List of problems faced by indie developers and how to solve them

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by over_cloud9, Mar 11, 2012.

  1. over_cloud9

    over_cloud9
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    I was trying to jot down some points as to what are the usual problems faced by a developer before, during and after development so that I can research and find a plausible to solution to them. I mean, it is not simply to identify neither solve them easily, but identification of those things will give us a headstart to deal with them in some way. I am sure many of us have already overcome such troubles we had faced before, so sharing your insights will help newer developers who are facing the same.

    I am not specifying any particular thing because I want various types of problems on my plate so that I can work on them. I have my own list which I had experienced during development, but I will share it only towards the end adding how I solved it. I want to see if I missed out on anything else which others might have faced.

    What I gain from this is valuable insights. And it would not only help me but also other developers to cope with those. Those who have coped with those problems can share their advice also.

    So please share what is the most important problematic issue you had to face when you developed a game which is still not solved or required too much time/energy/money than it's worth.
     
  2. Applewood

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    There's only really one problem most indies face - getting visibilty for their work.

    And there really isn't a no budget solution that will work for all, or even many.
     
  3. Bram

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    I have found it impossible to get the press review my games.
    I have sent out between 50 and 100 emails to gaming sites, game editors, writers.
    Never got a journalist to review my game.
    The closest I got was a toucharcade editor to try out a game, but all I got back was "the ads are annoying", and never heard back again.
    Big sites will not do it, small sites will not do it.
    Even indiedb will not take my news into their feed.
    I do get kids that have a youtube channel with 10 subscribers or so, doing a review, which I enjoy tremendously.

    This may be an iOS specific problem, caused by the mountain of releases that happen every day for this platform.

    Last week I even tried talking to a freelance writer at the toucharcade GDC party in SFO, but nope... too much games fighting over a small pool of journalists.

    I have given up on this, I make a very comfortable living from app store royalties, and itunes user feedback is top notch (4.5 stars).
    So I will be content with word-of-mouth, and will no longer focus on journalists.
    I'll just make the best game I can, and if exposure is not there, so be it.
    Those people that do try the game should have the best possible experience, to maximize chances of them showing it to friends.

    Bram
     
  4. Grey Alien

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    Interesting approach Bram. I too found it very hard to get any press attention on iOS/Android so decided to use a publish for my next game.
     
  5. Applewood

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    You know my thoughts on mobile publishing - you'll get more downloads but you're just pissing your money away from them.

    I had a similar story to Bram's, but it's actually the norm, not even worth quoting as a "story". You'll often here people (especially people trying to sell you their press release writing services) say something like "Imagine how many mails these guys get a day, you need to stand out".

    Well that's a load of bollocks! You can't stand out with a subject line. Even if you trick them with "Shocking new game gets banned in all fifty states" or something, once they look inside and see you're pitching a match the teddies game, they'll hate you for it and mark you as spam. And you know what, the reverse also proves it's bollocks. A mail from notch perrson simply entitled "game update" will still get read.

    If you want to get in the press a lot, you either just keep chipping away in your arena for years until you become a "known developer" who will have something interesting to share by default, or you hire a PR firm that are known to only represent the good stuff and get listened to for the same reason. Sadly I'm still in the latter category too, but I do know a tiny few people who will quote whatever I give them so it's a start.
     
  6. Four

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    Ok, here is a summary of how I feel:

    Problems facing before the development part:
    Thinking of an idea:
    The challenges here are to come up with an idea that can meet your skill set, and budget.

    How do I know my idea will succeed?
    The only way I'm aware of is to try it out. But still that's alot of effort to do. So perhaps make a prototype? but then if the prototype fails the whole idea could be worth it you just don't know. But if the prototype succeeds, you are pretty confident the idea will work out well, but then you might get competition.

    Sometimes it feels like there are millions of ideas, and you just need to pick one that match your skill level. And other times it feels like there are very few. Competition is good, however when someone made a game, or product that I recently thought of and got excited about doing, I just get demotivated for a while, and it feels like everything has been done already. But there are so many things not done yet, there are too many factors for success besides skill.

