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David and Goliath, how do you compete with a game giant.

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buy goliath's game-engine, it 'll be a lot cheaper then creating it yourself.

 

 

a faster way to get an engine, but not cheaper. and if too many mods are required, it won't be faster either!

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rather than focus on a niche feature, you should probably focus on a niche audience.

 

actually, the thing to do is focus on a niche MARKET (kinds the same idea as a niche audience). IE build the cool stuff that doesn't have sufficient mass appeal or enough of a proven track record for the big studios to take a chance on.

 

Or better yet, multiple niche markets. 

 

If the big studios only make FPS's, RPG's, MMO's, and RTS's with the usual themes and settings, that leaves LOTS of other types to be exploited.

 

These are some of the niche markets i've competed in in the past, compete in in the present, or plan to enter in the near future:

 

starship flight simulators

realtime wargames

space fighter flight simulators

fantasy RPG's

castle construction simulators

turn based wargames

caveman FPS/RPG/simulators

airship flight simulators

pirate FPS/RPG/simulators

citybuilder games

and probably a few others i can't recall offhand.

 

the method of selection is pitifully simple:

what do you want to play that's not out there already?

if you want to play it, odds are others will to (hence demand).

if its not out there already, no competition!  or no established title to go up against.

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I typically see this as trying to find niches that game giants or other popular games do not cover.  

 

This is the key.  As an indie developer, your one and only edge over a large corp is also an extremely powerful one, you have a much greater ability to take creative risk and develop something unique.

 

When you work for a large company, what motivates the vast majority of people is keeping the steady paycheck.  Yes, even in a game company filled with creative people, after a few years some of the big company bureaucracy mindset that is so common creeps in for most organizations.  You don't want to be the producer who tries something unique, and it fails; even if you keep your job, you may very well get demoted or at least lose a lot of prestige and be known as "the one with that looney idea that flopped and cost us millions!"     So, you stick to what is safe; ideas that are far less likely to be home runs or particularly innovative, but are also much less likely to lose lots of money.  

 

As an indie developer you have more room for risk taking, mostly because your company is still relatively small and flexible.  You still are worried about your paycheck, but there is a more entrepreneurial feel that gives you much more flexibility.  

 

Then, as a hobbyist developer, you have the most room for risk taking of all.  As a hobbyist developer, the cost for you failing is so low (since by definition games aren't your primary source of income, so it is pure opportunity cost you are risking).

 

The key is coming up with something that has at least some unique feature or innovation and running with it.  That doesn't mean you have to create an entirely new genre or paradigm in the way that Ultima created the RPG genre, id Software created 3d fps,  EverQuest/WoW for MMORPG, Minecraft for sandbox etc.   That is of course awesome, but far more commonly you can still become very successful within a normal genre with a couple innovative features.

 

In fact, I would ask myself "is my innovation so unique and daring/risky that major studios would avoid it?"   The space where they refuse to operate in is exactly the space where you should be operating.    This is a space where on the downside, it is more risky and you should expect a lot more projects to fail, but it is also where home runs and serious breakthroughs are more likely.

 

Innovation does not have to be limited to game design itself (though that is what myself and probably most people here are interested in).  It could be a marketing innovation, in much the same way affiliate marketing propelled the success of so many  early internet businesses across many industries.  It could be an HR innovation, where you discover a very effective way to successfully recruit talented high school or college game developers.  It could be a teamwork innovation, where you create a new communication style that significantly enhances team productivity.  

 

Opportunity to take innovative risks is your one and only edge as a hobbyist/indie developer-- milk it! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think Indies should rely on forgotten parts of gaming. As competition is getting harsher and getting a return from 'investment' is being harder, Goliaths favor proven methods as stated above.

 

This is a good concept.  It makes sense that there are a lot of classic games out there that had great appeal in many aspects and I'm sure some of those aspects have been lost over time.  resurrecting the feel of some of the game play they had sounds great.

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Three fairly recent Indy games that basically demonstrated one fact. Goliaths are irrelevant to making a profit, just produce the quality of goods that can sell.

Huh? I'd say those three are all excellent examples of how one should assiduously avoid the Goliaths, and find a niche audience to play to.

 

I don't care how great your production values are, an indie team isn't going to be able to go head-to-head with the next Halo...

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Huh? I'd say those three are all excellent examples of how one should assiduously avoid the Goliaths, and find a niche audience to play to.

 

hmm should have emphasised my point with more clarity. Essentially I agree with idea that finding a niche market is the best way to approach commercial success from an indy's point of view. My choice of games and their relative niches combined with the reality that Goliath's are irrelevant due to their absence from them, was where I was going with this. My comment with regard quality was an emphasis on the ideal that the game produced itself shouldn't be shite (as so many indy productions have ended up being), not as a comparison directly to a triple A production.  

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Huh? I'd say those three are all excellent examples of how one should assiduously avoid the Goliaths, and find a niche audience to play to.

 

Well if you look at games like Binding of Isaac, you'll notice that while a 'niche audience' was in their crosshairs, and they've estimated a rough 5000 copies to sell, it turned out quite differently.

What you set out to do is make a great games, and that's pretty much it. Start with what you'd want, and go with it, and if people like it too, all the better (case in point: Braids and Super MeatBoy).

 

As far as going toe-to-toe with the next Halo, you'd be surprised. We look at the big numbers of these franchises, but we forget the big production costs. The actual profits are not that dissimilar, especially in the case of games such as Minecraft.

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As far as going toe-to-toe with the next Halo, you'd be surprised. We look at the big numbers of these franchises, but we forget the big production costs. The actual profits are not that dissimilar, especially in the case of games such as Minecraft.

