Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Utah Indie Night – May 2014

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 30, 2014

This month’s Utah Indie Night was held in room 404 in the CS building at Utah Valley University. In spite of it’s number, most attendees were able to find the room okay.

Josh Sutphin of Third-Helix gave the formal presentation, and it was awesome. It was all about how to become a full-time indie game developer. In his case, it may not be exactly “full-time,” as he does a good deal of consulting work to pay the bills. His goal is to pay all the bills and meat his monthly costs in 20 hours a week of contract/consulting work (which is cool in and of itself), to subsidize his indie development.

A lot of his talk was devoted to how to freelance and do contract work, which was interesting in its own right. But at the end, he talked about productivity and how to “stay sane” as a self-employed indie game developer. Seriously, that part of the talk was worth the trip to Orem all by itself.

He promises to have his slides up from his presentation (and a video?!?) soon, but some of his bits of practical advice for productivity and sanity included:

* Set boundaries and defend them – some people won’t understand that you are actually running a business and are, if anything, *more* busy than you were working at an office for somebody else.

* Establish a rhythm & routine for daily work. This isn’t a rigid schedule, but more of a pattern that you follow each working day, to get your mind & body into a natural ebb & flow for the day.

* Do the 3 most important things first. Not the most urgent things, the most important things – the things that will provide the most value to you or your customer.

* Track your time. This helped him discover how much time he was putting into “unimportant”, useless tasks (which weren’t even worth tracking). Toggl.com is a good site to help do this.

* Don’t forget to play! Rest, and relax. Part of the reason you do the 3 most important things first was so that you can fight “freelancer’s guilt” – you *know* you provided value to your customer, got your job done, and put in a good day’s work, and can now afford to unplug and enjoy life.

There are a couple of dangers he alluded to by going full-time indie. The first is that you end up squandering it, wasting time, and burn through your runway capital to the point where you have to get a full-time job again. The other was that you can work yourself crazy, as bad as the crazy crunch-mode-driven psycho work environments of the AAA gaming industry.

After his fantastic presentation, we moved to the informal presentations and the mingling / networking. I tend to mingle more than I play games – I really love hearing other people’s experiences in this field. And I love catching up with old friends.

Steve Taylor did show me a little indie game he’s working on, which was extremely clever and cool. I don’t know if it has a name, but it involved using track switches to direct a train to pick up / transfer / deliver items in a puzzle-game format. This is something I want to play more of when it’s done. It was a pretty original idea, and while the basic rules of the game were very simple, things got complicated very quickly.

Curtis Mirci had his first Unity-based game, a simple match-3 game using Japanese characters as the tiles. They had distinguishing colored backgrounds to help you tell them apart, which I liked (some characters are pretty similar, so it helped). Apparently, if I could hear the sounds, when you connect three you get the sound the character makes. I thought it would be a fantastic little game for an absolute beginner wanting to learn Japanese. In a “Wax On, Wax Off” style, you’ll gain some familiarity in the language without realizing (or caring) that you are learning anything.  It’s not like you’d learn the language just from playing the game or anything, but I could see how someone who played it for several hours prior to taking their first language classes could have a leg up in familiarity just due to exposure.

Because I have devoted a fair amount of time recently (especially the last couple of weeks) to writing, I did have some conversations with people about the parallels I’ve discovered between the indie writing / publishing biz and indie games.

It was exactly the kind of evening I needed to have. Thanks to Greg Squire, as always, for organizing and running this event, to Josh for his presentation, and for everybody attending for participating. I always come away feeling energized.

Filed Under: Utah Indie Game Night - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • vazor said,

    Thanks for the writeup!

  • Albert1 said,

    Let’s not forget the KISX! principle:
    “Keep It Simple, Xenomorph!” 😉