Riot Squid is an endless runner/upgrade game for Android, made in Unity, which I made over 6 months during the pandemic as a solo dev. It now has a couple months worth of updates under its belt, but the majority of the game was made in the 6 month span.
Here's a few of the ways I was able to do this, having never made and released a Unity game before.
Starting with the gameplay seems like a no brainer but it can be hard to stick to when you have art/audio/narrative/technologies trying to steal your attention. For Riot Squid I started with an extremely basic prototype based on Crossy Road, but with a physics twist. This was completed in a few days. From here I was able to quickly see that the core game idea was fun, and had confidence to move forward with it.
Closely connected to point 1, my game design was strongly based on something I knew Unity excelled at, which was 2D physics. This meant I could use a lot of Unity's built in functionality and barely had to write any bespoke code - this made the project much faster than it would have been otherwise.
Scope creep is the enemy - just adding a ‘few' extra features turns into months of extra work. I tried very hard not to work on features which were not needed for the minimal viable product of the game. Ask yourself if you really need that 2 player mode or new world. My tip to avoid scope creep is to keep a backlog of your ideas somewhere, and promise yourself you will implement them post release. The benefit here is that by the time you have the ability to work on the backlog, user feedback might have proven that these features are no longer needed, or that different ones would be beneficial.
The Unity asset store is amazing, and making use of other people's code can save you so much time. The 2D lighting, text animation and tentacle physics in Riot Squid are from the asset store. These added a hefty amount of polish and ‘juice' into the game I wouldn't have been able to achieve on my own in 6 months.
I work a full time 9am-5.30pm job, but I'm lucky enough to have no responsibilities like childcare. I try to work on the game probably 6 days a week after work, for around 2 hours a day. Keeping up the momentum is very important if you want to actually release your game, but don't beat yourself up if you just can't be bothered working on it some days.
There will always be ‘one last thing...' that would make the game perfect, but I'd say...just release the thing. This forces you do to the unpleasant platform and backend work which might be needed, like setting up Google Play Services, and making sure your game works on actual devices. Once that's all over with and the game is out there, post release is when the real fun starts and you can work on features users actually want!
Download Riot Squid for free from the Google Play Store