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EXECUTION Building a video games business from scratch

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srodrigo

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Weekly update 13

69 pomodoros - "Nothing remarkable happened" week, but just for the record:

Finished porting the current game progress to Unity.

Started working on integrating IAP. There's tons of stuff to read, but Unity seems to have good integration both from the editor and scripting API. I still need to decide about price points, but for now I'm focused on getting IAP and the UI working for the different cases I need to handle (game currency, remove ads).

Spent some extra time learning Unity, specially best practices and day-to-day tips. I'm not concerned about best practices for Game 2, but good to start learning proper Unity for later.
 

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Hey, as you are from the gaming market may I ask you, How long would take for a newbie to develop an IOS basic game by himself? Can I do it for free?

I've thought about developing basic games for kids (Tetris esque). When I was a kid a used to create board games to play with my friends and played a bit with RPG Maker.

thanks
Hello Game Development requires some additional tools and technology learning. Unity 2D or 3D is required for game development in iOS. And in case if you need seamless game app development, you must have a dedicated developers aligned for the same to help you with this or if you are keen to learn you can definitely find some courses online such as over #udemy or any other platforms like this.

Or if you need a dedicated team of Qualified engineers, connect for further discussion.

Thanks !!
 
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srodrigo

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(Bi)Weekly update 14-15

I decided to make updates every two weeks, as there isn't much going on apart from "working on the game".

Pomodoros: 63 + 54. Got a bit distracted by external stuff.

Still working on Game 2, which is taking longer than expected. Finishing the UI, working on the design, integrating services (IAP and leaderboards), and lots of polishing.

I'm going through the specific mobile and Android stuff for the first time, so it takes a bit longer. The good thing is that I could reuse part of the experience for mobile apps too.
 

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Desert of Desertion
(Bi)Weekly update 14-15

I decided to make updates every two weeks, as there isn't much going on apart from "working on the game".

Pomodoros: 63 + 54. Got a bit distracted by external stuff.

Still working on Game 2, which is taking longer than expected. Finishing the UI, working on the design, integrating services (IAP and leaderboards), and lots of polishing.

I'm going through the specific mobile and Android stuff for the first time, so it takes a bit longer. The good thing is that I could reuse part of the experience for mobile apps too.
Have you given yourself a loose deadline or still too early for that?
 

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I'm learning some bits of the engine as I need them, which makes progress slow, but at least I don't have to spend a week on tutorials before starting doing stuff.
I'm sure you've checked, but don't forget to start with an asset store search pretty much any time you need to do anything. Developers tend to start with the idea that they'll do everything themselves, but many, many of the assets are just amazingly underpriced for what they do, to the point that they might as well be free. Of course, their real cost is in their learning curve and integration time, but still, they can be incredible, incredible values.

Also, something that I rarely see mentioned is that digging through a well-written asset to understand how it works can be better than any course. You're basically buying source code (in most cases) to high-end for anywhere from free to a few dollars For someone that's new to development, the hand-holding of a course may be better, of course, but if you want to make an inventory system for example, there are about 100 inventory assets there to learn from, even if you still write your own from scratch.
 
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srodrigo

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Have you given yourself a loose deadline or still too early for that?
I did, but missed it :) I'll hopefully get a beta ready next week, and then it's all boring publishing stuff and bugfixing.

When the game is released, I want to go through my logs and try to find what made the game take longer than expected, but apart from 2 weeks porting it to Unity, I suspect I just didn't have a clear idea about what I wanted the game to be, and I wasn't motivated to work the extra mile on this game.

I'm sure you've checked, but don't forget to start with an asset store search pretty much any time you need to do anything. Developers tend to start with the idea that they'll do everything themselves, but many, many of the assets are just amazingly underpriced for what they do, to the point that they might as well be free. Of course, their real cost is in their learning curve and integration time, but still, they can be incredible, incredible values.
I tend to forget, but I've looked for assets for specific things, and couldn't find anything suitable for the game I was making. It's mostly UI + a really non-standard game screen, so the chances of finding specific assets that were useful was low. I need to (re)search more though, there might be good surprises.

