Paul here - indie game dev. Living my dream of working on video games in my basement. I went from driving an hour to walking down a few steps.

The last time I posted an AMA( ) I was struggling getting funding for my first game - during a successful launch I quit my full time job and now am working on the sequel.

Like many of you I began as a gamer dreaming of making games, then somehow managed to persist into making a game - having to learn not just game development but also about business, marketing, making trailers, finding outside contractors (for sound, music, 3D/2D art) and getting funding.

Proof: the last AMA -

Proof: KS announcement about the AMA:

Sequel Announcement Trailer:

Comments: 48 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

Pablo_Fallas6 karma

Hi Paul, I'm very excited with your project, I want to know which feature is the most challenging of all and if is there any feature that you really want to add once the game is released? thanks! and sorry for my english :P

VoidDestroyer5 karma

It used to be that coding was very challenging - so adding features was hard, but now I have a huge amount of code written, adding features is pretty easy. Still what I struggle with the most is the artificial intelligence aspect of space ships - especially when it comes to path finding and movement. I think I spent the most time on that. When things move in 3D there is an infinite * 3 possibilities - and often it may seem like the code I wrote works - until some other case/event shows me that it doesn't.

In the future - post release - I'd love to expand the game with first person elements. So walking around in a base, doing missions there - I've been coding a space game for so long... that coding a first person type - walking/shooting/etc- game sounds appealing - but instead of starting fresh I'd love to create an expansion/update to part 2 - to do that.

former-reddit-lurker3 karma

If you could do one thing different what would it be?

VoidDestroyer5 karma

Great question...

Well I think I would have paid more attention in math and physics classes in school. I struggle with these things a lot now in game development. Back in physics class - I coded a tank versus tank game (using ascii graphics) on a T1-82 (from memory) graphing calculator. Then 10+ years later I needed to know what linear/angular force was heh heh

Maybe I should have taken more art classes and gotten some basic skills? Not sure if that's even possible.

Other than that - I think I did a lot of things right - but I could have worked harder and played games less - though playing games is great for winding down.

Sorry - might not be a great answer - but the time it took me to make a game was so long that I had a chance to do it so slowly that it all worked out. Maybe I should have quit my job earlier? The gaming market is more and more competitive so - as a business owner my dreams of total monopoly are shattered by more and more games ;)

EDIT: also - I guess I don't really see what I would have done differently because for the most part I over analyzed and agonized on my decisions - so my decisions were based on the best available paths (that I could see).

Mogg_the_Poet2 karma

worked harder and played games less

Huh. That's my dreams crushed

VoidDestroyer2 karma

Well to be fair - I do take a lot of ideas from other games. So... technically its research :)

ansong2 karma

Newtonian physics or arcade style physics?

VoidDestroyer2 karma

Newtonian - letting the ship keep you going straight or letting the player turn it off and drift. Loved Newtonian ever since I played Independence War. Still I loved X-Wing/Tie-Fighter/Wing Commander/Privateer/Freelancer - but Newtonian is just too cool.

ansong2 karma

Will there be gravity effects?

VoidDestroyer2 karma

I have some weapons that push/pull - in the first game I had an object pull the fleet (story reasons).

But in terms of planets? Probably not - planets are a real pain for a few reasons. They are tiny so make no sense. Huge - making them navigational hazards - but not big enough. If you can get close enough to them, you see the bad textures... Planets are a real pain - so I mostly stick to asteroid bases and space stations.

ansong2 karma

Have you played some of the space games that have come out recently? How would you describe the gameplay of your new game with respect to those games? What will set your game apart from them?

VoidDestroyer2 karma

I haven't played Elite nor Star Citizen - they look great but I'm not a huge fan of multiplayer games. They are too time consuming in terms of long stretches where as single player games can be picked up/left at a moments notice.

Its actually a bit hard to play space games because - the game I'm working on is the game of my dreams - though limited by my ability/knowledge/funding. Modern games tend to be more and more watered down - and those that are hard core space sims - having many buttons to start the ship itself - I'm less interested in.

