IndieDevs and IndiE3, Hope for Gaming Future

Art by @hellomavw (via Twitter)

Art by @hellomavw (via Twitter)

Never heard of IndiE3? I don’t blame you.  24 hours ago it was an itch that creator TJ Thomas (  ) finally located and scratched like a furious demon with poison ivy on his balls.  Yesterday it was nothing.  As of typing this sentence,  it has gained 593 followers on Twitter and attracted the imaginations of Indie Gamers and Indie Developers alike.  The feed is buzzing with contributions from artists ( as seen above ), writers and statements from its creator.  But why does anyone care?  Why should any single fucks be given?  Here’s why. On an article written yesterday on Kotaku, Jason Schreier set out to explain why being a Game Developer sucks worse than you might think.  Imagine working a job for a major company in its field, and suddenly, you’re not getting paid.  A month later the company NO LONGER FUCKING EXISTS.  As Jason describes, this was all too real for developers of 38 Studios.  He then lists dozens of companies that have had layoffs, some in the thousands.  It’s too easy to look at this and run into the streets naked proclaiming the death of gaming altogether.  Granted, it shows the volatility of the industry, but there is a measure of security in being a developer for a major company.  I mean, all things considered, it must be worth it if the game is making millions of dollars American, no?  But if your game tanks or is delayed, you’ll likely be fired.  And if your tanked game is the sole hope upon which the company is depending for its next big break, that whole company is fucked. The article tells us that Over-Saturation, the over-hiring of staff to hit strenuous dead-lines, and corporate financial strategizing are often to blame.  It blatantly says “Priority number one for [major publishers] is keeping shareholders happy, which means showing big numbers on their earnings reports every quarter” in the article.  They’ll fire people just to save fucking money.  As you might have guessed, major companies like EA and Activision put the priority of returns WAY over any value in personnel, or even their fucking customers.  As long as their games are bought, they couldn’t give a single flying apeshit about anyone but their shareholders.  If they saw this they’d panic for their bottom lines and run to the presses to denounce me (or promote me as strategies permit would best suit the situation) and apologize to everyone.  They would lament for the travesties they lay on developers and maybe even send them a fruitbasket.  But in the end, we can generally assume that is just to serve the benefit of profits. And the bastards go ahead and try to make it look like they give a crap about the little people by featuring a small handful of Indie Developers at E3 2014 and act like they’ve broken through some vestigial preconception established by a cruel and uncaring society.  A society that they happily feed into with their hype and PR etc.  And why the fuck not? It makes them hundreds of millions, even billions to maintain the status quo.  It’s like they think Indie Game Developers are a social group experiencing discrimination.  What they don’t realize is that Indie Developers are rising and becoming their own factor.  Valve already took the first steps in making Indie Gaming a movement when they released Steam Greenlight back in August 2012. While it is not perfect (and I mean really not perfect), it’s still miles better than anything anyone else is trying. Like Apple. For most developers being on Itunes is like buying a damned lottery ticket.  Greenlight even makes me feel warm and fuzzy toward Valve.  Many developers, like Lorne Lanning of the Oddworld series, seem to agree that contracting syphilis would be preferable  to working for major game developers and going indie is the cure.  I mean, Lanning was quoted thusly in an interview with VG247 regarding the release of his new indie title, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty and his feeling of releasing games retailside :

“Fuck that business. I don’t want to play with that business, because it was a losing business,” he lamented. “I just don’t want to go back and play the old [publisher] game. I’d rather not make games than go fucking be a slave for public companies who care more about their shareholders than they do about their customers.  “Why did Battlefield 4 ship? You know that team was crying. You know that team knew that game wasn’t ready to go. You know that team fucking spent a lot of sleepless nights building that shit out to look as good and play as good, when it was able to be experienced, being played as they were intending it to be played. Someone made a decision that the shareholders are more important than the customer. And we see a lot of that. How do you blow that? How do you take that fucking jewel and ship it with dirt all over it?”

                                                                                                                                      – Lorne Lanning with VG247, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty – “it’s not a fucking HD remake”

Divesting the major game development scene for the indie scene is not a move everyone makes.  There is a section in the Kotaku piece where a guy doing QA for a porn company talks about how he hates his job now, but losing development jobs again and again was still not a better option for him.  He has a life and a family, you know?

Arinn Dembo, developer for Sword of the Stars with Kerberos Productions ( @Erinys via Twitter ), replied to a request for input from a major developer gone rogue and was able to corroborate some of what others were saying, specifically about the volatility of the industry.  She spoke from experience, having worked for Sierra in her early days as a dev.

“Sometimes it’s not just that the industry is volatile. It’s outright toxic.” For Arinn, the license to freedom was just too attractive to pass up.  Her motivations to move on to Indie Development were clear. “I had two reasons. One: I wanted to stick with my team. They were and are the best human beings I have known.  Two: I couldn’t resist the unprecedented, unrestricted Creative License to Kill that I’d have in the SotS verse.”  Her thoughts left a lot to think about, and sure enough she left with one classy line that I think describes the overall Indification of Gaming succinctly…

Erinys

Kerberos currently has Kaiju-a-Gogo (yes, the Pacific Rim Kaiju) listed on kickstarter! Support them NOW!

