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Indie Game Developers' Excuses Vs Not

I have taken my first steps in a really serious run on using LibGDX for development, and thus far I feel rebuffed because this is undeniably a real application programming interface that requires real programming skills.

The good news for me is that I have practiced enough with the "babby" IDE that I actually have quite a good understanding of object orientation, variable scope, programming my own functions/methods, integrating all the files in a project, and so on.

The bad news is that LibGDX manages to be a special kind of Hell anyway.  It's not really LibGDX's fault, as nothing that makes up the API is anything but helpful.  The difficulty is that it's made up of two massively complicated parts:
  • The Java programming language - I have a lot of respect for Java, the world's first fully object oriented language that has only been getting improved with every passing year.  However, the developers that work with it must be the most patient in the business, because you have to import libraries from packages with huge names to do anything.  It's the most verbose programming language I know.
  • Gradle - A massively sophisticated build automation system that saves the programmer a lot of work while simultaneously spamming a lot of vital configuration files that a neophyte knows next to nothing about.
Between the two of them, I feel like the odd man out of an in-joke;  I have run down two excellent tutorials for LibGDX - this one on Gamefromscratch and a book "Learning LibGDX Game Development" and both of them gloss over so much IDE overhead that it is downright alienating.
I don't always use tired memes to support my case, but when I do it's probably just to generate a blog thumbnail.
I begin to see a great deal of the appeal of something like Unity or GameMaker for a solo developer: you don't need a specialist programmer whose only job is to keep this straight.

But is that honestly any excuse?  Nah.  Look at something like Warshift or Banished, incredible one man team games.  Granted, they are both by industry veterans who had been at it for 10 years before moving on to work on their own...

...alright, so I seem to have struck upon the biggest problem with trying to tackle a tougher engine than GameMaker: I'm doing this solo (by choice) and I'm not one of those industry veterans.  That's not such an excuse as it is a hard fact. 

So the question is where to go from here.  I see five easy categories here
  • LibGDX (or any API that requires I code my own engine) probably has too much technical overhead.  The big advantage with going with a premade engine is it's somebody else's job to make the engine, I just need to make my game concept run on it.
  • Unity might have too much technical overhead.  I bounced off of it last time I tried to get into it because I was overwhelmed with dozens of options on every widget of every object I put in the game world.  However, once you get over that (and the fact it runs in 3 dimensions) is it really that much more complicated than GameMaker?
  • GameMaker is not too complicated, I was making good progress with it... all the way up until I got frustrated I had to write a script for everything and its IDE was pretty bad at keeping track of all my scripts.  Coding IDEs such as Monodevelop for Unity have spoiled me.  I also like full object orientation, which GameMaker doesn't quite have.
  • I could go one step more user friendly and give Construct 2 or Clickteam Fusion a try.  They're too rigid for my game concepts, but offer the ability to write my own "modules" to get around that.  Plus, their room editors are way better than GameMaker's.
  • There's also the option of something else entirely.  There's quite a few out there.  Maybe Monkey X or LÖVE are easier to use than LibGDX?
One step forward, two steps back. 

Having framed things out, I think it's clear that I am going to need to explore my options until I find something that works for me.  GameMaker was a pretty near miss, I may well end up back there, but I am hoping for something with a better coding IDE. 

For now, I think I'll try again to get fully immersed in Unity, as it's as sophisticated and effective of an engine I can get without writing one myself.  If that turns out to be beyond my abilities, that's when I fall back to the lower levels.  Maybe some time in the future, if I were to be successful enough as to warrant taking on more staffers, I can look into coding my own engines.


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