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Can you help? (A call to INDIE devlopers)

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<----Quick bio, 30, Schooling in Programming, Arts, Music, & Physics, Hobby Programing since 86, Now Learning VC++6, Already Has a Good Career, Does NOT want to break into the Industry, Does WANT to turn hobby into Buisness, knows whats involved with FINISHING a product. Looking to develop Budget/Shovel Ware... Meaning... games within the scope of a one/two person team. Looking for HELP/INFO on becoming an INDIE. 1) Where to find info. (truths not speculations) 2) Your experinces on this side of the fence. (INDIE) 3) Going way of Shareware/Self Publish/Xtreme Partnership? 4) Good Games vs DEAD END genres. (whats selling - whats not) 5) Realistic time-cost vs. return? 6) Have YOU published games? type/how pub/returns ? 7) Trademarks & seting up legit buisness model? (how to) I am serious about this. I''m to old for pipe dreams and have to many responsablities to WASTE time. (I''m sorry if I come off rude its just I cant find help. I''m always getting. "Well your not gonna make money making games." "Its to hard to break into this buisness." "You can always put your game in a portfolio to show to future employer." "You dont know how hard it is to program." etc. etc. etc.) I have MANY years programing as a hobby. I HAVE finished projects, FINISHED, COMPLETED, I KNOW WHATS INVOLVED WITH COMPLETING A PROJECT. (I was offered a postion as systems analysis for Cornell University''s computer department. Passed up offer.) I Dont know ANYTHING about the publishing side or what are REALISTIC expectations. Or self startup. This is why Im asking for help. Please, if your an INDIE, please help. You can even E-mail me if you do not want to respond in here. Thank you for your time and any help that you can offer. Thank you, A. Randt aka .Aman. PS. Im not looking to join a team working on a project. Im looking to start my own Indie house. Thanks.

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Well I''m not a "real" indie developer, so I won''t offer my opinions on this stuff. I can reiterate what I''ve heard from people in the industry, though:

- You can make a living coding budget games and publishing them via Xtreme/Crystal Interactive/etc. This is assuming you can put out at least 3 or 4 games/year.

- What I heard from a guy at EA: the game industry is becoming like the movie industry, in that indie developers will soon be equivalent to independent film-makers. Indie games simply won''t be able to compete with million-dollar-budget games from major studios.

Also, when I was looking to set up the "business" side of my game project, I searched on the web. I found that most states have pages that describe the different business models and how to set each one up. A trademark protects a name, like your company name or your game''s name, and you pay a lawyer $500-$1000 to get one.

There are a handful of people active in these forums who have published budget games. If you look thru the old posts in this forum, you might be able to find some sales/revenue figures.

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Game Programming? Don''t do it. Get laid instead.
That''s a very good suggestion if you don''t want it to turn into a pipe-dream, because there is a good chance that it will. Risk is high.
You better know a lot about 3D Modelers, Sound Engineering, etc. too. Geeez! You say I am going yadda yadda here? Ok, there you have your information regarding your questions:

1. Books. Search for Game Programming, Game Design, etc. in Amazon.
2. My experience is that I don''t want to stay here. It''s not that I haven''t published my games, it''s that (look above) I just wanna get laid instead.
3. I''ve heard that Xtreme Partnership sucks big time. Only because the guy can write some books doesn''t mean he is your buddy or a good publisher. I haven''t said this for sure.
4. No idea sorry. I asked the same question some weeks ago, but didn''t got much response.
5. Depends on YOU! There are people who work two years on one game. Other finish it in 1-2 months.
6. Yeah, but if I tell you I need to shoot you, sorry. <---- (hint, hint, blatant plug)
7. Concerning Trademarks: Forget it. It doesn''t pay to throw let''s say 5000$-10.000$ out of the window to get a trademark.
Concerning legit business: Depends on where you live, sorry.

"Como say thee say bullshit?"
There''s much information in this post people, it''s only a big funny packaged.
But whattya expect? I am a Jester.

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Most indie developers shy away from posting here now i think. There are too many flame wars going on here about publishers.
If you really want to meet the indies, one of the best places is in the #gamedev irc channel.
You sound quite similar to me, you need to reinforce that attitude of finishing projects that you have. I have it too, and it helps us a lot in talking to press/publishers when they can check out our website and download some of our older (completed) games.
One bit of advice i will give is to make sure you know what a publisher wants, BEFORE you start the game. This avoids having a dead whale of a game on your hands that nobody wants. The problem is, most publishers won't talk to you about it unless they can already see finished previous product, so you might want to treat your first game as a bit of a showpiece to that end.
And BTW, I am 30 too! we are both older than the collective age of most people on these boards though methinks.

Edited by - cliffski on October 3, 2000 6:28:54 AM

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I dont trust Crystal Interactive, their CEO Emailed me about my Magefire 3D game wanting to publish it, but never replied to my emails asking about what percent I would actually get if I signed the developer agreement....

