New article posted to GT: "Sustaining Independence"

Discussion in 'Feedback Requests' started by Dan MacDonald, Mar 30, 2006.

  1. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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  2. Stu

    Stu
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    I enjoy reading your articles Dan but I rarely agree with the broad strokes and absolutes. The path to true, pure 100% indie-ness is probably just what you say it is. I don't know how many folks desire this with all of their hearts and souls but I'm guessing not too many. Still there's always a few and in those cases you're preaching to the choir.

    I think you focus only on the two ends of the indie-or-profit-spectrum and ignore what lies between. I think most developers choose a path somewhere in the middle. I think a balance can be struck between creativity and considerations of profit or loss. I think neither indie nor profit should unconditionally dictate the process. I think neither indie nor profit is the most important above all else. I think pride, success, or failure and varying degrees of each are splashed all over the indie-or-profit-spectrum.

    In a way it's a bit liberating to be independent of the rigid rules of indie-ness. :)
     
  3. sparkyboy

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    Nice read Dan. I think aswell that a balance between creativity, innovation and of course profit is sought by many a team. Speaking personally, I have done a lot of reading over the past couple of years and my stance basically is that if my future projects can sustain a level of income that matches or even slightly surpasses the money earned in construction then I will be happy.:D

    I mean, it would be very nice to have the same money for sitting in the warm and conjuring up ideas ad implementing them instead of getting up at 6 am, go to work in all bleeding weathers, work me gonads off all day and eventually get back home around 7pm........now that would be bliss!!;)

    One thing in my favour though, regarding these casual games, is that these are the types of games that I really enjoy playing as well as programming. It does take a very special type of 'hardcore' game that can hold my attention, notably RPGs or straight shooters, and as far as 3D FPS types go......well most of them make me nautious, so not fun to play!

    As with any endeavour though, only time will tell, but with the right product, right exposure and of course the inevitable.....'good luck', there's always hope to be another.........'Emmanuel' story.;)


    All the best

    Mark.
     
  4. Andy

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    Don't you think they created the story in purpose to seed and feed such ideas in our minds Sparky? ;)

    As for the article. I don't like most of Dan's articles. ( Pardon Dan nothing personal. OKi? )

    He always rotate the same idea again and again. And (the worst thing) he states it at the very beggining of the article and adds nothing to it for the whole article ( either long post in forums btw ) - something wrong with style of the writting perhaps. So I'm always wondering why to write such a long text if idea could be delivered in one sentence (such as "get amount of traffic - this helps a lot" or "deliver new design ideas - this is so fun and could bring much more money if you would be lucky enough").
    He always chooses interesting themes to discuss but I never able to find anything fun to discover in articles itselves except the title. Perhaps the main reason is my poor English but anyway - just my ( valued by two cents) personal opinion.
     
  5. Sakura Games

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    Nice article, but completely wrong... I mean is fine if anyone wants to pursue his "ideal game", but as a hobby.
    How many people made successful living with games NOT on portals at all? ok cliffsky according to his own posted stats (42k$ which after you do all the maths, become more like 25k net profit, still good). But then?
    Instead you can count many devs like funpause, gamelab, etc which made some pretty good money with this business, following what market wants (unfortunately you have no more complete freedom).
    Time for ideals is gone, unless you think indie dev as an hobby.
     
  6. Ricardo C

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    Are you independently wealthy by any chance, Dan? Because I'm definitely not, and paying the bills and putting food on the table has never felt like a meaningless or worthless pursuit.

    You're the indie counterpart of the stereotypical corporate ''greed-is-good'' caricature. And just about as narrow-minded.
     
  7. ManuelFLara

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  8. sparkyboy

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    Everything's possible Andy, especially when it comes to marketing blurb, but Atlantis being number 1 on most portals is certainly a success story in my book!;)


    All the best


    Mark
     
  9. Sakura Games

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    retro64 and svero have started using portals as well. In last 2 years retro64 bought platypus rights and sold it on portals and made Cosmo/Water bugs that is on all portals. Svero made Tumble Bugs with iWin.
    Nothing wrong with this, since they also sell on their own sites.
    But they started years ago. If you can wait 5+ years doing indie part-time then ok, but don't say that is your main source of income... (unless you live in very cheap places).
     
  10. Sharpfish

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    ooh he's gonna mad with you for that! (it was beetle bomp) tumblebugs was the game he was worrying about competiting with his title. ;)
     
  11. Jesse Aldridge

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    I thought it was a nice article.

    It did ignore one key question though: How does the idealistic indie survive in the period from when they start to when they finally "strike a cord with a group of people"?