    During Development:
    Time ---
    This is a big factor. I have to do groceries shopping, full time job, cleaning, laundry chores etc... I tried strictly focusing on one of my goals but I became sad and lonely. Cause I haven't been seeing my friends. So I stopped that to a better balance.

    Some things to get the most productivity is work area structure. I have changed my work area alot. One tip I can give is get blender 3d (or any 3d modeler will do, I like this one, its free and very nice), get those measuring tape things. Now measure your working area, tables and etc.. and put it into in blender 3d. Now rearranging is easy and you can see in 3D. Moving a book shelf, is hard. I just have boxes for everything in blender. Feeling cluttered slows me down, so I have a mini "shelf" to put on my desk to put papers and other stuff in. When low on space start stacking.

    After Development:
    I wish I will get here more often :).

    Bugs
    I barely have devices to test on, and don't have say a QA team. So first version probably has bugs. For my personal stuff I just go ahead and release, if its good, people will submit bug reports. Some people even gave helpful multi-paragraph details on how they triggered the bugs. Rarely happens though.


    When you finish getting peoples, problems and and solutions, I would love to read the article. Even if not all problems have a solution, since I may face those problems and it will get me thinking.
     
  7. Kezip

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    I'm going to have to ditto everyone else in regards to recognition. Just a couple of days ago, I released a program that makes MMORPG's. I'd heard enough stories like the ones above to not even bother sending it to publishers, so I went directly to the developer's forums. Besides a couple of "that's cool"s and "I don't like the way you code :p " comments, it's pretty much been ignored. So, I checked my stats; turns out my website was viewed a total of 900 times in a couple of days, but the program was downloaded only 15 times.

    Aside from that, there's getting help; most people really only have solid experience in one area. (Programming, art, music, etc.) And then there's kind of a 'subset' of skills, like writing (storywise), writing (dialogue-wise), mapping, and 'innovating' (having just a new, original idea) but it's very unlikely that you as the developer will be good at ALL of those. So, you have to convince somebody else that what you're doing is worthwhile, and then you have to keep them excited and motivated so they don't forget or give up. Getting someone as excited as you are to build your game pretty much isn't happening, but the levels to which someone will 'volunteer' but not care to actually do anything can be pretty shocking.

    Finally, there's working for free, mostly (if not all) by yourself, on something that's hard, frustrating, and not entirely fun to do, and you have no guarantees that you'll get anything for it.
    So, the biggest one in my opinion is this:
    Morale.
    After three years of working on one project, let me tell you that it is very discouraging to keep working after all of your friends start assuming you'll never finish. You often ask yourself if what you're doing is really worth it, to which the answer is always "I don't know".

    Sorry if that sounded a little depressing, but those are all my opinions. (Also, I'd like to read the article when you're finished, as well)
     
  8. Vatina

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    As mentioned, morale can be a problem at times when working alone. But I think that is something everyone can agree with ;)

    Other than what has been mentioned, I think it can be hard to figure out how to manage some things like outsourcing when you're new in the field. Working with artists hasn't been to hard for me as I have worked as a freelance artist myself, but how things work when hiring something like a programmer is completely beyond me when it comes to offering them decent conditions and paying them etc. I'm sure there are other things like this that I will run into as well. This kind of outsourcing management could be interesting to hear about.
     
  9. over_cloud9

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    Those were some nice feedbacks to work on. I would still wait to hear some perspectives on other aspects of development which were back breaking, apart from marketing.
     
  10. Nexic

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    I totally agree, journalists and press generally suck. As Applewood said, if you aren't well known or working on something utterly amazing, then they are pretty much worthless. Even if you do get a nice feature on a site with big traffic, we're still only talking about < $1000 in extra revenue. A single Reddit post (even if it doesn't make the front page) can easily generate that by itself.
     
  11. Man of Ice

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    I've had a problem finding publishers worth working with (our games are in the borderline of iPad and PC/Mac). Not for iOS - because the usual "publishers" there are not worth going with at all - but for all 3 platforms.

    So last week I did Game Connection. WOW!!! Did I get good response and interest. Totally crazy. My stack of exciting bcards is huge and I am 99% certain that I found a good publisher to work with inside there. Also one willing to cough up cash and commit marketing money.