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What I''m shooting for is to become like the Indies below,

Spider Software - - Avernum (top down rpg)
"You wont get rich...But you can make a very, very good living."
"(my games) Look crude..No internet play..rough sounds" are making 6 figures a year!

Robinson Software - - Dink Smallwood
"The best part is the cost! The only investment is time!"

Silver Creek Entertainment - - Hardwood Solitaire II
"Pull up a seat to the web my friend...Shareware is a terrific way to make a living in the computer Industry"

Freeverse Software - - Monkey Solitaire

Longbow Digital Arts - - Tread Marks (2000)

CogniToy - - Mind Rover

On and On I could go, but you get the Picture.
I am looking for advice/help/info to get from "Here to There"

Thanks again for any help.


Eric-Thanks for info I appreciate the response. (sounds like in
your heart you''re an INDIE)

DA-I''ve read that artical..Its a good one.
Im looking more to a shareware/demo setup. I
just have been having people tell me about Xtreme
Games so was wonder what was up with them. (they
only have general info on ther site not specifics)

Jester101-- Ive been programing for years, I know the "Risk is high". I program for the pure joy of it. (sick I know) Its been
my hobbie for years (others paint, I program). I have nothing to
loose. Im doing it already anyways. I have a good job, Im NOT
looking to go work for ID, or to make the next Quake or to
have Seirra publish my games. I''ve turned down several offers
over the last year alone to work as a programmer. Im looking
to take what Im doing anyways and get some recognition and
maybee enough money to pay for my hobby. (4 Computers, Scanner,
Printer, Camera, Camcoder, Photoshop, TS4, VC6++, VB6++, 30+
books on programing, etc. etc. this sh*ts exspensive.)(bought
over many years) (some people fish/hunt I program). I know
Im rambling its just I cant get taken serious when I pose the
above questions. (its allways- you have no idea what your
getting into -response) Anyhow... to the rest of your post,
Thank you, I really mean it, thanks for taking the time to
offer some info and insite.

cliffski-I''ll check out #gamedev irc channel, thanks for the tip.
I think thats why I''m haven such a hard time finding straight answers. 80) (the age gap)

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Jester I just checked out your site. Nice work. I''m Impressed.
IMHO Ya need more screens to give an idea what there about.

Cliffski solid looking games you got there. VERY polished.
Again I''m Impressed.

This goes out to the BOTH of you.

Hows the shareware way going for you.
Are you just going by word of mouth, or are you pushing the products anywhere?
Now I know I''m probably not going to get an answer to this but
(you can e-mail it to me) Hows the volume. Are they moving?

You guys never should have answered me. 80)
Now I''m gonna bug the both of you for answers.
You have the experience in this.

I humbly ask for your help.

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i''m 31, i started as a developer at several companies before i started making games.
it was a hobby at first which led to pro game developing and
ultimately to what i''m doing now.
to date, i have worked at a couple game developer shops before
starting my own company.

i was in the same boat as you.
i see that you are enthusiastic and are looking for some concrete
answers as to how you need to get from point A to point Z.

it''s been 2 years since i was in a pro game developer gig and i''m
constantly amazed at what i''ve accomplished since then.

if you''d like, you can email me and i can tell you how i started
everything. that way you can get some specific ideas on how
you can go about doing the same.

or if anyone else has specific questions also, please don''t hesitate to email. i''d be glad to share what little knowledge
and experience i have aquired.


GLIPS Entertainment, Inc.
GarageDeveloper International

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Aman: Looking for HELP/INFO on becoming an INDIE.
1) Where to find info. (truths not speculations)

There really isn''t any consolidated "Indie Info Here" page or packet. However, one of the best single sources is the Association of Shareware Professionals:

2) Your experinces on this side of the fence. (INDIE)

I moved from programming hobby as a "money sink" to a "money source" over a period of several years, building up income "streams" with several products. I''ve been completely independent (self-employed) for over a year and a half now.

I sell conventional shareware (The Journal, ) that I develop and sell on my own, as well as co-develop Internet games as a partner in Samu Games ( ).

3) Going way of Shareware/Self Publish/Xtreme Partnership?

My experience is primarily in the shareware/self-publishing arena, though with Samu Games I have worked on a contract with a publisher (Sierra; I can say the name of the publisher, but I can''t say what the project was...NDA). Also, Samu Games is currently pursuing a Real Publisher Deal for a totally new game. That''s going slow, but that''s expected.

From that experience, I can say that you get More Money Faster if a publisher is involved. Which is why some developers pursue publisher deals only, shovelware or otherwise. But if you really want to create Your Own Games, you''ll have to stick with the shareware path until you have enough track record to demonstrate that you can be trusted to create a viable concept and finish it.

