Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
Trapper Zoid

Dilemma of my design too risky to implement as an indie?

This topic is 4836 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Dilemma of my design; too risky to implement as an indie? This is going to be a long post, unfortunately. I'm really just wanting to get some feedback on the focus I should take with my design, since I know that some of you are in a similar position. Plus I've got a lot of time to kill to write this as I'm feeling too ill today to doing anything else (except defrost the fridge, I guess [smile]). A quick summary of what I'd like to discuss here; my present design is very theoretically research-based orientated, which I think is a bit of gamble; if it works then it could be great, but if it doesn't then it will be a flop. Since I'd like my games to be successful, and am dreaming about becoming a full time indie developer, should I tone it down to something more manageable?
Here's all the background about what I'm doing. I suppose this is mostly to get it all down in words what I'm thinking, but I'd be grateful for any advice at all, particuarly from anyone who has been in a similar position before. At the moment I am working through the game design of a large hobby project, which I've codenamed "Project Hamlet" until I think of a better title, which is my first attempt at realising some of my ideas on interactive storytelling techinques (which I've previously discussed in another thread here). It's a bit hard to succinctly summarise the game, as it is a bit innovative and the gameplay focus hasn't quite been finalised yet. I guess it is easiest to describe it as an RPG styled village management simulator in the nature of SimCity or RollerCoaster Tycoon, with elements of the Sims thrown in. However, making this game as a hobby project is going to take me a while. My present estimate is that it would take me to sometime in 2007 to finish this (which is also roughly about the same amount of time I have left in my Ph.D. candidature, luckilly). As a Ph.D. student, I have the benefit of a flexible schedule and access to some great university library resources to aid me. But this will only last for a couple more years. My main problem at the moment is that I have two contradictory objectives with my game development; to implement great new technology ideas (such as interactive storytelling), and to try and make it as an indie game developer. The first objective is one I've always had; I love trying to implement new stuff. Don't get me wrong; it's not just technology for technology's sake (like what is done in most 3D engines). Most of my technology attempts have strong ties into game design, such as the development of interesting A.I. techniques, or interactive music. The one idea that I really want to implement is a interactive storytelling system using the research that I've build up over a couple of years on plots and characters. I've got some good ideas how this could be implemented but there are still a series of grey spots that need to be figured out. The second objective is also one I've always had; I've always loved making games, whether they were computer games, dice games, board games, physical games, or ideas for game shows. I've recently realised that in all my other jobs, the moments I've enjoyed the most were when I could turn it into a game (this works quite well with lesson plan ideas for teaching, by the way). I've tried my luck in the commercial game industry already, and found that that was not for me, but I've realised that was mainly due to the crushing stress of the artificial deadlines and corporate nature of big business game development. So I've been thinking: why not try for being an indie game developer career? Deep down that's what I've always wanted to do, I just didn't have the confidence in myself that I could make it by myself. However after some thought and assessment of my abilities I now believe it is possible, if I work towards it as a goal. Unfortunately, the problem is I don't think these objectives mesh very well at all. The first objective is pure research and development, something that I like doing (hey, I am a Ph.D. student, that's expected!). R&D is by its very nature full of risk; it's unknown whether you will get the results you wanted, and it's very hard to predict the time and resources required. The second objective is business orientated; while innovation in pure gameplay elements is required for an indie, innovation in technology (even gameplay dependent A.I. design) seems way too risky and time consuming for success in this field. I'm presently afraid with my present design that there's a good chance that if I don't reign in my ambition or plan my schedule well I mightn't be able to finish it in time. Or if I do finish it could turn out to be a bit like Black and White; a bunch of great technology ideas that just don't work when combined as a game. Or even if it does work, the game might be so niche that only a handful of people will enjoy it. Plus with the game being finished in 2007 my time as a Ph.D. will be over; it might be better to get some smaller games out sooner when I still have the time to work on my skills to build up my reputation, mitigate the risk over a series of smaller projects, and to possibly get some income in before my time as a student is up. I'm thinking my initial design is too ambitious for my first really complex game, especially considering my programming skills have deteriated somewhat in the last few years while I tried out a few different career paths. I don't want to abandon my interactive storytelling ideas, but I've thinking of maybe treating this as more of a long term goal; something I will very slowly work towards as a hobby. Then I can use my time as a Ph.D. student, where I have the flexibility and the expectation to build up my skills freely, to concentrate on polishing up the skillset I'll need to make it as an indie, and possibly publish a small title or two part-time while still a student. I am still thinking of working on some technology ideas, but on smaller things that would form the basis of a series of libraries that I could use to quickly make my own small games with a unique style.
So if anyone has any tips on what I'm doing (or to tell me I'm complete delusional) I'd be grateful. Although I'd like to play around with my interactive storytelling ideas, I don't want to blow the last great chance in my life at possibly making it as an indie game developer; after I have my Ph.D. I'll have to seek a full time career of some sort, making it a lot harder to gain the abilities required. So, any thoughts on this? What are your opinions on the riskiness of too in-depth research based gameplay elements? How do you think someone should go about seriously making it as a solo indie?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
I wouldn't say it's too risky, but your notion is entirely reliant on your ability to come into an incredibly long series of epiphanies in order to create such a novel thing as AI generated story telling; luck, you might say. Whenever I tackle an issue such as this, the solution could come instantly the next day while I'm walking across campus, or it could come months later- milling it over in one's mind is never a set procedure. Writing a story in itself may be, but the high level thought you're talking about could take anywhere from days, to months, to years to complete- beyond that, the aspect of coding it all would probably be relatively simple (once you knew what you were doing).
You could always just finish as much of the engine as you could, leaving it open to be manipulated by an AI story script generator- test it with your own script, get it working perfectly- and leave a massive amount of the computer's processing potential unoccupied so as to run whatever wild AI you end up coming up with.
After that, put it on the back burner and work on smaller projects- there's no sense grinding away at figuring something like that out when it's not coming. If you took a break to make some smaller games, while keeping the ultimate goal in mind, little hints would probably jump out at you, and eventually, one day, you'd see it clearly (then run back and insert this amazing AI into your game).