I didn't want to go down the path of using more general assets like PlayMaker, I heard of some people getting stuck and regretting, even if they initially made progress faster.

Also, something that I rarely see mentioned is that digging through a well-written asset to understand how it works can be better than any course. You're basically buying source code (in most cases) to high-end for anywhere from free to a few dollars For someone that's new to development, the hand-holding of a course may be better, of course, but if you want to make an inventory system for example, there are about 100 inventory assets there to learn from, even if you still write your own from scratch.
That's a great idea I didn't think of! I'll start with free assets related to specific topics I'd like to learn. Although I tend to be very careful with game programmers' code, the percentage of people who write bad code (I mainly mean unmaintainable here) is pretty high compared to other kinds of programming. But there are definitely still people who are worth reading their code.
 
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srodrigo

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Also, I made a few newbie mistakes :) Things like getting the game deleted from the Play Store when I was trying to test IAP on an Alpha channel. The problem is that you can publish a version from that channel, so they check it, and I included some stupid things that weren't allowed (after all, it was a development version for me to test integrations, the game wasn't even close to be finished) and was removed.

I've also got some problems with Unity Analytics. Sometimes, a project that's created in a certain way can't get analytics working straightaway. I read some threads by people having the same exact problem. I might have to contact support if it's not fixed by this afternoon.

This kind of things eat some time, but now I know them for future games/apps.
 
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srodrigo

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I've just read about soft lunches for mobile games. Now I'm thinking about trying that out on a few countries before releasing Game 2 to the wild. Not sure how this affects future launches in other countries though... The good thing is that you get feedback from real players and hopefully will leave nice reviews for other people to see them when you do the real launch.
 
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srodrigo

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Weeks 16-17

Released Game 2 on a few countries (soft launch). Very few organic downloads, most of them pirate (got more users on Unity Analytics than on Google Play, which apparently means people install it from other places rather than the Play Store). Going to release it to the wild and run some Facebook ads in a few weeks.

Haven't decided about Game 3 yet. Have been playing/researching some puzzle mobile games for inspiration, but don't want to clone and haven't come up with a solid new-ish idea ready to prototype.

Have a cool idea for a strategy (tactics) game, but that might take longer (strategy games are hard to balance), possibly about 4-6 months. So I'll leave it out for now, I'd like to stick to 1-3 months projects.

Might diverge a little bit and try with one of the mobile apps ideas I got. I hope that doesn't count as polygamy too much :)
 
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srodrigo

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Unfortunately, I'm probably going to have to downsize this. There's been a change in my priorities (that I didn't plan 6 months ago when I started) and need to get a stable, decent source of income soon, which still looks pretty far away by making games full-time.
 

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srodrigo

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I should give an update:

I haven't done any work on this for a month. The reason is self-doubt, mainly that I don't firmly believe I can make money with games anytime soon. I've also put money as a first priority recently, which didn't help.

I have been jumping from one idea to another and procrastinating a lot without getting anything done. I started designing a mobile app for a niche where I couldn't find one, to create a landing page and run a validation. I didn't finish this task, because again "why the hell would someone pay for this? I could be doing something else instead". The contradiction is that the only way to answer that question is to finish the damn work and evaluate the results, but still didn't do it.

I'm applying for remote programming jobs at the moment. At least I've been putting the work to refresh my related skills (web dev) to maximise the chances of getting hired. My plan is to get rid of this "opportunity cost anxiety" via a day job, and then have my mind more clear to carry on with making games or any other thing on the side. I even feel like I need a short break my projects.

Sorry for having fallen into this BS mindset. I'm aware of it, I just need to get out of it soon.
 

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The reason is self-doubt, mainly that I don't firmly believe I can make money with games anytime soon. I've also put money as a first priority recently, which didn't help.

