I’ve been participating in the Indie Indie Conversation on YouTube with other full-time indie game developers. We upload 3 minute videos at a time (although some are a bit longer) and have a discussion about all sorts of topics related to being an indie, such as technical struggles, the need to explicitly make time for social interaction, and meaningful game play.
Recently, there has been some talk about financial concerns. Andy Moore of Steambirds fame has talked about his recent return to full-time indie status, but his lack of contract work was not his choice, and the lack of a safety net is made worse by the lack of a current project. Mike Hommel chimed in saying that his last project was a flop and lost him money, and he’s going to have to make some games for Flash Game Licensing to make a bit of cash. In the end, he got a new business deal, so good for him, but the turn this conversation took bothered me.
So I made this video:
Now, keep in mind, I write way better than I speak. To clarify, I don’t want to say that Flash games are necessarily dinky little things that get churned out with no soul. My impression of the attitudes of some indies, however, is that spending time on a game to make it great rather than merely good is spending too much time on a single project.
How much value can you really provide your customers if you spent only a few weeks on your game? Chris Hecker’s 2010 GDC rant Please Finish Your Game talks about the idea that a lot of games are prematurely “finished” by indies. That is, they are put out there, and there’s no follow-up or follow-through.
Yes, it is important to get feedback as your game iteratively develops, and releasing early and often is great for getting that feedback and helping you see what direction to take. But it’s not as if indies are putting together epic games and dropping development as soon as they see that there is no audience, or at least that’s not my impression. They just aren’t trying to make bigger games, and apparently they think they’re being rewarded enough for the smaller games.
So are big games inappropriate for developers who aren’t Mojang? Is it too financially risky to make something deeper for players to enjoy, or is it the exact right way that we should be making games? Did you quit your day job to be mediocre, or do you want to meet your potential, even if it is a bit riskier?