Rough sketch for a Game Development School

I am still a hobbyist indie game developer, even if it has been more than 3 years since I started to make my first small games.

I started with a lot of enthusiasm and the first thing I wanted to do is to join a video game development school to get a quick and intensive push through structured academia. It was very frustrating to see that all the courses I found were both too long (3 years) and too expensive.

I built my skills through a lot of YouTube, and online courses. It is ok, but I still miss something more structured and laser-focused in the indie development style (solo developer or small team).

Sunday morning I woke up with the crazy idea. If the school I need doesn’t exist why not create it myself?

This is a very rough draft of my idea of an ideal video game school. Please read with the patience of something observing a utopic and naive over-enthusiastic child making blueprints for a moon rocket. I’m not a child myself (over 40 already) but I can be over-enthusiastic sometimes.

Let me know what are your thoughts. What big issues do you see with the idea? What things do you like? How feasible do you think this project is? Would you be joining as an instructor? or as a student?

The Pragmatic Indie Game-Development School (PIG-d school)

TL;TR

The Intention

Create an online, supervised, real-time school to learn a pragmatic approach to video game development.

The Duration

Intensive cycles of 16 weeks. With 10 hours/week of classes and around 10 hours/week of homework.

The Final Project

A game published on Steam. With 1 to 2 hours of playability.

The Instructors

Real game developers, designers, and artists. With production projects on Steam with more of 10_000 copies sold.

The Students

Real committed game developers. With at least one game finished and published on Itch.io. Looking to move forward to the next level to create a professional salable game. Prerequisite basic programming skills.

Behavioral Expectations

The student is required to attend 80% of the classes and complete all the homework assignments with a minimum of quality. Otherwise, they can not continue the course.

The Technology

Open Source: Godot engine using GDScript.

The Price

A small portion of the total cost will be charged in advance. The other portion will be charged in a revenue share agreement.

The Instructor’s Motivation

Instructors will receive a payment for their work. And the incentive of collecting money in the future for the success of their students.

The Program

Warm-up

Creating 2 small pre-defined projects.

Design

Creating a Design Document for the final project.

Final Project

Work on the final project.

Marketing

Building the community.

Details

The Intention

The video game education programs are very oriented in creating developers and artists for the AAA studios. With very generic programs and using hardcore technologies like Unreal. The programs are long (3 years) and expensive.

There is no offer for developers who want to build their own game from scratch. People who have enough self-motivation to develop themselves with minimal initial guidance. They have already made some advances in game development but that requires short but solid guidance to unblock the rest of their potential.

The duration of the course should be short. Enough to solidify concepts, but compressed to allow the student to finish quickly and focus on creating their professional projects soon.

The price should be affordable. With a shared responsibility in generating solid knowledge and using the new skills properly. This is because part of the payment will be done by a revenue-shared program.

The Duration

The PIG-d School will offer short intensive courses of 3 months (16 weeks) covering all the important aspects of creating a salable game. The students should demonstrate self-motivation and come with some knowledge about programming in general and game development in particular.

The Final Project

The last final project will be a real saleable game in Steam. The game should have the minimum quality criteria to be considered a professional game. Clean of bugs. Coherent art and good sound effects. Engaging difficulty and level design. Playability of minimum 1 hour (ideal between 2 and 3).

The Instructors

Instructors have to have experience in the “real world” of creating and selling a professional game. They should have demonstrated experience in primary roles (developers, designers, and artists) in game projects that have achieved a minimum of 10_000 copies sold.

The communication skills are more difficult to measure. Having a stream channel can help. Having already published courses is a plus.

The Students

The short duration of the program requires a big self-driven attitude from the students. Students have to demonstrate that they have all the basic knowledge to create a game. Having a published game in Itch.io or any other game platform is a requirement.

The PIG-d courses will start under the premise that basic programming experience is already acquired.

Students Behavioral Expectations

A part of initial basic development experience. The students are required to have an engaging commitment to the course.

Due to the revenue-shared compromise, the school will be rewarded of having proficient students who develop great projects. To accept, and continue renovating the student privileges, the student has to demonstrate a proactive attitude.

