How to make money as an indie gamedev

Quoting a piece of advice from Paul Eres on a post on Facebook’s Indie Game Developers group

There are only a few things you need to make money as an indie:

  • Choose a genre that is selling, and that you enjoy playing and are good at.
  • Be competent enough at programming and level design that you can make something that plays as well and is as fun, with some slight changes here and there to add your own personal touch based on your own desires and likes and dislikes.
  • Either be an amazing artist, or have an amazing artist on the team, so you can make something that stands out graphically.
  • Make sure either you can make a great trailer, or know someone who can, and make a trailer that stands out above all the other indies trying to make a game in that genre.
  • Know some basics about marketing — know how to use your game’s trailer and screenshots to gather a following for your game before its release, so that a good portion of those interested in your genre know that your game will soon be released.

Note that being original and good at coming up with ideas is not in the list.

Expedition – Tech Demo Update 8

We have been working on the tech demo for about 14 weeks now. Discuss this update or the game in general at the community here.

w14-clouds

Implemented a first iteration of volumetric clouds replacing the billboard we were using initially, still gotta work a bit on them to have better cloud models and play around a bit with the settings of the plugin we are using (as well as work some display bugs it has).

Also, reduced the frequency of wind direction changes, made the transitions take more time and changed the way the wind direction is displayed.

w14-store

We implemented a first version on the “Buy Goods” flow, simplified to a single type of abstract “supplies”, and still without any UI art. But it allows for a complete mechanic of having to restock your ship to survive.

Future iterations will have different ports use different currencies, requiring you to exchanges your valuables. This will also work as a “bartering” mode for cultures that don’t have a currency, so things will be assigned a temporal “Value” that works as a currency.

w14-starting

As we continued tweaking and fixing minor issues in the world simulation, we looked forward to creating the elements required to have a first complete gameplay loop. We tied the player’s starting position to a city defined in the campaign, made it so that this city’s window opens when you start, and we are now working on the quest system.

We get closer to our goal for the tech demo, once the Quest system is in place we will focus on polishing the UI, adding the “freeform” expedition mode, and doing a basic skinning over the world map adding forest, terrains for deserts and montains and tundras.

Expedition – Tech Demo Update 7

We have been working on the tech demo for about 13 weeks now. Discuss this update or the game in general at the community here. I will be posting weekly updates from now on (instead of bi-weekly).

Finishing work from the previous week, we did some changes on the Storm mode, changing the values for the scale of the waves, restricting time compression and fixing the camera focus. We also smoothed out the wind direction changes for them to look less abrupt especially on this scene.

Ship navigating a dark stormy sea

Next up, we started adding some subsystems to make this a playable game. We added a general “notifications” system to show events to the player and implemented a test “Fish Caught” event which increases the supplies a little bit.

We made expedition members go hungry and consume food from the expedition supplies, based on the settings for ration size and the number of daily rations. This included calculating and displaying the remaining days of supplies in the UI.

Ship in an open ocean, notification of events happening including catching 17 fishes, consuming 190 supplies, and starving.

We also added a system to affect the morale of the expedition members on an individual basis and integrated this with the Hunger system (so the get increasingly depressed when hungry). as well as other things such as being away from land for too long, and outcomes from the “Man overboard” event. We are also displaying the average morale value on the UI.

In order to implement these, we did a refactor on the events system so that the passing of the time of day is handled by a single component, which then defers further checks and effects into the specific components (such as the Weather controller or the Expedition object)

Desk with a drawing of a naturalist inspecting a plant.

Finally, we integrated a batch of art into the cutscene for Captain Cook’s campaign.

We also had some discussion about future gameplay modes, including additional campaigns that are not strictly historical but rather include fantasy elements and plots, battling with monsters, dialogs with NPCs, all this keeping the focus on expedition management and navigation.

I also created a simple landing page for the game, and linked it from Slashware’s homepage.

Expedition – Tech Demo Update 6

We have been working on the tech demo for about twelve weeks now. Discuss this update or the game in general at the community here

World Map

Loaded the entire world map, and created a system to instantiate chunks of it as the player transverses it. Next steps are adding some base vegetation and terrain texturing.

Weather

Rolled back the more complex particle effects for rain, and left only the simplest one, for now, we need to invest some more time researching.

w12-rain

Introduced a “modifiers” system in order to correctly affect the scene based on the day and night cycles, and the weather, from multiple subsystems. Used it to affect the lighting and FOV based on the different rain levels.

