Was there really an indie bubble? Or a golden age of indie? We look back in time and remember hearing about these successes on iOS, console, Steam - but when we try our own hands at going indie we don’t meet with those sorts of legendary financial success. I’ve been indie for almost a decade. Lost a lot of money in the process. If there was a golden age I somehow missed it. Thinking there was a golden age is survivor bias - a bunch of people struck gold on a particular platform. Gold rushes commenced. By the time we got there, the gold was gone. Then we tell ourselves, “We missed the golden age. We missed the bubble. If only we’d shipped sooner, or knew someone who could get us on that exclusive platform, in that exclusive market.” But even back in the days when a small handful of people had their big successes, most people were having their quiet failures. While Jonathan Blow was making millions with Braid our team made under $190K with Schizoid. (Split all the ways, it was more than minimum wage, but not by much.) And well before iOS there was shareware and before that people selling floppies in ziplock bags. While they had their loud successes and became who we think of as the big publishers and developers of today there were many more having their quiet failures. I’m not being negative. I’m being positive. Next year, new games will come out of nowhere and be big fat financial successes, maybe in some new emerging market we never thought of before (like Kickstarter) or maybe due to some crazy PR (like becoming a youtuber darling) or maybe due to something I can’t even imagine or think of. There never was a golden age of indie. Which means it isn’t over.
Hey, this hour of code thing is kind of cool. Sofia kind of lost interest after about 15 minutes. "I'm tired of making the zombie find the flower" but I told her she could stay up past her bedtime if she worked on it more and she's game.
Let me tell you, I've totally turned around on this issue. I used to be the sort of asshole who said "there are people who can grok pointers and people who can't" - using that Harvard research as my crutch, the research that said, "Here are points where people wash out of our computer science program:"
just understanding that computers execute things one after the other - this is what Hour of Code seems like it will be really good at teaching
concurrency (which is kinda the opposite of #1. funny old world)
But just because these are the points where people wash out of CS programs doesn't necessarily mean that those people were flat-out incapable of understanding these concepts. It probably just means that Harvard's sink-or-swim teaching methods kind of sucked.
New research shows that old 'fixed mindset' kind of thinging creates self-fulfilling prophecies that lmit people. It's toxic. The problem with saying, "Why are you trying to draw? You can't draw," is that people actually believe you. We have to overcome that last-century 'you must be naturally talented or don't bother' sort of thinking if we want to accomplish stuff.
Me, I'm lucky. Coming from a supportive you-can-do-it sort of family, I just enjoyed learning how to program. I got off on it. When I discovered pointers and recursion my head exploded with possibilities. Not everyone's going to be like me, and it's going to be hard work for them to grok those concepts, but I firmly believe that almost anyone can do it if they put in the effort. And the benefits are enormous - if, for example, you're a game designer or producer, and you learn to code, you're no longer beholden to other people to make things happen. You can make a game by yourself. And you can probably get a decent-paying job somewhere.
There's another sticking point besides the four I just listed above. Someone recently told me that they've tried to learn to code, and they can work through tutorials and whatnot, but when it comes time to create something original they don't know where to begin.
Well, most coders avoid creating something original. We run a code wizard that generates our windowing app for us, or use someone else's engine, or cut and paste some code off the internet. The swinging-and-wallrunning character code in Energy Hook started with the Unity character controller as a base. Eventually you'll find you've replaced the handle and you've replaced the blade and you've got a knife that's totally yours. No shame in that. (Though there may be a few dick-swinging coders out there who do try to shame you for it. Try to ignore them.) Coders are allowed to plagiarize away their blank-page-syndrome in a way that novelists aren't.
Jake the Dog time:
Going beyond Jake the Dog, there's been research that shows people are usually overconfident when they first try to learn something. There's this curve where they think they're good, then they train some more and realize how far they have to go and think they suck, and then they actually get good and they think they're good again.
So, if you think you suck at something, you may be halfway to getting sorta good at it.
Back in the olden days when compile times were long I almost always had a book on programming or management at my desk and was able to buttress my experiential knowledge with theoretical. These days where turnaround times are so low that I can't even find my place, I haven't kept up in my reading.
I wonder if this could become a pervasive problem for rookie game developers and programmers - on the bright side, you're spending all your time getting stuff done - on the down side, maybe those long periods of head scratching and perusing manuals and websites trying to figure out "why doesn't this work?" could have been bypasses if you had already read the manual or language guide or whatever. Plus you'll possibly be out of the loop on the latest in good coding techniques which you may also pay for in the long run.
I don't know. When do you find time to read these days?
