Ken's Design & Development Notes

Just talking about stuff I've learned…

Archive for the ‘Game Development’ Category

What is an Indie Game?

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During lunch today, I read an IGM article asking if MineCraft was still an indie game.  Apparently there is some internal angst about whether they should continue to cover this game.  Some people think MineCraft is too big and/or has made too much money to continue to be classed as an indie game.

I think that’s hogwash.

First of all Mojang employs only 16 people.  That’s all!  This is a small company.  In comparison, I work for a company that employs 10,000+.  Your local grocer probably employs more than 16 people!  OK, OK, most XBLIG indies are made by 1, 2 or even a few people, but since MineCraft is now available on multiple platforms, just how many people can they really afford per platform?  Not 16.

Second, they don’t make “too much money.”  How was that ever a qualifier of an indie game?  Is CastleminerZ no longer indie?  What about The Impossible Game?  C’mon, if we’re at all honest, most of us would love to publish a game that sells millions of copies.

Third, IGM took a poll, and so far, 73% of the readers think that MineCraft is still indie.   We’ll see how the poll ends, but for now it’s pretty clear to me that MineCraft is, and always will be, indie.  Yes, a big, successful, money-making indie game, but an indie game nonetheless.

Maybe Mojang will one day no longer be an indie studio, and maybe if MineCraft 2 ever comes into being it won’t be very indie-like, but for now, I’m sure Mojang can continue to be innovative and “independent” of the corporate influences that can stifle agility and innovation in larger companies.

UPDATE: As of 8/4 (Saturday morning) The IGM poll is up to 580 votes, and 76% of the readers think MineCraft is still indie.

Written by kenccone

July 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Imagination and Pine Cones

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The closest pic I had to a pine cone.

Our wives met first, before Justin and I got together.  If I recall correctly, they started spending time together (at “park days”) because their kids and ours knew how to play. 

What kid doesn’t know how to play?  Well, quite a few, actually.  See, our children can sit on the ground, pick up pine cones, pretend that the pine cones are people or knights or dragons,  and have just as much fun as if they were playing something like MineCraft!

We noticed that many other kids would get bored quickly unless they were entertained by someone or something else.  Unfortunately they weren’t practiced at using their own creativity and entertaining themselves.

I like games that allow kids and adults to exercise their imagination, and don’t allow them to just sit back and be entertained. 

So the challenge I give myself is, how can we accomplish this while at the same time presenting an initial gaming experiences that draws people in?  hmm…. 

I haven’t “cracked that” yet…

Written by kenccone

July 25, 2012 at 5:01 am

Posted in Game Development

A Few Lessons Learned…

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Image: Boxart for Andy's Notepad [Saucers]

Boxart for Andy’s Notepad [Saucers]

After several months of part-time development, we finally published our first Xbox Live indie game.  It’s been out for just over three weeks now and I’ve learned as much in the last three weeks as I learned in the previous three months! Here are a few of the most important things I learned.

  1. Just because you like your game doesn’t mean everyone else will.
    Reviews for our game have been mixed, ranging from “A” to boring.  No one said it was A+ and no one said it stank.  It has been really interesting to hear the (very limited) feedback.  There are some really helpful points that have been made, but not many reviewers seem to have seen the game the way we do. Maybe we’ve gotten too close to the game?
  2. Reviewers have a different set of goals than developers. 
    Yes, we both want games reviewed, the difference is that I want my game reviewed, and they want to review many games, preferably the types of games that will get them the most mileage.  (This of course depends on the type of reviewer they are, what kinds of reviews they like to write and what their readers like to see.)
    What this really means is that the developer has to make it as easy as possible to review their game, and that no, most critics don’t have the time, or maybe even the desire to help you improve your game.  You’ll sometimes have to read between the lines of a vaguely negative review or ignore what will seem like an incredibly harsh statement to get to the gem of feedback that is offered. That’s OK; just roll with it and improve.
    For the record, at least one reviewer has been nice enough to provide further feedback. IndieTheory comes to mind here…
  3. Don’t release your product until you love it!
    You know, this is probably the most important lesson of all. I loved the multiplayer game in Andy’s Notepad [Saucers], but had gotten used the weapon imbalance.  I didn’t realize that Justin (my Coneware partner) didn’t love the single player mode until after release.  Last our kids had some suggestions that would have improved the game, but somehow we let those get lost in the pressure to release. (Indie devs get pressure to release? Really? Yes, we do.)

For now, that’s what comes to mind.  I could also talk about lessons from gameplay mechanics to the (in?)effectiveness of our marketing but these are my top three, at least for now.

Written by kenccone

July 24, 2012 at 3:21 am