What Your First Project Should Be / by Xiaosong Shang

Hello everyone! Sam Martino here again.

So now that you’ve decided that making your own game is the right route to go, how do you pick what you want to make? There are so many options, but some are really not ideal for indies to try. Granted, I’m not telling you don’t make the game of your dreams, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to try and make that game as your first project.

Part of what is important for your first project is that it is a representation of what you are capable of. You want it to be unique enough that someone can tell just from looking at it that you put time and effort into this to actually make it into something interesting. Obviously no one is expecting you to make Fortnite as your first game, but if your game shows that you put thought into it, it will stand out.

To take Ashes of Kanaka as an example, it was our first game, made in RPGMaker, but we wanted it to be unique and stand out on its own merits so people could look past the engine it was made in. By focusing on the extra details and what make the game special, people were interested to hear about it and had genuine interest.

The genre is open to you, and I cannot stress enough that it doesn’t need to be triple A quality, otherwise the game will never be released. There are a few things you should avoid: I had one prospective developer tell me they wanted to develop an MMO based off microtransactions that was entirely open world as their first game. An MMO is a massive undertaking, and there is no cheap way to handle it, even if you can do everything on your own, there is no way to avoid server upkeep fees. It is also wise, in my opinion, to not make a giant open world game as the first project. There are so many programs to build beautiful worlds that it may seem like an appealing project, but the amount of testing and bug fixing to keep a massive world functional just isn’t worth the time for a studio starting out. Trust me, we’ve been trying to get one started for two years now.

In our experience, our first project had a lot of things go right, and a lot of things go wrong. We were able to carry a strong team, all of whom cared about what they were doing. I cannot stress how important it is to allow the people working with you a say into how the game is created. Having a stake in what is being created motivates people to work that much harder. Our biggest mistake was leaving certain aspects to late to be worked on. When you start a project, you need to consider everything. We left marketing sit for too long to the point where there was very little we could do, even though we had competently built and finished everything else. Being prepared and having everything noted down before you even start is crucial for your project to be successful. As I mentioned before, there a lot of things to note as far as successes and failures on our end, and I promise I will go in more detail later on.

So hopefully you’ll have a basic idea in your head of what you want, next time I will talk about the different game engines, and which you should go for depending on what you want to do.

As always, please reach out to me at smartino@dogwoodgaming.com if you have any comments or questions. I always love hearing from you!