What sets it apart is that its more or less - both my history of classic/modern games (both in the space genre, but also in every genre that I played) and a response to them. For example in the X games - you could have a fleet - but having battles with it was cumbersome - so Void Destroyer (1 and 2) have RTS like control scheme for that. In X-Wing/Tie Fighter/Freelancer games - you couldn't really fly bigger ships - so in my games you can.

So what sets my games apart is that they are my games - and my preferences - which is basically combinations of other games. The problem with his type of an approach is having to find gamers who like combinations of space and RTS genres. For the first game - different players asked can I play it as a space sim only? Can I play it as a RTS only? So in a way - versus having both niches - I had the overlap of two niche markets.

I don't necessarily want the player to sell their soul (and wallets) to my games - I want the player to enjoy my games and then move on to another. So the MMO type grind is out.

So the way I approach game design is adding stuff that's cool to me - so many ships, both small and large, big battles, RTS control over fleets. So my games aren't watered down - like many modern games - but they could be overly complex. I don't think that they'll hit huge mass appeal - but I don't necessarily need it to keep going - having no employees.

I ask my artist to create some far out designs for both bases and ships (eg: having a lion headed base/ship, having giant flying gun type ships).

The downside in comparison is polish and bugs. I simply can't afford the level of visual polish. Its also incredibly difficult to self test your own game, I tend to do things exactly right.

redditguy0012 karma

What are some of the most difficult personal and professional challenges you currently face?

VoidDestroyer6 karma

So if you asked me years ago to describe myself I'd say that I'm a logical person, and if a friend called me "Mr. Spock" I'd taken that as a compliment - but now I realize that I'm a hugely emotional being.

When you have your own business and are making something that reflects your skills/abilities - personal and professional are basically married.

Emotions are the biggest challenge - its a roller-coaster. One day I'm ecstatic because I got a new cool feature in and another day I'm bummed out because I can't fix a seemingly simple bug. Then my artist sends over a new ship and - yay! its awesome. My emotions are tied into my job - and my job never ends because I work at home.

Often I think that my games should be more popular - but then I think that that's being delusional. I compare myself to more popular projects - and that tends to make me sad.

So the biggest challenges are emotional - and the great news is that overall I'm a happy and optimistic person. If I wasn't an optimist I'd never get this far, and challenges are things that I look back on as motivation for overcoming new ones.

Professional wise - when making the first game - getting good/reliable contractors was incredibly difficult, making it a much bigger challenge. Right now I'm working with a great and reliable 3D artist and music/sound guy. So far so good.

At home - I'm married, my wife has a good paying job and has recently gotten her CPA - so luckily that is very stable. My wife doesn't really understand gaming - so that's a bit of a minus.

[deleted]1 karma


VoidDestroyer1 karma

I have a music guy on board - been with him a long time - good luck with future projects.

In case you are interested in some unsolicited advice - I'd look for some indie game with no music in their trailers, then toss in one of your tracks and send it back at em - could be a great way to convince the music-less of the power of music to improve games :)

LogicalTechno1 karma

Any tips for marketing/gathering interest?

VoidDestroyer1 karma

My approach is the "over sharing and over honest" approach. Not sure how its working out... but that's just me.

The biggest bit of advice I can give is this - everyone in the industry is "kind of" like you. So while I want attention for my game, that games journalist that is ignoring me (basically everyone) wants more attention for their articles - so they want to write about popular stuff, so they get more google searches, so their articles get more money.

Honestly I wish I wouldn't have to market (I love talking to gamers/fans/etc) - but when its working its a lot of fun. When releasing the first game - I was solving launch issues (updating the game several times a day) and doing marketing - I wished I had marketing help - but how do you know the good ones from the bad? And is it really worth it on a tiny budget? I still haven't figured it out, sorry.

I guess the best advice is - its tough, but keep trying.

At some point - to break through to the big leagues - you need your fans to promote you. To mention the game in forums, on reddit, on comments. Getting there - might be just a matter of time to gather a big enough audience. Outside of that - I'm not sure what else is truly effective.

WildfireV21 karma

Did you do a computer science degree to get the requisite knowledge for game design or was it mostly self taught? If so what resources and advice could you recommend?