I have been jumping from one idea to another and procrastinating a lot without getting anything done. I started designing a mobile app for a niche where I couldn't find one, to create a landing page and run a validation. I didn't finish this task, because again "why the hell would someone pay for this? I could be doing something else instead". The contradiction is that the only way to answer that question is to finish the damn work and evaluate the results, but still didn't do it.
Sorry to hear this. The self-doubt is normal. The only way to cut thru it is to do the work and let the market tell you otherwise. Any update in the last month?
 

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I should give an update:

I haven't done any work on this for a month. The reason is self-doubt, mainly that I don't firmly believe I can make money with games anytime soon. I've also put money as a first priority recently, which didn't help.

I have been jumping from one idea to another and procrastinating a lot without getting anything done. I started designing a mobile app for a niche where I couldn't find one, to create a landing page and run a validation. I didn't finish this task, because again "why the hell would someone pay for this? I could be doing something else instead". The contradiction is that the only way to answer that question is to finish the damn work and evaluate the results, but still didn't do it.

I'm applying for remote programming jobs at the moment. At least I've been putting the work to refresh my related skills (web dev) to maximise the chances of getting hired. My plan is to get rid of this "opportunity cost anxiety" via a day job, and then have my mind more clear to carry on with making games or any other thing on the side. I even feel like I need a short break my projects.

Sorry for having fallen into this BS mindset. I'm aware of it, I just need to get out of it soon.
hey man its all good, just a phase, ull bounce back.
You think it's bad to slack off for a month? i slacked off on my apps for like 2 YEARS, total burnout.
Just don't quit, persevere and things will naturally fall into place.
 
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srodrigo

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Thanks @MJ DeMarco and @luniac for your kind words :) I haven't done any work on this recently. I needed a mental break, and that also led to other things taking over:

TD;DR
Decided to look for a job to get stable income. I'm probably moving abroad again. I'll keep working either on this or on something else on the side.

Long version
I spent a month taking a mental rest, and looking for a remote job (which also involved preparing technical interviews, my web dev skills were a bit rusty). I wanted to move out of my current place and probably buy a house soon, so stable income became a priority. Incidentally, I'll probably end up accepting an on-site job in the UK, so I'll be moving there shortly; the salary is going to be really good, which should free my head up to focus on working on my projects on the side even if they fail, while allowing me to look for a house or spend more money on my projects. The down-side is that I'll have far less time, which means projects will take longer, but you can't have everything. I suppose having a well-paid job and working on my stuff on the side would be a good balance at this point. This should help with stopping jumping from idea to idea as well, because it was starting to fall close to money-chasing.

