Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Early Prototype Completed

An early version of Havencall is running, with movement and basic gameplay complete! We've been working hard to complete the early prototype, and also recorded a video to share our progress. Here are some of the features already in the prototype:

Movement: The prototype scales and moves our protagonist, Aura, between layers to give the feeling that she is actually walking through a digital painting. You can only move along static paths, but those paths allow you to go anywhere of importance.

Interaction: The prototype allows you to click objects to interact with them, and can pathfind to move you to the object. The cursor will change to denote where and what kind of magic you can use at the moment. Clicking and holding when that cursor is up activates the magic.

Animation: The prototype uses the VIDE animation engine, and can support deformed image animations. Aura was animated in VIDE, along with the cursor charge and clock hands animation. Eventually, we plan to do a lot more animations to make the world come alive, including flora & fauna, and other characters you can interact with and talk to.

Sound: The prototype has many "fake 3D" sound effects, which adjusts the pan and volume of the sound effects automatically based on the position of the player.

Of course, an image is worth 1,000 words, and a video is worth 1,000 pictures, so check out the video and see all of these features in action:

We're still early in production and nothing is finalized yet, but we're definitely making progress, and I hope to have more to show soon! But first, it's turkey time - have a great holiday everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What is an Indie Game Developer?

It is clear that independent game development isn't what it used to be - it's now a lot easier for anyone to create and publish a game. The number of indie game developers has been increasing dramatically every year, and crowd-funding of games has become more and more effective. I've heard a lot of people wondering if all these developers inundating the scene are actually indie at all, or if there are even any "indies" around anymore. They seem to be asking: what happened to the penniless, sleepless independent developer working from their garage and suffering for their dream? Why is there so much money involved now? Some independent developers have been able to make thousands, even millions, have teams behind them, and may even have real office spaces (the horror!). Some seem to be wondering: "how are they even indie anymore?" A "true" indie couldn't dream of charging money for a game or making anything remotely "traditional," right? I disagree.

Who's the "true" indie dev? (From EGW 2006)
The game I am currently developing (Havencall), while it has an interesting story, is a point & click adventure game, and it is not particularly weird or experimental. And I'm not going to deny it, I do want to make money on it so I can pursue my goal of making game development my full-time job. I even plan to eventually run a kickstarter to help fund the game, despite the fact that a lot of people have been looking down on that route. So I began to wonder: was I wrong to want money for my games? Could I truly call myself indie even if my games were not wildly experimental? What does it even mean to be an independent developer?

I eventually started wondering if I should make Havencall more weird or experimental in order to fit in as a "true" indie.  But then it struck me: that would defeat the whole purpose of being indie in the first place! And that was when I had my answer. Indie means just what it sounds like: being independent; it means making what you want to make and not letting producers, money, notions about the market or anything else get in the way of that. If I had changed Havencall to fit into the indie community better, I would have ended up compromising my independence, just as if I had a producer who forced me to change the game for money. Being indie is all about the spirit of making the game you want to make, not the game others want you to make, or the game that you think will make the most money or get the most recognition. Being indie means being true to your own personal vision, and not letting anything get in the way of that, no matter what the size of your budget, your team, or your workspace.

Next I thought about kickstarter, and how so many indie devs were pushing campaigns and fighting for funding goals. Some developers seem to get so caught up in funding and how to please their backers, that they lose their vision and indie game spirit. However, I see nothing wrong with trying to reach out to fans and get funding from kickstarter or sales in and of itself. Personally, I will be looking for the funding to let me work on my game full time, as are many other game developers just like me. As many of us know from experience, working on games part-time in off hours is slow, and games can take years to finish that way, and when game projects take years, all sorts of trouble can occur (I know this all too well from Aero Empire). Wanting to make money on your games doesn't make you any less indie, as long as your true passion remains in the "making games" part of things and not the "making money" arena.

So, if you ever start thinking solely along the lines of: "oh, this game would make me lots of money, I should make it" or "I should add microtransactions so I can release the game for free," stop and consider if that is really the game you want to make. Do the microtransactions ruin the gameplay you dreamed of? Is a game that is likely to bring in lots of money really the idea you're passionate about making? Are you doing that sequel because you really want to make it, or because you're fairly certain it will be a success? If you come to the conclusion that you're making the game that you really want to make, then to me, you're indie. Whether you work from your garage or a million dollar office space, if you stay true to yourself and your vision for your work, then you're an independent developer.