Indie developer Dan Marshall founded his studio Size Five Games in 2008, and has developed titles including Time Gentleman, Please! and most recently Gun Monkeys.
In our new regular series of interviews on breaking into games, we speak to Marshall on how he got into the industry, and what advice he has to help you get into games too.
How did you first get into the game industry?
Making games was my hobby, I was doing it around my TV production day job. Eventually the games side hit a position where I was able to jump ship. I’m one of those awful people who is doing their hobby as their full-time job. I’m sickeningly happy.
What did you study before getting into games (If anything), and how did this help you?
Ha, I studied French at university, so not much. I suppose in a way learning languages helped me learn code, but that’s a bit of a push. I first picked up a copy of C++ for Dummies at about the age of 24, and taught myself everything I know. I still struggle with code, even after a decade. I’m still learning, every single day.
What was the most important lesson you learned early on?
Necessity is the mother of all invention. Basically, as indie devs we don’t necessarily have the cash to do big wow-y set pieces, flashy graphics or even something as simple as decent music. But you know what? That’s where you can do something utterly special instead – by thinking around problems with the intention of cutting corners, quite often you’ll find the end result is more interesting-and-spectacular than what you could possibly have done with all the money in the world.
Are there any mistakes you made early on in your career that you can now advise people against?
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’ve done that more than once. As an indie it’s important not to have too lofty ambitions for a game; trim back AI or graphics, keep everything as dirt simple as you possibly can, because features creep in and things can very quickly get out of hand.
Have you ended up where you intended to be when you first entered the game industry?
Absolutely. I’ve never really had any desire to work for a big company, to be a cog in a machine. The thrill I get from seeing my own little worlds pop up on the monitor, with every single pixel exactly how *I* want it to be, that’s how I know I’m where I want to be.
What would you say are the key skills aspiring developers need to get a job in games and get noticed? And how can they acquire these?
For indie devs, the ability to network and talk to the press is absolutely key. There are all these guys who are *brilliant* coders and are putting together just mind-bendingly good things, but they don’t have the confidence to pop to the pub and meet people and start getting their game noticed. I’d suggest "getting out there" and shaking hands and buying pints is probably a key indie skill.
Is there anything you’d like to add about getting a job in games?
Na, getting a job in games is for schmucks. Find friends who can do the jobs you can’t (art, code, music etcetera) and go indie. It’s the future, and it’s amazing.