Daniel J. Petersen’s Devblog

Documenting my struggle to make a videogame.

The Looming Indie Crash?

I just read a blog post from Cliff Harris, the man behind games like Democracy 3, Gratuitous Space Battles, and Gratuitous Tank Battles. This is going to be a response to that post.

To preface this, I respect Cliff quite a lot. I probably value what he says more than anyone else in the industry, and if there was one person that I’d want to model my career after, it’d be him.

With that being said, I think I disagree with him on this. I don’t know that a crash is incoming. People want to make games. They’re going to do it as a hobby, or part time, or they’re going to risk everything and take the chance at going full time indie. They’re going to do all this whether or not they make money. And statistically, they won’t make money, but it doesn’t matter. They’re going to continue making their games, because they love games.

Not only do they love games, but they love their games. Objectively their games are shit, but it’s hard to judge the value of your own work. You tend to either think it’s a lot better than it actually is, or you tend to think it’s a lot worse than it actually is.

I’m making a video game. I’m going to sell this game. I’m not expecting to make any money from it. I’m not expecting anyone to even care. I’ve read countless post mortems at this point detailing how they made 23 dollars their first week, if even that. But I’m still going to do it, because to me, my game is awesome.

There’s a reason why the games industry is able to pay programmers a lower salary than they would earn in other software fields. There’s a reason why they can work these guys longer hours than they’d be worked in other software fields. People love games. People want to play games. People just want to work on games, and they’ll do it whether or not it makes sense financially.

I’m not sure I understand his Unity comment. I don’t personally use Unity, but I think it’s a good business decision to do so. You’re offloading a lot of tedious work that you would otherwise have to do yourself. It’s a tried and true engine which you can rapidly prototype with. I’d even go so far to say that it’s borderline irresponsible to not use an engine like Unity or Unreal 4 if you’re not already an established dev with an engine under your belt like Cliff is.

We’re probably moving into something more akin to the music industry. There are so many unnamed and unprofitable bands out there, but it doesn’t matter. People will continue to form bands, and most of these bands won’t make it financially. Some people (most? all?) just have a deep seated desire to create.