7 Top Tips For Indie Game Developers from Darlene Barker

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Interview By Ninichi | Contact | Follow

Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog! If this is your first time, I’m Ninichi and I’m a game music composer. I make music for video games as well as for film, TV, commercials etc. I also run this blog which has a host of information, articles and resources for indie game developers, filmmakers and anyone else interested in the world of games, film, music & media!

This week, I’m excited to share my interview with Darlene Barker (@darlenebarker) - an indie game developer, wife, mother and much much more!…

Please tell us who you are and how long you’ve been in game development 

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‘Darlene Barker, Founder & CEO for a small family-run video game studio called DB Attic Studios, LLC out of New Hampshire. My team includes myself and my four children—Isabelle, Anabel, Christian and Brigit who are 16, 15, 13 and 8 years old respectively.

I have been developing games for just over a year but previously I came from a solid background in system and software engineering specializing in databases. I also got my master’s degree in computer science in 2014.’ 

What games have you created so far & what are you currently working on? 

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‘So far, we have released Stinky Snake on Steam which is currently only available for PC with partial controller support.

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We are currently working on porting to other platforms, including Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android—all we hope to complete before the end of the year. We also have a VR version of Stinky Snake that we are working on as well.

Our next game is in the early phases—this one hopes to add something new to the 2D-platformer genre.

What are your top 5-10 tips that you can share with us? It would be great to get your thoughts on what you feel is important to focus on or any trials or tribulations you’ve experienced along your own game development journey…

‘Some tips that I would like to share would be:

1) Have marketing be part of your process early on. 

I wish I knew the importance of marketing when I started. I started working on the game and did not approach this until after I felt the game was ready to be seen. I needed to have had it seen by others much earlier in the development and be able to build a following. This all came much later for me. 

2)  Be able to look at your project in a non-emotional manner and make decisions in that mindset.

A certain amount of detachment would have been nice to be able to handle criticism about the game. The thought that it is perfect in the creator’s eyes is not quite enough. Your vision as the creator is not what the player sees. Being able to look at the game through the eyes of the player would be a good thing to do early.

3)  Getting the game in front of people that do not know you early on — playtesting is important.

4)  Be good to yourself. 

Remember why you are doing this game development thing, whether it is to satisfy a dream or whatever the reason. Remember that reason when the code does not do what you want it to and you really do not have another developer to ask but have to slug it out through research, debugging and more debugging, and testing. When you double up on extra coffee and cut back on sleep to make it through the tough patches, remember to take care of yourself as well.

5) When criticism come to your doorstep, take it as such, and not react with the first thought that comes into your mind.

This is a skill that will have to be experienced to fully understand. Think of it like childbirth, I was told about it repeatedly but holy dogs in stilettos, nothing prepared me for it. The same can be said for those reviews that are given. The first time it can be the most devastating, the second not as much, and eventually, it can be handled without the mental bloodshed. No need to curl up in a ball and cry like a baby despite all your instincts telling you to.

6) The trickiest thing for me has been to be active on social media.

I am not a social person in a group setting and social media is like a party that you throw and your need to keep it going. This is all new for me. Getting in front of the camera to make videos is the hardest, trickiest, scariest for me.

7)  The truly scariest first steps for me was going to meetups in the city with other developers.

I was just a barrel of nerves. That still gets a little scary but making videos and streaming…I am not quite there yet.’

What final tip can you offer that you think will really help a fellow indie game developer?

‘Try to meet other indie game developers that have made it further down the path as you and talk to them.

My first event, I was able to talk to two people I have been following and being able to ask their advice was that little boost I needed to that day—it added clarity. I guess what I am trying to say is find those people that you look up to that are successful in this field and reach out given the opportunity. For me it was going to a meetup for game developers without the clue that these people would be present. So, I would say get your games before strangers soon and get to know other game developers by going to meetups.’ 

Wow! Some great insight and tips there from Darlene. If you’re looking for some more tips and help with your next steps - check these out:


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About the interviewer: Ninichi is a freelance indie game music composer who enjoys creating soundtracks for video games, film & media. She's composes in a wide range of styles & loves supporting indie game developers and indie filmmakers with their projects. Find out more about her game music or royalty free music and contact her to discuss your project and music needs.

Follow her @ninichimusic