You've been my first game developer hero ever since I took that class in adventure-game-making-on-the-Apple-II from you at Computer Camp in Tahoe while you were working on Ultima 2. I know it's easy to say stupid things in a live interview - but it's also easy to apologize. According to PC gamer, you did say you were better than virtually everyone else you've met--You may not have been trying to toot your own horn but you did. You surely did.--and you did say other people suck. There's almost no context where that isn't asshole behavior. So, yeah, how about that apology.
Maybe it would look something like this: "Dear Shigeru Miyamoto, Raph Koster, Ed Del Castillo, Sid Meier, Warren Spector, Chris Crawford (and you can go on naming names as long as you want here), and everyone else I've met who is a solid designer that I'm unfortunately forgetting right now, I apologize - I didn't mean to say that you weren't in the same league as I am. Also, for all those game designers who are toiling away in the trenches unnoticed, the ones whom I claimed 'suck' - I'm sorry for that too. You don't suck. You have possibly made some sucky design choices, and you can do better, but so can I. Let's all do better."
Say what you will about Tom Chick. I believe the guy has integrity. If he doesn't like something everybody else likes, he says so. (And as I understand it, he didn't even get a review copy of the latest X-Com - I guess they were afraid of him - but he gushes over it anyway.) Some people might call that 'being wrong' but it's crazy to think that everyone's going to have the same opinions about a work of art - reviews should be all over the map. With apologies to friends at 343, I dig it. And I miss Shoot Club.
There's been some talk lately about how game reviewing is broken - for various reasons reviewers aren't usually willing to give games less than 7/10. Because the dev is their buddy, because they're low-paid, because the publishers buy advertising space on their blogs, because they got a free copy of the game, and so on. And I agree, it's kinda broken, although maybe not such a big deal - you just have to renormalize.
Anyhow, guys like Tom Chick and Yahtzee Croshaw show that you can really dis on games and, if you know your stuff, get rewarded for it with lots of clicks. (You've got to know your stuff though - there's a reviewer some of my indie friends like to disparage who pretty clearly never plays the games he rips on. He's probably going to have trouble keep a job.) This anti-Halo review may even be the beginning of a new revolution, as a new school of journalists realize they can get eyeballs by being harsh. And maybe we can look forward to a day where videogames ratings have a mean in the fifties, like movies.
Side note: five or so years ago a younger me used to love almost all the games that got 90+ on gamerankings. These days, not so much; these days, 90+ usually means "highly polished retread"...
What's a good forum about playing indie computer games?
I've been enjoying http://story-games.com for my tabletop roleplaying discussion. It's pretty great, though some complain that it's gotten too crowded of late. Anyhow, it has a couple neat features:
The moderator has to approve you before you start posting. Although he approves just about everybody, that simple step culls a lot of crap posts.
It's specifically not about designing games; it's about playing them. So people talk strategy, favorite games, post play reports, what games they're looking forward to, ask 'I'm looking for a game like X, what is there?'
It has a narrow focus - it's not about roleplaying games in general, it's specifically about playing-for-story.
I'd like to find a forum for indie computer games that does the same or similar things. (TIGSource and IndieDB seem like they're mostly for game makers.) I'd like a forum where players of World of Goo, Journey, Desktop Dungeons, Lugaru, N, Cave Story, Braid, and the like (btw, what is the like? what binds these games together in my mind?) congregate and talk about play.
I'm cautiously optimistic about the Ouya. I'd love to be able to put Energy Hook on the big screen in my livingroom without having to jump through endless TCR or being tied to XNA.
I think the 'killer app' thing is something of a myth - people say that GTA3 sold the PS2, for example, but at the time I checked the data there were 20 times as many PS2's out there as GTA3's. People go a little crazy and they just buy the shiny new console even if they don't know what they're going to play on it. The amount of funding the Ouya kickstarter has already raised is kind of proof of that - people don't even know what they're going to be playing on this thing and already they're lining up to buy one.
But me, there's some game I want to play that makes me buy a console. With the Xbox 360 it was Chromehounds (and what a disappointment that was - my 360 ended up being a Geometry Wars server for the longest time) ... with the PS2 it was Ico ...
What about you? Is there a game that's currently available on Mac or PC - or coming soon - but not on one of your consoles that would make you say, "Yeah, I'll drop $100 so I can play that on the big screen."
The best superhero games of all time Game Informer Top five games of all time Yahtzee Croshaw Top five superhero games of all time MSNBC Top 100 PS2 games of all time Official Playstation 2 Magazine 1001 Games You Must Play Before You DieNomination for Excellence in Gameplay Engineering Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
Penny Arcade PAX 10 Award Nominated for XBLA Best Original Game Nominated for XBLA Best Co-Op Game