Realigning the Azimuth

Backfire

After name dropping it in a recent interview, I guess it’s time to let the cat out of the bag - the new game I’m working on is titled Backfire.

Farewell to 2015

The end of year is always a unique time - a chance to reflect, ponder and make plans for moving on in the next year. For myself, it’s been a year which has been a significant burden to me, and I’ll be glad it’s over soon enough, and for 2016 to be a clean ground to try and make a better job of it.

The Beginner’s Guide and Creation

So I played through The Beginner’s Guide over the weekend. Granted it was in two sessions (after the game crashed during a major bit), but as I guess its mission is to provoke a lot of personal reflection as a creator, then well, mission accomplished.

I’m hoping that what I say here doesn’t spoil it, but in case, I don’t think its worth reading this unless you’ve actually sat down and played it. Yes, it’s a ‘walking simulator’. Yes, it only lasts 90 minutes. But if you’re a creator, or interested in that angle of things, then I consider it an essential play.

This post is pretty much a bit of self-reflection as a creator - both of games, and of my retro gameplay videos - and just some thoughts about my motivations and desires with regard to it, based on some of the things which have been running through my head once I completed the game.

Talking Retro at Freeplay

Last week, I was give the opportunity to present a piece at Freeplay’s Sunday Unconference talks. As you wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to think, it’s related to some of my experiences doing the channel, and how in general, there isn’t a lot of reflection backwards in gaming history - and why I think it’s actually worth doing it from time to time as developers & designers of games.

Thankfully, I was lucky to be able to record the talk, and whilst there was some noise over the intro & outro, the main talk itself came out rather well. So, using that, I synched up the audio with the slides I put together, and also replaced slides where I talked about a few retro games, with proper footage - and put the results up on YouTube for you all to watch.

Despite the problems in the outro, the links I included in the tail end are in the video description - and if anyone’s interested in more details, do shout out!

My Games of 2014

Comparing 2014 to 2013 is certainly an interesting exercise by comparison. Compared to last year, there weren’t as much AAA calibre games played - mainly as a result of two factors: the first being the channel and the workload in working on retro gameplay/LP videos, and secondly, my circumstances with regard to work meaning less time to sit in front of a console & play games there.

Much like last year, my tasted tended to split across multiple platforms - ranging from retro systems, to modern ones, as well as mobile devices. So, without further ado time to get onto this year’s list (which is in no real order… so no real biases here!) ma

Looking to the Future - but Where?

This post is the third in a short series in which I’m publicly reflecting on where I want to try to be heading as an indie developer. If you happen to be interested in the series & my goals for it, you can read the introduction here.

I’ve basically established who I am, and what I consider my values in terms of games development. The next question is working out where. Where are the platforms that are going to work best with what I want to accomplish? Where do I go to find the more receptive people to pitch the game to for coverage?

When I start to look at where I should try & publish, the first thing I think of is what is the best solution for someone like myself. A few years ago, that really was the mobile space (which I feel explains the amount of mobile games trying to do traditional genres without proper control considerations) - the low (relatively speaking) cost to access both the iOS App Store & Google Play meant is was feasible for a solo developer to get their game on there, and with a bit of promotional work - actually make enough money from it to consider another project.

However, thanks to the rise of Free to Play, and larger developers shoving their way in - even if you are able to get coverage, it’s incredibly difficult to get players to consider paying more than the base amount. I used to see mobile as a grounds for delivering small, focused games (not unlike budget labels such as Mastertronic in the 8-bit days) - small, focused, cheap games which might not be the greatest thing on the planet, but were usually fun enough for a few afternoons of play.

As for desktops - it’s a bit more complicated. For starters, desktop is always going to try & be all 3 major platforms (Windows, OS X & Linux) - I feel in this day & age, going PC only is utterly inappropriate for indies, and even though my stats from Pocket Dogfights ultimately question if that was worthwhile, I still feel it’s an important goal to aim for. The larger issue there is just getting in front of people - there’s the larger issue of Steam Greenlight, which feels much harder to penetrate than other places, yet can’t be ignored for some degree of success.

So, desktop obviously seems like the right choice - but there’s expectations there that make me wonder if small games are going to even be tolerated by the communities there - which is harder when you’re developing things on limited resource by comparison.

The second factor which I am pondering is where I should be going to build relationships. I found that with the Pocket Dogfights launch, the only press I did receive was from the result of relationships that I’d spent the last 2-3 years building. If I need to be spreading my reach wider than my local space - obviously I need to be able to that many more times over and with the right people. But to be honest, I’m not sure where that it anymore. When I did pitch, I tried to go across a spread of large & small sites - all of which are indie friendly, but when the responses are either dead air, or being put in contact with advertising departments - it can’t help but feel rather hollow.

Maybe I’m just a bit old fashioned, but I feel like I want to build two-way relationships. I’m not a fan of having to reach out all the time, and sometimes it’d be nice to feel that my development posts/tweets/etc actually are being read by more than a few people.

Which I guess brings me into the last item - I’m not really sure where I belong. I feel that trying to develop stuff on the sides means that it’s easy to feel disconnected from both sides of the spectrum - the more established indies who are able to actually earn an income from their work, and the smaller ones & students who are more focused on the artistic side.

When you find yourself between the groups - then you struggle to find the opportunity to seriously talk development, or process - or how to do things better. It’s why well, I decided to put this little series together in the first place… I’m hoping that I can at least get the chance to find out who I can discuss some of these thoughts & actions with, and at least use that as a springboard to whatever I choose to do next.