Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Musings about Games - Indie Games.

I realise that this blog has been uninhabited for quite some time, but I'm making it a duty to try and start updating it at least once a week with various thoughts, tips, ticks and hopefully more tutorials as time goes on.

I want to talk to you readers about something that you might not know about, haven't thought about, or perhaps are just interested in - the Indie gaming industry. I'm 25 - I've been programming for the better part of my life, I live in Australia, which i suspect factors quite heavily into my opinion of the independent games movement. I studied a Bachelor of Multimedia Technology & majored in Games Design and Development, with the overall intent of finding a programming job doing what I love. My uni degree took me four years to complete - and from the start of my degree to the end, that four year span saw the last of the AAA studios close in Melbourne.

As you can imagine, that's a pretty harsh thing to be faced with - having a degree to use but nowhere to take it and flout it in the face of people that want to hire me. So, what to do? Well - I started programming - but not for games, I spent a long time still trying to get into the industry, but overseas and it wasn't successful, I ended up programming at a lob (which I now love,) and haven't looked back, but this throws into light a lot about what has changed for me in the industry of computer games - there's no longer the concept of the "large" game studio that you want to work for, titles like Angry Birds, Minecraft & more, games developed by a handful of hard working individuals have shown me, and they should show you - that all you need is an idea & time.

I'm not sure about you as a programmer, but I personally find one of the hardest things to do when I think of an idea is where to start, which thing do I program first? But I think the main thing that I always bring myself back to when I look to program a new game is this "Hey, it's my game - I can start it wherever the damn hell I want." And this is the real beauty of working as an indie games dev - or in a small team of dedicated workers.

So - lets think about this, say you have an idea. What do you do with it? Well - the general thread I follow is this:

1. Has it been done before? Check the major indie game sites (Steam, Kongregate etc.) & mobile app stores.
2. What platform am I making this for? This is an erroneous area for many devs - you can't hope to make a game for Mobile, Computer & Console all in the one breath - sure that's going to get your title in front of the most eyes, but there just isn't a development paradigm which will let you deploy to all of those places at once.
3. Who am I making this game for? If you answer this "Me - I think it's a cool idea." You might be in strife - think for a while about this question, it's important that you understand who your game is for, is it for Mum's who want to relax after dealing with the kids all day? Is it for young kids? Having a target audience is crucial before you put any code down as it'll shape almost every aspect of the game.
4. What's your hook? So - you've got a awesome game, what's the one defining feature of it that separates it from the throngs of others? Is it unique art style? Is it a particular game mechanic such as time manipulation, parkour style character movement? This can be your selling point to almost anyone.
5. What's your elevator speech? This is a common business question often asked about a business idea, but can just as easily be used for a game. So you get into an elevator and a man in a schmick suit gets in next to you - he notices that you're wearing a gamer t-shirt and asks what you do - you tell him you're a game developer working in the indie industry - he seems interested and asks what you're currently working on. STOP! What do you say? This is more important than you think, talking face to face and having a good idea of what you're going to say is really important when it comes to marketing your game.

I think that's about all I want to talk to you about now. These five things are great to think about before you start programming anything, I'm a firm believer in thinking hard and working easy.

David Out.


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