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Solo Indie Gamer Developers Developing games
Started by IndieEnthusiast Aug 05 2018 11:38 PM

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#1

IndieEnthusiast

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Hi,

 

During the weekend I have seen some indie game documentaries, and they do excite me and do frustrate me at the same time. The struggles of an Indie gamer and how they reach stardom at the end of their struggles is quite exciting to me.

 

Due to my curious nature, I would like to ask the indie developers in this forum :

 

a. Are most of you creating solo games or in a partnership with a designer/artist? I am more keen to know about the developers who are just solo, no designers, no artists with them.

 

b. Any individuals want to work in partnership initially for free then split the profits ? I understand that parterships are quite valuable due to the nature of feedback given during game development. I am particularly interested to know if anyone has worked in partnerships like that.

 

c. Thirdly, the solo game developers out there, have you used the help of a publisher ? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

 

Thanks Everyone...keep coding.

Tanvir



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#2

anaqim

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Hi,

 

I'm solo and it is one hard trick pony to handle.

I might look for cooperation with others at some point.

 

I've worked in a partnership and it does make it easier, mostly, to keep the steam up.

 

Never used a publiser so cant tell.

 

Lastly, if you go solo, expect it to be a non profit hobby and interest that will cost you more than it generates.

For each success story there is a pile of exhaused indie developers that never make it, financially at least.   :)



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#3

IndieEnthusiast

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Thanks for your feedback anaqim. I understand that the mobile game market is sort of flooded with games and it is hard to get your game the limelight it deserves. However I truly believe fresh content, different content, has a lot of value and can turn things around for a solo developer. So far I haven't spent anything, but learning and learning. RPG game creation can be a daunting task for a solo dev.



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#4

anaqim

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Having a dedicated graphics artist on board would be a tremendous boost, and I suspect this is what limits most indie developers.

I'm currently working on a business app, partly due to this limitation, only to discover thats not neccessarily any easier  :rolleyes:



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#5

IndieEnthusiast

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Is there anyone else going solo ?



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#6

thomas6

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I'm working solo, but I do have an advantage of some kind: my day job is as a designer, and I do a lot of 3D work, so creating artwork is not as big of a challenge as it is for most.

 

My big learning curve was in coding. Artwork skills were already present. That being said, doing the artwork and coding and game design just means that your progress is sloooooow, especially when it's not your day job.



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#7

IndieEnthusiast

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I am into software testing, which is my day job. However at night I do coding which I find quite interesting, however I am missing the design/art skills. Relying mostly on free assets available.



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#8

schizoid2k

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I'm a solo dev as well...

 

For art (and sound), I rely on my limited skills, but I can modify the heck out of free assets.

 

While I am always open to collaboration, I've found over the years that the revenue is either very low, or non-existent.  Due to the nature of the mobile market, it is very difficult to make any real money.  anaqim is correct in stating that it is costing me more money than I make.  I started developing games with the thought I am going to be rich and famous  :) , but after a few years, I realized that it's a hobby for me, and if I make some cash, it's a benefit.  I guess if I were to work on a team, I would prefer begin paid for my work, as opposed to sharing revenue.

 

For a couple of reasons, I never used a publisher and not sure I will.

 

Hope this helps,

--John



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#9

thomas6

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Since we're on the topic, here's some of my self-made game art:

 

https://www.behance.net/gallery/21548071/Stranded-The-Game

 

Even with the ability to create art, this is definitely just a hobby for me as well. In my opinion, there is no money to be made for indie developers with mobile apps, except for a tiny handful of apps each year. 99% of the market has been covered by the major game publishers, and Apple is more than happy to keep things this way and prevent indie devs from getting more exposure, as they make billions by keeping the major publishers at the center of attention.

 

p.s. If it's any consolation to other posters here: having your own art does not making finishing projects succesfully much easier.



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#10

IndieEnthusiast

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To be honest for me it is a bit of both hobby and a learning experience.

I have so far not spent a single dime on my project. For me I want to create something with free assets out there.

It would be good to have some money in the pocket, and can come handy.

The big publishers out there are sort of creating content which I would say is more of a commercial genre, which will sell quite good as thomas mentioned.

I think it is the responsibility of small indie dev communities to make content which is different and fresh and with a bit of luck can come out rich :). I see some light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is long and tricky.