With all that in mind, Indie Game development is no picnic in the park.  It’s a picnic in a desert where you have to trudge for miles before finding a nice, shady spot to sit down.  It’s full of pitfalls, pain and anguish that can only be braved by the truly dedicated.  And Indie Developer, Clay Hayes (@RNassassin via Twitter), agreed to describe the life of an Indie Game Developer for me.  Under the name Bloodshot Games, Clay is the sole developer working on the Third-person Shooter/Stealth game, Redneck Assassin.  He tweeted a message for Indie Developers, which I thought described Indie GameDev life with vibrant emotion.

rnassassin In an e-mail correspondence, Clay revealed to me some of the strains that Indie Game Development is placing on his marriage, considering he has been on development of Redneck Assassin since May 2013, Mrs. Hayes must be a saint. “My wife is always upset with me cause I’m never home for the dinner she cooks.  My diet consists of Red Bull and SoBe green tea.  Occasionally MacDonalds  and Top Ramen.” I ate more than that in college.  But Clay also faces  mounting occupational difficulties. “The title has been pushed back several times now.  I’m shooting for January 2015, after the Christmas game rush.  It’s most challenging doing EVERYTHING.  Art, code, design, animation, pr and administration; I’m seeing teams of Indie [Developers] literally pass me by on development progress.  It’s not hard to keep up, it’s impossible.  So, if you are a solo Indie[Dev], DON’T compare yourself to teams.  It’s an ice-skating uphill battle.” And Redneck Assassin faces further challenges in the industry. “Apparently Redneck Assassin is an offensive title and Apple will not allow me to have the term ‘redneck’ in my game.” So after all that, Indie Developers get to face rejection on the basis of a term that refers to a group of people synonymous with Confederate flags on raised pick-up trucks.  Apple can suck a dry, dirty dick.  Clay is looking into featuring Redneck Assassin, in all its man-hunting glory, on IndiE3 with a possible demo version.  Clean of any of Apple’s clutches as “Apple is bitches about sharing works-in-progress.” But despite being a hard path fraught with difficulty, I fully believe that Indie Gaming is developing into a counter-culture that has the potential to become greater than mainstream gaming.  First, Indie Games are able to experiment in ways that major game companies simply cannot.  Looking at games like A Clumsy Adventure by Excamedia, which fuses elements of retro games with modern games, or Concursion by  Puuba Games, which fuses platformer, shooter, hack-n-slash, jetpack and maze racer/puzzler games into one.  Major game companies simply couldn’t market games like these to wide audiences, mostly because they wouldn’t know what to fucking do with it.  There are so many more games like this, that it boggles the mind, but they are out there. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, is where major gaming companies go to touch each other in front of the media, unveil new ideas and the future of gaming, and generally drum up as much hype as they can in a few days.  It’s like the World’s Fair for gaming.  Originally, anyone who could afford the ticket prices could enter, but in 2007 E3 closed to the public, reverting to its original “industry-only” format.  Well, as stated earlier, they invited a few Indie Developers and decided to call that fair.  Honestly, the number of Indie Developers is staggering, so how do we keep track of all them?  Wikipedia’s List of Indie Game Developers compiles many, but not all of them.  How can we hear about the newest in gaming innovation on the Indie side?  Well, the man wants you to think E3 has that too now, but Indie Gaming is so much more. Which brings me back to IndiE3.  Basically, this site was nothing as of June 5th, but literally overnight it began to establish a formidable following that continues to grow.  While I was writing this article, which honestly took me all night, it grew to 611 followers on twitter.  IndiE3 represents more than just a place to go, it is OUR place to go.  The Cyber-event will take place June 9th – June 16th with various “channels” that you’ll be able to watch as the event proceeds.  Opening day will include live panels (they’ve received support from Indie Haven and The Spawn Point ), ranging from indie game coverage, design manifestos, to round-table discussions and lightning talks submitted to IndiE3 and seen live only at hitbox.tv.  June 10-14th will feature the official IndiE3 Game Jam, hosted by Game Jolt! You create the games at #IndiE3.  They’ll also encourage developers to sell their IndiE3 games as well.  June 15th, they’ll collect the Game Jam games and show them off all day. Numerous streams and game tournaments will run throughout the whole event and Warp Door will have their own channel/booth to show off various unique little games. I hope this event plays out to be as much fun as it seems like it will be.  Although they are billing themselves as E3’s rebellious little brother, this event seems best attended with E3 playing (possibly on mute) on your television in the background.  I will leave you with TJ Thomas’s very own words on IndiE3.  There are more intriguing thoughts and motivating words on the IndiE3 Project’s Twitter feed.  Check it out for yourself. Thanks to @ttl_anderson for the use of his small logo for the tweet link.Tj1 TJ3 TJ2TJ4

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