tool
    Edit: I deleted it.
  • Isaiah Sherman
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    Isaiah Sherman polycounter lvl 14
    That is a colossal wall of text of opinions and (what seems like) bad personal experiences. How exactly does this help the post?
  • Biomag
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    Biomag sublime tool
    I can cut it out, no problem. Seems I misunderstood the point of this thread and I thought pointing out common mistakes to direct the research where actually most indies have their biggest knowledge gap might provide some insight. Sorry for derailing it.
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