Beware of your ego in development and gameplay.

Why So Many Indie Games Fail To Launch

When I was 21, I had just entered the indie game market. I was a hothead, I admit it, and because of that, I lost a great opportunity. I introduce to you my first game: Precipice, which never officiated a launch date. Why? Because of my ego, and that is what we are here to talk about.

Don't let your ego get in the way! Courtesy of Better Humans.
Don’t let your ego get in the way! Courtesy of Better Humans.

Precipice was ahead of itself—that I can admit. It took far too many genres and crammed them into one radically self-reliant game, of which began production late 2010. I was out on a whim, really, when I posted around for a co-producer. Loe and behold, I would meet a man I cannot even name due to Non-Disclosure reasons.

Let’s call him “Mark.”

Mark’s Idea

Mark’s idea was to simplify the poly count; to create a much smaller game for the sake of development as, at the time, it was very easy to get people to work for free – but that does not mean that high-quality production was in our hands. I tried to listen to him, as he was a former EA Games producer and “Mark” had done this before; I had not. So, I eventually formed a twenty-man team, began working on my masterpiece…

…only to find that greed would overtake my thought process. Soon, the lack of detail to the game – based on Mark’s input – wasn’t “clicking” with me, and I let him go. I would then shuffle onward for another two years trying to create this game of mine, only to find that, in the end, Mark was right on-point. The engine could not handle the amount of detail I had envisioned, and I had no – idea – what – I – was – doing.

And that is what our discussion today represents: why do so many great games lose out on their opportunity?

Indie games! Courtesy of BlogJob.
Indie games! Courtesy of BlogJob.

The Beginning

We have all witnessed the Kickstarter campaign that just doesn’t make it past that end goal; it gets ahead of itself; we back it, and it falls apart when things “get too real.” And that seems to be what makes us, or perhaps even breaks us: ego and pride to enhance a specific vision we have for our games gets in the way of reality.

Textbook insanity, as I call it.

Here at DVS Gaming, we had a recent discussion about a game that fell apart for similar reasons: the vision was not upheld and before long, the Kickstarter campaign fell apart, and now we cannot even play what looked like one heck of a game. It was pride that got in the way, and I am here to tell you indie developers that you must listen to those who know a bit more than you…even if it means losing out on your vision.

We All Need Help!

Though creating a game is an art form just like anything else, remember that a writer still needs a peer-reviewer; a painter still needs a canvas, and a video game developer still needs professional advice from those who have done great things already. Don’t make my mistake.

We have to realize that this is a very, very competitive industry. The indie market is taking over mainstream gaming, with tremendous support from clever, indie-related distribution outlets that did not exist when I began. These games took blood and sweat to make, but I guarantee you that many also took more than just a creative “edge” on the market.

Professionalism matters! Courtesy of The JZero Blog
Professionalism matters! Courtesy of The JZero Blog

They relied on an outside consultant, or a producer, or even someone who has done this before. Newbie indie developers (and I speak as one of them) tend to recede when the original idea they proposed is not plausible. We then act out irrationally, failing to listen to coveted advice that may have saved us from our own shadows.

Walk carefully in the world of indie games.

This goes not just for developers, but also for those who play them. Remember how much work went into making that game; remember how much professionalism this industry entails. It is not easy to create a video game, under any circumstance. Even Blizzard has trouble, and I do not even need a citation for that. It’s just an insinuation that can only be deemed as correct.

The “Destiny” Example

Look at “Destiny,” which was a $500 million dollar game. That’s over two times the cost it took to make the movie: “Titanic.” Why did it cost that much? For starters, we can assume they had to do more than just create a game; they had to sit around a boardroom, coming up with plausible solutions to ideas that they still have yet to fix. But, in the end, thanks to professional input from Call of Duty and Halo producers and directors, they succeeded at launching one heck of a game.

Destiny cost $500 million to produce. Courtesy of Game Debate.
Destiny cost $500 million to produce. Courtesy of Game Debate.

Think about the amount of work that goes into a game before judging it, and to those who are in development: remember that your vision may have to be tampered with, and that is okay. In the end, all that matters is that it launches, and people get to enjoy even 1/10th of your original vision.

Try Again!

If not, try again! Learn to take input; learn to perform more alpha tests; understand the professional side of things, too, such as split testing and proper marketing. Don’t just create a game.

Give it a launch date, as well!

Read more about how crowdfunding helps indie developers!