Gianfranco Berardi is driven. After putting in eight to 10 hours of work at his day job as a programmer for a slot-machine manufacturer, he goes home, sits down at his computer, and starts his second shift: writing computer games.
He's yet to feel that any of his projects are ready for prime time, although he has entered game contests and has begun developing a network of other developers who give him feedback he can use to refine his games. And he is optimistic about his chances of eventually creating a marketable game. "At some point in the future I would like to do this full time, although at this point I still need a salary from another job," said Berardi.
In many ways, Berardi is a typical aspiring game developer. Although the demographics are all over the map -- ranging from teenagers in school to retired seniors starting second or even third careers -- they have in common a passion for games and boundless confidence that they will eventually find a home for their creations.
And the world is increasingly friendly to first-time independent game developers, as Web sites dedicated to helping them create, distribute, and make money from their offerings are springing up.
"We have all types of people visiting our site, from 13-years-olds just starting, to professional guys who worked for Electronic Arts and now want to go independent," said Chris Hughes, cofounder of Flashgamelicense.com, a site devoted to helping independent game developers monetize their products. "What they have in common: the need to connect with an audience and find a way to collect revenue for their work."
Berardi himself hangs out at Gamedev.net, where he's picked up both technical and business advice from experts and other developers. "The forums are especially valuable, as you have both first-time and experienced gamers discussing aspects of game development I never would have even considered on my own," he said. "The fact that these resources now exist makes it easier for people like me to break into what used to be a tough market."
Following are six Web sites that can help aspiring game developers get the resources, news, forums, and even sales and marketing help they need to work toward fame and fortune in game development.