By Your Powers Combined, I am Indie Team Up!

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Since Captain Planet can’t help us anymore, it is up to us to fend for ourselves in this crazy world.  But none of us have powers as strong as Captain Planet’s, even if Independent Game Developers are capable of some pretty cool things on their own.  Many IndieDevs are solo men or women sitting in their basement coding, more still have a small team of about 6 people.  Some IndieDevs are entire companies, but still the process can be a difficult slog through treacherous terrain.  Indie Team Up is, luckily, one of those awesome things that some GameDevs did has the potential to make life easier for everyone involved.

The idea of the upcoming service is to link IndieDevs together so that we can help each other move the development of games forward.  Another feature of this is artists.  How many times have you been sitting there wishing you had artistic talent outside of coding?  Or needed a composer just to drum up some music?  Perhaps you need a writer to spell check, edit and hone your dialogue?  Indie Team Up will have that, too.  So who are these people with the drive, passion and vision to make this happen?  What is their motivation and what are they going to get out of it?  Just follow the bouncing ball.

Between the two of them, Colleen Delzer and Justin Hammond are the evil geniuses bringing this community to life.  Both are dedicated IndieDevs, and both of them have other things in their lives that require their focus and attention.  During our interview, Colleen had chicken in the oven for her family.  This code-slinging mother of two spends everyday making games with her husband.  Indeed, she is half of Adversary Games, a company Co-Founded with her husband.  Colleen attended the University of Advanced Technology and, only two years into her studies, she was picked up by Realm Interactive.  A year later Realm couldn’t find a pusblisher, so Colleen sought new work outside the industry.  That lasted about 6 years until she was hired at Game Center Group.  There she did game QA, game CS, web coding and design, but her true creative desires drove her to make games.  Listening to the voice in the back of her head, she read some C++ books cover to cover and founded Adversary Games with her husband.  And they manage well enough to make the Indie Team Up a reality.

When I asked Colleen to explain the Indie Team Up to me, she explained, “There are a lot who would love to help out GameDevs but don’t know how to ask, and a lot of GameDevs want help with an idea but don’t know where to turn too.  The role of Indie Team Up is to connect the two!”

In a culture that is so focused on excelling individually, Indie Team Up has a different plan, “Our mission is to help bring the ideas of Independent Developers to fruitation and to cultivate a spirit of collaborative assistance.   And to say, Hey! It’s ok to ask for help!”

And many in the IndieDev community agree.  Indie Team Up is a burgeoning hashtag that is tearing holes in the twitter-verse.  “It only started on the 15th of June, and I really wasn’t thinking it was going to take off like it did!  But we are really trying to help people collaborate to make their projects a reality.”

So where does an idea like this originate?  The ITU team has a good heart and the skills to bring the Game Dev community closer together, but it seems this is a movement born out of frustration. “Several people asked if I could use help with development, which at the time I didn’t.  I felt bad turning people down because it seemed they really wanted to help someone. I thought that Indie Team Up could be a way were they could help someone in need.  An avenue for them, if you will”

ITU is an idea from the heart of its creators, helping them tap into their own creativity and allowing them to give back to the IndieDev community.  “I guess it’s an avenue for me as well.  I really love helping people, just wasn’t sure on how to do it.  So, I guess this is my chance. ^ ^”

If Colleen is the caring mother of the ITU team, Justin is certainly the dedicated father.  With C++ as his first language, possibly prior to English, he is a self-taught programmer and later sought to legitimize his knowledge by attending school.  Though he has yet to finish his degree, his reasons for taking his time are certainly respectable.  Having served 5 years in the Army of the United States of America, Justin spent 2 tours in Iraq.  He is proud of his time in the military, but he’s glad to spend his time with his own family now.  Justin is a husband of 7 years with a 3-year-old daughter.  He devlops games under the moniker Black Module Studios and  has some of his work on Kongrerate as well.  Of course not every project goes as planned and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.  Justin also helped develop a voxel framework that is featured on the Unity3D asset store for 40$, which started as a game.  Unfortunately he and his team at Black Module had to shelve the idea until they have the resources to complete it.

