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Sage13

The Indy Boom

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Hey, I have been thinking about this for a while and would just like to know what you guys think about the future of the independent game developer. It seems like there are a ton of schools out there now that have been popping up in the last few years that are training a new generation to effectively operate in the games industry . If this keeps up at its current pace, within 5 years you will have a title wave of new professionals and students experienced in game development. These are just some theories of mine as to how this will affect the current state of things. 1.) The industry will be flooded and not everyone will be able to obtain jobs in the commercial industry as it stands currently, thus many independents will start up and seek to create games and opportunities of their own. 2.) With the expansion of broadband and the internet, systems like Valve's Steam will make online distribution for games easier than ever, slowly cutting out the conventional retailer from their piece of the pie making game productions and selling prices cheaper, or yielding more return on investment than normal. 4.) The mega conglomerates like EA will continue to grow and a new 'middle market' publishers will drop down and begin to cater to the growing Indy development community and their games (i.e. Garage Games [http://www.garagegames.com/]). 5.) Exposure of Indi games will increase with online reviewers such as 'Game Tunnel' (http://www.gametunnel.com/html/index.php) digging into the indie pot and highlighting great games. 6.) There will be a lot more people at Indie con and the GDC :D 7.) With more teams and indie developers like Hiding Buffalo, Dexterity Soft, Yamisoft ,Samu Game etc. forming, more direct knowledge and technology will be available for start ups to learn from. 8.) 2D will never die (heh, sorry had to throw that in there) So overall, it will grow in my opinion, quite a bit. What are your predictions about the future? -~- [edited by - Sage13 on April 18, 2003 6:21:22 AM]

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In 10 years or so, I''ll be flying to Ensemble Studios to apply!
1. You''re right. Everyone can''t get a job and will have to start their own job.
2. I agree. If we get cable, DSL, and broadband to power, we will have a nice product.
3. (Skipped it)
4. Yes. My friends and I are looking at Torque game engine. Must! Get! Royalties!
5. Possibly
6. Agreed
7. I hope so
8. No. I think in 5 years or so, technology will be 512 MB video cards, and 2D will rather run at 20,000 FPS, or be thrown out of the market.

Scott

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What you''re saying makes a lot of sense, Sage13.

But some people say the opposite is happening. They say that as top selling games become ever more complicated, it''s becoming increasingly difficult for indie developers to compete against the giants who have huge budgets and 100 designers to throw at each project. These people predict the eventual extinction of indie developers.

How would someone reconcile these two views, both of which seem to have merit?

Atlas
Developing Genetica, a tiling / seamless textures generator

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If by Indy developer you mean a small team in a garage that builds a killer game that takes the industry by storm? No, wont happen. Rags to riches is dead. With game studios becoming more big business middlewear is becoming more prominent. With more middlewear means quick development time. Quicker development time means little guys have a lot against them. By the time the one little guy gets their game out the door the big guys have done it bigger, flashier, and with more pizzaz 5 times.

I see the game industry now like the old PC market was when it first started up. Hobbyists stood a chance in the market at the start(Apple), but once big business got its claws in(IBM/Intel) the little guy couldn''t keep up and eventually got pushed to a "niche" market.

Indy games will always be made, but they wont be appreciated by the masses, or make people billionaires.

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What Atlas has noted is what is actually happening right now. To produce high quality AAA titles, it is taking much more resources to do so - Art, Tech and Design. And with this comes management and marketing. An indie cannot viably compete against these large software publishers in the creation of a new title. Especially if the indie is trying to achieve a AAA result - almost impossible at the moment.

Alot of indies find out very quickly that it takes money to make money. Without shelf space, marketing dept, and all sorts or other business systems its near impossible to sell large volumes of a game. Even on the internet, just having a decent supplier can be a sod to set up.

In response to your theory, I fear there wont be a flood of professionals and students. As it is, the rate at which the game industry is growing, there will be plenty of room and likely shortages - note, things have been economically tough at the moment so it may seem there is a surplus.

1) Industry wont be flooded. Just look at the game industry expansion in the last 5 years. Its overtaken the movie industry. Dont worry there will be jobs - supply <-> demand thing.. Thus i doubt and explosion of indies. In fact I think indies will take a dive.. will cover it later.

2) Online games, and online purchasing is still not common market. We are talking about a small percentage of coomputer game sales - about 10% of retail in a good year. Cutting out the retailer may seem like a great idea, but where does the average person then buy your game? Not everyone shops online, in fact alot of people wont just because of security/fraud problems. You need to maximise your market - thus you _have_ to hit the shelves. Thinking you can make a fortune selling online is fooling yourself. Online is a good addition to a business model, but it does not, and cannot replace it (read various business mags, they all say this).

3).. I agree totally.