    I suppose the answer to that would be, "somehow" :)
     
  12. Mark Fassett

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    Jesse - that's usually the way. I'm doing it with contract work. Others do it with a day job. Others do it while in college, or while living with parents, or by living off their wife's outrageous income.

    I actually really envy those people that like making casual games. Their ideal games mesh with a currently very profitable niche with an obvious distribution system that can produce income relatively quickly.
     
    #12 Mark Fassett, Mar 30, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2006
  13. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Wow, great responses. I'll admit I rely on exudation to some extent when I write, I use it to emphasize the point I'm trying to make. Who wants to read an article where someone goes in circles saying "the world is shades of gray, I could say this but then I'd also have to say this". I say, pick your hill to die on, and when you find that hill stick your flag in it and dig in.

    That said, there's a few things I took away after reading it myself (weird I know). Indies, especially the one man shop variety will always be constrained by resources, we never seem to have enough. So what it really comes down to is where we spend the resources we have. The three most time consuming parts of making a game are content creation, game design, and programming. We simply don't have enough resources to do everything to industry leading standards in a short period of time (I guess you could say time is the 4th hidden cost). Of the three, programming is sort of a fixed cost, once you find a language you like to develop in and your comfortable in it, you can pretty well asses how many resources it will take to develop a certain game. The other two costs (design and content) are variable, but more the likely you can't afford to do both to the best of your abilities unless you have a lot of time (or help).

    This is where it gets interesting, how you decide to resolve this resource constraint problem is directly related to your values. Now bear with me as I fall back into two extreme cases to make a point. If your value is profitability, then you need to get the game out and you don't have a lot of time to do it. Unshipped projects make 0$. If you are depending on these games to pay your bills this time pressure can be excruciating. So one of the two remaining costs gets cut. The way the casual business is now, the bar for content and production values are very high, in order to meet that bar you have to invest a lot in content. Once that happens the only way to balance the resource equation is to cut design costs. To do that, you shop around for a good existing design, rip it off, turn a few bolts, rotate a few parts, put your nice new content on it and put it out on the market. If you are really constrained then you don't even do the adjustments, you just duplicate an existing design ala snowy:lunch rush.

    Now go to the other extreme, someone who values their game over anything else and having that game realize the vision they had for it. This person absorbs the programming cost, just like the other guy, but because he values the game he invests a lot in the design, trial and error, testing, tweaking. Getting everything just right, if he's found a way to keep going during development he may even have time to invest in art and design equally (Anthony flack).

    Now it may be that people fall somewhere in the middle, somewhere where they want to be profitable as soon as possible, but they also want to make a game they are somewhat proud of. For some it may work, personally I find the neither hot nor cold approach not something that's sustainable. Like SteveP (who really wanted to make RTS games not logic games) you'll probably end up realizing that your passions and the source of your significance lies elsewhere and walk away from indie game development.

    In a dog eat dog world, I think you have to be hot or cold, one way or the other if your really going to have any chance. Whatever you do you have to bring an intensity to the table that others don't have. That's what gives you a competitive advantage. Emmanuel did it in his way, Cas is doing it in his, I think the worst place to be is somewhere in the middle not really sure what your values are.

    (I realize this may be offensive to people who consider themselves to be in the middle, if you find yourself offended don't take me too seriously. Just give the topic some thought decide what you think and move on (or even better post them here), I promise not to be offended either) :)
     
  14. Dan MacDonald

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    I like this question, mostly because this is the genius of making games you like and taking the time to do them right. When you do strike a chord with an audience it will be an audience that is a natural fit for you. You are making the games you like, and hey they like them too and pay for them. This is the position that Cas is starting to put himself in. He's always loved the retro shooter arcade action and he's finally figured out a way to get that to resonate with customers. Now he's a happy man because he's making the games he likes, and people think their so great they are paying for it. What further validation does a creative person need, $$ are always the most tangible way to know your work is appreciated.

    Contrast this with the developer who strikes a chord with the casual market women 18-35 while they work on their RTS or multilayer frag fest. Now they've got the attention of a bunch of people they don't really relate too, in order to make games for them they have to try and crawl inside the head of a 34 year old mom of two and try to figure out what they want. Once you start making money in a particular market it's REALLY hard to break away from that almost guarantied source of repeat business. I can't imagine the feeling of being trapped making games i didn't really appreciate for an audience i didn't really intuitively understand.
     
  15. Fost

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    Beans on toast - so many, that you turn orange!