I'm 26, graduated in accounting and hate working in it, would like to pursue my own thing in the computing field, possibly game design later on still unsure. Looking for advice on the kind of knowledge I'll need, whether I need a degree in CS, etc. Also moving to Canada from the UK to start fresh, if that helps idk

VoidDestroyer1 karma

You are young so my advice might not apply that well to you.

Basically - you might want to go into the games "corporate" industry where as I do it in my house, and generally I'd rather avoid the corporate side.

So I'll just stick to that sort of advice - versus talking about stuff I know only what I've read about (corporate).

Most of my knowledge is self taught - in terms of coding. Its self taught as I was making the first game (plus I'm still learning now). The way I learned was literally by doing - at first struggling to display simple shapes on the screen, then little by little doing more and more complex stuff. What helped me tremendously is that I didn't start from scratch - I had a bit of coding knowledge from my child hood - plus I started with a rendering engine (a bunch of code to draw stuff on screen). Using its tutorials/community to help me along.

A lot of my game design "skills" come from a lot of thinking and playing other games.

There's many other skills in play - due to being an owner, programmer, marketer, game designer, team leader - in one.

The best advice for any person - especial young - is that it takes time (the younger you are - the generally more time you have). And it takes struggle, and it takes failure - which usually precedes learning how to do it.

On the school side - I have a bachelors in a computer related field ( I think its networking or something - I forget the exact wording, its not computer science - I wanted to skip the math).

Tucana661 karma

Did you incorporate when forming your business? Any helpful insight on that process?

VoidDestroyer1 karma

Yes - its super easy - I paid a CPA 200 bucks to file the papers. I probably could have done it myself - but the goal when paying someone something is to get more out of it. So if you find the right accountant - it tends to save you money in the long term.

After filing - few weeks later it was done and I could get a business bank/checking/credit accounts.

I'm an S-Corp - so I avoid double taxation (usually corp profits are taxed - but with S-Corps everything "flows through" me so I'm taxed versus the business being taxed AND me being taxed). While still being protected as a corp.

Which technically makes me - President heh heh

frontpagemobile1 karma

How did you establish the business? I want to make games too, but I was confused on stuff like copyright, trade marks and making a recognized business. Also, how did your contracts for art work and sounds go? Thanks!

VoidDestroyer1 karma

The business aspect is the easiest - you file incorporation docs. I got help via hiring a CPA - cost me 200 bucks.

Read up on copyrights, trademarks - basically my understanding is that copyright is automatic, trademarks aren't. I took a business law course in college - which taught me a tiny bit about contracts. So I'd spell out the terms and pay - and voila! Contract.

Read up on the basics of contract law - its something like this - must be legal (no contracts for murder), must be understood by both parties, must be accepted, and there must be a transfer of "consideration" - some kind of payment or service.

I didn't do complicated contracts with my artists, I was always honest about what I would pay - and I would pay. So I never had issues - in those terms. I signed a contract here and there - most were a bit silly, with my most long term artists/musicians we never signed a contract, but when I pay - I write what I pay for, which covers me in most cases.

The reality is - who is going to sue me? Who am I going to sue? The answer to this is no one - on either side. I pay for the art, so my contractors are happy. I trust them to deliver their own work - so I'm happy.

The hard part is finding reliable and good artists/sound/etc people in the first place. That's the challenge... sometimes you find great people -but that for one reason or another don't have the time/ability to produce. Sometimes you wade through a lot of people that turn out to be - to put it nicely - not the style you want. And often - the internet is a bit full of flakes, people excited about the prospect of creating stuff. But giving up after one asset - which is bad because art should be consistent... one piece of art is useless.

cyfermax1 karma

Some people don't like discussing the subject so sorry if this offends at all, but how are you doing financially? Are you living the same standard as your previous job or have you had to make any changes while you wait for some kind of 'big break'?

Any concerns about the future if your next game is less successful?

I sincerely hope it's not, and taking the leap of doing something you love is fantastic.

VoidDestroyer1 karma

In specific terms I don't like discussing this - but in vague terms its fine. But I take no offense.

I'm living in the same standard as before. I have much more money in the bank. I'm much more careful with spending. So in a way - I feel poorer.