Justin’s biggest priority as a Co-Founder is the development of the Indie Team Up website and shared his origin story as the ITU Web Developer. “Web development just sort of came naturally, as I love spending time on the internet, and I could program, so I just picked it up.”

And he puts a lot of time into the website, “It’s really only been about a week, so I can’t give an average yet.  Although I’ve spent at least 25 hours this past week on design.”

But hard work is worth it when the product in mind is rewarding and extensive. “At a high level, [the Indie Team Up website] will allow users to showcase themselves and search out other people or teams to join. Teams will also be a large part of the site as teams will be able to search for users with the skills they need to complete their projects.  There is a heavy emphasis on discoverabilty.  The goal is to make it insanely easy to find people with the skills you need, or projects that you want to work on.”

The team has some really interesting plans, too, to integrate with a number of other community-organized projects.  “Something else that we hope for is some integration with game jams.  This was actually a personal idea of mine, as I always have trouble finding people to work with when Ludum Dare comes around.  We still need to organize something with the hosts of different game jam events (Ludum Dare, #1GAM, etc.) but we are very hopeful.  At the very least, we’ll have a section of the site dedicated to short term projects, such as game jams or other events.”

Indie Team Up has a list of problems it aims to solve, and Justin was eager to expound up them. “Because the internet is so large, it can be difficult to find people that 1) have the skills you don’t have, and 2) actually want to be part of what you are doing.  We aim to solve those issues by having a centralized place to find other indie developers.”

Among the goals for the ITU site are integration with its existing extensions, “The site will tightly integrate with the hashtag and facebook page, so that when people post their, it is right on the site. It won’t just be a direct feed though, as we are already having people ‘misuse’ the hashtag.”

I even suggested that there be a showcase where ITU displays some of the projects it helped match-make with the approval of community members.  He laughed and mentioned that he and Colleen already have a plan in the works for just such an idea.  The ITU team has even had its first victories, which Justin shared. “One of the first days after #indieteamup started, we helped an artist find a team and are flying him to PAX.  That was a very happy moment for us, being able to see what we are doing actually help people to achieve their goals.”

The Indie Team Up is a project that has a lot of goals.  My first thought is to worry that the team is reaching a bit, but they have a well-coordinated group of members outside of its founders.  When I spoke with Colleen about the origin story of the ITU itself, she mentioned it felt serendipitous, even fated.  As if the IndieDev community has been looking for something like ITU for a long time.  ” They just stepped up and asked.  Justin was pretty much like ‘hey I plan on making a site!’ As well as the bot guy and the app guy.  For instance, I did want to make a bot so I asked White Llama how to create one. The same day the bot guy 0x0 tweeted to me that he was interested in making one.  I DM’ed White Llama, and I did tweet that there should be a more organized way for #indieteamup users to connect.”

0x0961h confirmed this story from his end in an email correspondence with me. “I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline and saw this new Twitter thing, that Colleen was kickstarting.  I thought that it was actually a very awesome idea for the whole indie community, for people who are desperately looking for a team during jams.  Plus, I always liked One Game A Month’s bot and always wanted to make a Twitter bot myself. So I threw some code into IDE, made it work and contacted Colleen. She approved the bot idea a-a-and here I am.”

As the Bot Developer, 0x0961h has the task of maintaining what currently represents the Indie Team Up initiative on the internet. “I made a web application that once in hour receives tweets with hashtag #indieteamup and pick 10 (or less) tweets to retweet. Simple enough. My current mission is to maintain it and implement new features for it. In one of future updates, for example, bot will start looking for speacial hashtags (e.g. #LFA for “looking for artist” or, maybe, more “Reddit-ized” variant of tags: #AW and #AH for “artist wanted” and “artist for hire” respectively) and give priority to tweets with them, not just every single tweet with #indieteamup hashtag. The goal is to make Twitter bot useful tool for, well, “teaming up” and not “just another useless spam twitter”.  Now it just retweeting tweets with #indieteamup, but after site launch, I think, it’ll have few more functions, like, automatic posting “looking for/for hire” stuff from sites, maybe week highlights. It should become more clear after launch.”

