So you want to be an indie developer?

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vic
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So you want to be an indie developer?

Postby vic » Mon Nov 20, 2006 5:26 pm

Introversion were invited to take part in a new blog project featuring a number of other indies looking at the perilous position of the independent in todays gaming industry. See below for Tom Arundel's contribution:

So you want to be an Indie Developer?

Actually if you do want to be an indie developer you’ve probably picked one of the best times in the past few years to be so. The industry is changing and the budding independent is, if not the only flavour of the month, certainly becoming one. Why is this? We have quite a few theories about this at Introversion. Partly we feel that there is a renewed interest, shall we say nostalgia, for those early days of game programming, when everything was unique and innovative. No-one had done this before, so everyone was a pioneer. When we started Introversion, five years ago, we called ourselves the Last of the Bedroom Programmers; I guess it really did feel at the time like we could be. Now perhaps people are getting a little bored, the main trouble being that the games industry today suffers from the worst effects of plagiarism. Publishers often have a cookie cutter approach to making games; they look at the games already in the market, decide which ones seem to be selling particularly well and then get a developer to make another spin-off. In this scenario, the developer has very little creative control and games are made purely with profits in mind so no wonder we end up with hundreds of identical first-person shooters. That’s where the independent steps in – their game ideas rarely employ such prefabricated marketing strategies’ relying instead on random inspiration and gut instinct to make something that is both exiting and unique.

Another reason it’s good to be an indie right now is where the industry is heading in terms of distributing your products. Retail was never really going to be on the side of the independents, there is too much financial risk involved and no retailer in their right mind will take a risk if there’s a safer and more convenient option; that said, the retail option shouldn’t be ruled out by the indie, especially if you do find a distributor willing to help you out. Retail hasn’t always worked for us, partly because at the time we weren’t well known; Darwinia had some great reviews but this didn’t translate into particularly impressive sales, that is until we launched on Steam. Digital distribution will be the saviour of indies; it opens your product up to a much wider, more varied audience, you’ll see a higher return on your product as you do away with middlemen such as retailers and distributors. You’re also much more likely to have your game accepted for digital distribution than for retail, especially if it’s an off-the-wall concept because the financial risks of releasing digitally are significantly lower. The independent no longer has to compete with the bigger publishers for shelf space – which was a problem we continually had to face with Uplink and Darwinia (there’s nothing more frustrating than repeatedly seeing your title hidden away behind some AAA blockbuster).

Words of advice? Keep it simple. Custom-made content is the bane of all indies working with a small development team and a minimum of resources. Also don’t feel you have to compete with the bigger developers who specialize in photorealistic graphics and physics, you can’t. Our games are created for a niche market and work on a simple design model, keeping content to a minimum in favour of scenario-based concepts and working with stylised graphics. We concentrate on really enhancing the game experience and making sure that the ambience and the mood is just right by playing around with the gamer’s suspension of disbelief and emphasising on the audio side of things. We departed from that model with Darwinia and we paid the price for that quite heftily, with delayed launches and plummeting cash-flows. Also, when you’re starting up as an independent, creating games for PC and Mac are the most viable route because it’s a free channel - there are no marketers to boycott your idea and it’s also a lot cheaper. The other great thing about PC and Mac is that it gives gamers the opportunity to mod our games, something which we personally like to encourage as it significantly increases the longevity of our games. Finally, no-one should underestimate the importance of gaining credibility within the industry. As independents there’s often a tendency to place yourself out on a limb, shunning the rest of the industry – this is OK to a point if you are trying to retain your creative freedom but teaming up with other well-known companies, entering awards etc. doesn’t necessarily mean selling out and it can really boost your company’s profile.

So I guess one of the main things everyone’s interested in is the lifestyle of the indie. Well starting with the obvious, you work for yourself which is fantastic in terms of freedom, choosing your own hours, where you work etc., but can be pretty tough in terms of motivation and discipline. Writer’s block doesn’t just occur to the burgeoning author – it occurs quite frequently in game development too, which is when you’re most likely to be seduced into spending inordinate amounts of time playing other peoples games whilst trying to forget how far from completion your own is in comparison. Obviously, because you rely so heavily on game launches to see you through, the more behind you get on a project, the more risky the financial situation becomes which is almost inevitably followed by a slump in morale. The main thing here is to retain the courage of your convictions – we always knew at Introversion that we had strong, original ideas; we just had to remind ourselves of that when the going got tough.

Probably the greatest thing about being independent is you have absolute creative control – no-one’s breathing down your neck telling you what to do next. Inspiration for game ideas can be random and development of these ideas can remain fluid. We’re usually pretty flexible with our approach to game design as it’s never a good idea to set anything in stone too quickly or you lose the chance to make fresh changes half-way through. Perhaps this is why Darwinia took so long; we didn’t formalize the development into a plan, so for example the 2D sprites and retro graphical styling were all elements of the design that came into being relatively late in the day. Perhaps that’s also why Darwinia won awards at IGF, who knows? One thing’s for sure though, the only way you’ll ever be able to make the games milling around in your head, is by becoming an indie developer.