Problems I've noticed so far:
  1. Self-doubt just turned me from a hard working (6-7 days a week, all day, just getting things done) guy into a worried procrastinator. Also started looking into other things (SaaS, mobile apps, freelancing - among others), as I stopped believing that what I was doing made any sense at all. I didn't have enough patience to carry on with video-games for long enough until they got some traction, which is something I need to fix anyway because it can bite me regardless of what kind of projects I work on.
  2. Felt too comfortable, I kind of lost my Why. I wanted to be closer to my family while working on my stuff. I got that, so I lost the urgency of working my butt off.
  3. At the same time, I became too worried about money. That's a good thing in the long-term (you need money from your projects), but it turned into a short/mid-term opportunity cost issue. Leaving a 6 figures salary on the table was difficult to digest for me.
  4. Didn't have a solid plan (although they tend to change, but anyway it's good to have it). I came back home to work on a SaaS, then realised the product wasn't a good idea, and got into video-games, but the plan was not great either (games that would take too long - a.k.a. bad idea these days, high risk of not paying off).
  5. Marketing.
  6. Networking.
Solutions:
  1. Get back to the mindset of doing the work and stop worrying. Going back to meditation (to keep me focused and sane) and doing exercise weekly (to have more energy) should help.
  2. Moving abroad should destroy my comfort zone and get me on track. I'll be financially comfortable, but I won't be as comfortable in a personal sense, as part of my end goal is not staying in the UK forever, but in Spain close to family.
  3. Got a healthy salary, that should solve the opportunity cost issue. I don't hate working as a developer, and still like programming a lot, so it's not a bad situation.
  4. Next time I jump into working on my projects full-time, I need to make sure they are already ramen-profitable at least. Thinking "hey, I've got some savings and a roof, I can spend time on this even if I fail" was ok at the beginning, but was the root of some of the problems I had.
  5. This doesn't have a simple solution.
    1. If I make another mobile game, I'll try to get a publisher, otherwise you're basically doomed, the game/app gets buried in the pile of +6.000 apps that hit the store daily.
    2. If I make a PC/console game, I'll look at what successful people are doing. I'd probably avoid making PC/console games though if I want to make money anytime soon, as they take waaay too long to make.
  6. On one side, I will have the chance to meet other game developers when I move abroad. On the other side, it's probably wise to get a bit more involved in some community to get exposure (this helps with selling games), which implies spending time on game jams, forums, discord, creating content other people may find interesting, etc. (basically sharing content with people, not necessarily final games). The former is not very time consuming; the latter requires a good amount of time. I've seen people turning their community involvement into a business, or leading to contracts opportunities, so that's a posible companion, although given the limited time I'll have from now, it's probably better to just focus 100% on making games and use them as showcase.
I've been thinking more about the entertainment industry. This industry is in trouble :) There are more choices than ever (e.g. in video-games, great tools that help making games, therefore the number of games out there has exploded) but people have less time and ever to spend on leisure (busy with work, distractions, and again too much entertainment offers), so creators are not only competing with other content, but but users' time (which will never increase, 24h/day max.). This is what made me think that it'd be better to switch to mobile apps (that solve a real problem, not the "I'm bored" problem) or SaaS products. But, anyway, I want to carry on with what I started, I don't want to give up too early. Making good money from a job should give me some margin to spend more time on this before I switch to a different thing.
 

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Everyone has their ups and downs. Don't worry about it. As long as you keep working on it, even if it is just a tiny bit every now and then.
 
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srodrigo

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Everyone has their ups and downs. Don't worry about it. As long as you keep working on it, even if it is just a tiny bit every now and then.
That's my thoughts too. At some point, I was in a BS state of mind that just completely blocked me. It's better to step back, clear my head, and work on the side while still making good money on a day job that sometimes I even like. I actually worked on some mobile apps in the past while having a day job, I can do it again. I think it's more important to take constant (and focused) action, as you say.
 

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Hi there, I decided to create a progress thread, so I'll have to feel ashamed if I don't make good progress :)

A bit of context: I'm a software developer. I quit my job a few months ago to work on personal projects and move back to my country, after saving enough money to survive for some time (I couldn't stand working on a day job any longer anyway). My original plan was to make a SaaS platform, but I did a better market research and my idea didn't look as good as I thought.

So I decided to go for making video games, which I also like a lot and was postponing it for very long.

The video games industry is huge (more than films + music combined), so there is money there, although at the moment it breaks the commandment of Entry (also Control, if you think about how distribution works, mainly through third-party stores). Professional tools are available for peanuts, and anyone taking a course on Udemy can make and publish sh*t games (many don't even qualify for "game"), so it's also a saturated market. It looks kind-of self-publishing books. A difference (after reading a few threads by authors here) is the amount of time it takes to make a good game in average, compared to a good book. But it's not impossible to succeed, there are independent developers making good money.

The important stuff:

Goals

Even if this is a potential Fastlane business, my first goal is just to make it a viable business. Ideally, it would remain as a one-man shop for a while until it gets traction. From there, I would see how to make it Fastlane, which might involve spending longer (a few years) or good money making something really great; a.k.a. shooting for a "hit". But that will come later. I'm aiming to make at least a minimum wage income within months 6-12, and a mid-class income within months 18-24. Not sure whether this sounds conservative or not, but given how long it takes to make this kind of products, it even sounds optimistic to me.

