Indie Game Dev FAQ

I’m completely new to all this, where should I start?
Honestly you have about a million options.  Would you rather learn to program or use a scripting engine?  Are you going to use pixel art, 3D models or vector art?  Do you want to make your own music?  Hopefully this FAQ will answer some basic questions.  Note that everything I link here is free!

I don’t want to code, I just want to make vidya!
Luckily for you, there’s some pretty fantastic options out there, and personally I recommend taking this route if you aren’t too serious about making the next AAA blockbuster title.  Your choices, in no particular order:

Game Maker - Recommended by most and has the largest community among the code-less game creation suites. Has a built-in Game Maker Language that is reminiscent to actual code that’s not required, however it can be powerful in the right hands. Has support for basic 3D.

Construct Classic - No longer in development to make room for Construct 2, Construct Classic boasts a powerful scripting engine.  This open-source game creator makes developing a snap.  The community isn’t as lively as Game Maker but given a little practice, this can be a wonderful tool that may come easier to users that disliked Game Maker’s interface.
PS:  Construct 2 is now a viable tool, however they will charge you if you ever wish to publish your game.

StencylWorks - An up-and-coming game creation suite that creates Flash, iOS and eventually Android games!  Specialized in 2D game creation, this suite offers built-in APIs (specifically Flixel and Box2D) and lets you create games without any coding knowledge.  Supports Objective-C scripts as well!

Unity - “Unity is a game development ecosystem: a powerful rendering engine fully integrated with a complete set of intuitive tools and rapid workflows to create interactive 3D content; easy multiplatform publishing; thousands of quality, ready-made assets in the Asset Store and a knowledge-sharing Community.”

I want to code!  Which language should I use?
There’s really no simple answer to this, it usually comes down to personal preference, however I’d like to think the following information will help narrow your choices down.  Considering you aren’t making a game that pushes any system to it’s limits, you really shouldn’t worry about each language’s efficiency for now.  Once again, these are listed in no particular order:

C# - Seems to be the prevalent language in AGDG threads, this language is compatible with many game game creation suites, including XNA and Unity.  In terms of difficulty, I’d say this choice is about average.  In order to publish your game on the XBox Marketplace, you’ll have to purchase a license.

C++ - Although this language gets a lot of trashtalk for how difficult it can be to learn, I’ve heard testimonies that it’s really not all that intense, and I believe it.  C++ leads the forefront for AAA game development, and learning this will definitely help you out if you intend on getting into the game industry.  If not, you simply have easier options without as much hassle!

Java - Seems to be explosively more popular since the Minecraft craze, this relatively easy to use language is both powerful and versatile.  Java is capable of coding for PC and Android.

Flash - Perhaps one of the best choices if you want to spread your game as easily as possible, Flash is known for it’s easy scripting and ability to seamlessly run on a browser, as a stand-alone, and on phones.  Flixel and FlashPunk are game-making libraries designed to work in conjunction with FlashDevelop to create games without needing the official Flash IDE.

Lua + LÖVE - “LÖVE is an *awesome* framework you can use to make 2D games in Lua. It’s free, open-source, and works on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.”
Lua is an easy peasy language if you’re looking for something less hardcore.


I’m bad with code, where should I start.  How do I improve?
More than likely there’s a guide you can find on Google that will walk you through the entire game development process for a relatively easy-to-make game.  Assuming you’re already vaguely aware of your language’s coding process, try your hand at programming fairly simple.  With some luck you should be able to find open source versions of it available, and if you run into any trouble you can look over their code and discover how they did certain processes.
If all else fails, try asking Stack Exchange and they’ll be glad to help you!
Google Code hosts tons of coding resources you can check out as well.

I want to make pixel art!  Where do I start?
Cool!  You’ll probably want something than MSPaint to draw in, so let’s cover some programs first, okay?

GraphicsGale - The single most powerful free sprite maker and animator, this thing is awesome.  Can be tricky to learn at first but it pays off in the end.  Support for palettes, onion skinning, layers, etc etc etc

GIMP - Easy to use and pretty dang powerful!  Has about all the same features as GraphicsGale, however previewing animations can be a pain in the butt.

ASEPRITE - Although not too popular, ASESPRITE is a pretty awesome program designed specifically for pixel art and offers some neat tools for it as well.  ASESPRITE is updated frequently and has support for onion skinning, layers, animation previews, etc.

more options

How can I improve my pixel art?
This is actually really simple to answer:

Practice - Most people ignore this step and just expect to be good on their first few attempts.  This is the single most important step to becoming better.  A good method I used was opening a canvas in GIMP and trying to fill as much of it as I could.  Then I deleted it and repeated this several times.  With practice you will always have the knowledge with you, and you will learn the more you do it.