Confused? its like this - with a steady income its almost like I felt - I can spend X a month and be ok. With a non steady income ( depends on Steam sales) I want to spend the least possible. Now it turns out that I'm not the type of person who likes flashy things. I'm not into clothes. I have an 2007 Honda Civic Coupe (106k miles - still looks and runs great) - I don't need a new car.. because I don't drive anywhere during the week but the gym (working from home).

Now while working on the game part time I was working full time, so I didn't go into debt like some indie devs unfortunate do. And I paid for art assets thanks to a Kickstarter. And I'm a team of one so the math is easy on the split - the launch did pretty well. But it could have gone 10x better (when comparing to "successful" titles).

In the year that I launched on Early Access - I had both the day job and the Steam income. This year I quit and I had the "official" release. Those come with big money spikes, and then it curves down - lower and lower but still a bit forever. So I've never made more money than in the past two years.

The problem is - what about next year? I need another release - to get that spike. Plus then to hopefully have two products on Steam - which both have that trickle coming in. This is fine because - its part of the job - releasing future games and its the fun part.

So the real problem - is that games are expensive to make - right now I'm looking at self funding the sequel. Which is very stressful, I'm also trying to raise funds via KS - but its much more difficult.

The next game "should" be more successful on paper. Too bad reality doesn't work that way always. Its in a larger genre and I have an established base/name - small as it is. I don't have any actual plans if it isn't outside of the above - being strict (by nature of not really needing anything) with my spending.

So while being your own boss is great - its also stressful. I hope I can keep this going for years - and either way - I'll be very conservative with a nest egg and not going into debt.

DSleep1 karma

Hey Paul! Hope I'm not too late to ask a question!

So I've been really interested for a long time in making a game (I would love to make a SNES game, that could (potentially) be also released on steam), but have never taken the steps to begin learning how to do it! I guess my first question is what kind of educational background do you have? I see in another question you said you have an associates and a bachelors degree, but not specifically in what. Is it possible to do this as an "average joe" (Aka no collegiate programming skills), or do you need that special collegiate programming education to be able to pull something great off, like you've done? My other question would be: What kind of hardware is needed for this kind of adventure? I've been thinking about upgrading my laptop to a newer PC, but I don't know exactly what kind of things I should look into investing in if I want to be able to run/create these kind of projects. Any advice?

VoidDestroyer1 karma

Nah not too late (its actually morning here - about to make breakfast - scrambled eggs - yummo!).

Its some degree in "networking administration" - its basically a computer science degree without the math (calculus and higher).

Yes its possible for an average joe - that's who I was. Now I'm an average joe - but with a game and another on the way. I'm not special.

Here's what it takes - time, persistence - and I think obsession. Obsession helps out with time and persistence - where you prioritize the game instead of other things. You have to understand that you are in the same position as other people - starting out. But luckily for you - you can "stand on the shoulder's of giants" - - which I always took to mean that there's people who came before you who you can learn from. You have the internet - where you not only can learn from people - you can ask questions!

You don't need a newer PC - don't get into this sort of line of thinking - if X then Y! but I don't have X... Work on your dreams that X doesn't really matter. Scarcity can lead to awesome solutions. If you do need a newer PC or some additional learning - you'll get there when you get there - the key is to start and persist. You have to have patience with yourself and to understand that failure is part of the process - I struggle every day, some days more than others - to get some silly bug or new feature in. Its ok - its part of the process, everyone goes through it - failure is what happens right before success, and you don't necessarily know how many times you'll fail at something before you get that success - but what's important is that success.

tooomine1 karma

Did you use an SDK? if so, which ones would you recommend?

VoidDestroyer2 karma

I used Ogre 3D for rendering, OpenAL for sound, Bullet for physics and CEGUI for GUI.

Worked for me :)

FishFruit141 karma

Hello. I'm in grade 9, but have wanted to do something in programming since I joined a club in grade 3. I thought of a game idea last year that I thought could be possible. Basically, it's a realistic multiplayer simulator where you start off as a mouse, and have to survive while other players (who have been playing longer) are animals such as foxes, and to survive, they need to eat you. I would also try to add in some sort of scent trail system and super-strong rabbit hearing.