Added a “sunset” effect using color temperature postprocessing.

Tied weather transitions to the passing of time of the day (instead of real-life time).

Also displaying current weather on HUD now.

Storms

Added storm clouds forming when the weather is “heavy rain”. These clusters of clouds travel quickly to the player, engulfing and taking him to the “Storm mode”. Still working on the appearance of these.

w12-stormlets

Tweaked storm mode to fix interactions with time compression and the weather system, and to make controls more difficult.

Added a first iteration of the “Man overboard” event to storm mode, the player must choose between saving someone who fell from the ship, risking introducing more damage to it during the storm, or leave him behind causing a drop on the Expedition’s morale.

w12-overboard

Campaign Details

There was a complete design iteration over the “Campaign Details” flow, integrating the preexisting “Historic Campaigns” and “World Mode”, and leading to a relayout of it. Players will be able to either pick any of the historical campaigns or “create” their own, by creating his character and setting up his expedition’s starting place, time and conditions.

w12-campaign

 

ExpeditionZ – Tech Demo Update 5

We have been working on the tech demo for about ten weeks now. The Slashware forums are now up again after many years! please head >>> there  <<< to discuss this update or anything about the game.

We added a 3D scene for James Cook’ campaign cutscene, including dynamic lighting. The script for this first cutscene was designed and the images that will be rendered on the scrolled are being produced.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 12.52.42 am

We also have a new title screen, with art made by Jaime Robles. We were considering doing a 3D title screen instead but I’m kind of liking how it looks.

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 12.53.22 am

For the campaign selection view, we created a component to generate portraits, and integrated it with our first pack of art for portraits. We plan to expand upon it adding more variety. We also added tooltips for several components on this screen, including the crew members, the ship and its equipment. Finally, we also added special portraits for the expedition leaders and tweaked the layout.

Campaign Selection Screen

We worked on different things for the exploration view, one first thing we added is a very simple simulation of the wind direction, it changes randomly and affects the speed of the ship, this means you have to adjust your course in order to make the best use of the wind (sailing against the wind is difficult!)

We also added music tracks for the title, cutscene, and world (based on current weather). We are currently using the tracks from the original Expedition project.

Looking forward to having a playable campaign, we loaded a new map covering the journey from Plymouth to Rio de Janeiro, we also experimented with tree billboards for the forest sections of the world and made it so that cities can be loaded from a list which we will further expand in the future.

We added commands to allow the player to change time compression, in order to make long event-less voyages bearable. In the future, it’s going to pause automatically whenever something interesting happens.

screen shot 2019-01-14 at 6.41.43 pm

We worked further in the Storm’s View, doing several graphical tweaks and enhancing the integration with the buoyancy script. We also added a simple model for ship damage based on the difference between the ship’s heading and wind direction.

The game now displays the integrity of different parts of the ship and shows a ship sunk event when hull integrity reaches 0 (Game over!)

screen shot 2019-01-14 at 6.44.52 pm

 

Bandersnatch demo, the making of

After binge-watching all the possible endings for Bandersnatch in one sitting, I could not take this idea off my head, I had to recreate the game as something playable. You can play it online here

At first, I thought on doing it from scratch, creating a fake 3D engine similar to Akalabeth or the early Wizardry titles. After doing some research I opted instead to use proper 3D rendering, and adapt movement and appearance so it felt like a ZX-Spectrum game. I took our entry for the 2015 7DRL Challenge, Stygian Abyss, and started chipping off stuff and adding makeup until it felt decent enough.

One thing the engine didn’t have was support for interactive “prompts”, so that had to be added completely. Jucarave was up to the task and managed to do it during the last day of 2018.

Then came the question of designing all the game content; of course, the episode doesn’t directly reveal a lot of information about the game itself… however, there were some “design notes” scattered around Stefan’s ZX.

Stefan's crazy flows
Stefan’s crazy flows

I used them to recreate a possible game flow… which frankly doesn’t make a lot of sense 😛 but that’s what it is! I also incorporated some parts that were visible on the short gameplay clips shown in the episode.

(warning, spoilers below!)

flow
Reconstructed flow for Bandersnatch demo

Luckily, the engine had support for static maps, so I mapped out the flowchart into a level layout, with each choice being an interactive item.

Bandersnatch map

And that’s it, hope you like it! And by the way, you can check the source code here if you are interested.