    Well, we have never been on portals, and we are still around, and we aren't making 'casual' games. So I really enjoyed the article. Sometimes I feel like we are an unrepresented and even victimised minority (according to Phil Steinmeyer, we are unproffesional hobbyists* :( )

    I see it as realising what is actually of value to you - there are huge rewards in producing something to your own internal standards. I realised long ago that money doesn't make you happy - although it takes having some to know that. Sadly, it is being idealistic to some extent, as we have mortgages and food to pay for. I honestly don't get anyone getting into this business and then telling me that they did it to make money - there are far better, far faster ways to make money than by making indie games and my advice to anyone interested in making downloadable games is always firstly to do it because you love it and not because you want to become rich.

    PS: Note to Russel, it would be nice if the GT articles showed and replies at the bottom - always stikes me as odd that all the great articles there never get many replies and I think that might be why. DIYG news items often get a lot of replies.






    *I'm kidding here, and, oddly enough, I did understand exactly what Phil meant by that...
    I should really start a blog of my own and fill it with controversial sounding headlines to generate traffic...*




    *Damn, sorry, I couldn't resist...
     
  16. Robert Cummings

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    dan, dude, dont you have to finish something to become an indie?
    Also... your articles are way too long, you could say the same thing in quarter of the text.
     
  17. Andy

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    Again not to offend Dan - just to explain.

    They are not long at all. They just not deliver enough content - all that "opinion-suggestion-fun idea" stuff. I always feel that he knows more than want to share with readers or just can't describe properly his ideas.
    Leave one sentence for that your personal stories about Apogee and Epic. And pay back more attention to the message you want to deliver. Argue/explain - don't state. Polish the style Dan!!! ;)

    REM: I know I'm much worse. But Dan! You've chosen this way (writting) not me. So do it by perfect way. :p
    REM1: Looks like you are only one columnists left at GT who conitinue to write at least. So thanks for this!
     
  18. Sharpfish

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    I'm someone who is striving for that middle ground (without ending up in no-mans land). That is to say taking what can be learned from the success of casual games and applying it to the games we "want to make". No black and white or hard and fast rules here.

    By this I mean taking all the things that make casual games accessible and user freindly and applying them to a non casual game. Obviously this will impose constraints in design but if more people can play it then great and it always pays to simplify and improve ergonmics whether you are making a match3 or a 3D RTS! Esepcially if "most" of the downloadable games market are used to being "spolied" by such ergonmics.

    However, I understand what Dan is saying, and I think every dev ends up naturally moving either more towards the money or the passion (great if it happens to be both which is the real issue here).

    If I had to make a choice though, I would have to choose the passion, which would mean making the games more towards my own tastes than the logical financial choice of targeting the largest audience.
     
  19. cliffski

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    Not suprisingly I come down with dan in agreement on the passion thing. I agree with whoever just said "it must be great if you really like casual games". Sadly Im not a big fan, although I did recently write a match 3 bejewlled clone, its a mini-game inside kudos.
    I work from a simple assumption, and that is that there are lots of people like me. At least five thousand of them, throughout the world. My wife tells me that one of the reasons you get people with similar 'bunches' of attributes and interests (like geeks tend to like similar films and music as well as games) is all to do with the propensity for genes to not split evenly at any point but in bunches. anyway...
    If I assume there are 500 people like me, and I make a game that I would REALLY like, then if those 5000 people see it, they will buy it. Thats $100,000, or a comfortable years salary.
    So although many things I'd like to see in games are very off-the-wall and not mainstream, it doesn't bother me. I KNOW there are enough people out there that like the same kind of stuff, that I need not worry that it's niche. If I needed to sell 100,000, I'd worry, but 5,000. nah :D
    Now in many ways I'm very lucky, I had some games that had sold well before I went true indie, I have a cheap (for UK) mortgage, and had a lucky hit game thats paying the bills right now. I just thought I'd chip in my theory that suggests that you can do exactly the games you want and still be successfull(ish).

    And heres an idea. If I was going to do a casual puzzle game, Id do an almost darwinian experiment. I wouldnt write one game, I'd give myself 2 months, and write 8. I'd make them bare-bones gameplay mockups, and get everyone I knew to play test all 8, and rank them 1 to 8. I'd then develop the highest scoring one properly. I'm guessing 90% of a casual game is the idea, so why start out with only one idea?
     
  20. Mike Boeh

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    Gah.... Dan, your article is a bunch of fluff I say!

    Plenty of developers are still making the games they like, and sustaining independence. It doesn't always have to come down to a "love or money" choice. Yeah, retro64 games are showing up on portals, but they are still games that I like to play- and I would be an idiot to turn down that money. Sales from retro64.com have been unaffected by "selling out".

    If there was a game that I thought would sell, but was more casual than my tastes, I would just pay someone to do the programming.
     

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