Exploring the path of the freelance game developer

Oct 25

Exploring the path of the freelance game developer

After a lengthy work cycle providing game development services to different companies, I can finally return to making my own xixgames.

I was running out of money, to the point that I was almost forced to leave my house. But now I have the resources to hire people to help me with my games, if I want to.

Although there is no place like localhost (make games for yourself), I’ve sailed through the seas of work assignments, encountered projects with lush budgets to live on, discovered dead projects in need of revival, managed web servers hospitable to only the heartiest of hackers (and spammers). But throughout my journeys, I have never once felt “this is a bad job.” Although some projects have a dark side, there is always a bright side which is bolstered by good clients, interesting projects, fascinating new technology, hardware gifts, access to advanced software and servers, and so on.

Being a freelancer is like being an adventurer. I love to be exploring the diverse develop environments; finding opportunities for fun, novelties, and of course money; and trying to understand my place among the vast community of freelance game developers. I’m relentlessly honest with my clients about my tasks. And, like making games, it’s better if it’s fun, and if you love to code and be a game dev.

After freelancing for many years, I spent 2 or 3 years on my own, thank to the modest income generated by my own games such as this one. But as those games’ life cycle began to sunset and I started to need more money to live, I started testing game concepts like this free-to-play experiment, but ended up falling into that weird situation with no money and a lot of unfinished game projects which I hoped might turn a profit. I also tried to work with a publisher, which was fine, but not good enough to make a living. Finally, I decided, I would need to go back to my freelance days again, so for the past year I have been freelancing for game companies to rebuild my financial safety net.

To me, one of the main draws of being a freelance game developer is that you’re responsible for making your own code and art, but it’s for the client, so you will not probably can use it in your portfolio or other jobs, so you have to do your best for your client and for you. And if you’re having trouble connecting with or even liking the game you’re working on, at least you can see the project like a “how to survive time”, I mean, something new for you to learn. If you continue working on a project you don’t like, you could get to the point where you want to leave the project or change it for better, but that, depends on you and the client, who, despite being the guy who pays you to make the game, this guy will check the stated goal, and his/her mission is to make you feel zero pressure or urgency to get to finish the project, and your mission is to finish the game. It’s sad, but I’ve had to work with several bad clients before finding the right ones and keeping them.

Once you finish the game, the client must let you explore other options. While you can technically walk away in the middle of a project, it’s something that I have never done, and typically doesn’t do much for your reputation as a freelancer. But once the project is done, a good client will either introduce you to other projects with him/her or let you explore outside options. Basically, maintaining rapport is essential, even if you don’t like the project. This lets you build your image as a trusted developer, guarantees you new projects from your existing customers, and lets you explore new leads without offending anybody.

To further drive the point home, to be a real freelancer is have meetings for breakfast. I mean, it’s a lot of experience interacting with people and developing. And while I’m developing I’m also getting various new offers that might allow me to learn whatever new topics that I want to, which is why I’ve learned three game engines, a lot of coding languages and new words in foreign languages. One of the first programming languages I learned was Basic, in an Amstrad CPC, but I’m sure you as developer started with something like C/C++, Java, Fortran, Basic, Pascal or any other…

 

If you’re interested, I’ve Twitched some of my gamedev sessions, some of them for companies and some personal projects.
Brief list of Pros and cons of being a gamedev freelance:

Pros

  • You can choose what you want to do and you set the price
  • You will know a lot of interesting cool people
  • You can work wherever you want in the planet, travel yay!

Cons

  • You need to find the best clients ,be always like a hunter
  • You must know a lot of stuff ,be a professional in many fields
  • Sometimes it’s really hard and economy ,taxes,etc. won’t help

Some advices for people who wanna be gamedev freelancer: get to know people related with your interests, work hard, study, have fun and never give up!.

Thanks Bryce Fitzsimons for his help with the text translation!

 

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