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Indies don't know everything, and that's good for aspiring developers

Indie developers don't know everything about their own business, and that means that aspiring indies shouldn't talk themselves out of entering the industry, according to the "core team" behind the Indie Megabooth at PAX Prime 2014.

Christopher Floyd, an indie developer who also serves as the Megabooth's operations manager, offered a unique brand of encouragement to those in the audience who want to make games.

"My advice would be that, what I've learned over the last millennium (I don't know, however long I've been doing this), is that nobody knows what they're doing," Floyd said. "There is not a single person I've ever met in this industry who's like, 'Yes, I understand completely what is happening right now.'

"If you want to get into the game industry and you're like, 'Maybe I don't know enough,' then you're ready to join us."

So how do you get started once you've decided? Ryan Burrell, who works on the Indie Megabooth's website and infrastructure, said that perhaps the most important way to begin in game development is by simply beginning.

"If you have a particular sort of job that you want to do," Burrell said, "it's very easy to go, 'Oh, well I have nothing to show for it.' Then go make something.

"If you're like, 'I want to be a level designer, but I've never made any levels,' well ... then go make some levels."

"If you want to get into the game industry and you're like, 'Maybe I don't know enough,' then you're ready to join us."

Eric Chon, a veteran of Harmonix Music Systems who serves as a community manager for the Indie Megabooth, spoke of the importance of finishing what you start, no matter its quality.

"The first game that I made was an MS-DOS game in BASIC, and it was terrible," Chon said. "I think all it was a dot that you can move with an arrow key, and it didn't work half the time.

"But the takeaway, unless you are a weird person, is that you always know more later than you do currently."

The temptation to wait until you know enough to make something great is actually counterproductive, according to Chon.

"It's really hard because you're having to swallow that pride and be like, 'You know what? I'm just going to make something, and it doesn't matter what it is.' And always complete it. No matter how crappy you think it is — no matter how crappy you think it is [or] how poor you think it is — finish it, because what happens is that, when you're done with that, you've learned so much. You can always look back on that and say, 'OK. This is where I was, and I can now do something better.'"

Kelly Wallick, who's in charge of the Indie Megabooth, advised indie developers to keep their value in mind, when it's time to start making games.

"You should not ever undervalue yourself," Wallick said. "I think indie developers especially tend to do this, because they think that they don't have the experience, or that their time isn't worth something ...."

"Totally expect to not make any money from it for the next year or so."

That applies to everything from development time to monetary value, from coding a game to writing its music. Undervaluing your worth could also convince a publishing partner that "you have no idea what you're talking about" if you ask for $20,000 instead of $500,000, she said.

"You can't let people push you around for stuff like that, learning how to negotiate, because whatever your first initial thing is — so if you you do something for free, you're always working up from there."

Wallick and Christopher Floyd both acknowledged that it's a complicated scenario, because it also depends on the situation.

"If you're leaving today, out of this door and you're like, 'OK, I'm going to go do it, I'm going to go make games,' totally expect to not make any money from it for the next year or so, right?" Floyd said. "Just because you're going to have to learn it, right? And nobody's going to pay you to learn."

"Well, you get a job, and then you do it on the side," Wallick said. "And somebody is paying you to do it, right?"

"Right," he said. "That's the trick, that's the trick, right? There's so many caveats."

"Right, the world is complicated," she said.

"Take it as a learning experience, everything that you do," he said. "And then there will be a point where you're like, 'OK, I actually know how to do enough of this that it's not a challenge to learn it, it's a challenge to do it, so you need to reimburse me to make this happen."

Be sure to read Polygon's interview with its organizers to learn about how the Indie Megabooth came together on the sixth floor of PAX Prime 2011 and our Human Angle feature about organizing the PAX East 2013 booth.

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