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#11

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I coded a lot as a kid on C64/Amiga, then quit as my A-level computing course was so boring. Back then (1997) there weren't all the great game engines that are around now, and PC gaming was only just getting going. You needed to be really bloody good to make a game good enough to sell, and those skills seemed mystical and unobtainable.

 

Up to this point I had only actually finished two games - a horse racing game in AMOS and a football game in qBASIC. I dipped back in a few years later and converted the football game to Visual Basic, and then didn't do any more games programming until 2011 when I discovered Corona.

 

I embarked on a prolific period making simple quiz/action games and a number of them made some good money. We were quickly able to buy a bigger house, I turned part-time and with my skills developed enough (or so I thought) in 2014 I embarked on making Retro Football Boss. I had always dreamed of making a football management game and in September 2016 it was released on Steam Early Access.

 

From there, I've made quite a few mistakes.

 

After spending 3 months fixing critical bugs, I embarked on a complete re-write in Corona. I should have refactored the existing code base and kept iterating that way. Having spent 6-9 months on this progress was slow and dull, and I was also messing around with Unity and having a lot of fun with that. About a year ago I decided to port the game to Unity, as I was enjoying C# much more than Lua and the speed increases were significant.

 

With all my time spent developing it, I've had no time or energy left to play it myself (or any other games for that matter) and see if it's actually any good, or do any marketing at all. I suppose it's sold fairly well organically, but nowhere near enough to quit the day job completely.

 

My current thinking is:

 

The sequel is so vast in scale, I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The scale is so vast it will have a global appeal and *could* sell well. But it could also flop.

It's a truly unique football game. A similar baseball game, OOTP, is very successful.

I'm not enjoying making this game anymore.

I don't want to throw four years' work out of the window.

The data I've assembled for it is the most comprehensive in the world, and can't be matched. It's a shame if it never got used.

There's a small band of people eagerly awaiting the sequel and helping me with data - I don't want to let them down.

I don't want to 'waste' the next two years when I could start something new, exciting and with more potential.

I'm 36 - I've got maybe one more big project left in me.

I have a lot of 7/10 ideas. Every time I think I have the 'one', it's already been done.

My skills have reached the point where I could do something amazing like Prison Architect that millions want to play.

I think I've got it in me to make something on that scale, and should have done it by now. Why did I mess around from 16-30?

Maybe I should quit altogether and spend more spare time with my family, or on other hobbies.

I've earnt great money doing contract work, maybe I should do more of that and stop dreaming.

Making other people's games isn't nearly as rewarding.

I'm exhausted from doing the day-job and making games for the past seven years.

7 years is nothing when I compare with the 25-30 years it took my Dad to become a professional composer.

I'd love to find a group of developers/designers/evangelists to work with and share the burden, but where to look?

If I could get funding to work on it full-time and employ help, maybe I'd enjoy it again - it beats real work, and would leave space for other things.

 

I know that's not the question you asked, but hey :D



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#12

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Nick_sherman : Good to hear you made a lot of money and were able to move to a bigger house! awesome well done!

 

So there is no light end of the tunnel :( ?

 

I was thinking of why not we create a chat room for solo developers out there, not sure if there will be enough participants?



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#13

cyberparkstudios

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@thomas6   ... your art looks excellent.  And from posts of yours I have seen, you seem to have a good grasp of coding now! Congrats.

 

@nick_sherman  C64_Amiga ... you have to be as old as me (:   

I actually did my first coding in C++, then I learned C# - XNA, then learned  a little Visual-Basic all while working about 50+ hours a week in my day-job and raising a family... so it spanned many years, on and off.

Mostly I made simple tic-tac-toe level games, and then I did a really good re-make (IMHO) of 'Lady Bug', a Coleco game from back in the day.  I did the remake for fun and as a learning process, since I could not market it legally, and had no knowledge or way to market it anyway.   Most of that C++, C#, and VB (all self-taught) has faded from memory, but then I stumbled onto Corona/Lua and it was fairly easy to pickup and the mobile market provided opportunity for solo-indies to get their games to market; thus I started back coding then. 

 

@ahmed_shahjada

A. solo ..  I modify and use free art and sounds I can find on internet, and I buy some of the art/sound assets wherever I can find them cheap.

 

B. I have probably 7 games right now that are all 60-90% complete that I need to finish before I would be able to co-op a project with anyone.

