Eden Industries recently released their very first game Waveform, so an interview about the indie industry with them is a perfect opportunity to get some opinions from budding developers. Their mission in game developing is to reach back to the time when games were fun for everyone who sat down to play them, and attempt to create a sort of “Gaming Eden”. So here you go, some questions and answers from an indie developer with some refreshing thoughts on the indie community and industry:
What do you think makes a game “indie”?
I spent a lot of time thinking about this one, and I can’t really come up with a great answer. Certainly there’s the notion of pouring your heart and soul into something you’re passionate about with the knowledge that maybe no one will care. There’s the sense of doing it despite great personal and financial cost to yourself, usually having to bootstrap your way into releasing anything at all without any external support. That’s not really a definition, but moreso characteristics that I think are exemplified by the indie community. It’s certainly at least something that separated my development of Waveform from the feelings I have working in the mainstream industry.
What do you think of all the indie bundles coming out, and do you think there are starting to be too many of them?
I think they’ve been a fantastic way to shed some light on some awesome indie games, which is fantastic. A lot of them involve charities as well, which is even better! That being said, I do hope that people don’t begin to see bundles as the only way to get indie games. Plenty, like Waveform, are available on Steam, and there are many other platforms to grab them as well. Since there are obviously more games out there than what’s just bundled, I hope that the proliferation of the bundles doesn’t overshadow the many great indie games out there that aren’t bundled.
Do you see indie bundles as helping to get the word out about the indie community, or possibly doing harm ?
As above, I think that they are great in a lot of ways. The only danger would be if people see them as the only way to get indie games, which I think would be unfortunate.
If your game is submitted to an indie bundle, do you see it as beneficial? Quite a few people will donate the minimum of one dollar, and after charities and other fees, you probably only see about 20 cents or so. Is it worth it to make that little off of a sale?
Well I actually think the money that goes to charities is awesome. I think that even having the ability to play games at all makes us extremely fortunate, and I think it’s a powerful statement to society when games, and those that play them, are able to come together and do awesome things for people less fortunate than ourselves. Regarding your point about making about 20 cents or so off of a game, I think it’s all a matter of perspective. If you bundle your game a year after release or so, how many sales of the game at full price are you even getting anymore? Probably not many. In that case, 20 cents is better than nothing! Plus, a few hours after Waveform released it was already pirated. So I’d prefer I earned 20 cents of a sale of the game instead of nothing in that sense as well! But even beyond the revenue earned, I think there’s something awesome about just getting the game into the hands of people that will enjoy it. I hope to earn enough money with Waveform to pay the bills and keep making games. But just the fact that I’ve made something and put it out into the world where thousands of people are enjoying it is really quite amazing I think. And bundles are just a great way to put the game into the hands of people! And if they’re fans of the game, I’m confident they’ll stay in touch with what I’m working on and maybe they’ll buy the next game. Making fans is never a bad thing.
How about when someone buys a bundle for one cent?
Once cent is better than pirating it. Of course ideally they’d give an amount considerate of the value of what they’re getting. But when the alternative is to grab games off of any torrent site, at least opening the wallet is a step in the right direction!
Do you feel like people are copying ideas because they’ve seen how successful others were with it, such as the all the indie bundles and the newly seen indie documentaries?
Maybe, but that’s kind of the way things go, right? I mean if someone put a patent on making indie documentaries, there’d be a lot of great stories out there that go untold. And if someone put a patent on indie bundles, there’d be a lot of great indie games that go unnoticed. A lot of it depends on the motivation too I think. If you say to yourself, “Hey this guy made a ton of cash doing such and such, I’m going to copy him and make money too,” well I think there’s something wrong with that. But maybe you see an indie documentary and think, “Wow that was powerful and moving. I know a story that is really worth showing the world too and I think it’ll really make an impact,” well that’s a bit different right? It’s one of those things that in a lot of ways comes down a person’s character and integrity, and so for obvious reasons it’s hard to make any concrete decisions about it I think.
If an indie developer gets the backing of a publisher, is it still considered indie? Such as EA’s new indie program.
I find this question pretty difficult to answer in a lot of ways, primarily because I don’t consider myself an authority on what being indie is. Consider for example Jason Rohrer. That guy is an awesome indie. But his DS game Diamond Trust of London has a publisher. Does that make him not indie? I wouldn’t say so since he’s developing it all on his own the last time I checked. I’d say despite a publisher for that title, he’s still indie. There are also a couple guys that consider themselves “indie” but have giant (relatively speaking) teams at their beck and call. It’s true that they’re independent strictly speaking, but I think there’s a spirit of being an indie that is kind of hard to define but that maybe they’re not quite living up to. So it’s kind of a case by case basis I’d say and hard for me to nail down any hard and fast rules. But I mean at the end of the day, an awesome game is still an awesome game right? Whether it’s made by one guy or a massive team, awesome games are still great. So I’d say let’s all just make awesome games and worry about the categories they fit into after.
Without the backing of a publisher, how do you finance your games?
Although I think it’s a bit different for everyone, I personally maintained a full-time job in the games industry while working on Waveform. In addition to keeping my bank account from draining away, I made some awesome contacts that ended up helping me with Waveform, including Scott McFadyen who made the awesome soundtrack.
Where do you see the indie game industry heading in the future?
I think it’s picking up a lot of steam and will continue to grow in the future. I think public opinion is really embracing the spirit of indie development and I think that’ll help more and more indie games to find a place to thrive in our culture.
What are your specific plans for contributing to the indie scene?
Well one thing in particular I’m planning on doing is developing some sort of community or service or something along those lines where I’d be able to share my experience, tools, or whatever else someone might deem valuable for up-and-coming indies. Indie development is super hard, but I think at the moment it’s still harder than it has to be. Guys like the Indie Fund are doing great things to foster indie development, and I’d like to do something similar. Although those guys have tons of money and I don’t . So I’m trying to leverage what I do have in order to foster that community in a different way.
Is there anything else you would like to comment on involving the indie industry and community?
I wish there was a more obvious way to get involved in the community. I’ve released an indie game and I still feel kind of on the outside of the indie scene for some reason. Maybe I was too busy making the game and didn’t spend enough time trying to be a part of the community? I guess I feel like I’m part of the “indie industry” but not really the “indie community” if that makes sense and I hope I can change that in the future.