A bit about independent game developers

    It so happened that I have been doing full-time indie development for a long time. This means that the only source of income is games that I do not order. No freelance or remote work. In parallel, being the co-host of a podcast for indie developers, where guests tell how it feels to be independent developers in a particular part of the market, using a certain technology and targeting some platforms. This article is a small FAQ for the frequent questions that come.

    Why are there indies?

    I think that the life of an independent developer is the choice of people who understand that they will not get what the indie work can give them in the company. It may be a loner who thinks that he himself can develop stronger; release a more independent product; make more money; spend time more profitably. Separated, he gets all the freedoms and restrictions inherent in indie.

    What issues need to be addressed before starting to make a game?

    First of all, unfortunately, this is time and money. You need to honestly ask yourself how much time you can devote to the game. Then this figure will have to be multiplied by two. At this time, you need some kind of minimal money cushion, which will sometimes hurt (but there will be no paid medical insurance and gyms), sometimes have fun (in a state of depression, few can be productive) and for unforeseen expenses. This amount is the "budget" of your game, which is better to beat off to make the next game. It's certainly about full time indie. If you are developing in parallel with the main work, then it is simply impossible to calculate the time.

    What is the difference between indie development and work in the company?

    Freedom appears. The freedom to choose a convenient mode of work, the choice of tools, the freedom to choose partners. Almost immediately it becomes apparent that indie cannot compete with large companies. He must either create a studio by setting rules that are convenient for him or somehow cunning.
    Having spent a lot of time creating cool Disney animation and a huge amount of content, you compete with studios specializing in this, with a huge number of people who do essentially the same job. In my opinion, indies should amaze with ideas, unique stylistics and atmosphere. For large companies, it is risky to change tactics without knowing the result; series of their products are minimally different from each other. The ability to look to the future is the best quality for companies, the ability to surprise is for indies.

    How important is experience, can the first game be good?

    Of course, the first game can be a hit (newcomers are lucky), and experience does not guarantee that it will become one. But experience gives a broader view of development: the choice of tools, mode of operation, a sense of the market. Experience helps to avoid mistakes that you only learn about when making a game. For example, you may forget to add sound on / off buttons to some screen and stumble upon crowds of disgruntled users who will write angry reviews and put a minus where possible. Or make the active area of ​​the button its tray, and not the entire button. And even if you can click on it in 99 cases out of a hundred, a bunch of users will aimlessly click on the text inside the button, not understanding why the text is highlighted and there is no transition. And even if your game is awesome with super cool music; some especially harmful players will not forgive you this miss.
    But having made 10 correct buttons, the eleventh will be made on the machine, already full of a hand, and thanks for this experience. It is he who will allow the hit to avoid a silly fail by polishing your creation.

    Is it possible to gain experience without making games?

    I think this is possible, but for me such an attempt turned out to be a failure. A long time ago I found a great resourcewith a huge number of articles for indie. There were an incredible number of collections of articles on game design, sales and development as a whole, free graphics and music, plus a bunch of everything. Almost everything was very interesting and I read it fast, trying to apply everything to one game. But the minus of such articles is that they are intended for people with a certain experience and therefore there weren’t sorted out the problem points that beginners might have, like a problem with the active button area. This is because layers are important in experience. Layer by layer, you need to create an understanding of development. By reading articles on behaviourism in IMO, you risk becoming a second-grader who was asked to read Kafka.

    How significant are indies?

    Significance is difficult to overestimate. Now is their era. Indies are no longer hipster games and have become commonplace. Steam introduced a section for indie games where they can be bought on a par with games of large companies. Apple Store gives your games the same privileges as games of large companies. Sony is looking for an indie for collaboration. Microsoft is looking for indie. The market does not reject your talent. All offer the same conditions to 70 developers - 30 distributors. If someone wants to enter the market with worse conditions, they simply will not cooperate with them. There are whole platforms for people looking for a direct connection with a buyer like kickstarter. For indies they organize conferences and meetings they cherish and cherish. For them, special OUYA consoles are released and they are given the first to test new equipment.

    Can they survive by exclusively playing their own games?

    The issue of earnings is always painful. Each platform has its own rules and its own profits. There is practically no limit, for example, minecraft earned about 100 million in 2012. But not everyone is so smooth. According to known statisticsTop 25 developers of mobile applications received half of all profits in 2012. 80% of developers get 3% of profits. 19% of apps earn $ 24k. 80% - $ 300. And even your mobile game will earn 100k, then you will give 30% to Apple, 30 to your publisher and share the balance with a partner and tax. To start getting more than I would get in other jobs and at the same time do it all the time, I would single out three different ways. The audience of portal flash drives and mobile games is bored. They are looking for new videos on YouTube, new VKontakte pictures and new games on armorgames and in appstore. New ideas, mechanics, games using new features of devices are what will definitely take off. Next on the list are quality sequels of old hits with a bunch of fans and games that can, lead a certain niche in the market (close a niche = when saying the words “hardcore indie platformer” everyone remembers a super-fight). Then the games that close the shortcomings of some hits by introducing new features. Then clones and trash. You need to either make one game from the first category (Minecraft, Journey) or make one two games from the second category (Shank 2, the successful continuation of the Shank epic) Limbo (black and white physical platformer) or make many, many games of the third category. Some studios, surprisingly, cope with this. For instance, successful continuation of the epic Shank) Limbo (black and white physical platformer) or make many, many games of the third category. Some studios, surprisingly, cope with this. For instance, successful continuation of the epic Shank) Limbo (black and white physical platformer) or make many, many games of the third category. Some studios, surprisingly, cope with this. For instance,Berzerk studio , a group of 6 people, produces excellent games month after month, almost always on old mechanics. In total, they have 20+ games, Berzerk ball 2 went for 100k, and their new one for 50k, so we can assume that guys with such strategies have come to success.


