6 things you should consider before writing your first line of (indie game) code

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion” Parkinson’s Law

Looking forward starting your first indie (mobile) game project?
Here are some things that you should consider from day one.

1. Title name

Maybe you’re one of these lucky guys that have a fancy, sweet, short and super-cool name for their game from the very beginning. It was not my case and I’m still not convinced about ALT-G.

Maybe you think you have it but then…

  • Does it have less than 30 chars? Or even better, then last 20 chars including spaces? (e.g. limit on Google Play listing)
  • Would it be easy to understand in all langs? Shuold be localized? Does it has a weird meaning in some other country?
  • Is it trademarked? legal issues?
Google Play will only allow up to 30 chars for your game title. Less than 20 recommended (spaces included)

2. App Icon

Your icon would have a huge impact on the number of app installs, especially in the beginning where your game is not popular with very few reviews, almost no installs, etc. If the app icon does not look professional, engaging and help gamers quickly understand what’s your game is about (or at least the game genre) then high changes that less than 5% of people who see your game won’t install it. Trust me. ALT-G went from ~35% to ~5% just by changing the icon and the headline (thanks god you can now run Expirements in Google Play).

Store Listing Expirements — Cool new feature in Google Play

3. Framework / Game Engine

There are amazing (and free) game engines, frameworks and tools for indie game developers out there.

ALT-G was really an especial case because I wanted to use ALL android features, so without looking into the details I just assumed most cross-platform engines won’t have full support for all Android features (especially as soon as they are released). And also because I was familiar with Java already so it was a no-brainer :)

But trust me, if you are new in the game industry, you won’t know where to begin. Advice?

Play with as many frameworks and tools as possible! Do not just jump deep in implementation without reading, trying and having fun!

4. Backend (Analytics / Crash Reporting / Notification / Storage)

This really depends on the type of game your are working with and how far you want to go (pro hint: do NOT try to go that far with your first game!).

Analytics is a must and super easy to integrate, maintain and evolve. Start with basic events, think what would be important to track and understand about your users. Then, build on top of that and iterate.

Crash Reporting is also easy and usually a built-in feature in the platform. It’s also must and let me tell you why:

Never underestimate the power of answering a negative review with…we received your error already and fix it, can you please try again?

5. Supported Platforms & Devices

A difficult one depending on the game genre and target audience. You’ll see a lot of cool apps designed for a wide variety of form-factors (phone, phablet, tablet, TV, smartwatch, …). Don’t do that. Think about the people that would enjoy your game… would they play it on their phones, tablets, TV?

Just keep in mind that this is complex and time-consuming. If you only focus on Android phones, for example, there’s a whole word of different things to consider: screen resolution/density, OS versions, phone features (sensors, cameras), etc.

6. Reading stuff

This is the best part. If you are building your first game then you’d have a lot of fun learning from others. Don’t get too excited reading success stories. Learn from postmortem stories too.

Follow influencers, ask and answer questions on reddit/forums, devorate youtube tutorials… ingest as much as possible and as fast as possible.

And finally, you’d need to run different areas in parallel: development, design, art, marketing, PR, support, data analysis, publishing… I’d recommend mixing them all, balance core development of the game with other aspects, especially when talking about Marketing.

Build a community as early as possible. Provide valuable content and let people know why your game is awesome.

That’s the whole point of this article and the previous one btw ;)