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Going indie full time

Skipping the 'hobbyist' stage and going straight to full time independent development has had a massive impact on game design decisions, and has defined the way I prioritise my time.


First let me introduce myself. I am Rebeccah, and I am a programmer/artist/designer/every-other-job-involved-in-making-games. I graduated from Media Design School in Auckland, New Zealand about a year ago as a games programmer, and have since been trying to shape a career out of making games independently. I 'officially' formed Bexcellent Games Ltd in September, with just me to carry out all of the work, but I have recently brought another person in as an artist.

 

Choosing to go indie

I made the decision to become an indie developer a few months before I graduated. I was not that impressed with the idea of working long hard hours for someone else, combined with having little-to-no creative input. I had created some small games by myself through school, and had found that to be much more rewarding than being stuck in the management/programming roles that I took on larger projects.

I had the chance to meet different people in the New Zealand/Australian games industry when they visited school, so I managed to get a good insight into what it would really be like making games in the real world, not just for grades. Every industry person who had taken on indie development had made it abundantly clear that it is a much harder road to travel, so I was well warned. I did not get into this with my eyes closed.

 

Picking a platform

When I first started planning, Flash was still a viable option to take on as a new developer (I definitely do not think that now). I already had a computer, so there would be no set up costs involved. After a couple of months of research, planning, and working on a couple of game ideas, it became clear that I had missed the boat, and that I would have to rethink my platform options.

I knew that the other option was mobile, but which platform? Of course the main choices were Android and Apple. I had initially considered developing for both, but after looking at engine options it looked like it would be easier to focus on just one, at least until I had produced a few games. Apple came out on top in the end. Not because of the hype, or how 'cool' the brand is, but because of the fact that Apple has a limited number of devices (and resolutions), and provides customer support. I know that everyone has a different opinion on this, but those points were the main decision-makers for me.

 

Figuring out achievable game ideas

One of the more unexpected revelations that I have had was how hard it is to come up with small, manageable game ideas. It is really easy to slip into an RPG, or an endless runner with lots of content, or almost anything level-based. From my experience, actually designing and making lots of games is the only thing that helps you get over this hurdle, otherwise it is too hard to estimate the amount of work involved in any idea. I have a list of about 40 solid game ideas, and only about five or six of them are actually achievable with the resources I have. By resources I of course mean time and money.

 

Not competing with the big guys

As a one or two person team, there is no way that anything produced can be on the same level as a larger studio. This is by far the biggest factor affecting all of the game ideas and design decisions. The only way to go is to play to our strengths as a small team. This means moving on trends quickly, immediately scrapping ideas that are not working, and sticking with very small-scale game ideas and development periods. The goal is to make games that are visually polished, play well, and do not look like what you would expect from one or two people glued to their computers in a basement.

 

Biggest challenges so far

Forming a company and dealing with legal issues has been a major hurdle. Changing certain development contract details and forming a legal entity for the company has taken a large amount of time and effort.

If time travel was available, and I could go back and do it again, I would put in more research while I was still at school (i.e. still receiving financial support), and make more small games in my own time. One of the things that I hadn’t achieved until recently was making a full game, completely finished and polished. The assignment games for school were never finished to the last detail, due to deadlines, and the fact that the games would never actually be released for sale.

 

Final words

If I had to give just one piece of advice, it would be to make a game. Keep it very small, and finish it completely, including all menu items and UI. It sounds simple, but it has really been the thing that has made me learn the most, and has given me the most insight into how much time and effort it takes to make a game.

I have just released my first commercial game on iOS. It is called Koi Pond Code Breaker, and is a small puzzle game where you try to guess a colour code (like Mastermind). I have learned a lot making it, and will write about it in the near future when I have solid data to share.

 

Bexcellent Games on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/bexcellentgames

Koi Pond Code Breaker on iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/koi-pond-code-breaker/id653312612?mt=8


Thank you for your time, and feel free to contact me for any information, or just for a chat!

Rebeccah (Me):
https://www.facebook.com/rebeccah.cox

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