At the time in 1972 when Pong was created, the Atari company was comprised of two individuals, only one of which was involved with creating the game that could have arguably got the ball rolling, or bouncing in this case, for a multi-billion dollar industry. In three years time, Atari infiltrated users’ household with a home edition and quickly became known as the world’s first consumer video game. You could say it was all history there, but that was merely 40 years ago and in that time, we’ve seen a shift from this simple start to a thriving fast-paced industry full of concept artists, wireframes, environmental artists, modelers, scripters, programmers, UI Specialists, community managers, developers, publishers, advertisers, lawsuits, legal battles, retailers, and lastly, the gamers. From the cracks of this monster fell creatives who wanted to make games without a looming studio watching over you, and with that, also no funding. And here you are, wanting to create and indie game. Where do we start?
As obvious as it might seem, we need to talk about something, which is the plethora of uninteresting and repetitive games and the insane amount of money they rake in per year. Well, the fact is that you, as a newly founded indie developer, are not likely to shine bright with that playbook. These developers who take advantage of that cash cow have a long track records and the equity for amazing promotion. So this being said, a great, if not outstanding idea is needed to have a good shot at hitting success. We’ll talk about how to start that process after we address this elephant in the room.
The most looming concern in drifting from a large studio is funding, being it is you need to eat and live somewhere. You’ve heard of Kickstarter, right? Well in January 2012, funding via Kickstarter was less that $750,000 through all projects. Not looking to snazzy so far. Luckily, only seven months later in June, fundraising reached up to $10,000,000 in the indie game industry. This is due to both the attention to Kickstarter and the Indie industry both growing at RAPID rates.
Now that we have an audience and the money to make the game, well…we still have to get a team together, create the whole game, then hope it sells. Here are some things to keep in mind while conjuring up your creation. Your audience loves something familiar and easy to pick up, but they don’t take kindly to the same game. You’ll need to find a unique perspective on an idea and run with it. After that, focus on the mechanics. There is no use in a game with 20 levels when the actual game is very rough and uninteresting. Take your time to find a great idea, then create levels. Its the industries equivalent to “Quality of Quantity”. Lastly, make sure that your game is challenging and not frustrating. Having a difficult game isn’t necessarily bad, but making your players feeling cheated or not understanding what they are supposed to do is the quickest way for your game to get uninstalled. Think of that game where the boss make a giant sign they are about to do something (such as pulling their weapon back exactly before swing at you.)
Audience? Check! Money? Check! Game Idea? Check! Now lets start forming the foundation to build this dream team. Start this process with solid communication and creating accountability throughout the project. Although everyone on your team might be as driven as you, the prospect of not getting paid until the game is actually released can be disconcerting. Negate this by adding 50% to timelines, factor this into your schedule, and having a system such as BaseCamp or Asana to help keep track of everything and hit your milestones.
So now, how will your game sell? Putting this simply, all sales are important but… PC will have the most sales, iPhone is hot for a short period of time, and sales are a great way to get noticed continually and there is a better chance someone will buy your game for a cheaper price! Here are graphs extracted from information given by multi-million dollar, solely-created game Beat Hazard’s creator. (Re-read the intro if that doesn’t sound familiar.)
Moral of the story is, there are a million things that can help your game succeed, and doing all of them might not work for you. Try your best, be genuine, follow people who succeed. If one guy can make pong and start an industry, you can make a single game and get people to play it. Just remember that your game’s success isn’t told by the numbers, it’s told by how people feel when they play it, so make it awesome!
*Disclaimer: all games are different and all of this might not apply to you. ;)