What Is An Indie Developer?

Apr 9, 2014 ten am

What makes a developer "indie"?

I'm not going to answer that question, instead, I'm just going to ask a lot more questions, mostly because I'm irritated and asking questions rather than answering them irritates people and as the saying goes: irritation makes great bedfellows.

What irritates me is this almost "snobbery" that seems to exist in some dev circles about what an "indie" is. I hear devs who call themselves "indie" roll their eyes at other devs who call themselves "indie" because they "clearly they aren't indie".

So what makes an indie developer "indie"?  Let's look at the word.

The word "indie" comes from (I assume) the word "independent".  I guess the first question we have to ask is: independent from what? I think most people would say "publishers".

Yet, I know of several devs who proudly call themselves "indie" when they are taking money from publishers (and big publishers at that) and other devs that would sneer at a dev taking publisher money and calling themselves "indie".

What about taking money from investors? If you take money are you not "indie"? What about money from friends or family? Or does it have to be VCs for you to lose "indie" status?

What about Kickstarter?  I guess it's OK for indies to take money from Kickstarter. But are you really "independent"?  3,000 backers who now feel a sense of entitlement might disagree. Devs who feel an intense sense of pressure from backers might also disagree.

Does being "indie" mean your idea is independent from mainstream thinking? Is being an "indie developer" just the new Punk Rock.

Does the type of game you're making define you as "indie"? If a dev is making a metrics driven F2P game, but they are doing it independent of a publisher, does that mean they are not "indie"?

This is one of the biggest areas I see "indie" snobbery kick in.  Snobby "indie" devs will look at an idea and proclaim it "not indie".

Do "indie" games have to be quirky and weird? Do "indie" games have to be about the "art".

What about the dev? Does that matter? Someone once told me I was not "indie" because I have an established name, despite the fact that the games I'm currently working on have taken no money from investors or publishers and are made by three people.

What if the game is hugely successful and makes a ton of money? Does that make it not "indie" anymore? Is being "indie" about being scrappy and clawing your way from nothing? Once you have success, are you no longer "indie"?  Is it like being an "indie band" where once they gain success, they are looked down on by the fans? Does success mean selling-out? Does selling-out revoke your "indie dev" card?

What if the "indie" developer already has lots of money? Does having millions of dollars make them not "indie"? What if they made the money before they went "indie" or even before they started making games or if they have a rich (dead) aunt? Does "indie" mean you have to starve?

Is it OK for an "indie" to hire top notch marketing and PR people? Or do "indies" have to scrape everything together themselves and use the grassroot network?

Or does "indie" just mean you're not owned by a publisher? How big of a publisher? It's easy to be a publisher these days, most indies who put their games up on Steam are "publishers". The definition of a publisher is that you're publishing the game and the goal of a lot of studios is to "self-publish".

Or does being "indie" just mean you came up with the idea?  The Cave was funded and published by SEGA, so was it an "indie" title? SEGA didn't come up with the idea and exerted no creative control, so does that make it an "indie" title?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions (and maybe there aren't any), but it irritates me that some devs (or fans) look down on devs because they are not "indie" or not "indie enough".

Or is being "indie" just another marketing term? Maybe that's all it means anymore. It's just part of the PR plan.

Monkey Island Design Notebook Scribblings

Apr 7, 2014 twenty five to nine am

More scans from the Monkey Island Design Notebook. I'm glad I kept these notebooks, it's a good reminder of how ideas don't come out fully formed.  Creation is a messy process with lots of twisty turns and dead ends.  It's a little sad that so much is done digitally these days. Most of my design notes for The Cave were in Google Docs and I edited them as I went, so the process lost. Next game, I'm keeping an old fashion notebook.

Mark Ferrari or Steve Purcell must have done these. I can't draw this good!

A lot changed here!

Getting the Main Flow right is critical!

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April Fool's Day is Stupid!

Apr 1, 2014 twenty five past seven am

Wow! For ten years in a row, Grumpy Gamer has been completely April Fool's Day free. If you need a break from the entire Internet waking up and thinking they are funny (they are not), then this is your sanctuary.

And as a reward for choosing Grumpy Gamer as your place of escape, here is a very early early page from the Monkey Island Design Notebook that features time travel! I discarded this very quickly, but I've always had a fascination with time travel in games. You can see it in the premise Gary and I laid out for Day of the Tentacle, then again in Putt-Putt Travels Through Time, also in my un-released game Good & Evil, then again in DeathSpank (although not technically time travel) and finally in The Cave.

And (completely April Fool's Day free), in Monkey Island.

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Even More Monkey Island Design Scribbles.

Mar 31, 2014 ten to nine am

I am not going to throw these out! That was a joke! Several years ago they got water damaged, so now they are sealed in water proof wrapping and kept safe and insured for $1,000,000.

Also, this is not the "design document", they are just notes and ideas I'd jotted down.  There wasn't a formal design document for the game, just the large complete puzzle dependency chart I keep on my wall. I have no idea where that went to.

Many more to come. Posting these is easier then writing actual blob entries. I'm lazy.

Notes and ideas for Ghost ship and on Monkey Island.

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More Tales From The Monkey Island Design Notebook

Mar 28, 2014 ten past nine am

Very early brainstorming about ideas and story.

First pass at some puzzles on Monkey Island

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Monkey Island Design Notebook #1

Mar 27, 2014 five past seven pm

I'm doing some house cleaning and I came across my Monkey Island 1 and 2 design notebooks.  It's interesting to see what changed and what remained the same.

I'll post more... If I don't throw them out. They are smelling kind of musty and I'm running out of space.

My first sketch of Monkey Island

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Scurvy Scallywags Android Testers!!!

Jan 18, 2014 quarter past eleven am

Beta testing is full

Whoa! You can't be reading that right!?! Is the Android version of Scurvy Scallywags nearing completion? Yes! You are reading it right! It's not a dream or a over-the-counter drug and/or Netflix binge-watching induced hallucination.

But before we release the game, we need some testers and that's where you come in.

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