What I know about developing games as a freelancer: Tariq Mokhtar

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Tariq Mokhtar, a Saudi freelance developer, started learning game developing through Unity, a platform he used to design his own project. In 2014, he created a game called A Cat’s Manor on Steam. Having his game on the platform changed his whole career, turning him into one of the most famous game and app developers in Saudi Arabia.

In March, he was invited to showcase his game at the Penny Arcade Expo East 2017 in Boston.

Investments in the apps field are still shy, but governmental support is contributing to the development of this sector, he added. Events are opening doors to those interested in developing apps allowing them to meet with investors, and connecting them with designers and interested people within the same field.

Mokhtar is active in helping independent developers such as himself in Saudi Arabia. During his chat with Wamda, he shared some tips and advice with young talented men and women willing to become independent app developers.

It motivates personal development. Working independently is still a new concept in the Arab region. Though it frees the freelancer from the limitations employees in organizations and companies face, it also requires motivation to develop and keep working. That is why the developer must organize his schedule well.  

Work with others. You might think you have all the required skills to get the job done, but you cannot disregard other specialists and skills that can help you finish the job in the best way. Cooperating with others is also a chance for receiving financial support, since investors prefer supporting a group which usually has better results than individuals, especially in the beginning of the startup.

Take part in the local community and events. Being an independent developer does not mean you must be alone, you must fit in and interact with people in your industry if you want to learn and market your product [a game]. People who can contribute to your product will help you through their innovations. Take part in events that can teach you new skills, and enhance your product according to the notes, comments, and feedback you receive, especially in a new industry such as developing games independently in the Arab world.

Copying isn’t always a bad thing. In a new gaming market, people hope for one project to become successful to take the industry to a new, more mature level. Thus, copying games and adapting them to the local market can make that transition, in an industry where many game developers face challenges such as high cost, long development hours and self-training. Faz3a is an example of a successful copied game.

Start marketing before launching the product. As a freelance game developer, you should consider the future of the game at an early stage. Therefore, you must choose the right platform and the right name. Since you do not have enough time or money, you must be present on search engines and on social media and you have to build a fanbase to market your product. Choosing the name, A Cat’s Manor is due to the fact that ‘Cat’ is most searched word on search engines, which increases the success possibility of the game.  

Know the right time to launch the game. The global game market is a huge one, where plenty of corporations and an unlimited number of independent game developers work. That is why timing the launch of the game is a key factor in its success. The first and the fourth quarter are the two seasons where corporations rush to launch their latest games, so freelance game developers should not launch their games during that time.  

Do not rush for funding. Financial support is what freelance developers want more, but you must take your time to when you have a product. You must then choose an investor that can be of a value to you, such as a developer and not just a financial support.

Failure is the first step towards success. The game developing world is a new market where most actors are still amateurs. A freelance developer must be brave and not be afraid of failure. He must deal with any obstacle he faces as a lesson for the future. Since the game development ecosystem in Saudi Arabia is still young, these obstacles will be the first steps towards the future success.

Feature image, Tariq Mokhar at PAX East, via Tariq Mokhar.

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