    So I would definitely recommend GC if you have something to show. Expensive to attend - but thats exactly the point I guess.

    /Thomas
     
  12. electronicStar

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    The problem is that everybody and his dog is a game develloper these day, the supply is really too high.
    There are so many frameworks that make develloping games easy, it's crazy. Last week I downloaded a free version of unity for android and IOS , but I doubt I'll ever use it because there are so many other options.
    Soon everybody will have a game on the appstore.
     
  13. speeder

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    sometimes I think I am absurdly unlucky. Even since childhood I was making games, believing that when I reach adulthood I would be the single awesome guy that make games. Now I am adult, and every single person on the planet think they can make games, and I see that people that started doing them 3 months ago are better than me (Because of better education, better support from family, etc...)
     
  14. lennard

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    1. Making something compelling in a world filled with compelling content.
    2. Getting exposure for your compelling content once you have managed to accomplish that.

    In my experience both of those are hard problems to solve without a mother ship that carries lots of gold in it's ballast that can absorb several misses for each hit.
     
  15. Morgan Ramsay

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    If that was the only problem, then marketing would be a silver bullet, which we all know is not the case. Certainly, you need great marketing, but you also need a great story to tell. You can "write" a great story by developing games that people want and building a company around those products.

    Many indies struggle with becoming entrepreneurs, and many even outright avoid stepping into that role. They're often stuck in the employee mindset, focused on earning a monthly personal income, despite having asserted their independence by leaving their employers. If self-employment is satisfactory, that's fine, but some indies want more; they want to create jobs, they want their own team, they want their own studio, and they want to reap the benefits and rewards of growing a startup into a great company.

    How you create a successful studio enterprise is a tremendous challenge, which is why I wrote an entire book on the subject.
     
  16. over_cloud9

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    Hmm The problems of marketing is different in different platforms I guess, because I got decent press release and coverage for my games. I think a lot depends on the game and word of mouth appreciation apart from marketing. Getting across to a publisher is difficult, especially those who are choosy about games (read Steam). I got rejected twice by Steam. I can only draw some consolation from the fact that they at least they replied. :p

    But even before marketing comes into the scene, during and before development I have faced a lot of issues which I had to deal on my own. Google was my best helper in finding answers to my problems, and also a handful of very helpful developers.
    I always thought that it would be nice if there was a website where a game developer can find anything and everything at one place, I mean whatever he/she wants for developing a game.

    My platter is full now, I have a lot to research it seems. But I would still encourage devs to share their experience if it is different from the others (new problems for me to work with). I will share my results if I find satisfactory answers which helps the devs and not just some lukewarm advice. Now that is going to take some time. ;)
     
  17. Vatina

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    Such a website would be an interesting read, and it's nice to see that someone is willing to take up the task.
     
  18. Applewood

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    I must've missed that class. True you have to make a decent game first, but given this forum is about independent game dev then that should be a given. Once you have a decent game then marketing is indeed the silver bullet. It's just that most people, especially programmers, can't do it very well if at all.

    So, more marketing then. And I totally disagree - some people might buy my game if I was an immigrant arriving with nothing, struggled to build a business and then employed half my sink estate or something. But more people are going to buy it because it has a really ace multiplayer mode or whatever.

    That's me btw, but this is not a pre-requisite to being indie. In fact most indies don't want this at all and nor is it a requirement to "making it as an indie".
     
  19. Indinera

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    Being American is the very best asset an indie dev can have. If you're not, at least be a native english-speaker, which is a decent enough replacement. You gain from it on so many different levels that it is amazing. Any and all problems are harder to solve if you're not American or at least a native in that language.
     
    #19 Indinera, Mar 13, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  20. Roman Budzowski

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    @Indinera: are you serious about that? Sure, being native English speaker helps, but I wouldn't call being an American or English speaker your best asset. Actually not being one I would say it helps a lot :D

    Having entrepreneur mind-set is your best asset... the rest you can outsource. I actually have people that help me writing texts, music, sfx, gfx and programming. Sure, I'm a good programmer and would be able to do a lot of that myself, but that wouldn't make me as successful.
     

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