    What should be the first game? Is it possible to do it with a zero budget?

    I still think the first game should be small and test. Even if you have a super idea for a super game. You still do not have a budget for long-term construction, there is no sense of market and audience. No experience. Therefore, you put off this idea for a while and take on a small test project.
    Often there is a feeling of redoing everything from scratch, redrawing, reprogramming a piece or the whole code after we learn a new drawing technique or re-read a book about code architecture. Small games are good because we manage to finish the game before destructive thoughts come to us. And even if you decide to remake part of the game, or after remarks about an unprecedented slowdown, even with the most powerful computers you are not rewriting so many.
    In addition, small games do not have time to ideologically change. This is a very useful experience for a game designer, because in any, even the largest game, it is important to keep the idea, the core. It can grow features, change the appearance, but the idea embedded in it should remain unchanged.
    Plus everything above - now it is incredibly easy to make a prototype of the game. In the worst case scenario, it can take three days. Experienced igrodely saw the prototype can appreciate the prospects of the game.

    Do I need a partner?

    Improving the quality of the game and leaving the level of “small games”, you will enter the level of competition with large companies and studios. If it begins to seem that you cannot make a competitive game - look for an assistant. The type of this assistant should depend on your confidence in the game.
    If you cannot provide a good art / code / sound for the game, then it is better to give it to a freelancer or to outsource.
    If, besides this, the game itself is lame or you have a poor idea of ​​the idea, then it is better to find a partner. If you want new ideas in the game - look for a partner. If you want to have a second head that will criticize you, you need a partner. The only difference is that the partner takes part in the development of the game, and not just performs the task, but this difference is huge. Therefore, in a dispute, who is more important than the artist or programmer defeats the game designer. And the partners are equal. But choosing a partner for a long project is to choose a partner for a flight into space. If something goes wrong after six months of work, changing it is very expensive.

    Which genre is better to choose?

    Fortunately, it does not matter. By becoming an indie developer, you can do whatever you want. Of the last games I remember, I would mention the popular indie game Paper Please. This is a simulator of an immigration officer who decides who should be let in to his country.

    Do I need to make the game unique?

    It seems unique to me not to do everything in the game. You can limit yourself to the idea and style. The freedom to create game elements is also a vice, an opportunity to be misunderstood. The human brain is based on past experience, so when recognizing images it is better to use recognizable patterns.
    For example - vampires - creatures with fangs drinking blood, zombies - dead people. From the report of the creators of PVZ, I remember his remark about the fact that his mother thought that the zombies in the game are just old people and did not understand why they should be killed.
    Choose an illustration technique so that it enhances the idea in the game and matches the audience. If you want to reach the maximum audience, you need to learn from films / cartoons with the maximum audience (Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cut the rope), use recognizable templates and be moderately predictable. In the case of niche games, the rules are dictated by the specifics of the audience. Use the references for drawing, and screenshots from successful games to understand the principles of drawing, but do not copy or glass, because this does not pump your skill.

    What do players remember?

    Games are remembered for their distinguishing features. Idea / graphics / music / easter eggs. I made a lot of content in elien anarchs, but almost all of the comments were about Easter eggs from movies. Having finished playing, players remember what they can share with others: cool situations, a high score, funny stories.

    What should an indie remember before ending a game?

    Indy must remember that the final product is expected of him. Without a good product, no one cares how much effort and energy he put into his game. The game is higher than the developer, this is important. If you want everyone to know your story, then invest it in the game. Independent developers ask themselves questions and answer them themselves, rather than just completing tasks. This gives them the opportunity to show their gaze. But be prepared for the fact that not everyone will share your view, and your game will not become the second minecraft.

    Before you finish the game, it is best to show its test to the group - to your friends, younger brothers and sisters, colleagues. But in no case do not ask them what needs to be changed in the game. This is the number one mistake. Never ask. You need to watch how they play. Just watch.
    The ideal option is to ask them to record a video or share the screen on Skype.

    How are successful games different from regular ones?

    Creating a successful game is making consistent decisions. From engine and platform selection to the last pixel.
    And the secret to successful indies is to do what you like. Otherwise, why is this work?

    What else

    If someone is interested in a video where I tell this text in an afterlife voice, here's a shot from the Casual Connect conference .
    There is a translation into English .
    Of course, I’d like to talk in the comments and if it’s interesting to talk and meet live, then a bunch of indies will be at the chic Devgamm developers conference on December 7-8 in Kiev.
    There is also a video a year ago, where I am making a presentation on a similar topic on Devhamme.

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