The Games Game October 2009
The Indie Imbroglio (October 2009)
I've noticed what appears to be an anti-indie bias in your columns. Care to explain?
Indie in Indiana
I have nothing against indies! But I wonder which meaning of "indie" you're thinking about:
1. A group endeavoring to build a commercial product, with hopes of becoming the next Id (a developer who creates their own brainchildren and gets them distributed by a major publisher).
2. A group of amateurs, each one with their own expectations for the project (some wanting to make money from it after it sells, others hoping to make a portfolio piece, others just enjoying an interesting craft).
3. A group of students working on the brilliant and innovative game that could win the next IGF and get picked up by Microsoft for Xbox Live, so the members can all get jobs in the industry.
4. A group of young cheap talented guys, all working on the brainchild of the group's organizer, who's promised them all a piece of the royalties when the game becomes a hit (and said organizer doesn't even have a realistic publishing plan).
5. A group of young professionals, all with day jobs, who enjoy making games as a hobby, all working together to make a little extra money maybe, or at least have a "guys' night out" once in a while.
6. A bunch of like-minded high school kids who form a "company" and then have to go on the Internet to find out things like how to learn a language, which language they should learn, how to incorporate graphics and sound...
There are other types of indies beyond those. But those will do for now.
1. In the case of group type 1, I hope that the individuals have game industry experience, or at least some form of exposure to the process. And I also hope that they have a business person in charge, and some funding. If they do not have those things, then I feel sorry for them.
2. Group type 2 is doomed to break up, probably sooner rather than later.
3. I love group type 3 to pieces! But I hope they can keep roofs over their heads and food on their plates for the duration.
4. I detest the organizer of group type 4. He's a leech.
5. I like group type 5. I wish them well.
6. Type 6 is sweetly naïve to think that what they're forming is a "company."
Most of the problems people run into with indie development are:
a. Expecting others to buy into your brilliant idea, and/or trying to start an indie project based on just your own brilliant idea. Someone who goes into it with this expectation is likely to be disappointed.
b. Not having agreement with the other team members on the end purpose for making the game. I think I covered this sufficiently above.
c. Not in agreement with the other team members on ownership. Ownership of the finished game, ownership of the assets of the unfinished game should the team break up before finishing it. How to apportion proceeds or even credit for participation in the project.
d. Without any inkling of what to do to make money from the game, if and when it is finished. The money-making portion of the plan has to be part of the startup plan. Making money from the finished product requires an entirely different mindset, an entirely different set of skills, an entirely different process, from the easy part (the making of the game).
So it's not that I am anti-indie. I just wish folks would know what they were getting themselves into, and would go about it with a smart and realistic plan.Tom's Bio
Tom Sloper's game biz career began over twenty years ago at Western Technologies, where he designed LCD games and the Vectrex games "Spike" and "Bedlam". There followed stints at Sega Enterprises, Rudell Design, Atari Corporation, and Activision. In 12 years at Activision, Tom produced 36 unique game titles (plus innumerable ports and localizations), designed four games, and won five awards. Tom worked for several months in Activision's Japan operation, in Tokyo. He is perhaps best known for designing, managing and producing Activision's "Shanghai" line. He is currently consulting, writing, speaking, teaching, and developing original games. Find out more at Sloperama.
© 2009 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.