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Ruminations of an Indie Developer

So, I’m going to do something I haven’t done in quite some time. I’m going to just plain blog. That’s right. . . I’m going to share my blissful opinion with the world. BRACE YOURSELF.

First, ADDICT has been AWESOME! The overwhelming positive response has been incredible. Thank you all, I really appreciate it. Sorry for not posting more updates on the website, I’ve just been busy between ADDICT, TTYPC, and new YouTube Let’s Play I’m trying to (dismally) start, and my own personal life which is becoming increasingly busy. That said, I really want to stay “in the game” ;)

So, why do I have a picture from the Skyrim Dragonborn expansion on my main page? What is this “rumination” all about? Well, it’s come to my attention that there are many aspiring game developers out there. And then there are “little developers” like me who are always looking for encouragement/confirmation, a feeling that you’re not alone in the joys and frustrations of game development.

Here is the essence of my “rumination” – people expect a whole dang lot from Indie Game Developers. Have you noticed that? And why not? Shouldn’t we all expect a lot from game developers? I mean, who wants to play crappy games?

But take a moment to think all this through with me. ADDICT has received huge, overwhelmingly positive reaction. And I am soooo happy and feel soooo blessed by that! So please understand that I’m not complaining in this blog. I’m just sharing some things I’ve learned from reality. What sets ADDICT apart from, say, Skyrim? Well, for one thing, Skyrim is about 1,000x as awesome (you’re talking to a serious Skyrim fanboy here ya’ll). But I think there’s something else. . . product placement. You see, with a game like Skyrim or the Dawnguard and Dragonborn expansions, people don’t look at an advertisement and say, “Meh, a new game is out.”

No, no. . . they say, “AW YEAAAHHH MAN A NEW ELDER SCROLLS GAME BABAAAYYYY GOTTA HAVE THEM EXPANSION PACKS YO!”

I mean, I did!

And so we, the gaming masses, buy the game. What got me to thinking about this was my recent purchase of Dawnguard (I know, I’m behind the curve). AWESOME gameplay. Love the crossbow addition. Also, there’s this:

Seriously. Watch that. If you don’t you just won’t get my point at all. I experienced this, what you see in this video. That’s right. Skyrim just puts a nice happy little gate in at THE ONLY STINKING EXIT. And how to fix that? Why, just walk through the wall! After all, why not? I mean. . . YOU ARE THE DRAGONBORN!

Now here’s the funny thing. I’m not upset with Bethesda. They’re incredible. I love Skyrim. I don’t think this is “total crap” and that they’re just “idiots” for making this kinda game. Cut em’ some slack! I mean, for crying out loud. . . Skyrim is HUGE. I would NOT want to be doing to debugging on a game like that. Can you even imagine? It’s more massive than I even want to think about!

But you see, here’s the thing. Because of the product placement on Skyrim – it’s all over Steam, the web, etc. – it sells like crazy. And rightly so, it’s awesome! Then, after selling a few hundred thousand copies, bugs creep up. People realize it’s not perfection. Trolls begin their attacks on the “morons” that made it. But in the end, people realize it’s still awesome and the game continues to sell. And hey. . . I think that’s the way it should be!

Here’s my realization for us indie developers – we don’t get the “product placement.” We don’t get the “assumption” that our games are perfection. Gamers who won’t hesitate to drop $60 for, say, another Call of Duty or some awesome RPG, suddenly become all finnicky about that whoppin’ $1.99 price tag on ADDICT. As one commenter said, “This game looks awesome for free, but money? Not so much.”

Because, after all, indie developers are just supposed to give their hard work out for free! Because Jos Shmoe deserves it for free, apparently.

And so, instead of, say, 1,000 copies sold, ADDICT still sits humbly under 40 copies sold at this point. Granted, I’m close to that lofty goal. But it’s still under 40 copies sold. Why? Because the game is crap? Well, it’s not stellar, but it certainly isn’t shabby. What it all comes down to is the simple fact that, even though ADDICT does not even BEGIN to have the bugginess of something like Dawnguard, it simply isn’t going to be bought by an increasingly bureaucratic gaming generation here everything has to be “professionally” produced. Or featured on a big website.

OK, I’ve spoken long enough. Let me close by saying a few things. First, I’m not complaining. I’m not seeking pity. I’m trying to share some encouragement. Don’t get discouraged when people mock your game. Sure, you may have made some mistakes. But does the player have to walk through walls because you put a stinkin’ gate in front of their exit? Probably not, so just calm down and relax. You’re not bad at making games.

Secondly, and finally, yes – there are other indie developers out there just as frustrated with incredibly low sales numbers as you. Welcome to the world of indie games. The old “make a good game and people will buy it” thing doesn’t always work. Thousands of new games are coming out on a daily basis. Try to fathom that. . . thousands. Some times you just have to get back up, release an update, and try your hand at the next project. And, most importantly, enjoy makin’ games!

All right folks. . . I’m done!

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