Here are my questions:

  • Does this game sound possible to make?
  • Does it sound appealing?
  • What would you reccomend I do, as a student in their first year of high school, to be able to make this game?

I'll probably ask more question later, but I don't want to overload you.

VoidDestroyer1 karma

•Does this game sound possible to make?

Technically yes - but how about a single player game first? You wouldn't have to modify the idea that much - just have the other players/foxes/etc - be computer controlled instead. Coding a multiplayer game is hard - because you (often) need to have multiple people involved to test/etc - coding a single player game makes this much simpler.

•Does it sound appealing?

Personally I like the idea - but who cares what I like. Worry about making a game you want to play - and then if its a well made game - you should be able to find others that want to play it as well.

•What would you recommend I do, as a student in their first year of high school, to be able to make this game?

Making games takes a long time - my game took me over 5 years. So potentially by the time you finish you might be out of high school. The most important thing to learn - is how to learn. And how to accomplish large/long projects - persistence. If you learn those two things then you can do anything. The way to learn is to try, and when you smack into problems, keep trying, and when you want to give up, don't, keep trying. Its natural to come across difficulties - the way to make something is overcoming them - and its not a race, like I said it took me 5 years. It might sound like a long time to someone your age - but ignore that, learn to ignore negative/pessimistic type thoughts, they will pop up, but just let them go.

Good luck - feel free to ask questions - its a great way to learn - but always remember, what I say isn't the law or the ultimate truth or whatever, what your teachers say isn't law, even what you truly believe now isn't the law, things change. Accept many things - but always remember the solution is there if you look hard - and more often - long enough.

balagopalkv1 karma

What are your opinions on the current indie game scene? Is it harder/easier for other indie developers?

VoidDestroyer1 karma

I often think about this - I think that in terms of me I'm largely unaffected by the - tons of crap games released type situation we are in now. I basically think that overall I'm too small to be affected by anything.

Its like this - Steam is releasing more games - so there's more competition. But 2 years ago my game probably wouldn't be sold on Steam (they were very exclusive back then - lots of good titles were declined). So my game being on Steam and more competition go hand in hand.

So its easier to get on Steam - which is huge, but its like this for more indie developers. People tend to do things - in a similar ways to gold rushes. A pixel plat former gets tons of sales, the gold rush happens, people imitate, the first few ones are hit as well, but after a while its over. I think in terms of that genre that's what we are seeing. But gaming is full of genres - and I'm hopeful that my niche is harder to mass produce.

Its also harder due to sales (eg: Summer/Winter) - I myself being a gamer - find myself waiting for sales, then having 5 games to play, thus limiting myself from buying other games on sales.

On the development side - its much easier, there's more tools, there's more help, there's how to's, there's more examples of success, there's communities, places to get feedback.

So either way - it doesn't really matter... you just gotta try.

detroit_dickdawes1 karma

Hi Paul,

congrats on your success, and good luck with your future!

I'm a composer who is interested in writing for film/video games and other types of incidental music for media. When you are finishing a game, what do you look for music wise? And what are some of the ways one can "get involved" in the world of composing for video games? Do you think it's necessary to play a lot of video games to write? I do not have the time/energy/money to buy games, but I do enjoy watching them being played and listening to their soundtracks and enjoying them as pieces of art if that makes sense.

VoidDestroyer1 karma

The big challenge that you have - from my perspective - is that there are a lot of people looking to make music for video games. I get emails, messages and reddit posts from people like you pretty often. While games tend to need only one music person - that is if the indie studio doesn't care as much about music and buys it off some site.

Personally I like drums, energy and/or a bit of soul/reflextion - but when it comes to music I tend to just give my music guy - high energy, sad, mysterious, anxious - type feelings/words and he does the rest.

I don't know many ways to get involved but let me brain storm a bit - do remixes of classic tunes (people love nostalgia). Approach promising but music less devs (if a trailer has no music) with a music + their video vid to demonstrate value. Sorry that's about it.

I don't think you have to play a lot of video games to write - but it can't hurt to see. There's lots of room in innovation in video games and music - because its often just a track on a loop.

drykul1 karma

This is something I've fantasized about doing for some time. I'm working my wife through nursing school and she's fully on board with me doing just this once she lands a good paying job and we're financially secure. So kudos to you.

