Like taking a huge slice of the pie.Originally Posted by Mind Elemental
A while back, Cliffski pointed out on his blog that indie devs must be their own marketers, accountants, PR folks, etc. And that got me thinking. While nowadays we have online platforms such as Steam, Impulse, XBLA, PSN, app stores, etc., that allow devs to distribute their own games, I am sure that publishers still perform many other functions that would be useful to developers*.
So my question is, indie devs, what services do you miss? What would you find useful? What would make your lives easier?
* And I could probably say the same of any media business where technology is making it easier for artists to bypass the middle man.
Like taking a huge slice of the pie.Originally Posted by Mind Elemental
A sufficient enough market presence to dictate a more favorable street/shelf date for a potentially incomplete product.
Publishers don't offer much as far as publishing goes when it comes to digital distribution. Services they can offer would be things like marketing and advertising and possibly some QA. In the iPhone/Steam world I don't really think they offer all that much I have to say, other than possibly advertising in other games.
I would think access to quality technology. Right now, if you don't have the funds of a publisher, you will never get one of the big engines. Kind of leaves a lot of indies either building their own tech or trying to suffer through one of the cheaper engines.
On the upside, if you're not trying to sell your game, you do have a few nice options. UDK has a lot of the functionality of the Unreal Engine with the caveat being you only have access to UnrealScript (which actually gives you way more power than I was expecting). Unity is supposed to be a great 3D engine as well, though I haven't used it, plus it runs in browsers, which is pretty neat, and I believe it is also free to use if you aren't making money off the games you make with it.Originally Posted by Charles
I have no idea what the licensing fee is for UDK or Unity for a game you're selling, but I know UDK has an indie licensing option that's intended for that purpose, so it may not be too unreasonable, and I wouldn't be surprised if Unity did as well. All that said, more free technology would be even more awesome.
Not using a stock engine like Unreal is probably a good idea.
If you use one of these engines, you game will be "infected" by a similar look. And people buy Indie games in part because look different.
That's so derivative. Galvani did that shit back in the 1700s and here you are trying to pretend you invented it and it's "art". Fucking poser.
Winning the lottery?
I am sure you can put here 20 screenshots of games made by unreal, that look different each another.
But you have to work hard to have that. While if you have a different engine, that you game look and feel different is a natural result. And if your game uses as new engine, is natural that will look and feel new. Maybe with visuals that no one has seen before ever.
The point of using a *engine* is to not rewrite code, so you can start with the fun parts. These parts that you don't rewrite, will help your game feel like other games made with the same engine. I don't know how true is this in a engine like unreal, that is soo modular, almost like a lego game... but I don't think the result will be different ( I can be wrong ).
A level playing field.
Where you can approach a shop(any shop) and strike some kind of deal to have your game put on the shelves, without having to take part in the ludicrous bidding war that only AAA's can afford to take part in. hmm Maybe an 'Indie Zone' which only stocks indie games and has a transparent up front cost that fits an indie pocket(like; ok well i'll give you 25% of my sales from your store for 2 weeks on your shelf).
Or the ability to do a deal with a AAA publisher that doesn't involve giving up rights to your game(or future games you may make), as 'most' will simply 'kick you out the door' if you suggest this.
And if your lucky enough to get this far, assurances that some 'genius' from marketing can't change your project because 'fps with big guns and women with big tits sells better'.
What I wish I had:
A proper QA department, with 10 different machines, and 10 paid testers who could give exactly debug reports and let me see the call stack on their machine.
An accountant who actually understood the industry
A full time artist who could knock stuff up on demand quickly
A full time web developer and community manager
I wouldn't trade my indie status to get any of these though, and I get by without any of them. If I had a million dollars to spare on my next game, I still wouldn't license a graphics engine, because I know my own engine much better, and I do 2D games, so 90% of the features in engines are just useless clutter to me. Plus I hate other peoples code, and hate relying on someone else to fix a bug.
I'm sure you could do GSB in the unreal engine, but I'm not sure it would look exactly the same. It's drawn back to front using the painters algorithm with a ton of alpha blending. Most 3D engines seem to assume high poly meshes with hard edges, not softly alphaed sprites.
The unreal engine is likely superior in 100 technical ways to GSB's, but the GSB engine is designed to do GSB, and it does it very efficiently.
I still get people insisting they could do it in flash on a phone and look just as good. They never do it though.
An affordable art shop would be huge. There are some that do ala cart art, but art is definitely expensive and difficult for the less than skilled/talented.
The 3D game was invented by one guy in a very small company, writing the engine himself. The trend continues. Sushi Bar Samurai. The Witness. Miegakure. Love. Minecraft. Some people consider Stardock indie, so you may as well count Elemental. There are probably others I don't know about, or have forgotten (I don't know what Subversion or Spy Party are using). Most indies aren't making 3D games, and probably shouldn't be making 3D games, but there are cheap/free engines available for those who want to go that route. Not all of them completely suck.
Depending on the age of the person being asked, some might state, that Battlezone was the first 3D computer game, whereas others might name Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, or even Quake. While these titles may be some of the best known examples of the genre, the first documented 3D first person game appears to be Spasim, a program written by Jim Bowery for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s PLATO network (Bowery). Bowery describes Spasim as follows: “Spasim was a 32-player 3D networked game involving 4 planetary systems with up to 8 players per planetary system, flying around a space in which the players appeared to each other as wire-frame space ships and updated their positions about every second. (Bowery)”
Bowery recalls that Spasim, short for Space Simulation, was originally released in March of 1974, but locating documentation of the exact dates for the release of many PLATO games is very difficult since little conclusive documentation exists.
I believe Sushi Bar Samurai is actually 2D (Myst-like interface).
The Witness, Miegakure, Love, Spy Party, and Minecraft are all written from scratch (not using a licensed engine). I would bet Subversion is also from scratch, but I don't know (though the tech tricks they were talking about basically require it).
Making a 2D game is, of course, way easier than making a 3D game... all other things being equal, I recommend indies do something in 2D.
Given that most (or at least many) indies are coders to begin with, it's hardly technological challenges that are (or should be) the problem. Art, the QA side, and accounting (pain)/business arrangements are definitely the three things that I would say pose the greatest challenges to me (though obviously my experience is colored by the very part-time nature of my occupation). I rather enjoy interacting with the community, but obviously it takes time - getting players willing to assist with this is always nice.
My answer to the original question: a paycheck. However, like cliffski and his list, I am currently not willing to give up being indie to get one.
I actually think there is a universe in which an "indie producer" could "produce" 5 or 10 indie games simultaneously and be a positive influence on the games, helping people stay on track to their own goals, and all the things good producers do. However, due to a bunch of reasons, I do not think we inhabit that universe.
The biggest hinderance I have is the lack of an artist as well, particularly in the early phases of the project. I understand that great art costs money and am very willing to fork out for that once the project is well underway. But the early phases of the project, when I'm trying to nail down the look and what type of technology I need to achieve that look is difficult with my crappy art skills. Not only that but there is nothing like some awesome assets to get into the project to inspire you. I manage, though. And I'm not saying that concept / early art isn't worth paying for, just rather that it'd be nice to have access to an artist that could bang it out quickly -- perhaps an artist that could service a pool of indie developers at a time (since the art isn't final production art and is quick to produce).