4) Good Games vs DEAD END genres. (whats selling - whats not)

Like your own follow-up post points out...ANYTHING sells and NOTHING is really a dead end. If you devote enough time and energy to the product, you can sell it. Good gameplay *can* overcome second-rate technology. And as the product garners sales, you can re-invest the money back into the product and bring it up to a higher level of production.

If you were going to avoid something...I would avoid competing head-to-head with games that are currently selling mega-copies: FPS games, MMP RPG''s, RPG''s period, and so on. As a single developer, or at best a small team, you''re just not going to be able to afford the long time to market and the massive budget necessary to create one of those. But it''s up to what makes you happy.

5) Realistic time-cost vs. return?

If you have a full-time job that''s paying your bills, you can afford longer development times. Once it becomes all you make, though, you have to either learn to live at a leaner level or turn out new products to sell (or improvements of existing products that increase sales) faster.

6) Have YOU published games? type/how pub/returns ?

I have self-published a shareware program, The Journal. It''s been selling consistently for over 4 years now, and I try to do about 2 significant updates per year on it. Plus, I''m working on the long-term "major new version" for release sometime...

With Samu Games, we''ve had 2 completed games: Paintball NET (which was taken offline after 4 and a half years) and Artifact, which is still online. Artifact has been released a year, and we''re working on a major update for it, due to be released in the next month or so.

7) Trademarks & seting up legit buisness model? (how to)

Someone else has already mentioned checking out your local state government pages for this kind of information, and that''s really the best bet unless you have a good friend who is a lawyer that specializes in these things.

I wouldn''t worry about trademarks just yet, but you should get your business setup as at least an LLC. That helps keep your taxes from getting *too* complicated while you build your company, and generally only costs a few hundred$ to take care of.

Good luck!

Samu Games

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WHOOO! Looks like I''m gettin'' a littlebit fame in my ol'' days. Tell this my girlfriend though.

More pages? Well, I''ll think about it. I thought I''d already bore my visitors to death with the pages I have.

*slaps himself*
k, now I am serious.

So let''s see what other questions ya asked here.

> Hows the shareware way going for you
Very bad. I didn''t had the time to advertise it full scale. Maybe it''s just me, but I honestly think there are too many shareware games out there. My suggestion for everyone is to go out and try to find a publisher. Be careful though! There are huge differences. Some offer you for the same game a stand-alone CD and other want to package it with 40 or 50 games together.

> Are you just going by word of mouth, or are you pushing the > > products anywhere?
Word of mouth and banner exchange. If everyone has a better idea of pushing a product without spending money, let me know!

> Now I know I''m probably not going to get an answer to this but
> (you can e-mail it to me) Hows the volume. Are they moving?
Sorry. This is confidential and I can''t answer it. If you want to know what you can expect look at the sites of budget publishers or ask them directly what volumes you could expect.

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My experience of shareware (limited at best) is that its very hard to sell a reasonable number of products without promoting it which means money.

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I think the correct link to Shareware Professionals is (Not that I wasn''t interested in the American Society of Primatologists at )

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I would like to publicly apologise for my post about Crystal Interactive. Since posting that view point they have contacted me by email and explained that they simply didnt get the email, and answered my question too. It would seem I am a little too quick to judge, they arent Micro$oft after all

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Thanks to everyone. The response has been great.

Im just getting setup for this journey and I want to get
everything as clear as possable ahead of time. I like
to have a "long range forcast" so to say (about 1½ years).
So far I think I''m leaning towards going the Demo/Shareware route.

Pretty much all my questions have been answered except one,
and its a biggie - most cant answer - nda - I guess, but i''ll ask anyways

volume, volume, volume, ...
over x amount of
time, time, time, time, ...
subtracted from
return, return, return, ...
Can I fund my next project?


I dont have to pitch a buisness proposal to the bank, But I do have to justify
it to my wife, and family.
I don''t need to make a living off of it. Just enough to justify it. (see above post)

I''ll am asking, is, ballparks, not specifics, friend of a friend sh^t.
"I heard X sold 1k units last year of there puppy jumper game."
"I made 10k from a two year run on my Windows 52pickup Card game"
"I got my game on a 100 game value CD, Made a $100 of that deal"
"What the hell you talking about making money, I sold 10 units over the past year,
and it cost me 1k for the website and merchaint acount, damn I payed them $100 bucks each to take the game!"

Just something, (as close to reality as possable, baring NDA)

Thanks again for the time everyone has taken.


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You need to justify having a hobby?

You say it''s not to get income. Then you shouldn''t need more justification (unless you spend lots and lots of time on it beside your normal job

If you look for the right tools, you can start out with little investment, and then just see what happens. I develop currently using Borland C++ Builder (let''s not start any ''which programming language is best'' wars please and I bought version 3 just when 4 was released, so I paid only about $50 for it.