This post was part of the 'So you want to be an Indie Developer?' blog project. You can find the other entries via these links:



Gibbage.co.uk

http://www.gibbage.co.uk/2006/11/so-you ... loper.html


Cliffski's Mumblings

http://cliffski.blogspot.com


GameProducer.net

http://www.gameproducer.net/2006/11/20/ ... developer/


Lemmy and Binky

http://lemmyandbinky.blogspot.com/2006/ ... loper.html


Reality Fakers

http://sharpfish.realityfakers.com/?p=103


Zoombapup


http://www.zoombapup.com/2006/11/so-you ... loper.html


BoneBroke

http://www.bonebroke.com/blog/index.php ... developer/


They Came from Hollywood
http://www.tcfh.com/news.html
Last edited by vic on Mon Nov 20, 2006 8:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby jelco » Mon Nov 20, 2006 5:31 pm

Quite a nice article, so to say. I don't have any plans on becoming an indie developer anytime soon, though.

Anyhow, this is a great way to spread the name of Introversion!

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Postby Nutter » Mon Nov 20, 2006 9:00 pm

Some very nice articles each with their own tips, the Lemmy and Binky one is quite hilarious, I hope you got your "Indie Stone" well secured
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Postby jelco » Tue Nov 21, 2006 6:07 pm

You know I actually am permitted to kill you if you have one, Nutter? Read the text with care! :D :P :D :P

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Postby martin » Tue Nov 21, 2006 10:57 pm

well, I want to be an indie developer so you've got my attention ;)
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Postby wwarnick » Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:21 pm

I would love to. Anyone know any great Managed DirectX tutorials or books (up to date)? Managed only for me, thanks. I've tried a few, but not a one was up to date. None compiled.

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Postby martin » Fri Dec 01, 2006 11:46 pm

Well my dad's getting a directX for games development book off amazon that looks quite good - can't remember the name but try siomething like game developemnt or Visual basic game development on amazin (yes , I program on vb)
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Postby wwarnick » Sat Dec 02, 2006 6:14 am

martin wrote:(yes , I program on vb)

Hey, no hard feelings. Besides, with all the changes in the transition to .NET, VB is very much like c# with different syntax. c# is practically vb.net with Java syntax and some extra power. Nevertheless, the transition isn't so bad (if you ever thought of switching).

About DX books. The first one I got had bad code to begin with. It was plain old terrible. And it didn't explain well, etc. etc. Then I looked at reviews and found one with high ratings: Beginning 3D Game Programming (I think that's the title), written by the head of the Managed DX development team. However, it covered an old version of the library. Any tips? (preferably these books wouldn't be insanely expensive)

Note - I just got Allegnet (Allegro.NET), which I will use until I get a good DX book or tutorial.

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Postby NeoThermic » Sat Dec 02, 2006 1:51 pm

My suggestion would be to get a general 3D graphics book (i.e. one that covers theory rather than language), and then once you've learnt about that (such as 3D math (vectors, matrix math, lines, collision detection, etc), ideas of object orentated development (singletons, polymorphisim, inheritence, etc), etc), you can then make the choice between DirectX or OpenGL.

Having said that, I'm going to be hypocritical and suggest that you try obtain a copy of Computer Graphics with OpenGL (3rd Edition), as it covers both aspects.

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Postby Montyphy » Sat Dec 02, 2006 1:55 pm



That is one hell of an ugly cover.
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Postby NeoThermic » Sat Dec 02, 2006 1:58 pm

Montyphy wrote:


That is one hell of an ugly cover.


Yes, but it's such a good book that it spends 99% of it's time open on the desk being read rather than closed. It's a psychological effect :)

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Postby elDiablo » Sat Dec 02, 2006 7:53 pm

Interactive Computer Graphics. Everything from pixel level line drawing algorithms to how to use OpenGL's funky funkiness. Same as Neo said, on my desk open most of the time. Very readable too, which is always nice.
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Postby NeoThermic » Sat Dec 02, 2006 8:40 pm



Rumour around here is that book has a high maths assumtion (requires knowledge of matrix algebra). Is that true? (*reserves book from uni library anyway*)

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Postby xander » Sat Dec 02, 2006 8:47 pm

NeoThermic wrote:


Rumour around here is that book has a high maths assumtion (requires knowledge of matrix algebra). Is that true? (*reserves book from uni library anyway*)

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What, are you afraid of a little matrix algebra? Psh!

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Postby NeoThermic » Sat Dec 02, 2006 8:53 pm

xander wrote:
NeoThermic wrote:


Rumour around here is that book has a high maths assumtion (requires knowledge of matrix algebra). Is that true? (*reserves book from uni library anyway*)

NeoThermic

What, are you afraid of a little matrix algebra? Psh!

xander


Ha! No. Hehe. I mainly want to know as I'm the course mentor for the first year students, and I want to have a decent set of books I can suggest to them to read before the 2nd year. If it requires a high level of matrix algebra to understand the book, then it isn't entry level now is it? :)

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