In specific this involves attending a minimum of the online classes. And fulfilling the assigned homework with diligence and quality.

The instructors will evaluate the progress and the commitment of each student and confirm the continuity of the student in the course.

The Technology

The main technology to take into consideration is the Game Development Engine. As an opinionated decision, PIG-d school will use Godot Engine in their programming classes. This decision is partially based on the complexity of using Unreal and the uncertain future direction of Unity. And partially because Godot is a solid alternative, with an easy learning curve, light and open source.

We could use other Game Engines that are not the three above, but as a pragmatic decision better to use one of the most popular ones

The rest of the stack would be more flexible, these are the suggestions:

  • Blender, for 3D assets

  • Krita, for 2D assets

  • ??, for music

  • ??, for sound effects

  • Audacity, for sound edition

  • Trello, for project organization

The Price

All the students will be granted a loan scholarship. They will only pay a big part of the course cost once their future games are receiving revenue.

The student and the PIG-d school will be connected by an agreement where the student will compromise to hand over 50% of the net revenue of their future games (revenue after the game platform’s cut) to the school. Until covering the debt generated by the scholarship.

To ensure there is a real compromise from the student part of the cost will be charged in advance.

  • 33% advance

  • 66% loan scholarship

The Instructor’s Motivation

Part of the reward for the instructors will be granted by direct money payment. A big portion of their salary will come from the revenue-shared program that the students will have with the school.

Instructors will have a decent payment per hour but with the possibility of a bigger portion in the future if their students develop successfully.

The instructors are responsible for the proper development of their students, bringing them up to speed, and properly motivating them. Instructors will share the success of their students.

The Program

Warm-up

To cover up the first solid approach to game development, we will develop 2 small predefined games. The intention is to get experience on:

  • Define the scope of the project

  • Finalize a project

  • Understand the scope and difficulty of making a complete game

  • Acquire technical skills to get confident with the game engine and the programming language

  • Acquire experience selecting and reusing pre-made assets (graphics and sounds)

  • Respect for all the parts of a game that are not gameplay (splash screen, start screen, pause, data persistence, game over screen, HUD, UI, options, …)

  • Development: clean code, design patterns, maintainability, source control

  • Design: world building, level design, tutorial, engaging

  • Art: assets or custom art.

  • Music/Sound: assets or custom sound.

Design

Already thinking in the final project, each student will be supported by the instructor to define the core details of the game and create a solid Design Document.

The intentions here are:

  • Enclose the scope of the project to something feasible in the available time

  • Having a clear what makes this game special

  • Define the mechanics

  • Define the art style

  • Objectives, difficulty ramp, …

With all this, we will create a Design Document with quality enough to be presented to other developers, investors, and publishers.

Each student will present their idea in a pitch event to the rest of the students and instructors.

Final Project

Everybody, as solo-developer or in small teams, will work on their final project.

Based on the Design Document created in the previous step and the pitches of the games, the students will consider working on their project or joining some other person with a project they were inspired for.

School hours will be used to present progress on each project, request advice, and ask for help. Instructors will participate in these sessions adding guidance and orientation to the students and their projects.

Marketing

Simultaneously with the development students will receive lectures about marketing, how to generate an audience, a community, and a Steam wishlist.

Students will be guided to create X, Twitch, TikTok, Discord, mailing list, … and other social network accounts, and receive support on how to get the best of them.

The objective is to have an active community to receive feedback and playtesting support. And to generate a Steam wishlist.

The School

The Mission

Empower skilled and self-motivated game developers to achieve the maximum of their potential in the minimum amount of time.

Through the support and guidance of real-life experienced indie developers. And with the company of fellow enthusiastic students in the same phase of their personal development.

The Business Model

The school will be a non-profit organization. All the digital material generated will be publicly accessible for everybody, students or not.

20% of all the students’ payments (advance and revenue shared) will be collected for the school for maintenance costs. The rest will be used to pay the instructors.

A great idea, but it takes a lot of effort