That's not what I mean by "going head-to-head" - Minecraft doesn't really resemble even other commercial world-building games (i.e. SimCity, or Spore).

 

Building a story-centric first-person shooter, a competitive multiplayer RTS, or a fantasy MMO, puts you squarely in competition with the big guys, right where their massive production budget gives them an edge.

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Building a story-centric first-person shooter, a competitive multiplayer RTS, or a fantasy MMO, puts you squarely in competition with the big guys, right where their massive production budget gives them an edge.

 

Even in those, you can still change the game.  First Person Shooter was taken on by Portal, who made great use of an uncommon feature.  even with these seemingly vague genre's you can still add entirely new concepts that can change the way the game is played.  

 

for a first person shooter, you could go through a level, blasting your way through. Then, you replay the level as one of the enemies, and your old character will use an AI to try to follow the same path and deviate when needed.  and you go back and forth as different characters in the same repeating world, constantly trying to best yourself.  And the AI can also learn your repetitive habits, and apply them when it tries to mimic you.

 

Its a game play mechanic that is very different from most FPS's out there, that don't make sense to apply to the current main stream games without significantly messing up their stories.

 

Also, Clone Wars has the repeating first person shooter, which also works well, but is significantly different.  

 

But I think your original point was that you shouldn't compete directly, and even those genre's allow indirect competition quite well.

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You can approach this from the other direction as well... just think about what it really means to target a mass market like the AAA guys basically need to do.  Skyrim is probably the best example of this in recent history.  There is just such a wide variety of things to do that it allows players of various persuasions to focus on what they want and enjoy and completely ignore other aspects of the game that they don't like as much.  It being a AAA game, Bethesda is forced to (but also has the financial backing to be able to) spend lots and lots of time and effort on aspects of their game that they know from the start will only appeal to some subset of their audience.  

 

But reverse that thinking... a savvy indie-developer can be sitting there playing skyrim and think "Man, I love sneaking around and sniping people with my bow.  Wouldn't it be great if there was a game that was focused on just this one thing?".  A game like skyrim has a huge audience, but that audience can be subdivided all sorts of ways, and looking at that game and thinking about how to pull out and focus on one part of it.  No indie can make anything as expansive and just plain huge as Skyrim, but they can take some particular aspect of it that people like and expand it and focus a game around it...

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I have no idea why 1 million people would choose to pay to play Runescape over WoW. It isn't even very much cheaper.

No big mystery there... it had three years head start, it can be played in the browser rather than having to download it or purchase a disk, and you can play for free -- something World of Warcraft didn't initially offer outside of time-limited trials and the game hours included with an initial purchase if I'm not mistaken. smile.png

 

One of the lessons we can learn from this specific example is that a David can effectively compete with a Goliath by offering a more convenient and easily accessible product.  If your competitor's product is harder to get and/or more expensive than yours you can establish an advantage.  The majority of those one million users who pay to play Runescape wouldn't have just decided to go sign up for a paid subscription -- they're users who were already invested in the game because they were either already playing themselves or had friends who were -- combined with slightly cheaper pricing it's not surprising that some users would choose Runescape rather than WoW.

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One of the lessons we can learn from this specific example is that a David can effectively compete with a Goliath by offering a more convenient and easily accessible product.  If your competitor's product is harder to get and/or more expensive than yours you can establish an advantage.

 

That's a really good point +1.  I.e. Starcraft isn't available on Android phone, or others.  So simply producing a clone with new IP, modified to support/play well on a new system is a great idea.  I've always been looking at this from a game feature perspective, that I haven't once stopped to think about availability. 

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Absolutely.  Another good example is Angry Birds; there were actually lots of games (mostly Flash games) built from exactly the same mechanics beforehand, but Angry Birds brought that catapult mechanic to iOS where it was particularly well suited to the touch screen and presented it in a very polished and accessible way.  Availability, accessibility and pricing are excellent ways an indie can compete with and often out-do larger studios. 

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But lets pick a current/popular game like Star Craft,

I would start by listing why StarCraft sux. Then I would make something that is MUCH better (just "competing" makes no sense, beating to the ground is the *only* way to go). If I conclude that StarCraft does not sux (enough) then I would simply not make an RTS.
 

For instance, Dragon based RTS.  How would I market that?  Well, Perhaps the dragons are Steam Punk Dragons

Well, I think that's "weirdness" rather than going for a niche. Niche is not the same as "no normal person would play it". In general, I would not touch the theme, because theme is neutral, I would rather go for unique (I hate the word "unique", maybe a better one would be "fitting" or "interesting") mechanics.

Take a look at Minecraft or DwarfFortress, theme is pretty traditional there it's the mechanics that made these popular.

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One of my favourite inspirations is FTL: Faster Than Light.

2 guys made that game.

It's fun and great entertainment, which is what it's all about in the end.

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If you cant bring it technically i woud say that the unique thing woud be to make a very unusual story or concept or theme that rarely is seen in games.

I once got this idea i called "Dialogue Challenge" for a role-playing game. It worked just like the normal pick-your reply feature, but depending on the reply you choose AFTER

the previous pick, will change the outcome.

 

Like that i mean, bring something unique like that......well i woud call it unusual at least if not unique

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One of my favourite inspirations is FTL: Faster Than Light.

2 guys made that game.

It's fun and great entertainment, which is what it's all about in the end.

 

I might add "Don't Starve" as well. No state of the art 3D graphics needing high end graphic cards, no dialogue beside some instrument sounds.

 

Instead game advertises its simplistic style as fashion and its classy in fact. And it is quite fun and poses challenge as well for people asking it.

 

They are currently reluctant for going beyond PC but when they did, I expect a Rovio from Klei.

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