The journey from Indie Game Developer to Indie Developer

19 years ago I was hooked to games. I was crazy about games. I would wake up thinking about playing games. Go to school and comeback, have lunch as quickly as possible and cling to the PC.

I grew up playing Age of Empires and Sims and probably a 100 other games.

I used to tweak AI files of Age of Empires to increase and decrease difficulty in campaigns. I still remember being a 12 years old, I was able to tinker with the files enough and make a civilisation create only mounted horses in their army. I got a sense of satisfaction in playing games and always wondered about how to make them.

At that time, programming was a novelty where I lived. Game development was unheard of for me. There was negligible game development industry back then. Maybe a few indie game developers trying to hack around. Nothing formal. My chances of having access to any such people were zero. I had no permanent internet connection. Only a dial-up and some shared lan called "cable-net" which I have used to play age of empires online.

I had no idea I can learn programming and game development from internet, if I wanted to. Only possibility for me was to wait and get a CS degree and that I did.

During my first year of graduation, we had a course about programming in C++. I was barely interested in a black and white console "couting" << x+y.

I wanted to make Tomb Raider like games. When, I didn't know what an Object or Class is in C++, I searched about how to make games. The first resource, I stumbled upon was a book which taught game dev and mathematics using Win32 API. Times have changed so much, that I can't even find that book through google searches.

I tried to follow that book and get a simple empty window to show up using C++. I couldn't get a simple program to compile because of all the weird errors. No one in my university was able to help me out with that.

We were taught gcc and I was trying to setup Visual C++. I read that entire book nonetheless. I learned theory of game loop, 3d math, transformation vectors, physics, rendering, DirectX. I read tonnes of books on game dev after that out of sheer passion. I had no idea how to translate it into demos, let alone mvps and finished products.

I always had trouble starting small.
I had no mentors.
I had no people to look up to.
No path to follow.
No roadmap.
I was motivated enough to brute-force my way through everything. I would fail and fall into procrastination and continue again.

Everyone around seemed so basic. When at rare times, someone gave me a good piece of advice, I rarely took it. Problem with people giving advice is that they give the advice as a statement but don't explain the rationale behind it. To an amateur, that advice doesn't make sense. Some people blindly follow, some don't. I don't follow blindly and very often end up learning the hard way. To date.

My number one problem, which now at the age of 29, I have curbed to a greater extent is that I have always been ridiculously super ambitious.

My ambitions used to look like

  • Make a hyper realistic version of Sims which does everything that happens in real life.
  • Mine asteroids.
  • Make a chatbot that talks exactly like humans.
  • Create a knowledge engine that can store all the knowledge in the world and eventually create new knowledge.

I confess that I have spent ridiculous amount of time thinking and working on some of the ambitions I have listed above.

Other than academics and regular job, I have tried a lot of extremely ambitious side projects and every one of them failed. Quite a few of them were about my tries to become an indie game developer. I won't explain much about the project, scopes and story lines. Just some throwbacks for funs.

Baraish - Man vs Wild

I was learning HLSL shaders

Character was made and animated by an artist friend: Ali Raza

Rickshaw Racing Game

I always had trouble with proportions in my artwork :D

Arc Elf

A tower defence game with a 15 pages GDD.

Blade Fury

A realistic sword fighting game

I made this character

The Evil With Inn

Old London - Year 1992.
A hitman was dropped outside Jack Santolini’s inn. Fair height, wide jaw, straight back hair, rough skin enters cafe and sits in the far corner. Surprisingly enough for Londoners he didn’t remove his hat when entered. He sits on the chair wearing his long coat. Lights a cigar.
There's a 17 page game design document for this game.

Jeep Driving Simulation

I can't find anything demoable. A 36 GB unreal engine project, which won't compile.

Naranville - Story of a perfumer

Some of the work is logged on this blog too. Here, here and here.

This one had 42 page GDD 😳

Most of the time, I was one man army. Never relying on people. Learning all the softwares, art, coding, marketing, physics, math by myself.

At the age of 27, after continuous failures in both personal and professional life, I realised, that being an indie game developer while working a full time job is nuts. Game development is hard. It's an art form. Being an indie game developer is like being an artist.

I have some artistic tendencies, but I don't like artists. I don't like myself either. I find most of them miserable and enclosed in their own shells, shying away from the world. I never wanted to be like that.

Somewhere in 2017, I decided to wave a good bye to my game development journey and move on. I am glad it happened.

Now, I am onto my journey as an indie hacker. Web and App development is super easy stuff. Making money is still hard (not as hard as in games) but the development is trivial as compare to games.

My first published indie project is a A simple website that lets you crop images in bulk. Its content-aware so that it will try not to cut your head in the headshot.

Let's see how it goes from here.

Follow me on twitter to keep me honest :D

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