It still works for me, so there is no need to upgrade just yet.

Then for installer I use the free ''inno setup'' (very good!)

I use notepad and a few custom ''compilers'' for writing my website. Ok, so it doesn''t look like I paid a webdesigner a million bucks for it - but that''s just it, I didn''t!

As long as I enjoy programming, and can do it without too much investment I will continue. Sure it would be good to make some money, but keep in mind that most other hobby''s cost money anyway!

Go on, have fun! Really!

Kind regards,
Maarten Egmond.

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No, I do not need to justify my hobby.
I need to justify turning my hobby into a part time buisness.
I WILL have to justify cranking up the time devoted to it,
if I want to complete some polished games.
It would just be nice to be able to show wife
as well as myself whats possable, high ball, low ball, no ball.

Remember there WILL be costs, at the VERY least, setting up the buisness, and merchant account
even BEFORE you can sell the games, just so you can take orders.


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I find it really hard to devote too much time to game development while working fulltime, doing the usual every day thing''s. Fair enough if you can keep it up over a 2 year period but it ain''t easy in my opinion.

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I have to chuck in my $0.02 worth here...

I''m holding down a full-time job as an embedded systems engineer with a Large Consumer Electronics Company. The nice thing about that is that it''s not something I have to/can take home, they don''t like me running off with $20K in-circuit emulators..! Despite this, I''ve just handed off an ALPHA of an open-source "no programming required" game development environment based on the Genesis3D engine. We had two programmers on the team (me being one), one artist/modeller, and one sound designer - ALL of whom had Real Life Jobs. Despite that, over the past 7 months we managed to get things to a decent point where we can drop it off on SourceForge and move on (well, SOME of us are, others are taking it forward to meet with the next release of Genesis3D Classic, the "bugfix version").

It IS hard, but if you don''t have too many outside commitments (or are willing to drop them for a while) you can pull it off. If you have a spouse/significant other that expects some interaction (or, worse, kids) you''re in for a SERIOUS uphill climb. Me, I passed on the whole wife/kids/house thing to write games (scary, huh?)... I can spend about 2-3 hours in the evening and about 12-16 hours on the weekend working on my title, I tend to average about 14 hours a week over the year (not including the usual crunch time) and that''s enough to produce a "small, casual gamer/diversion" type of title with a little assistance from my other team member (We''re down to two people at this point). Even with this I had to give up on writing a custom 3D engine and license someone elses to save myself 12+ months of time in the development cycle.

If you can find some way to get the family involved (copying manuals, helping with shipping CDs, etc.) it''ll take some of the load off you and possibly help keep everyone from feeling forgotten...

Just IMNSHO...

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The big advantage I have, Is that, the job Im working at is
nights, and the way its set up I get about 4-5hrs average that
I can devote to writing code/studying books/whatever. (boses approval) also I''ll be able to manage 2hrs a day at home with
about 10-14hrs on days off. My wife will be helping with the
manuels/help files/readme.txt/customer service, My brother will be handling all the sound and some of the art. I''ll be programing and doing most of the art and everything else involved. My son will be my beta tester . My family is devoted to this as much as I am. I appreciate the advice...its good advice.

Thank you,

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Hey, Scarab, you sound a bit like me.

I have been working on my current game for over 4 years now (but it started out as a wild idea, and I had no idea then that I ever wanted to even consider selling it).

I also did a lot, and I am having so much fun it doesn''t bother me. At the height of my activity this was:

Full time Physics study
Part time (3 evenings/week) Computer science study
Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction (a little)
Maintaining a website for an old game (with 100 visitors daily, and a stack of email - see
Information gathering group for setting up a small business (one evening a month approximately)
And then of course, I was programming my game.

Currently I am doing a fulltime job, a little writing, still maintain the website, and program my game.

The good thing is that there seem to be mostly lousy TV programs at the moment over here, so that saves a lot of time (and I can work with the radio on very nicely!)

It''s all a matter of priorities. And in a sense I am in luck because my girlfriend is overseas, so that doesn''t cost me much time (Of course I would much rather have that it did cost me time and she was here...) I also don''t have to run a complete household yet (even though I''m 23) so that saves additional time.

And as for the costs that are inevitably included in making games: they are really not that high. I have said before (somewhere) that I have invested less than $200 in my game, and that''s for all those 4 years developing, setting up my legal company (registered Dutch business).

And if you are prepared to shell out a small percentage of your sales income, you don''t need a merchant account yourself - you can use services like and Of course not the best option if you want to go totally professional, but they are great to ''get a feel'' for how much your games would make. It allows you to experiment in a certain way.

If you are really looking for it (which is often hard) you can find a lot of good resources without paying a lot. Of course that doesn''t work if you are in a hurry, but if you have the time it''s certainly a good alternative...

Well, there goes another $0.02 of my money

Kind regards,
Maarten Egmond.

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