Wednesday, May 31st, 2006
My esteemed colleague likes being loud, but I must admit I also find it hugely disheartening when I come accross articles whose titles go along the lines of “The indie devs who haven’t given up yet, should do”. There’s nothing to be said; and the only thing to be done is to… do. We’re doing.
I have now returned from France, and many rather exciting things have been back-burning while I was away. I shall share these with you shortly, once my email stack is reduced.
Monday, May 29th, 2006
It’s not intelligent for us at Mode 7 to make an enemy out of anyone in the media right now, so being on your back all the time is perhaps not the best position for us to take.
You know what? I don’t care any more. I especially don’t care when you insult me directly by telling me I don’t exist, so if you push me I will push back.
Every time something about the indie gaming scene pops up in my RSS reader I’m filled with foreboding because I know for a fact that the article lurking behind the headline will be comprised of baseless speculation and misinformation. Few journalists actually bother to investigate the indie scene at all before they write about it, so in the past we’ve been treated to droolingly naive proclamations that it will save gaming; or patronising “look-at-this-lovely-version-of-Tetris” guff; or simply scorn.
And now this.
That headline is insulting to us and to your readers. It basically broadcasts an impression that you know nothing about gaming.
I’ve told you about Determinance several times through your news submission form, and through direct email. I’ve received no reply. You’re simply not interested in our game, which is your choice, but isn’t that a little hypocritical?
Now, I understand a little of what news bloggers go through – they’re essentially like normal journalists except that the time-pressure on them is even more profound. They’re forced to come up with little titbits of information several times every few hours, and then get them formatted and up on their site. In that kind of context, its unsurprising that topics are treated casually and in little depth.
But still, you’re insulting me, Joystiq? Why are you doing that?
Let’s take a look at the article to which the post refers…This would seem to be a piece about indie publishing, and your post mostly obfuscates that. There are plenty of indie developers, but very few publishers who allow indies room to breathe. Valve do, and that’s why Intro-constantly-mentioned-version, who notably won’t let a publisher fuck with their game, chose to go with them to keep that indie flag flying.
O’Brien’s article is fair enough. It doesn’t go into too much depth, contrasts the modern era with the “floppies in a bag” Golden Age, namechecks Costikyan’s Manifesto Games (a project we continue to observe with interest)…it’s all fine for a general audience, but it’s doing nothing to change the situation.
“If there’s a niche indie developers can make their own, it’s PC gaming, which accounts for about 15 percent of the domestic market.”
Yeah, damn straight – how about looking at projects which are actually aiming for that very niche?
It is possible for small indie teams to make games passionately and get them released: it’s just very very very difficult, as I’m sure you’ll realise if you’ve read some of our posts below. There’s lots of wonderful rhetoric floating out of places like Nintendo right now: “Oh, we support small developers. If anyone wants to develop for us, just get in touch.” Yeah, that’s great – get in touch with whom? The receptionist at Nintendo Towers? Oh, and by the way, before you tell me to try wandering up to their offices with a sweaty copy of our game in my palm, I’ve already done the email equivalent. Guess what? No reply.
There’s literally no door open to small indies which doesn’t make them look like a fourteen-year-old kid who’s just come up with a “really awesome” FPS where the main character is called Commander Dope. You have to fight to get serious attention from anyone: be it the press or the industry. We’ve managed to do it in a couple of small ways, and you’ll see the results of that soon, but it’s not been easy.
Now, it has to be said that the marketing on Determinance hasn’t been as extensive as I would have liked quite yet, so I will forgive O’Brien because our message hasn’t reached him, and that’s my fault. I will cut you a little a little slack, because the indie scene is a nightmare of disorganised PR, half-baked ideas and crap games.
I’ll cut you some slack, but I’m not going to forgive you easily, Joystiq, because I’ve done all I can with you Stop telling me that it’s so very hard for indie games when you yourself are part of the problem: read your fucking email – the indie community is shouting at you.
Yes, I’m sniping now, but finally, just before I pack up my scope and unscrew the legs from that little tripod thing, here’s a further sprinkling of your distinctive magic:
“One notable omission: episodic gaming. With companies like Telltale Games and Valve actively using technology to deliver their games directly to gamers and disrupt the publisher paradigm, O’Brien’s piece didn’t consider the effects of these (admittedly larger) independent developers.”
What has episodic gaming got to do with anything? That’s simply taking two contemporaneous “issues” in gaming and shoe-horning them into each other. That’s cherry-picking something you do know about, and dropping it in place to disguise something you don’t know about.
Finally, here’s a challenge and a means to redeem yourself:
We demand an apology to all the indie game developers you’ve ignored. Then we want you to use your power to help us out, give us things like this, come looking for our projects, and most importantly, answer us when we need you. Listen to us.