I hope that helps, I'd love to hear more about your design too,

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's not so much the risk that the innovative game ideas won't work that I'm afraid of; I'm pretty sure I can get something to run. I'm just a bit afraid I won't be able to put enough polish in it in time for it to be amazing enough to boost my chances of being financially independent on game making. I've been thinking about story systems for years now, and although I'm still unsure about all the details I think the approach that I'm working on now will at least run (whether it results in output that others will regard as "stories" is another matter).

I'm thinking at the moment I might have to choose between working on the game that I really want to do (that may or may not work and will take years to perfect), or work on smaller games that I kind of what to do, but will be a lot easier to create, polish off, promote and sell. Thinking of it that way, I should probably aim for the commercial outcome, and slowly work on my own project as a second side hobby. It would help if I'd kept working on my programming skills instead of letting them lapse while I tried my hand at other career paths and working in prototype languages like Prolog and Matlab.

Sorry, I'm rambling on at the moment. I'd be happy for any further opinion from anyone, thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You already know the answer. If your aim is a successful company then a long term high risk project isn't the answer (or rather the answer is to do more commercial projects and do the risky one in your spare time).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree with the other advice, go for something less ambitious first to test the water.

This should give you an appreciation of two very important issues:

1. How easy it is to underestimate the work involved in designing, developing, marketing, and selling even a simple indie game product

2. How easy it is to overestimate the financial return you will get with such indie game products, and therefore how difficult it is to really make it as an indie game developer (by making it I mean doing only this fulltime and getting enough return to pay yourself a salary you can live with on a longterm basis).

My other advice would be to hedge your bets, dont put all your effort into risky indie game development, also do something less risky that has more of a guarantee of financial return.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, I would like to be able to give you some helpful advice here, but personally I always choose the huge complex project, learn a lot from working on it, but don't generally finish it to any publishable extent. So if success as an indie game designer is one of your goals I'm probably the last person to ask, lol.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Obscure
You already know the answer. If your aim is a successful company then a long term high risk project isn't the answer (or rather the answer is to do more commercial projects and do the risky one in your spare time).


I know, that's pretty much what I'd already decided on (I guess I skewed the post a bit that way). My problem is that I'm like sunandshadow and prefer tackling the hard projects that I don't realistically have a chance of completing to the level that I would like.