 

C. Have not used any publisher, or marketing service... but have been thinking about looking into that.



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#14

IndieEnthusiast

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@cyberparkstudios : You have been developing 7 games in parallel? You intend to release them at the same time?



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#15

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@ahmed_shahjada

 

Not really in parallel, I just had started a few and tabled them for various reasons...  there will be something either I am not confident about in the app that I want to change; or some where there is art or sounds I want to totally redo or am waiting on. I will then put that to the side and either get a new one started because of a strong feeling to code another type of game, or jump back to one of the other tabled games.



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#16

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Looks like a popular post so far, my quick response:

a. I am solo now, but have partnered before twice. Once it worked out well, once it did not.

b. I am not seeking a partner at this moment.

c. I have not worked with a publisher for games, regardless, given the opportunity to I would. That is, if the publisher had a built-in audience like Ketchapp, Appsolute, Big Fish, etc. then even if you got 30..50% of the profits it would be way better than what you could do alone.

At the end of the day, the value I see in a publisher is:

  • Built-it audience (i.e. guaranteed downloads)
  • They do the heavy lifting for marketing, publishing, etc.
  • You focus on game development (the part I like).

The downsides:

  • You split the pie (but its a big pie, so your slice is probably bigger than your whole go-it-alone pie would be)
  • You lose some of your autonomy.
  • You're locked into a contract and may even have to give them the game IP (not usually true any more)
  • You name/brand is overshadowed by theirs.  

 

PS - I have worked with a publisher for books and that is similar.


Edited by roaminggamer, 06 August 2018 - 08:03 AM.


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#17

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Thanks guys for the enlightenment and sharing your experience with me. I am 37 and I do dream of creating fresh content which may or may not make money only future can tell. Going solo is not easy I can see that even with the skillsets one may possess. The most important thing maybe for indies perhaps is to have a small number of games released every year and one may earn some amount of money.



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#18

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To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm indie or not! I'm coming at this a little differently to most...

I started coding in 1996 when I was 10. At that age you're obviously only interested in games, so I learned by making simple games. Like the rest of you, most of my projects were never actually completed... I suppose I was writing them more as a way of learning than anything else, and back then publishing anything wasn't really an option for amateurs so once you're bored of working on something, there's not really any incentive to keep at it.

I started in qbasic, dabbled with basic-a, then switched to Windows, experimented with a few languages (they all came as free trials with magazines), and eventually settled with Visual Basic. From there I moved more into software development, probably because VB was terribly slow and games require speedy processing.

In 2001 I moved to web development and although I've periodically messed around in my free time with games development again, I ended up building my career in web and on 2013 I set up a web agency.

Towards the end of last year I found Corona and it stuck. This time I'm not just dabbling, I've actually returned to games development and even gone as far as rebranding my company.

And this is where I'm in an unusual position. I've built up a number of contacts over the years and as a company there are two of us in-house, plus about a dozen designers and developers who work for us as contractors. They're not employees so on the face of it we're a tiny agency, but behind the scenes there are some seriously impressive people. They're all web people though... I'm the only game programmer, and I'm terribly rusty to say the least. On my own I'm indie at best, and as a company we're basically a web agency with an indie game programmer sitting in the middle, but we have digital designers, print designers, video guys, email campaign designers, SEO specialists, and so on all with skills that can easily be translated from web to game. If a client approaches us with a game idea and some money, I can put together a team and we can do a really good job, but we're not in a position where we can throw our own money at a project so that's a less feasible option for our own ideas.

So again, I'm not sure whether I'm indie or not at the moment. Definitely aiming for 'not' though.

As for publishers - in a nutshell, unless you just strike it lucky, actually putting something out there isn't as simple as uploading to the Android/iOS marketplace. Sure you're in front of an audience then, but you're not going to be featured in those marketplaces until you're snowballing and proving to Google/Apple that your game is going to make them more money if they feature it. You're going to get lost in the vast quantity of other titles now that everybody with the ability to use a keyboard is able to make something and upload. To get your product noticed, you have to throw money into advertising and you have to know all of the tricks to make your game show up under the right searches on all of the right mediums. This is where the risk is - we don't all have large sums of money to throw at a project without knowing that it's going to return a larger sum in the end. That's where a publisher comes in. Firstly they have a reputation to maintain which means that any title they take on and market has to be on par with every other title they market, so having their brand name on your title gives it credibility and immediately puts you in front of that publishers group of followers. And secondly they have the money to spend on huge advertising campaigns knowing that if it doesn't work out, they're not going to have to fold. Put simply, if you go with a publisher you're handing over the risk and the expense of putting your game out there, and you're giving it a good head start if your publisher is a reputable brand, but you're doing this in return for a potentially large share of the profits. It's a fair deal when you think about it though - you're going to be in profit from your smaller share long before your publisher is, because they're covering all of the initial expense.

