The stages of indie
Recently Mike posted on his blog “Am I an Indie Developer?“. That’s funny because about a year ago I posted about that topic in response to another of his post. We can’t be the only ones wondering what’s really indie so here we go again.
I won’t talk about what others think indie is but what an indie thinks indie means. What he goes through. In the end I think it serves better to look at it this way than to think about how the indie label is interpreted. We can’t change others easily but we can easily work on ourselves to deal with others more easily.
You have some free time and would like to make a game for good or bad reasons (because you want to or to become rich). When there’s something good on TV you put your work behind because you have all the time in the world to work on your game so it can wait another evening.
You’re not quite sure what you’re doing but it doesn’t matter as you’ve seen people doing the same thing as you in the past that got success. You’re not into length analysis and just want to have fun playing the game you’re working on. Life is good and simple and it’s fine like that.
You released your first game and had a few people (more than you expected) play your first game but you now realize that you’re nowhere near making any money by keeping doing things you do them now. While you enjoy making games you’d also like that it becomes a bit more. Maybe you had enough of your day job or you just got hook by the thrill of seeing people enjoying your game.
You now realize that you’ll have to do a bit more than a hobby to “make something happen”. You learn a few tricks and easily obey to the first advice you encounter. You admire people because of what they write on their blogs and in the end it doesn’t seem so hard to achieve so there you begin your next project.
When there’s something good on TV you put your work behind because it’s still not THAT serious in your mind but somehow you still feel guilty for not working. That was my mindset when I started to work on Golemizer in 2007.
The reckless padawan
So your 2nd project is done and while it did bring some results you realize that you’re still far from anything you’ve read on the blogs of people you admire. You then switch to the next gear and you try to do more without changing much to your knowledge or skills. Somehow you feel you are not that far even though you’re nowhere where you thought you could be. So you keep pushing over and over and remind blinds to everything about you. You already read the recipe to success somewhere so all you need to do is to try harder.
Of course you’re full of energy because you know you’re not far from your goal so the hell with everything. When there’s something good on TV you don’t bother with it because there’s so much to do. You don’t read much blogs anymore because you already know what you need to know.
That was my mindset in the first year after releasing Golemizer.
The grumpy apprentice
You worked hard and you have learned quite a lot but there’s still not much happening. You have done everything by the book and was very serious about your work but still you are left with no interesting results. You feel guilty for the mistakes you made but mostly frustrated about everyone ignoring your hard work. You envy others that seem to have it easier than you and you start wondering if it’s worth it at all.
Of course you still haven’t given up completely so you start to enter a weird pattern that sounds like “oh I just have to do that and it will work”. So you start doing wild projects you haven’t thought much about just because you still believe you aren’t that far and the knowledge you have right now is enough to get you to the dream of a full-time indie. You have big highs and very heartbreaking lows during that period. You’re not sure you understand why it doesn’t work but you still keep going no matter what. Until you hit a wall …
When there’s something good on TV you turn it off because so far it has always been a distraction and it was your fault for not putting all your energy into your project. On weekends though you become depressed and only see one more week that passed without any result. You turn on the TV only to feel guilty the day after.
That was my mindset when I worked on Blimp Wars and Dungeon of Loot.
The born again indie
It wasn’t easy but somehow you’ve changed. You are starting to actually learn new tricks and learn what to take and what to leave from others experience. You have started to read blogs again but you are not a fan anymore but someone who can agree or disagree.
You have finally accepted that working hard isn’t the only thing required to have success but that working smart is also required (as well as some luck, contacts, experience, etc.). Maybe someone offered you to work on something different or maybe you are now just older but something changed. You “get” stuff better and accept that you were not “there” in the past to make it.
You’re now back to having the TV play in the background and sometimes turn you head around to watch a scene. You don’t feel guilty about it because you know your brain is still processing info you might still not be able to understand so it needs time.
This was my mindset when I finally started to learn AS3 to work on a Flash project with Brian.
The I am indie and I will succeed
You have been working on quite a few projects now and have learned more in the last few months than in the last years. You don’t rush as much into things as you used to and you are more relaxed yet more involved about your work. You realize your body need about 7 hours of sleep every night and that it works way better this way. You are willing to take more risks as you believe more in yourself while remaining realistic about everything.
Things might not go the way you’d like them to go but you don’t panic anymore. Your experience is serving you well and even if you maybe can’t validate your decisions you feel they are the right ones. You are better at what you do and remember that failures can still happen. It doesn’t matter as you have made up your mind. You are now an indie.
You now turn off the computer when there’s something good on TV because there’s no point in living if you’re doing a single thing 24 hours a day. You read blogs and reply frequently because you don’t feel like shying away from your experience and think you might add something to the discussion. You see yourself in others that and while you still have high esteem of other people you are not just a fanboy anymore.
Maybe you have now known success or are just living the whole thing in a much healthier way. You start caring about yourself (for real) and start to enjoy again what you are doing.
I think this is my current mindset. It’s always harder to say when you’re right “in it” but I feel I’m not far from the truth. Who knows … Maybe I’ll say otherwise in a few years but right now it feels about right.
You’re indie but still go f*** yourself
Okay tongue in cheek here. Put that Minecraft guy in this category as well as CCP, Jagex and many others. Yes they did it on their own but they had so much success they’re now miles away from you and you are having a hard time to say they are indie because of that. It doesn’t change that they are but it’s just frickin’ hard to compare yourself to them.
But those people are needed. They are the ones that keep you dreaming so you don’t say go f*** yourself to those guys. You just tell them “please use another label because I need the indie one right now” and I can’t compete with you on the scene for indie attention