Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Utah Indie Night – Summer 2011

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 29, 2011

It’s amazing to think we’ve been doing this indie night thing for so many years. Six years, now, I guess?

Utah Indie Night was held this time at ITT Technical Institute in Murray. The attendance wasn’t our highest ever (maybe we should start advertising more, again?), but it was an excellent event.

First off, Tim Fowers of Gabob offered a presentation called “Turbulence Ahead: The Ups and Downs of Getting a Premium Flash Game to Success.” This was previously given at a casual gaming conference last year, and it was very informative and entertaining. One of the better presentations we’ve had. The presentation was mainly about their successful premium game, Now Boarding.  He also talked about their second game, Clockwords. The discussion was down to earth, frank, and detailed. Tim named names and gave us numbers. Some interesting things came to light:

#1 – They ended up going direct sales because things fell through with a publisher. In retrospect, going direct was the winning strategy.  While they still take sponsorships and so forth, the direct sales model worked. The game’s sales dropped off significantly after three months, but has proven to have a remarkably long tail.

In spite of some massive rage sent their way from people with “Entertainment Entitlement” (Many Flash gamers expect 100% free entertainment, all the time), the game has done well. Not limousines andcaviar well, but pay-the-rent and keep-the-lights-on well. Their experiments with dropping the price by a third yielded ZERO net change in sales. Once again, it’s demonstrated that with indie games, there’s a “sweet spot” below which a lower price does nothing but leave money on the table.

It’s a weird thing (and perhaps not much to brag about), but their big success against piracy was not their weak DRM scheme, but staying below the pirates’ radar.

His take-aways at the end of the presentation were:

  • Create value, don’t chase money.
  • Invest in a distinct and polished game
  • When you innovate, you have to shove it down people’s throats. It takes a while for people to appreciate innovation.
  • Hustle! Experiment. Be flexible with your business plan. Where possible, don’t rely upon only one way of making money with your game.
  • Find good partners who work well together.
  • Recurring income, even small, is good. Direct Revenue is key. Be “Ramen Profitable” in the words of Paul Graham.

He also had a lot to say about board game design, and encouraged designers to first work out their game designs in a board-game format and make sure they are fun in that format before committing them to code. His feeling was that it’s a great way to simplify and polish your ideas.

Following his presentation, I did what I usually do, which is talk to people. I ran into a couple of folks here who follow the blog, some former co-workers, and some folks I chat with on Twitter. Hi again, guys! Indie nights are a great way to network, swap ideas, and sometimes even exchange business. I wish I could have met and chatted at length with everybody, but while attendance wasn’t huge, it was still too big for that.

I did get to speak to Herb Flower at length about his awesomely huge indie MMO, Link Realms. They did some very cool stuff in this game – I really recommend checking it out.  We talked design, gameplay, and business at length.

I didn’t even see all the games this time. But the ones I did see were way cool. Chris tart had a fun little experimental game he’d thrown together that involved running across cars on a bullet train.  Curtis Mirci had a very amusing little action game that played with a couple of RPG tropes called March to the Moon that involved killing a horde of rats in the basement of a tavern (for level one), leveling up, and some laugh-out-loud crazy fight set-ups. While the game is far from complete or polished, it was clearly fun and entertaining even in the current build.

Paul Milham had a game that will never be generally available called “Rick Invaders.” It was an experiment in HTML 5 programming that looked pretty awesome, hitting 60 fps in a straightforward side-shooter that took revenge on his former boss on behalf of Paul and a bunch of his recently laid-off coworkers. Now THIS is how you take anger and rage over an unfair situation and put it to constructive use.

Anyway, the whole event was a lot of fun (as always), inspirational and informational. It’s really just too short. Greg Squire, founder of the event, is working to increase the number of times we meet from being quarterly to every other month. So long as that doesn’t reduce attendance, I’m game.

Filed Under: Utah Indie Game Night - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Califer said,

    I was really surprised by how much people liked March to the Moon! It’s getting me even more excited about finishing it.

  • JT said,

    When you say, “When you innovate, you have to shove it down people’s throats. It takes a while for people to appreciate innovation.”

    Could you clarify that? How do you shove it down people’s throats? Blog posts beating your chests? Newsletters to your subscribers? Getting into trade magazines?

    Just curious as I think we’d all like to be able to amply demonstrate our innovative capabilities that are sometimes overlooked.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I believe that was borrowed from a quote by Howard Aiken:

    “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to shove them down people’s throats.”

    But in the context of the talk last night – it seems that people will easily gravitate to games that are just clones of other favorite games. They are immediately familiar and playable. But they are also easily replaceable – players can always find another one just like it.

    By being unique, you gain the advantage of being harder to duplicate. But you also have to convince the player to understand and invest his time in your game, since it isn’t something he’s immediately familiar with.

  • Charles said,

    “Invest in a distinct and polished game”

    Polished. I learned that it is, indeed, a requirement. I’m a slow learner but getting there 🙂