Current skills

I have no experience in shipping games, although I've made a few half-backed ones. Current skills more in detail:
  • Programming: good
  • Game Design: ok, and getting better
  • Music: have a background, although not in composition, but still better than nothing
  • Art/Graphics: this is the fun one. I've been working on it for a few hundreds of hours for a year already, but still far from looking great
  • Marketing: have some notions (read books and other stuff) but have only shipped one mobile app before, so still learning

These are the bared minimum skills required to make a video game that makes money. Quite a lot of things, and very different between them. It's been a few months learning the last 3 while working on a game, and felt really overwhelming, because things like art can take years and years to master and I'm quite behind. I can always outsource some stuff once the thing is making some revenue though.

Plan

I started making a game two months ago, and realised that it would take far longer than I was expecting (specially due to being slow making graphics). I'm parking this to start with the plan below, but probably reusing the tech I built, so it wasn't a waste of time.

1) Make a first game for free in less than one month: this should take me through the whole process of releasing a game, not just making it. I'll probably use free stock assets and music. It doesn't need to be a full game, just the bare minimum that you can ship for people to play.

2) Make a second -commercial- game in less than three months: this one should be small, but still a full game that I can charge for. Managing scope will be critical to reach this goal, 3 months is quite a short time to make something decent.

3) Make a third -proper- game in less than 12 months: this should be the one that starts making some money. Ideally, a 6 months project, but might take longer.

I don't want to make longer plans for now, there's a lot of work to do above, but as an idea each game from game 4 should ideally give more traction while trying for find out what can be a hit one at that time (trends change quite fast).

Freelancing (either in the same industry, or any other kind of programming stuff) will be considered if things don't work out as expected, or if I need to get money to pay freelancers.

Difficulties so far

I felt quite uncomfortable with taking long to ship stuff. This is the main reason to step back and do 2 small pieces of work first. This way, I'll get something done and iterate from there.

It can feel overwhelming as hell when you have to learn about so many different things (which I have to do anyway, learning at least a minimum about each is vital). I struggle with art, which means I'll have to either buy it (stock art) or outsource it at some point if I want to go fast, although I'll keep honing my skills here and in other areas.

Anyway, I've started 1) today, I'll post updates. :)
Hey, glad to see you're experimenting using your existing skills. I'm also a software developer and have been trying to make profitable games for some months now. I even began an execution thread for one here.

I think that you are taking WAY too much at once. Making a game alone is a lot of work, but it is possible. However, it is fundamental for you to understand that you are no longer a software developer. Your only goal when building a game is to give users an amazing experience.

There is no room for specialization in small companies,
as an indie developer, you will have to wear many different hats, and many times you will have to resist the temptation to code. Programming is of diminishing return, meaning that at some point, coding will not move the product forward. I am current at this stage with my latest game GearCaster: I have been working on it for some months with a friend and we are at a point where we have to start measuring success by how many players we get, as opposed to how many features we add.

The previous indie game I worked on was a multiplayer RPG called GrandQuest. This project failed because I focused too much on stuff that didn't matter like coding and design. In reality, it will be extremely end-to-end when you are a sole developer: for this game, I was the front-end developer, back-end developer, database administrator, dev-ops specialist, web designer, project manager, graphic designer, etc.

The most important thing is that you get a player base going as soon as possible. And for that, you will require building/perfecting a "fun-loop" as soon as possible. Forget marketing and all that stuff for now, you can deal with that once you have a product. Right now really focus on perfecting a fun-loop, which is the loop that your players go through where they are rewarded for playing.
Example of a fun-loop (GrandQuest): Find a combat match, get to a high level with the equipment they have, get rewarded for getting to a high level, buy better equipment, repeat.

