GT Column Posted: Independent Takes Time

Discussion in 'Feedback Requests' started by Dan MacDonald, Nov 14, 2006.

  1. Dan MacDonald

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    The latest article in the "Independant View" column at GameTunnel is Independant Takes Time

    If you have any thought or comments, I'm always interested in hearing other peoples opinions.
     
  2. PoV

    PoV
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    Another fine column Dan. Nice work.
     
  3. Jesse Aldridge

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    Nice article. A synthesis of a lot of the thinking that has been floating around.
     
  4. Dan MacDonald

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    The funny thing is, for every scenario and assertion that I describe or make in the article I know of a developer who has defied that paticular trap or characterization. That said, I think in general it reflects some of the problems and temptations that are common to all of us in todays market.
     
  5. Chris Evans

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    I disagree with the latter half of the article. The assertion is that generally innovation/independence typically comes from part-timers rather than full-time Indies. I personally think it's a mixed bag with no real generality either way.

    Quite a few interesting games that's been released or coming out soon are from full-timers. Games like Kudos, Fizzball, Artic Tycoon, and Mr. Robot are by full-time devs who've already had success but still keep the "Indie" spirit in their new games. Even our newest celebrities Amanda and Papillon don't seem to be abandoning their niches for "safe" games either anytime soon.

    So like I said, I think it's a mixed bag. You have full-timers who are very conscious of their bottom line, so they develop "safe" games. There's part-timers who hate their job but don't want to take the big step unless their games already generate stable income. Add it with their limited time and budget, they develop safe games as well. I'd argue we have a lot of these people on this board.

    On the flipside, there are part-timers who love (or at least indifferent) to their day job and feel no rush to make a quick buck. They're willing to take the time to fully flesh out their game and polish it even if it takes years. Likewise, there are full-timers who work 8-12 hour days trying to create something special because they know from experience it's much easier to market and promote a special game than a mediocre one. Also their reputation among the press and their customer base depends on it.

    So I agree with the obstacles you raised that face part-time and full-time Indies. I just think Independance shines through in no particular order or pattern. At least not in the scenarios you mentioned.
     
  6. PoV

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    Yeah, if there weren't exceptions, it'd be pretty boring. ;)
     
  7. Dan MacDonald

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    So that would lead me to a follow up article, if you look at the people who were successful exceptions who have either achieved full time independance or are teetering on the brink of it. Developers like moonpod (some of my heros for having their heads screwd on straight in a crooked kind of way ;) ) or positech, or winterwolf etc. Even as you mention Amaranthia and Hanako Games who seem to be teetering on a successful full time indie gig. All of these examples are people who bootstrapped their projects and decided to build games and appeal to audiences that matched their interests.

    They didn't take the short path to profitability to targeting casual or mitigating risk. Instead they took their sweet time, and in all of the above cases, you can see it took a lot of time, and developed the games they were interested in. They didn't plan for success per-say so much as they pursued their interests so when success happened they were ready to capitalize on it doing exactly what they wanted how they wanted to do it.

    This is the spirit of independence, I think, but it seems to be a hard pill for people to swallow. Make good games, make fun games that interest you, you may be successful, you may not be. But chances are if you make a good game you will find opportunities for success.
     
  8. DanMarshall

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    Independent.
     
  9. Dan MacDonald

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    thx. That one in particular is an Achilles Heel. :cool:
     
  10. DrWilloughby

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    Quick correction, and thanks for mentioning me... It's Venture Arctic, not Arctic Tycoon. :)

    long EDIT:

    And now that I've read the article, I have to say I disagree with the central premise entirely. I think there's very little correlation between time/money/part-time/full-time and the quality/innovation/independence of the indie studio. The correlation to quality and innovation is in the determination, drive, and spirit of the developers. There just seem to be too many exceptions to this article amongst the most successful indies to accept these generalities as broader truths.
     
    #10 DrWilloughby, Nov 15, 2006
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2006
  11. Dan MacDonald

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    Well the premise of the article is that it takes a lot of time to create good independant games, the justifications for that premise you may not agree with.

    Still, if you want to measure success in terms of revenue the companies that have found a way to make money consistently with their casual titles are MUCH more successful (profitable) then their risk taking counterparts. They also tend to shy away from taking risks with their games. I really admired reflexive for taking some risks with wick (ok a lot of risks) but you'll notice they havn't been really back to that table since.

    There is a lot of conventional wisdom out there that directs you to finish a small game first, start making money and then use that to fund development of the game you are realy interested in making. (See the Pyrogon Postmortem for reference). A lot of independent game developers have shifted their focus from making really good independant games to making polished games that will make them enough money to be a full time developer. The purpose of the article is to illustrate the pitfall of that conventional wizdom and hopefully imply the cost of prioritizing money and other motives above the desire to make good game.
     
  12. DrWilloughby

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    Ha, well, yes it does take time and money. I was referring to the more interesting point ;) that you confront in the article, which is the correlation between time, money, and quality and innovation. As you say, start small, and grow towards financial indpendence. I think that the reality of the situation is, financial independence doesn't have a ton to do with the quality of the finished product. Yes, starting small is good. Staying small is good in my book. In any case, I feel like the article, while clearly offering some good advice, presents a much narrower road to success than is the reality of the situation. There are MANY ways to develop independently, and success is most correlated with talent, experience, and creativity, and less to do with a specific development practice.

    I bet you still think I'm missing the point. I'm just soapboxing here ;)
     
  13. Dan MacDonald

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    In that we agree, stay tuned to a follow up :)

    I try to keep the articles to less then 1000 words so people might actually read them so there's a limited amount of ground I can cover. It is clearly a large topic with many facets, I'll play on the optimistic perspective next time.
     
  14. Andy

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    I'll just point out again these your always problems Dan.

    1. You suppose that these successful games at portals are bad. But they are don't. They are just user friendly and terribly hard to develop properly btw.

    2. Another your always mistake is that you interprete indie spirit by strickly direct way - "do what ever you want". There are amount of different ways of beilng indendent really. We're aiming to be financially independent for example. ;)
     
  15. Dan MacDonald

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    I knew when i wrote "good game" I was asking for it.

    Clearly top selling casual games are good games, good for the type of people that enjoy them. It's very difficult to design a casual game in many ways because you are constraigned by simple mechanics but still need to invent something engaguing and well balanced in design design.

    But for someone growing up playing consoles or other game systems, inspired to pursue game development by the enjoyment they had playing games. Often a "good game" is a game with a little more depth, perhaps something that requires good reflexes or skilled mastery of the controls. To people who appreciate platformers, shooters, fighting games, rpg's, strategy games often a zuma doesn't entertain for longer then 15 min.

    When I say "good game" I am saying, good for the type of person playing it. I'm not making any statements about a games construction, production values, or design. Both casual games and indie games can be well made and professional, but what is a "good" game to one person is not a "good" game to another.
     
    #15 Dan MacDonald, Nov 15, 2006
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2006
  16. papillon

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    ... And I'd say that to some a Zuma is lasting fun but a Bejeweled isn't. Zuma's at least in the arcade/action category, it has difficulty, it doesn't carry the feeling of 'Randomly generated sparkling lights are EATING MY BRAIN CELLS' that some of the super-easy casual games do. :)
     
  17. Andy

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    Yep, Dan. Everything is clarified now in your latest message except this part above. Why you define them so different - casual and indie? :)

    Well. Never mind. I just feel your view on the whole this issue and always disagree even with your initial points. But this is OK by definition - this is why all peoples are different and... like different games. :D
     

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