0x0961h is experienced with the frantic days leading up to game jams and the search for individuals useful to a specific project. “All my previous games are jam entries, so they are not so polished, not so long, not so narrative-driven.”

But he is currently in the process of making something new that will follow along the lines of a true game release. “I’m developing a… well, I call it a “Big Project”.   I want to make something, you know, “big”, pretty looking, so I won’t be blushing in shame before and after sending it to Greenlight. No details for now (mostly because I don’t have a single clue where my concepts and ideas will lead me), but I want to make a puzzle. I hope one day I’ll be able to finish it and actually release it. :)”

Despite his modesty, 0x0961h has a number of projects that made it to itch.io and even a prior Greenlight submission for a game on Steam.

Justin was able to further detail the origin story “Colleen was talking to @0x0961h (I believe) on twitter one day, and they wanted a place to find other indie game devs, then Colleen suggested #indieteamup, and @0x0961h set up a retweet bot for it (@indieteamup).  I noticed this conversation and told Colleen I was going to make a site for Indie Team Up as I knew that permanence would be an issue, what with how quick tweets can go by.”

And so Indie Team Up was born.  But where is it going?  What happens when you can’t get to a fucking computer and you have to make immediate contact with everyone involved in your project in the heat of the moment? Well, simmer your skettios, there’s an app for that.  Or, rather, and App Developer for that.  Yep.  Indie Team Up has a mobile division, and they’ve chosen to collaborate with another development team from Pakistan to do it.  After speaking with them on the topic, I am really excited to see the results. “We, BugDev Studios, were looking for an artist to team up with on a few projects, one thing lead to another and we found #indieteamup. I was pleasantly surprised by Colleen’s enthusiasm of the idea and felt that the need was real and when we had a chat we knew we had to make this happen.”

The main man behind BugDev studios, Usman Cheema, was happy to give me a little bit of his background as well. He graduated in 2012 in Computer Science from a Lahore University of Management Sciences. He loves the intricate systems games offer for players to experience, used to play DOTA and AOE 2 alot around my graduation and I think these two games are what got me interested in game design. After being repelled from game design schools by financial limitations, Usman joined a local game development studio named Tintash. He worked there for two years in multiple roles and recently quit to start BugDev Studios full time with a team of like minded individuals. “At BugDev Studios we aim to develop creative, out of the box games, currently focusing on hand held devices as out target platforms. I have worked on Itsy Bitsy City at Tintash and Crazy Hexagon as an independent project with fellow devs (both available on Google Play). I like to read and write about games and psychology and take course on Coursera in my free time.”

As stated, Usman is part of a three man team that is working on the app. ” I am part of a team with two engineers [Aqeel Raza (@AqeelRaza2) and Abdul Aleem Khan (@aleemkhan001) ] who have experience in game dev, web development and app development. We will primarily be handling app development of the project. I will also be pitching in with user experience and feature design of the website.”

Though the app is too early in development to expound upon specific features, BugDev studios was able to provide some information about the app’s functionality. “The concept of the project is help out independent developers working in game devevlopment to find like-minded individuals with specific skills they need. The app will be designed to mirror the website’s capabilities, more or less.  So, the website is something really needed right?  The app is visualized as a mobile version of the platform, making it easier for our users to interact with the platform on the go.”

Indie Team Up is a community of IndieDevs created by IndieDevs.  What are your skills and talents?  What prior work have you done?  Want to break into the gaming industry, and help some independent developers along the way?  Keep and eye on #indieteamup and use the hashtag to connect with other developers.  I would like to nominate this song as their badass theme song because these guys are IndieDev superheros.  Like a bat signal in the night sky, this team of dedicated developers will see it and help provide you with the key ingredients necessary to get your project finished, and well.

All of the quotes included in this article are modestly paraphrased for spelling and accuracy.  This is what the individuals involved said, but it has been arranged so that it all flows together nicely.  What? You thought I got everyone in a room and had an interview?  That shit would take hours!

 

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