I think I'll put "Project Hamlet" on the back burner for a while; I'll keep working on it but only now and again. Since many of the problems involve some A.I. work it might be best to keep that in the back of my mind for a few more months as I work on my general programming and art skills. Once I'm up to speed I'll be more able to realistically assess the difficulty of a project.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FWIW, the good news is that you're completely delusional. But so is everyone else on this board aspiring to make the next MMO, the next open ended space game, or the next anything with near zero resources. If you're not making the next Bejeweled clone to sell to Real or MSN and ignoring the fact that most indie projects simply fail... well, then, you're here.

But hell, why are you alive anyway? That's what I ask, especially when torn between economics and passion. You have a finite time on this Earth, and if the balance of it is spent staying safe you'll survive, but I'm not exactly certain you'll live. And this is being said by a guy who was down to $0.37 USD just a week ago as a result of pursuing a non-mainstream dream.

I have a good friend who really wanted to make a pretty interesting and original game, but never will. He's now a senior manager, he's got a family and a house to maintain, and barely has time for games. Whatever unique creation he had to offer to the world will never be, and I think that's a waste.

If you can put down the big idea, I'd say do it-- but only to prove it in smaller ways. Plan a path of concept proofs that make you so sure of it that doubt doesn't even enter into the picture. Then go for it.

As for working on other things, I think a person can probably do a lot of things well enough, but to be truly inspired they've got to be either lucky or driven. If your idea tortures you the way mine does (use my post volume here as a metric of this [rolleyes]) then I say damn the torpedoes.

And if the idea crashes and burns, sing on the way down. Then try again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, I wouldn't go a far to call us completely delusional. If I wanted to run for U.S. president in 2008, or I seriously wanted to try to stage that game show idea I that was like It's a Knockout set in the middle of a large city, then I'd agree on the "completely".

The problem is while one goal I have is this game idea, a bigger personal dream is to make it as a game designer. I've already tried seriously once, and crashed and burned, but I've dusted myself off and am read to try again. Previously I'd only really considered the commercial path, but I've been thinking long and hard about this and I now consider that it's possible, with more than a little luck and a lot of determination, to make it as an indie. As I wrote in that overlong post at the start of the thread, I've realised that making games is what I've always really wanted to do (although making games for the computer isn't really required. Board games, card games or puzzles will do as well [smile]). If that means making Bejeweled clones for MSN that I'd like that a whole lot better than programming software for beligerent clients or teaching mathematics to disinterested teenagers (tried both of those already!).

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I have a good friend who really wanted to make a pretty interesting and original game, but never will. He's now a senior manager, he's got a family and a house to maintain, and barely has time for games. Whatever unique creation he had to offer to the world will never be, and I think that's a waste.


That's the problem. I'm getting old now (well, getting middle-aged), and I'm going to have stick with a full-time career after my Ph.D. I'm reasonably happy with aiming for a lecturing or resarching position (that's why I took the Ph.D. in the first place), but a large part of me still wants to aim for that game career. I'm just afraid that once I start a proper full-time career I'll never have the chance again. If I can make it with some smaller games, then I'd be in a better position to go for the big ones. "Project Hamlet" isn't even the full instantialisation of my goal of true interactive storytelling, but more of a first step. But maybe that step is still too large.

I'm not going to abandon this game idea. But I think I should work more on reasonable targets. That way I'll have a greater chance of eventually actualising that idea. I can always make the little simple games be smaller steps towards the full goal anyway.

And if I don't make it, at least I tried!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Can you break your big idea into smaller, simpler, easier to implement pieces?
You already know that working on this game isn't realistic if you want to make your bread making games, but you might be able to try out some of your concepts in smaller more mainstream projects.

Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
If that means making Bejeweled clones for MSN that I'd like that a whole lot better than programming software for beligerent clients or teaching mathematics to disinterested teenagers (tried both of those already!).

I don't know about that. Of course it's completely personal, but I've been down that path and it filled me with a lot of frustration.

shmoove

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

We are the game development community.

Whether you are an indie, hobbyist, AAA developer, or just trying to learn, GameDev.net is the place for you to learn, share, and connect with the games industry. Learn more About Us or sign up!

Sign me up!