I would also consider out-sourcing stuff like graphics and music if it takes too much time/effort.

In fact, I would consider finding another person to get on the team, though that is difficult... If your game is successful, you probably want to hire a team at some point.

I disagree that building a game break the commandment of Entry. Engineering, designing, deploying, maintaining, and doing all the other shit that comes with building a profitable game is intense. Like, it's probably one of the hardest things you can do. Udemy courses alone will not teach you the skills necessary to build and release a highly profitable game any more.

Programming alone is a difficult task, even with all the platforms available nowadays, which gives you leverage. But that is not enough...

Good luck, and have fun!
 
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srodrigo

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Hey, glad to see you're experimenting using your existing skills. I'm also a software developer and have been trying to make profitable games for some months now. I even began an execution thread for one here.
Hi, thanks for sharing your experience and tips. I'll be following your progress thread ;)

I think that you are taking WAY too much at once. Making a game alone is a lot of work, but it is possible. However, it is fundamental for you to understand that you are no longer a software developer. Your only goal when building a game is to give users an amazing experience.

There is no room for specialization in small companies,
as an indie developer, you will have to wear many different hats, and many times you will have to resist the temptation to code. Programming is of diminishing return, meaning that at some point, coding will not move the product forward. I am current at this stage with my latest game GearCaster: I have been working on it for some months with a friend and we are at a point where we have to start measuring success by how many players we get, as opposed to how many features we add.
I complete agree. For now, I've resisted the temptation of making medium-size games, because I know I'd never finish. Even small games are a hell lot of work. I've tried, as much as posible, to focus on things that are valuable to the user, not to me as a programmer. Even left some cool features on the board, as the value/time didn't justify them yet.

The most important thing is that you get a player base going as soon as possible. And for that, you will require building/perfecting a "fun-loop" as soon as possible. Forget marketing and all that stuff for now, you can deal with that once you have a product. Right now really focus on perfecting a fun-loop, which is the loop that your players go through where they are rewarded for playing.
Example of a fun-loop (GrandQuest): Find a combat match, get to a high level with the equipment they have, get rewarded for getting to a high level, buy better equipment, repeat.
How are you approaching getting a player base without marketing? Are you finding potencial players and asking them to play the game and see what they think? In any case, you are right that without a game that's fun, there's nothing to market really.

I would also consider out-sourcing stuff like graphics and music if it takes too much time/effort.

In fact, I would consider finding another person to get on the team, though that is difficult... If your game is successful, you probably want to hire a team at some point.
At some point, getting an artist would be really helpful. So far, I made my own graphics, as they were pretty simple, or reused existing assets. But for more complex stuff, an artist would be a great addition. That's a reason I wanted to get more exposure, to meet potential partners/collaborations. And this is another reason to focus on small games: more games -> more practice -> better games -> higher chance of people getting interested in me.

I disagree that building a game break the commandment of Entry. Engineering, designing, deploying, maintaining, and doing all the other shit that comes with building a profitable game is intense. Like, it's probably one of the hardest things you can do. Udemy courses alone will not teach you the skills necessary to build and release a highly profitable game any more.

Programming alone is a difficult task, even with all the platforms available nowadays, which gives you leverage. But that is not enough...
When I said it breaks the commandment of Entry, I meant that it's cheap to make and upload some cr*ap game/app. Definitely, making and selling a good game is still difficult (I think that's one of the main reasons why most indies don't make any money, and only a few make a living or make good money), so the entry barrier is high in that aspect. Tools are good now though, which allows some people to get started (like an artist who puts together some game scenes on Unity and starts a kickstarter campaing to fund their game and pay a programmer - this was pretty hard 10-20 years ago), which in some way has lowered the entry barrier to both professionals and amateurs. But it's true that good games are still hard to design, execute and sell, as the market can tell.

Good luck, and have fun!
Thanks, you too! Keep us posted about your progress :)
 

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