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29 Jul 2014

Choosing a New Indie Project

So you’re ready to tackle your next big project (or you’re starting your first indie game for the very first time). Fantastic. You have a few ideas that have been on the backburner for a while, yet you just cannot seem to pinpoint which ideas are worth pursuing and which ones need to ‘stay in storage’ for a while longer. Remember: you need to first prototype your ideas and see which ideas would actually make an awesome game, and which ideas you need to place back onto the backburner. Prototyping takes time and effort, meaning you need to conclude which ideas are worthy of a prototype to begin with.

Thus, the predicament: how can you conclude which ideas should become your next project?

Sadly, there is no easy answer. Yet, there are ways you can come to your own conclusion via some of the tactics below. Use them to your benefit, avoid wasting time on prototyping ideas that have no legs to stand on, and find your next big idea as soon as possible!

 

Always start small

When I begin writing a new short story, I always start small. Why? Because I know that the more I write, the bigger my ideas will become – thus expanding the story.

If I start big from the get-go, the sheer amount of detail in my story is going to be massive, bog it down, and it’s going to take much longer to complete. If I discover that the bulk of my work becomes invalid due to another, better idea? I’ve wasted a ton of time that I’m not getting back.

Always start small – no matter how big you want your final product to be. This allows you to achieve a few things:

  • Get a sense for the true ‘main idea’ of the game.
    • Big ideas during the prototyping phase can lead to confusing, conflicting ideas that can harm your game as a whole.
  • If you fail, you fail fast.
    • Not 3-6 months into the project. If your idea is going to fail, you’re going to know soon.
  • Besides, good, ideas – no matter their size – will always inspire you throughout the entire project.
    • Hard lesson to learn, but it’s always true.

 

Never play it safe

Let’s face it: you’re not a big studio, and no matter how big of a studio you may be, you’re not as big as Ubisoft, EA, etc. In other words, one small mistake isn’t going to mean the difference between an entire team working on another project or getting laid off. Smaller means you are able to fail multiple, multiple times without little consequence. Thus, why play it safe?

Never in the entire industry has there been a chance for you to fail with minimal consequence than now. I mean, what do you have to lose? Time? Certainly. Money wasted hiring outsourced workers for an idea that didn’t pan out? Definitely. Beyond that though, you have little to risk in trying new, interesting things.

Why do you think indie gaming has everyone’s attention? This is where innovation happens! Look at E3 the last several years. Sure, there have been AAA games that impress, but when it comes to the indies? There is always that one little game that comes out of nowhere that makes everyone’s jaw drop. No Man’s Sky did it this year, and there’s no reason why another indie game isn’t going to blow everyone’s mind next year, either.

Remember: the industry is moving forward because of indie games. With little to lose, there’s no reason to play the game safe. Take chances and prototype ideas that sound crazy. After all, almost everyone thought Papers, Please sounded ridiculous until they actually played it. When they did? It blew nearly everyone away.

 

Prototype ideas you want to see realized

This advice is conflicted, I know. On one hand, if you develop a game you have always wanted to develop, you risk alienating a ton of potential players. If I want to develop a deep, engrossing visual novel for iOS, the average person that plays games on his/her iDevice probably isn’t going to be excited for the game. Yet if I love the genre and develop the visual novel I have always wanted to play? The passion and the care I placed into the game is going to be noticed by visual novel fans all around the world.

Thus, you have to ask yourself: is it better to develop indie games aimed at the average player or genres that you are passionate about that average players may/may not find of interest? That’s up to you to decide, but if you want my two cents – it’s the latter. You can’t fake passion, and if you are passionate about a certain genre, develop a game within that genre. You’ll be happier, your players will be pleased – everybody wins.

 

Have any questions or comments regarding tackling your next big project? Let us know in the comments below!

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