4) The first bit I agree with EA and Infogrammes and Take2 will grow, and grow. But the middle market publishers, will need to grow too. I dont see the middle market disappearing. Theres no reason for it too, medium size games still sell, just like B-Grade movies still sell, they just dont sell as much. Garage Games also is not a good example. They were never a middle market publisher. And the development sdk - be wary, there are some pretty nasty terms attached to it. On top of that, the sdk itself is of Tribes 1 age.. thus, very , very old tech.

5) Yup. definitely.

6) Ditto.

7) This doesnt matter really building tech should not be an indies focus, if you read what I write at the end, itll make some sense.

8) Hope not. 2D roxors.

Followups:

Indies take a dive - this is pretty likely, simply because of the content. Now, I dont mean indies will disappear, but they will cease to be able to produce a AAA titles to compare with the commercial sofwtare developers. We are seeing this already.

There is hope - Indie developers should concentrate on not building tech, but building games. Why? Becaause this is what the big publishers are already realising. Building tech is silly for every game, why not use a generic system then rapidly produce the titles. This is why itll be hard to beat a big publisher. They will rattle out high quality AAA titles in a year, where it''ll take an indie 6 years to create the same thing. So, back to my point, indie developers should do the same - head for prebuilt engines/packages that allow you to make a game. Then it becomes a resource building problem to complete a title - and a design one of course.

Now as an example of a high quality system, I would use Nebula as an example. It has a huge following, latest graphical enhancements and tons of tools. GarageGames is okay, but its well behind the tech ball now, and would need some major revamps to get it near the same as Nebula 2. Also you need an sdk or engine that is open source - its the only way to keep up tech wise and feature wise.

Finally, I should also note that Renderware will become the engine of choice for most dev studios in the coming years. Its a fully featured system that allows very rapid dev. Sadly its a little too expensive for the average indie.

What I hope to see in the near future, is for the tech to become stable with design and game content creation becoming the main focus of title development.

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Let me throw my 0.02CAD in.
What I see coming up in general are more barriers to entry. I'm not trying to be negative, but this is just the way it seems to go. As an industry like this grows, the cost to get involved goes up because that the couple basic things that the first guy had are now a given and everybody needs them to get started. Let me be more specific. For 3d games it was just a PC and a brain for math (BSP trees weren't understood and explained in a lot of books when doom was written). For web sites, it was an internet connection (before everybody had one) and an understanding of html. For cars it was some mechanical know-how. Yes, there used to be many car companies. There also used to be many movies studios. There also used to be many domestic auto makers.
The question here is do we see this as a McDonald's, BK and everyone else (the indies) market or an Intel, AMD market? I think the barriers to entry make it more like the latter.
1) The best oppurtunity they can make is probably to be bought by a bigger fish.
2) We're getting tied to online evrything, eventually commerce will be accepted and normal.
3) Go Fish.
4) There's a lot of room, it seems, to grow the middle market, but I see these companies eventually being tied to the larger benefactors (for the most part).
5) The major reviewers will be just like ET, advertising machines owned and run by the big players.
6) And fewer booth babes
7) What we learn we use to get a job, but those that learn the most go the farthest (not familiar with the specific references).
8) Until we get holographic projection, no

Didn't mean for that to be so long or so depressing, but that's the way I see it. I owned an Amiga and I've been bitter towards capitalism ever since.

[edited by - Metaphorically on April 18, 2003 4:16:41 PM]

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heh, Thanx for responding guys, this a good topic to cover.

Overall I agree with your points and like a friend and myself have concluded, the future will most likely hold a variety of all these things and more that we don''t even see coming.

It is unrealistic for a inde to create a triple A title, but it is not so unrealistic for them to do well with their game in the limited demographic (online, age 14-30, broadband) that is constantly growing. I do feel however, and I can state this from experience, the amount of talented groups up and coming heading for the industry (while looking for jobs still), because of their size and skill set, will be able bring higher quality indie games to the market that may have more of a fighting chance than the previous generation of indie games produced by 1-3 individuals.

I have searched the corners of the internet and have found many good indie teams producing the next level of games in the independent community. In fact your also right about the fact that they ''might'' get snatched up by the bigger fish, however, in that case they still started as an indie team and developed from there

It will definitely be interesting to see the developments that the future holds.

-~-

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quote:
Original post by Kihaji
I see the game industry now like the old PC market was when it first started up. Hobbyists stood a chance in the market at the start(Apple), but once big business got its claws in(IBM/Intel) the little guy couldn''t keep up and eventually got pushed to a "niche" market.


If your metaphor holds that means eventually an indie that is equivalent to the game industry version of Dell will come along (if it hasn''t already). Neither IBM nor Apple are the biggest PC manufacturers currently, Dell is. The thing is, Dell doesn''t build any of their own parts. Maybe the equivalent of this in the game industry would be using lots of middleware and stock content to build interesting games.

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