What advice can you give someone that is eventually wanting to do exactly what you've done?

VoidDestroyer3 karma

Advice is - do it.

How I did it is by being really cautious and slow, the first game took me something like 5 years, during which I finished an associate's degree and a bachelor's degree (separate schools so I list them separately). So I had each foot in different worlds - the "school/job" and the "your own business." I had a real tough time spending any money on the art, but little by little I dipped into savings. Then - I got super lucky - with the Kickstarter which raised over 32k. So again - giving advice is hard because will you have this luck/opportunity? Its getting harder and harder, but it still exists.

If you do it cautiously - the worst thing to happen is that you'll learn more skills and learn more about yourself. So its a win either way. If you do it a bit less cautiously you are risking finances/etc - so that portion is up to you to decide.

The thing I remember when writing this out is this - the last year or two when I was working part time on the game (nights/weekends) and full time in the day job - I hated HATED the day job. But - it was a cushy job - network administrator, I sat around in a chair often waiting for things to break so I could fix them, via most of the time sitting in front of a keyboard and clicking a mouse. I use to love that job... but working on my own business/future - I hated anything else that wasn't it. So that's why I say do it - that sort of a love/hate - obsession doesn't come around every day.

Its often hard, its often yelling at the internet begging them for notice, but every so often you get a message on Steam/email from someone who loved your game and - that one time makes it worth it.

Sorry if this is a bit too vague - specific advice is hard to give.

drykul1 karma

No, good stuff. I'm in wireless communication retail as a day job right now and really wish everyday I was here I was at home learning and coding. I've got an associates in computer science and working towards another degree in IT with emphasis in web and game design. It'll be at least a couple more years before I can even begin to toy with the idea of quitting my day job.

How about the legal side of it? I assume you have to hire an accountant to do your taxes? The while legality of business side of it is still foreign to me.

VoidDestroyer2 karma

Business wise - its down right easy. I paid a CPA 200 bucks to get incorporated, and my yearly taxes are about 900. Sounds a bit steep? Well a good accountant saves you money - so the goal is that 900 bucks saves you more than you paid.

Have dreams - so quitting your job - that's a great dream - use that. But still work toward it - NOW - don't wait until X happens. That's what I call "magical thinking" and I fight it with myself - if only X then Y.

avaseyrockz1 karma

Can you tell me what is the reason for launching game? Your profession may take you to the peak of other work then why this?

VoidDestroyer1 karma

Well - I didn't start out making the game thinking that I would launch it to the public and for sale. I was just having fun experimenting with programming. I thought that if I tried to make a game I'd learn coding (in C++ language) easier. And it motivated me to keep going so I learned C++. But what happened was - I realized how much I love it and kept working at it. I loved it so much - I wanted to do it non stop - but kept having to go to a day job - still thinking about the game.

My day job then became something that stood in the way of the "love job" - and I started to really hate it.

So launching the game - for sale - is a way of continuing working on games. By using the money from sales to support myself working just on games.

Whether you are making a game - or something else - you sort of pour yourself into it, it becomes a huge part of you. Launching it to others - and having them play and enjoy it - was also a big motivation. Its very gratifying to hear that people enjoy the game.

AjaxTFC1 karma

In a world where you often set your own finish lines, how do you know when a particular project is finished? Also, are you frog fractions 2?

VoidDestroyer2 karma

No heh.

Its actually never finished - the problem is that you have to release a game to get that big release spike on Steam - aka $. Then release another game to get another big release spike on Steam.

In a way - luckily - the first game was a linear/mission game so doing the final mission was a good marker that its "done", then polishing up the existing features. The story portion took a very long time, mission scripting and adding features to support it - so while scripting the story missions I was working on the game. Its usually a bit different in big dev houses - where its separate teams. garbage.

About a week before the game's release (post the announcement to release) I thought that the game was horrible garbage - because I was constantly finding/fixing issues... was pretty stressful, then right up until the last few days the final issues were solved/smoothed out - and seemingly everything was working. Then the game released and the influx of players showed me tons of issues.

Its never finished - but that's the great thing - I can keep working on it :)