It used to be that you could approach a publisher with a working concept and they'd fund the remaining development etc. I'm not sure that this is the case any more but if it is, I imagine this just replaces the stress of having to cover the expenses with a new stress of being pressured by the publisher to hit deadlines and incorporate design changes you're unhappy about... I'd avoid such a set-up myself.

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#19

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@Richard11 : Thanks for giving us an overview of your experience. The fact that you are in a position with the skillset and the team to put a game out there is an achievement in my opinion. Many a times I see partnerships not flourishing as they should.



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#20

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@ahmed_shahjada,

 

Don't expect to make money doing Indie games, the odds for a Indie developer to succeed is about 1% (being generous).

 

If you don't have a designer for your project the odds is even lower. Few games survive with low quality design, and most of then are made on propose not because the lack of skills (retro games).

 

Sound is AS important as design, most negligent this fact and most probably don't agree with me.  That's my opinion. It will level up your game.

 

Marketing your game is more important than programming skills, design or sound all together (what's the point of having a great game if no one knows it, and getting someone to knows it, it's harder than you think)

 

Usually 1 person team  only focus on his Idea and his skills in programming, neglecting the others areas. That's a rookie mistake that costs time. You said you didn't spent any dime on it...well...time is money in my book. If you spend 1 year in a project and then says at the end if it fails..."Well at least I didn't spent any money"...well....you did. That's 1 year you could do anything else that will not come back.

 

Saying this, doing a game while learning a language is always fun and making your dream game come true is even funnier. Just don't expect to earn money with it. If at the end you win, that's even better, but don't count on it. Don't quite your day job for it, that's my point ;)

 

Have fun in your project.



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#21

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I don't like to say so, because I don't want to discourage people, but I agree fully with Carlos Costa.

 

The vast, vast, vast majority of indie games have low-quality art, low-quality sound and low-quality game design. All this while "consumers" are getting more and more used to high quality and high production value content everywhere they look, even in friend's social media feeds.

 

99% of the games I see posted here on the forum, created by hobby programmers, are pretty bad. But that's perfectly okay, because it's a hobby for most, and people enjoy making them. But when it comes to making money with the games created by Corona developers, I think even less than 1% are viable candidates, and in my opinion almost always because the quality is too low for graphics, sound ànd game design.

 

Yes, that's harsh, but I stand by it.



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#22

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Well, as you say while less than 1% of indie developers will make any money (probably nearer 0.01%), if you make a unique, quality product, your chances increase hugely. So your chance of success is mostly dependent on your skill and determination, not a roll of a 100-sided dice.

 

If you made the next Minecraft, Prison Architect, Stardew Valley or Designer City (made in Corona), you will attract publishers and are highly likely to make money.

 

Whether or not you have the ability, time, desire, and crucially, the million dollar idea, is another matter!



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#23

IndieEnthusiast

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I am not discouraged by this. I will have fun learning corona sdk and even if there is one download I will be happy at this point.

The next thing I need to look into is how to upload game to android store.



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#24

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Learning from this discussion :

  • Have small scope and complete a project however it maybe
  • Publish a small number of apps
  • Learn the skills
  • No expectation to make money
  • Learn to create something unique
  • Design, sound, creativity matters


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#25

anaqim

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Although graphics and sound are important, nothing is more important than good ideas and good game design.

 

Many games are quite successful with rather simple graphics, simply because they are fun and often bring something fresh to the market.

 

2048 (if thats what its called) comes to mind.

 

I would not use "number of apps" as a target. Quality matters over quantity.

garbage will always be garbage, be it a single piece or a bucket load   :P

 

What I'd add instead is "get familiar with and study the documentation". It is well made and you will find the answers to most of your questions right there.

 

Don't forget to kiss your other hobbies and interests goodbye! :)

 

Happy coding!




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