Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The “I Made This” Bias

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 30, 2015

FKFlythroughFrayed Knights 2 has elevators. Not many, as it’s a medieval fantasy game, so I don’t want to go overboard with them. They’d require either sophisticated engineering or sophisticated wizardry to operate, and not many areas warrant that.

I wrote some classes and scripts which makes it easy to add an elevator and controls to the game. It wasn’t much work. Making the code generic and reusable takes a bit longer than making a one-off function, but we’re talking maybe a couple of hours of work total, including testing. Small potatoes – really one of the simpler pieces of code I’ve written for the game.  Fairly trivial.

And yet I find myself overly pleased by my dumb elevators. As I’m testing my levels, I’m going up and down the elevators doing the mental equivalent of saying “WHEE!” in my head a little too much. There’s no reason. What I’ve done wasn’t exceptional, and there have been elevators littering levels of FPS games since the dawn of Doom, so there’s absolutely nothing original here.

Except… I made it. Somehow that makes everything cooler. Ditto for things my friends make. I read their stories or play their games without seeing their hands at work making it, or hearing their voice behind the words, even when I’m trying hard to be critical.

That’s a danger. And that’s also an issue with the indie games glut right now, especially first-time indies. When the barrier to entry is low, and no one’s permission needs to be granted before releasing a product to the public (both GREAT things, IMO), it’s easy to just toss stuff over the fence without really taking the time to analyze how it could succeed in the marketplace. . In the developer’s mind, their clone of <Insert Title here> is the best thing ever, even when they are trying their best to be critical of it. There’s already a subconscious Unique Selling Point (USP) that trumps everything else.

Making an RPG (especially one with a custom engine) can be a pretty huge undertaking. It’s a major accomplishment. Once upon a time, that might have been enough, especially a few years ago when there was a dearth of good computer role-playing games. But those days are over. If I go to Steam and search for Indie RPGs, there are nearly 1000 results.  Even if not all of those are what I’d properly call an RPG, that’s a ton of games for any one game to stand out in.

Unless your name is Sid Meier or something like that, just the fact that you made this game isn’t going to be enough. One trick to combat this bias is to come up with something of a marketing plan – or even just a blurb – from the get-go, during the design phase. What cool things can you say in your description of the game or what screenshots do you want to be able to show when the game is done that would really make the game stand out and would make you, the customer, want to buy it if it was available today? Now go make THAT game.

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