Studying - Okay, this isn’t like reading a textbook.  Find yourself an art style that inspires you, then attempt to recreate it with your own little touch, but do not trace!  As you’re mimicking the artist’s style, take note of how he anti-aliases things, how he forms the shadows, where he puts certain details and what colors he used.  When you’re playing a game and you see something that catches your eye, just stop for a moment and decipher what makes it so good.

Cure’s Tutorial - Unlike other tutorials that simply tell you to draw what they’re telling you to draw, this tutorial covers actual techniques and how to properly do them.  It covers pretty much everything.  THIS IS YOUR BIBLE NOW, READ IT EVERY DAY.

I need resources for studying!
Look no further!

Spriter’s Resource - An archive of tilesets and spritesheets from pretty much any game.  Have a style you liked?  Looking for something new?  Go here and study the artist’s techniques.

PixelJoint - An online community with public weekly challenges, post your art in the forums for critique!  Check out their gallery for inspiration, some of it is amazing.

Pixelation - A forum dedicated to pixel art, they also like to critique your art!

Any other really useful links for pixel art?
Check out this post on Pixelation for tons of pixel art resources.

What about 3D modelling?
4chan’s /3/ has provided a FAQ of their own for this, check it out!

I want to make vector art!
Inkscape is your friend~

I just want to make some music.
Awesome, we love you musicbros!  Here are some options for you:

FamiTracker - Specifically made to create authentic NES music, perfect for all those pixelated platformers you’re inevitably going to make!

MilkyTracker - A pretty popular tracker used to create retro sounding music.  Has more versatility and options than FamiTracker.

Musagi - Neat and simple to use program, also supports VSTs!

pxTone - Made by Cave Story creator himself, this will help create some vaguely retro tunes.

LMMS - Free, linux-friendly alternative to FLStudio with VST support.

I need some VSTs and stuff!
Here’s some options for you: Tweakbench, Pastebin by anon, sinfonia, soundfonts.

I just need some sound effects for my vidya.
Welp, your best option is most likely randomly generating them with LabChirp.

I’m looking to become better at writing scripts for my games, advice?
I’m no expert on this, but I have a pretty decent educated guess:  Depending on the kind of theme your game has, you’ll want to match it.  For example, if your game takes place in medieval times, try to imagine yourself as one of the characters.  Do a little studying on literacy from back then, and imagine this character’s personality.  Are they long-winded, suspicious, chipper or lazy?  These elements will greatly effect a sentence a person might say, and even moreso effects their speech depending on if your game is happy-go-lucky or super serious!
Like any kind of art, studying what inspires you gives you outstanding results.  Find scripts you like, emulate the style, and presto!

How do I make sure my writing is good? (Section by WHR)
First of all, you need to know the setting of you game.  The writing has to fit into the setting more than it has to fit any gameplay mechanics.  If your medieval knight sounds like an Italian mobster, you’re probably doing it wrong.  Take a look around at the genre you’re working in, see how others have written it successfully, see how others have failed to write successfully.  Use both your own judgment and popular critical opinions of other games and their stories and you’ll get a good feel for it.
A major part of this is writing to your intended audience.  If a game is about blood and gore and dismembering everything, cute and childish writing is probably not the way you want to go.  If it’s an RPG, you probably don’t want to use normal everyday language due to the higher literary standards expected out of a story-focused game like an RPG.  Don’t write too maturely for a game intended for kids, don’t write too immaturely for an adult game.  It’s a simple tip, but it helps more than you might think.
One great way to make your writing fit the game is to make use of popular tropes and character archetypes found within the genre: the crafty demolitions guy from FPS games, the zealous knight from RPGs, the badass with a heart of gold from action games.  A lot of these sorts of things cross over genre boundaries, but you should get the point.  See what sort of archetype your characters fit into, then find those archetypes in other games of the genre; look at how other games write their dialogue and emulate the style.  Don’t copy word for word, but try and get the same feel out of it.

Any other tips? (Section by WHR)
Don’t get stressed, don’t get discouraged.  Game dev isn’t easy; creating quality material is hard work.  Take breaks when you need it, go play some games or take a walk or something if you feel like you’re bashing your head against a wall.  Even bestselling developers take a break when they get frustrated, take their lead.
Oh, and if all else fails, remember your assets don’t exactly make or break most games.  Look at almost every FPS: horrible story, but they get by on merit of fun gameplay.  As long as there aren’t horribly glaring problems with your design, most people will forgive lack of depth or originality if there’s solid gameplay to make up for it.  If you make it into the big time industry because you make fun games, you’ll get people specialized in art, music and writing to do it for you, so don’t sweat it too much if you find you can’t create assets as well as you’d like!

I want to add to this FAQ!
Please do!  There should be an Ask me anything over there —->
Send me a line and I can hook you up with an edit.
Please provide details because I’m not familiar with EVERYTHING.

- Thanks for enjoying my FAQ (I’ll just assume you did), I’ll update it as I see fit.
Love, Vine


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