Breaking Into and Out of Video Games
http://pcgamejunky.blogspot.com/ I was coaxed into writing about breaking into video games... at least, from the indie perspective.
There are typically two types of people who make indie games: Those that are breaking in and those that are breaking out.
For those breaking in: You are new to this whole field. You need experience to land a job and you need a job to land experience. Simply put: You're screwed and your only option is to make some games on your own and hope they can pay the bills until someone realizes your great potential.
Sometimes this results in you doing well enough to get a job, other times you realize that you don't need that job afterall and become king of the indie developers... or at least make enough money to get by happily.
So how is this done? As a solo developer it is all about appearances. Your website is your face; before any publicity is gained or work is shown you should be sure that your website is clean and professional. You should also ensure you are using a domain E-mail. Nobody thinks e-mails coming from hotmail.com is professional!
Then you have your product. First, make sure you are making something simple. It can be a clone of an existing product or something original and innovative, so long as it is something you think you can finish in 3 months time (As I mentioned in the Keep it Simple thread, it will take you much longer than you think). Next, while your code skill will be analyzed by the potential employer; in order to catch their attention your game artwork needs to be SUPERB.
Let's face it, the initial hiring process is all about judging a book by its cover. They are going to look at your product or screenshots of your product and a one page resume and make assumptions about your character and skill. You've already lost the battle if your screenshots or product LOOK like crap- regardless of how beautfiul the code is inside. I say wow them with graphics and THEN you can worry about how nice your code looks on the actual interview stage!
That's how to break into the industry from the indie side of things. It's all about presenting yourself professionally through your product. If you find that you enjoy working for yourself and your game seems to have the potential to make you money... maybe the indie path is right for you.
Then there are those of you who are breaking OUT. Yeah, dream job my left toe. Your company treated you like dirt and you said "Hell, I could do this on my own and take all the profits with less hassle."
Ok... so now what? Well, the problem with me giving advice in THIS field is I have never been in that position (I attempted to break in and then decided to go indie, never having to break out). Also, each person will have different skills and experience levels...
But here's my general take based on things I have heard others say:
First, plan out things with more depth than you have ever planned anything else in your life. Create work schedules, create milestones, revise, edit, and redraft this plan until it is workable. Aim to create your first product within 6-9 months; depending on complexity.
The best advice I have is don't assume that your experience in mainstream games is going to make this easy. It will be just as hard as the person just starting out. Your advantage is you have SOME skills already that the newbie does not; but when it comes to the OTHER skills that you didn't have to worry about, you and Mr. Newbie are on equal turf... If you aren't open to learning these skills, like marketing, planning, and finance, you are going to fail despite your many years of experience.
The next best advice is follow that plan you worked so hard to create! It is very easy to get distracted when you work from home. An hour here, an hour there, and suddenly your 40- 80 hour work week (depending on how cruel you are to those around you) turns into a 15 hour work week. Your game gets delayed, the bills pile up, and you rush to release hoping to beat the bill collector... and you wake up the next week back in your dead end job you thought you'd been liberated from.
The final piece of advice for all game developers is plan for your first game to fail. It doesn't have to fail horribly, maybe it makes you a little cash, but if you are stuck relying on your first product to make 2k/month for an entire year; you're in for a nasty fall. That doesn't mean you should do nothing to help it succeed- just the opposite. You need to do everything to help this first game work; just be ready to learn from the mistakes both in development and during your mad attempt to make it sell. If it goes crazy and become the next Professor Fizzwizzle (a game that was their very first product and sells very well)... all the better. If not, you won't find yourself in a financial jam; because that is just what you had planned.
Check out fizzwizzle at www.grubbygames.com.