It’s amazing just how far the gaming industry has come in terms of who can actually make a living creating games. For the longest time, the idea of forming a team of developers to create a profitable game without financial support from a game publisher was unheard of. These days, however, indie gaming is on the rise and even the big dogs with years of AAA experience are jumping into the independent game dev crowd.
If you’re an aspiring game developer then chances are you’ve thought about a cool game idea you wouldn’t mind seeing come to life. Of course, you probably don’t have all the talents or time necessary to develop this game yourself. That’s when the thought of starting your own small team of indie developers entered your mind, just like it did to some of the most successful indie developers out there.
The fact is, developing a game involves several roles that are rarely done by one person. Since you may not possess all of the needed talents – and each may take a lifetime to master – you should find others to help you.
So if you’re thinking of forming your own independent game development team, be sure to check out the following list of common roles. Although some of them can be overlooked depending on your game, such as if your game has no writing or audio in it, almost all of them are talents you should consider to increase the chances of your game being a success.
And even if you’re not thinking about starting your own team, it doesn’t hurt to see what most indie devs are comprised of. Maybe it will help you focus on a particular talent for you to start sharpening so you’re more than ready when you try joining someone else’s team.
Your idea can be the best thing ever, but without a programmer it will probably never come to life. A computer programmer is the guy or gal that will spend most of their time developing codebase and the tools for the game. Since video games are electronic entertainment, no programmer usually means no video game.
Note that a programmer will usually be doing more than just coding the game while in an indie team. They’ll also take the responsibility of debugging and beta testing to make sure the game is polished and acceptable.
Preferably you’ll want more than one programmer to take on different tasks. However, plenty of indie games have been made with only one programmer so it mostly depends on the size and scope of your game.
More often than not, everyone in a small indie team contributes to the game design. In fact, usually someone who is already serving a different role is also the game designer. This can be the programmer, an artist, or even a writer.
Of course, it’s good to have a dedicated designer that has the final say on decisions and keeps the design loyal to the original idea. This involves making sure that any new ideas that will be implemented actually add to the experience and make it more fun.
The designer should also maintain some kind of game design document for use by the rest of the team. If they ever need a resource to look at, the game design document will be ready and updated.
Artists are the role that you’ll often find more than one of in an indie game team. This is because creating art takes time and will be what the players see as they play, making it a vital element to your project.
Working closely with programmers, designers, and even writers, the artists will produce the visuals of the game. This may start out with concept art before moving on to content that will appear in the game, including backgrounds, animations, etc.
The artists will also make sure the art they produce meets the technical requirements and captures the feel of the game. Preferably you’ll want more artists if your game demands it, such as if you’re making a 3D platformer. But if you’re making a retro platformer, one artist can take care of crafting the pixel art and animations.
Since sound is incredibly important to most video game experiences, you’ll want someone that knows what they’re doing. The sound designer/composer will be in charge of creating all the sound effects and music for the game.
Sound can make all the difference as it is a vital element for giving atmosphere to a game. Even if it isn’t a horror title that needs scary music to enhance the experience, you’ll still want a catchy tune to go along with your puzzle game or action-platformer.
Although there are plenty of aspiring game sound designers out there, make sure you find a good one that has done similar work in the past. For example, you’ll want to find someone that has already done chiptune music for another game if that’s the music style you want for yours.
Just like the game designer, the role of project manager is usually taken by someone that’s already providing a different talent. Whoever it is, the project manager’s responsibility is to make sure the team works fast and efficiently.
The project manager will be the one that sets milestones for the team and sees to it that they are achieved in a reasonable time frame. This involves motivating team members that fall behind and making sure everyone is performing their tasks.
Whether you have one person as the sole project manager or someone already on the team takes the role, they’ll need to keep everyone motivated and on schedule. This is because it’s easy for indie developers to fall behind or miss milestone deadlines since they don’t have a publisher or higher entity breathing down their necks.
Quality Assurance / Tester
Ideally, everyone on the team should be tester and responsible for reporting bugs that they find with each new build. This makes sense since you’ll all be playing the game constantly as development progresses anyways.
It’s also not a bad idea to have someone on board specifically dedicated to finding bugs. This can be friends, people that supported your crowdfunding campaign, or anyone that can play the game and tell you in detail what went wrong.
Worth mentioning is that you may want a non-programmer on your team doing QA. This is because many programmers have a hard time overlooking issues in the code they spent hours working on.
A producer, which can also be someone that’s already on the team, will be the one who manages the business side of things. Unless you’re just making the game for fun, you probably want to sell your game and make some cash off of it.
The producer will take care of the marketing strategies, cash flow summary, and economic assessment. How much will the game cost to make, sell for, and make in profit once it launches? These are all questions the producer should find answers to.
Similar to project manager, the producer also maintains schedules and budgets as well as make sure milestones are hit on time. They’ll also act as your liaison if you ever do end up in talks with a publisher or someone looking to fund the development of your game.
One mistake many indie developers make is giving writing duties to an artist, programmer, or someone else on the team. Although it’s true that anyone can write or tell a story, you’re better off finding someone that has spent years sharpening their writing and storytelling skills.
The game writer will usually be responsible for coming up with the storyline or premise of the game. This can include creating a plot, characters, setting, and other narrative elements that may be needed. If your game is very story-driven, has dialogue, or a lot of in-game text, the writer will make sure it is all captivating and enhances the game experience.
We can’t stress how important it is to hire a talented creative writer if you plan on having a lot of text or dialogue in your game. There’s nothing worse than an indie game with typos, terrible dialogue, or a boring story, even if the gameplay is decent.