Indie Device Anxiety Syndrome (IDAS)
indie hardware software platforms sdk kits
I have the same fear every morning when the post arrives on my doorstep. The fear that Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo will deliver me the hardware SDK for their current consoles, just because I applied for a license to develop for their platform. Adding to that is the fact that I already have multiple mobile, tablet, VR and desktop devices, all readily accessible to me using a plethora of programming languages and content development tools, a good example being Lightwave 3D and Unity which I use daily.
This combines to what I will try to formulate as my own personal IDAS.
Symptoms Of and Suffering With IDAS
Accessibility To High-power Hardware
So the hardware maker gods have gone and removed the barriers I, as well as many other Indies, have been running up against for all these years. It’s become like Christmas with the feeling of surprise a child gets on the first morning after Santa has visited, when all presents are there, stacked under the tree.
This, though, is not only a good thing for me.
That is not quite as easy as it sounds. I don’t mean that part of the creative process where I suffer to find a compelling game design, a good idea for a game mechanic or a faster way to draw my sprites. These are admittedly severe problems faced during the creation of any specific game at any time since the invention of the console and home computer.
The angst I feel now is that I have to produce something for the various types of hardware and software kits which have suddenly dropped into existence in the last 2 years or so. I feel a pressure to utilise them all in a relatively short period of time, to make use of the potential lying around and to justify the deliveries from the hardware makers in some form of low-budget, high-yield game.
The documentation available online is generally superb and, for my requirements as a tiny Indie, effectively limitless computing power and hardware accessories combine to put a tangible pressure on me. This pressure is clearly felt by me during each second I’m not creating something on and for these machines.
The second problem, which has changed my design and development habits, is that I can’t develop something without thinking of all the potential devices it may potentially need to run on. As most gamers and developers know, various types of hardware have their own unique access control schemes, with their idiosyncrasies, so this is not a small decision, regardless of the size of a company.
Today, I can trace back the experiences I had as a child which led me on this path of being an Indie at heart and having und unerring desire to create something, specifically games.
Getting my first computer, a C64, on the 25th of March, 1984, was for me the beginning of a lifelong passion. In that same period, I had seen the films Tron (1982) as well as Blade Runner (1982) which implanted in me a desire to create worlds. But I also felt it needed to be a world which was unknown to me, even though I created it. A world which would surprise me with unpredictability and allow me to live out my yearning to explore the far reaches of the universe from the comfort of my desk.
The 80s and the early 90s were a phase where I could go to the arcades to get an idea where my future direction can take me. This is something that was somewhat lost in the times since then. Even film effects can’t bring back that sense of wonder, so this level of thinking has gone forever, I fear.
The Reality 2014 And Onwards
Where I have always looked straight up to move forward, I now have to look around 360 degrees to see where I need to go creatively.
I can now understand why previously large companies restricted themselves to making products for just a few selected platforms. The possibilities are just mind-blowing, in a scary sort of way. In earlier hardware generations, the main worry was how to allocate time to resources per frame, how much of the game enemy's Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to sacrifice to give the game more graphical bling. And today most larger game companies still fight in this direction, but for a tiny Indie this can’t be the forward edge of the combat area.
I don’t believe restricting myself to a single device would be the solution though, as I already know they are all out there. So I had previously applied for everything I could, safe in the knowledge that the biggest and best companies in the world were ignoring me. I can't stop myself today in my desire to apply for everything I can get, but maybe I can put a sort of system in place to stem the tide somehow.
I think the correct way forward is to embrace an unlinking from the actual hardware, controllers and software, and mould the result from my inner desires, regardless of where and how these experiences will be seen by other people. In the end, I need to consider that all I have been doing, and will do, will be to create and see something I will explore as the first and only person. That memory I will probably keep even when the next generations have a hard time figuring out how to go back to touching a device to make it do something.
Evidently, there are more small Indies rising up every day, all making the most varied games which continue to surprise the gamers and industry. While this remains unpredictable and chaotic, I would like to know if those people show any of the IDAS symptoms I’ve tried to describe here. If so, there may be a need for us Indies to deal with this problem openly and not try to suffer through this each behind closed doors, alone.
I need to continue on doing what I do, but I would like to leave this nagging feeling of fear and pressure behind or learn to deal with it. The feeling is that there is never enough time to make any of that I dream about, and that I may be overwhelmed by too much choice where to realise my dreams and aspirations.
It is absolutely necessary for me to adapt to the changing circumstances and realities of being an Indie in 2014, and I assume this should be easier to accomplish for my tiny company than in a large Outfit.
And it would be great to sell enough to continue doing what I love too, but that I can still look up to today.
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Article Update Log
19 Jan 2014: Initial release
About the Author(s)Micah Koleoso is the founder of Micah Koleoso Software, a tiny Indie Outfit based in Frankfurt a.M., Germany, dedicated to developing fun games on as many platforms as possible. We also do contract work for game ports and other services.
See us at www.micahkoleoso.de.