Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 1, 2013
Derek Yu has written a fantastic article entitled, “Making it as an Indie: A Starter Guide.”
Any aspiring indie ought to read this article. Twice. In fact, it doesn’t hurt for a veteran indie to read it a couple of times, either.
One thing that really stood out to me was his definition of indie. Now that indie has kinda taken over, and there are so many incredible ways of going around the gatekeeping machine that previously dominated the industry, it can be really hard to define what “indie” is all about. So why bother, some people ask? Derek defends the answer:
Under that definition you still run into gray areas, but hey, just because we don’t know when “red” turns into “purple” doesn’t mean the words aren’t useful. Just think about someone who wants to make a game with a small team and self-publish it… what should they type into Google for inspiration, advice, community, etc.? “Indie” is still as good a word as any, in my opinion.
Bingo. I also maintain that it’s helpful to gamers, too, for completely different reasons.
By the same token, he approaches the definition of “indie” with an eye towards it’s usefulness, rather than splitting hairs over who is and who isn’t indie. At it’s core (subject to all hair-splitting), it’s about small, (relatively) low-budget teams making games without support from somebody bigger.
I could argue a little bit – but only around the edges – over his comments on marketing and gimmicks. Fundamentally, I think we’re on the same page, but I’ve played a lot of excellent indie games that baffled me that they did so poorly – and what it really came down to was a lack of marketing. And part of that was a lack of something to make it stand out – which I guess you could call a ‘gimmick.’ Truth is, you could have the best fantasy RPG ever written – but if it looks / sounds generic, nobody will pay any attention to it. Derek actually agrees with this on another point, referring to artwork: “And even if you don’t, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of having a unique style of artwork… even ugly is probably better than generic, all told.” So perhaps we’re actually disagreeing on the definition of the term here. Maybe he’s referring to the truly egregious “cheap tricks” that are devoid of merit other than attracting attention.
His #1 piece of advice is absolutely identical to mine: FINISH YOUR GAME. I’d add, “and release it to others.” I don’t take issue at all with someone calling themselves ‘indie’ when they haven’t actually released a completed game yet, but at some point you are just kidding yourself.
Switching gears a little to another article – along the lines of “where do I start?” – here’s an article from PC Gamer in November about several popular game engines available at indie budgets today:
Now here’s a shocking bit of news. You know how I keep saying things like, “the indies won?” Check this out, from a Gamasutra news article “Indie Game Development on the Rise in a Big Way” – ‘The number of indie developers in North America is on the rise, according to the Game Developers Conference’s State Of The Industry survey, with 53 percent of respondents now calling themselves “indie.” ‘ And more than half have of them only been indie for less than 2 years – so it’s a recent thing.
Of course, a massive surge on the supply side does not indicate a victory in the marketplace – that might only result in a glut, unless demand catches up. But it does provide evidence that a fundamental shift has happened. While I’ve been at it long enough to believe that indie is here to stay, it’s clear that – for the time being at least – indie is trendy.
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