6 Myths of Making Your Own Game for Free
Most video game studios start as small businesses, operating out of garages, and hoping their games will be the next best seller. Studios like Cuphead and PUBG make it seem feasible to become an overnight success making your own game.
But before studios make a profit from selling millions of copies of their games, they operate with what they can afford. They plan on reinventing their workflows and buying the industry standard tools when they have money.
Sure, that’s one option. But there’s a significant cost to operating that way. For many studios, the cost of reinvesting their workflows is working numerous overnights, a significant caffeine expenditure, and lost productivity as they relearn tools and processes.
Myth: You Can Save Money by Using Free Tools
Reality: You Might Save Money, But it Will Cost You in Time and Effort
There is no such thing as free lunch. What you save in money, you’ll lose in time and effort. There’s a couple reasons for this.
- Less support: There’s typically less support for free software. If you run into problems, it will take longer to find a solution. And even if a solution worked for one person, it may not work for you.
- Fewer integrations: Because industry standard tools are designed to work together, integrations work out-of-the-box. It can be time-consuming to configure integrations or workarounds if you use several disparate tools.
When you’re making your own game, it’s okay to use free tools early, but it’s also important to have a migration plan. Determine from the get-go when you’re going to jump into the professional tools.
Plus, most video game development software has free versions for small studios. Check out the end of this article on software integration for links to try Helix Core, Microsoft Visual Studio, and Unity free.
Myth: Git Can Handle Large Files
Reality: Git Was Never Intended to Scale
Git started as a tool to manage source control, but it’s become the standard tool among software developers. Because Git is so well-known, many developers don’t even consider other options for code collaboration. After all, Git offers easy access to all their projects from almost any platform.
Git works well when you have a small studio, but as your game gains popularity and you want to release more often (or implement CI/CT/CD), Git may struggle to keep up. Learn how to scale Git successfully when you make your own game.
Myth: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Branches
Reality: Branching and Merging Can Make Collaboration Easier
In small video game development studios, developers often think that they don’t need branches. After all, if everyone is working in the same room, it’s easy to talk about the changes you’re making. In theory, sure. In reality, it’s usually more complicated than that.
In the earliest stages of making your own game, it might work for everyone to work on the main line all the time. As your game grows, branching makes it easier for numerous developers to work on related sections of code simultaneously, and then merge their changes back to the main line.
Myth: Git + LFS Is Better Than Perforce
Reality: Git LFS Doesn't Scale for Big Projects
When you read about using Git and LFS as an alternative to Perforce, it seems like it could be logical. But when you think about the practical aspects of it, the idea breaks down.
For example, if you have dozens of developers, you’d need to install Git LFS on every workstation (which is time consuming), and some may not even support it. If someone is using a different version of Git, it may not work. And if someone upgrades Git on one platform, Git LFS may not work.
Myth: You Can Work Without a Version Control System
Reality: After You Lose Your Work Once, You’ll Want a VCS
If you don’t have a version control system, everyone who’s working together is shouting across the room, “I’m working on this file. Don’t touch it.” Eventually, someone will overwrite someone else’s code. Or someone will accidentally delete everything. Whoops.
It’s a mistake you only make once. After you’ve lost everything, you’ll wonder why you wanted to work without a VCS.
Ensuring you never accidentally delete all your work isn’t the only reason to use a VCS. Using a VCS means anyone can work on any file, at any time. If you’re making significant changes to your code and something doesn’t work correctly, you can always revert to an earlier version. Finally, a version control system makes it easy to keep track of the changes you’ve made along the way.
Myth: You Don’t Need to Work With Industry Standard Tools
Reality: Industry Standard Tools Work Consistently, and They Work Together
Industry standard tools become the standards because they consistently handle the challenges that professionals face. Whether it’s performing at scale, passing security regulations, or integrating with other tools, the industry standard tools can do it.
Hesitant to learn something new? When you’re starting, it can be time-consuming to learn new tools. But down the road, it will be more time-consuming to configure integrations or workarounds for all the tools you use. Industry standard tools are designed to work together, so integrations work out-of-the-box, with little effort on your part.
Start Small; Scale When You’re Ready
You Don’t Need to Overhaul Your Systems When Your Game Becomes a Bestseller
Professionals operate a certain way. They prefer industry standard tools and workflows. And if you want your game to grow into a best seller, why not build your studio so it will have a smooth growth trajectory when your game is a major hit?
Look at what the professionals do. Then, put together your little studio so as you grow, it will be a natural evolution into what the professionals are doing. Follow their best practices; use the same tools they use. Remember, there’s a reason the professionals are doing it.