We know it’s hard, we know we could have made things easier for you, but at least tell us how instead of simply ignoring us and publishing lies that directly impact us.
Many journalists want to rise above merely making money from things they cover to actually being a force for good in their chosen area – if you don’t care about games, then let your readers know that so they’re sure of where you stand. If you do care, get in touch with me, cover our game right now and write a post explaining exactly how we can present our projects to you in the way you want.
Just noticed the same sentiment expressed on Kotaku, another site we’ve contacted in the past, in response to the Slate article. Come on, people – sort it out.
I’m refusing to accept the argument that sites such as these are “not positioned as news sites” – a significant number of their readers treat them as a prime news source. Witness the response to Joystiq liveblogging the Wii announcement and then come back and tell me it’s “not news”.
Sites like BluesNews, Eurogamer…hell, even the Sydney Morning Herald are willing to communicate with indie developers. Great little sites like Greg May’s Truly Obscure care about their coverage and are even willing to send me over nice letters of support when I go out on a limb like this – get your act together!
Wednesday, May 24th, 2006
We’re crunching away, it’s true. Basically entering a phase where you care that some thing is one pixel out of alignment with something else is a little bit alien for me.
I’m delighted that my new Dell/Most Disturbing Computer Ever computer is now operation and can play Half Life 2 and Oblivion – I might feel justified wasting some time while our lead designer is gallivanting around the continent for the weekend.
Or perhaps not.
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006
Crunch time continues apace, and is just as boring and hard as ever. Paul is polishing our gui, repairing our level texturing errors, and encoding our sound files at different bit-rates. I am working through my to-do list of little bugs. The excitement of the Bowdler-complience we achieved this morning has since dissipated.
I’ll be transmitting from Caen (that’s in France for all you Texans) next week while on a business trip I like to call The Beer Connection. I’m not really sure what France’s general Indie-scene is like, but I’m sure to find out from the vantage point of The Table Outside The Nearest Pub.
Monday, May 22nd, 2006
I was just browsing the IndieGamer forums and found this old post by Dan MacDonald, talking about playing Determinance at IGC last year:
“…One of my favorites was one just past the concept stage called “Determinance”, the developer had done some cool stuff with IK to make a very natural sword fighting interface. It was a third person game where you could fly around using right click. If you held the left button you could manipulate your sword arm. Moving the mouse left to right would make a slashing motion with the sword left to right. The speed of the movement was determined by the speed in which you moved your mouse. Similarly moving the mouse up and then down would raise the sword and then bring it down in a chopping motion. It wasn’t limited to cardinal directions however, all possible directions and combinations between the axis were possible by moving the mouse.
The players had location based damage and depending on the hit would take different amounts of damage. It was multilayer only but I had a great time playing it. It’s one of the few times in a game where you feel like you are doing something that you’ve not done before. For once in a sword game it wasn’t based on a fixed set of moves, the moves I made where limited only by what I could come up with on the mouse. It felt like real sword fighting.”
That’s some pretty high praise, especially based on the mess DT was back then.
Monday, May 22nd, 2006
Crazy crunch time has got off to a riotous start, beginning last night with a drinking trip to Oxford with Paul, Geoffrey (our lead artist for the first half of the project), and myself. There’s nothing like starting a crunch period with a hangover, everything is put into perspective.
However, I’m not here to tell you about being drunk last night; I’m here to tell you about how Determinance will be a constantly evolving game after release. Being an Indie, and getting sales over the course of years rather than weeks; you get the opportunity to constantly improve your title. Of course bugs will be ironed out, but more than that Determinance will gain from feedback from the community and the things we want to put in.
If people want new features, we shall listen and implement them if we think the idea worthy. We will be especially attentive to modders: if there’s a functionality hidden deep in the actual exe that the community would like exposed to the scripting (and open) part, we will do our level best to do it. If we’ve accidentally left something as controversial as Mario Kart’s snaking in Determinance, we shall remove it.
Our post-release schedule, after dealing with immediate problems, starts with making the modding interface cleaner. All of the various modding areas will be available at release, but we will be making the process more streamlined for our first major update. Things like having several mods of different kinds installed and distributing your mods will be easier. We’re pretty sure you guys want Determinance as soon as humanly possible, so we’re happy to wait until our first major update to do these useful but not essential things.
In other news, the Transform Paul’s Dell Experience is continuing apace… you will be given a full description in time.
Sunday, May 21st, 2006
Next week Paul and I are doing our crazy crunch time, which involves fixing all the little problems that we ignore when there are harder things to do. But we’ve done the big things, so this is what we do now. We call this time “IGF time”, simply because we first did it in order to hit the IGF submission deadline last year. Paul and I aren’t the sanest of people generally, but IGF time doubles the craziness. And the only solution is whiskey.
Expect less sense than usual next week.