Kickstart Your Indie Game Project

I just discovered this site called Kickstarter. (Thanks to Rinkuhero’s tweet about his project there).

Basically… it’s a site where you can pledge for funding. You set a funds limit, then set expiration dates and some other things (check their site for details) and then people can choose to fund your project.

Here’s the interesting thing: If there’s not enough pledges, then all money is returned to the backers.

Kind of cool system, and possibly something that indies could use in their development.

Anyone else tried this?

What Dynamite Sales And Crunch Time Have To Do With Each Other?

I’ve been doing bit of a “crunch time” here this week. Not a real, real (sicko) crunch time you can see companies doing. But like… worked bit more hours. To me, that’s as close to crunch time as it gets.

Anyway. When doing things, and working totally on something, I’ve benefited from couple of things:

So, after eliminating distractions, there needs to be sensible amount of work to do. No point adding more work that one can handle.

When you have a fixed deadline (such as November 1st) and fixed resources (that would be me), then naturally the 3rd element needs to be flexible: quality. If this is the way you can do your crunch time, and can accept the fact that you might not get everything done (I’ve accepted this principle 4 years ago and makes crunch time stress free).

The problems appear when you try to have 3 fixed variables. Here’s a handy formula to know what happens when you try too much:

Fixed Resources + Fixed Deadline + Fixed Quality = Brain explosion and starting a new career in the field of fishing. With dynamites.

So basically, if you are a producer trying to fix deadline & quality and expect the resources to be more than they can be, you are basically digging a hole for yourself (and helping the fisherman union. And dynamite sales).

So… I just chill out and get done what I get done. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t work as hard as I can. It simply means that I work as hard as I can. Not harder.

And then I leave the dynamite fishing to other people.

Now back to work.

The Second Best Thing To Keep In My In Game Development

For my zombie survival game, I’ve coded all sorts of tools to help out development. Here’s some ideas for beginner game devs to keep in mind when coding things. These will save tons of time during the development.

Years ago, I had a file where I put values in different variables. For example, I could have an array that would define speed and hitpoints and other various things for objects. Nowadays I don’t do this.

One of the things I’ve created for Dead Wake are character/object templates where I can easily adjust different values. Very early in development, I coded a system that will read files and create objects based on these files. In template file (which can be a simple text file or a .csv file or anything), I have written attributes, character type names, hitpoints, speed among other things. I didn’t bother writing a system where I could adjust these real-time (some games might benefit from that), as the current system is fast enough: I don’t need to compile anything, I just adjust couple of text files and re-launch the game to see the changes.

This sort of scripting is very beneficial to have for your game, and can loads of time in a long run. If you plan to use for example an Excel sheet (or something similar), it’s pretty easy to see all the values of different items and then export/save the file for game.

Same goes for all sort of helpful tools: level editor, physics editor, and whatever tools there are. Of course it’s good to keep in mind not to get too carried away. My current level editor works with couple of button clicks and has only a few keys to use. No point coding anything additional or creating fancy buttons when it’s good enough already.

Why Garry’s Mod Is The Most Successful Indie Product In Steam?

When you go to check Steam indie games and click “top sellers”, the chances are that you’ll see Garry’s Mod listed there in top 10. Over the years, it has pretty much always been there (at least when I’ve checked the list).

In fact, it’s the only top selling indie product that was released in 2006. That’s quite a long time to stay on top.

In my books, that’s the most successful indie product in Steam.

Why is that?

I’d have a few ideas on that (there’s some marketing points in here, so it might be actually a good idea to read this. At least the thing where word “pack” is mentioned):

  • It’s not a “real” game, as there’s no goals – it’s a toy. (Please, let’s just agree on this? Games=goals, toys=games with no goals). Toy that let’s you play around.
  • It’s a toy… but also a “sandbox game” where you can bring new items and mess with them.
  • You can construct: put your creativity in the work. And just construct. For people like me (who like to create, like many do) it’s a huge satisfaction to see and do new creations.
    It’s moddable. Strange as it sounds, but this mod is actually moddable and people have created their own game modes which other people can try.
  • It’s wacky: you can pose characters in funny positions. Save screenshots. And then hear your friends laughing.
  • It’s social. I think this is a huge thing. In this game/toy… you get to create new things and then you can share your creations. Naturally you can do this in other games, but in garry’s mod it’s kind of like expected: why create funny faces unless you plan to take screenshots and tell your friends. I’d guess there’s underlying expectation about sharing things created with garry’s mod. (I might be totally wrong on this).
  • It’s been updated: since it’s a mod, whenever Valve brings new stuff or games (like Team Fortress 2), garry’s mod got tons of content (naturally with some work, but anyway).
  • The price is probably very right.
  • Valve’s promotion. As garry’s mod is made for Valve’s product, there’s good chances to get promotion made by Valve. For example, now you can purchase a pack “Garry’s Mod + Team Fortress 2″. Valve has interest to sell TF2, so Garry’s mod benefits from that. You don’t get to see “Team Fortress 2 + (random indie game)” being sold in a pack. Cross-selling is a good thing, and when you can stick your product close to other (very popular) product, you are in a good place.
  • It got there first. Being first isn’t always a good thing (as competitors can come and ruin your thing by doing something better), but garry’s mod pretty much was there first to provide a wacky mod for Valve’s products. It got there first, and is holding the lead. Why bother buying some other wacky mod (don’t even know if there is any?) as garry’s mod is the popular one?

Last but not definitely least:

  • It’s indie made.

And everybody knows that indie made stuff rocks.

What Are AAA Titles? (Updated Definition)

This thread at indiegamer got me pondering what are AAA titles. I wrote a somewhat detailed blog post 3 years ago and thought that it’s time to update the definition.

In that article, I pondered that AAA titles are:

High-quality games with big budget.

Nowaday, I have a shorter definition:

Games with big budget.

And, I actually don’t try to be funny here. I just feel that the “budget” doesn’t equal “quality”. AAA titles are high budget games, but I’m not so sure about the quality. Sure, there’s great AAA games, but a gut feeling of mine says 80% of them aren’t.

So, let’s talk about indie games
I feel that there’s tons of great indie games around that provide excellent quality (compared to so called AAA titles that have huge budgets, but low quality). Indie games can provide excellent quality with smaller budgets.

I recently played a game called Windowsill (thanks Ofer for this fun Steam gift!). That game is one beatiful, quality product. Everybody should play and buy it. Then I saw also Machinarium – another great looking indie game, seemed fun too. Friend of mine is working on his Lylian game. I hate platformers… but this one is a “horror” themed adventure side-scroller, with stunning graphics. Something that I like.

Many people might already know Gratuitous Space Battles (I do have an opinion about that name… but one reviewer said he bought the game just for the name, so can’t argue with that) – game by Cliff Harris. Expect quality from there. A few minutes ago I tested AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity (or Aaaaa! for short) which has a simple fun idea, and really cool visuals. Another quality looking indie game.

So… we don’t really need more AAA games.

I think we need more something else. Something like this:
(here’s the actual comment by somebody who referred me to play Battle Bears)

“Juuso, If you ever want to shoot heads off cute pink teddy bears, check it out.”

Not sure if that’s indie, but at least sounds fun.

Next step: let’s beat those AAA games.