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Old 02-02-2011, 01:17 AM   #1
alexrediculous
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Default Help: Starting an Indie Dev Team in Uni

Hi there,

My name is Alex, and this would be my first post on these forums.
Basically I want to pitch my plan and see what you guys think.

My goal is to take an IAT program (SFU's SIAT in Vancouver for those interested) and by the end of my 4 years have established relationships with enough people to start and independent game development team with hopes of getting picked up by a publisher.

The great thing about this plan in my opinion is that there will be a wide variety of people with different skillsets in University. It would be a great opportunity to network and get connections in the industry. I know that there is currently a game developers club at the school, which tells me I'm barking up the right tree.

But I'm unsure of a couple of things. First of all is my role. My intention is to take as many relevant courses as I can to gain the skills needed to be a lead designer. I'm wondering though if this is an unrealistic goal? Should I really be thinking about a lead design position when it's such a sought-after job? What kind of job security can I hope for?

Second of all is, I guess, is this a good idea? I see all these indie teams gaining success and notoriety with games over XBLA, PSN, and Steam. It seems like a great place to start. I get the sense that it really depends on how good your games are, and how well you market them. I myself did some QA testing for indie dev Hothead Games and it just looked like the most awesome environment to work in. With all these game studios closing while indies prosper, it seems like the way to go. Not to mention the innovation and creativity coming out of indies lately.

Any thoughts or comment appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 02-04-2011, 01:29 AM   #2
bob
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Hey Alex,

I take it you are pretty much new to the game design scene. If not, this will be stuff you already know, so I apologize if I've gotten the wrong picture of you.

First, for every indie game company that is doing well, there are a lot that fail. There are a lot of people in the Xbox Indie Games sector that are producing games that aren't doing well at all. You also have to look at all the bazillions of iPhone apps there are, and how few of them float to the top. That said, you probably won't be convinced that it's hopeless. No one thinks it's hopeless for them - that's why there are so many of us! Har har. I think you probably realize this, since you acknowledge that even good games have to be marketed well (usually) for them to be successful. But just remember it's a lot of hard work.

As for being a lead game designer. If you want to shoot for that, then shoot for it. But make sure you're good at it. And if you're not, identify your weaknesses and work on them. There are lot of people trying to be game designers, studying game design etc. that aren't very good at it. I would try to make sure you're not one of those people by designing some games and getting people's opinions on them (or something). If people are enthusiastic about your design, hurray. If people don't get excited, there's probably something wrong with it. And if people consistently don't get excited about your designs, you may have a serious problem. Maybe you need to be more innovative with your designs. If after a year or two or three or working at game design, and you haven't gotten any validation about being a good game designer, then maybe you should look for a different path.

I only say this because it's going to be really hard for someone with a game design degree who isn't good at game design to get a job. And I believe I've come across some of those people.

Here's some personal advice for being a game designer - start learning how to program. I've recently become somewhat functional as a basic Flash programmer, and it really helps learning what game design is about. A person really has no idea what game design is like before they've had to make one for themselves. The things we write for the design challenges on this website are like the first 1% of a game designer's job. So if you can code, and don't need to rely on other people, it'll streamline your ability to test design changes on the games you can make. Not only that, but it will allow you to make the games you want when otherwise you couldn't. I went to the Global Game Jam the other weekend and was able to make the game I wanted because I can code. If I hadn't, I'd have had to join a larger team and work on someone else's idea. But I got to make mine. Now, I'm able to continue working on it, away from my teammates, whenever I want, because I can code. So start learning that right away, is my advice. I doubt there will ever be a time in your career when you think, "Wow, I'm glad I didn't learn to program."

If you develop really serious programming abilities, then you could also start applying for programming jobs, which are universally considered easier to land. If you're worried about job security, you ought to consider the programming route, since you could also be developing games on the side and honing your game design abilities.

If you have some outlines for game designs, I encourage you to post them to the forums here. The most common problem a game idea has is that it isn't fleshed out enough. Thinking about a game is a lot different from playing one, and it's easy to skip over a lot of the crucial little decisions you have to make about gameplay that are going to decide whether your game is fun or not. A good number of us have experience developing games so we can point out some of those areas for you. (EDIT: not to make myself sound like a pro. I'm a student, but I've worked on 2 - 3 small games (all Flash) and have learned a few things.)

Again, if all if this is old news, or you HAVE developed some games, let me know and I'll change my tune.

Good luck!
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Last edited by bob : 02-04-2011 at 01:33 AM.
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Old 02-04-2011, 02:45 AM   #3
alexrediculous
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Thanks Bob for your well thought-out and well written reply.

I had a feeling that programming would be the route to take. As for designing games myself, I very frequently come up with ideas and then build upon them. I sometimes go as far as making design documents. I find often, though, I tend to be quite ambitious with them .

Anyways, I figure that in order to start a team straight out of university we'd need a small amount of people with a large amount of skills. Programming is an absolute necessity, so I can see it being so valuable. I look at something like World of Goo which was made by two guys; I think that's pretty amazing. That said, I may be getting over ambitious about the whole thing which is why I've come here for some words of wisdom.

You mention that there's a lot of games in the idie sector that aren't doing well. I'm wondering what reasons these games have for doing so badly, and how they can be avoided.
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Old 02-04-2011, 06:58 AM   #4
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Quote:
1. My intention is to take as many relevant courses as I can to gain the skills needed to be a lead designer. I'm wondering though if this is an unrealistic goal?
2. Should I really be thinking about a lead design position when it's such a sought-after job?
3. What kind of job security can I hope for?
4. Second of all is, I guess, is this a good idea?
1. No.
2. If that's what you want.
3. We aren't talking about a job, so "job security" is a nonsequitur. We're talking about student projects, or am I missing something?
4. Sure, but what else will you have to offer to the other students besides an "I'm the designer" approach? Of course, you have to be willing to be a good listener, and to design the game they want designed. And you have to be flexible as regards to features or design details the other team members feel strongly about, and stand firm on ones you perceive to be at the heart of the concept.
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Old 02-04-2011, 08:37 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexrediculous View Post
You mention that there's a lot of games in the idie sector that aren't doing well. I'm wondering what reasons these games have for doing so badly, and how they can be avoided.
Usually a combination of no/little exposure and wrong target audience.
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Old 02-04-2011, 01:06 PM   #6
alexrediculous
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsloper View Post
Sure, but what else will you have to offer to the other students besides an "I'm the designer" approach?
Yeah, this is exactly what I was thinking. Honestly, I think that in a small development team everyone needs to be the designer. That said, lead designer is something I want to work towards in the future, and was hoping to use this team as a jumping-off point.
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