Here are some prevailing notions amongst developers about the Xbox Live Indie Games Channel:
- Most of the games on the marketplace are crap.
- It’s impossible to make substantial money unless you create a Minecraft clone.
- Microsoft hides the channel from its users so it can show more Doritos ads.
And yet, we at Utah Raptor Games will be launching our first game (called FAST FAST LASER LASER––check out our floundering Kickstarter campaign here), for the Xbox Live Indie Games Channel.
Are we stupid?
Our Game Would Suck on iPhone/iPad/PC/Mac/etc.
I’ve spoken with dozens upon dozens of developers about the thought processes behind their games, and it seems like most games come from a designer thinking about how to make something fun using the tools they have at hand. Flight Control was a result of Robert Murray trying to invent fun ways to interact with a touch screen. Halcyon came from Zach Gage’s desperation to build a simple, engaging game for the iPad.
FAST FAST LASER LASER didn’t come about that way. It was born out of our love for Bomberman ’93 and a realization that nobody is currently making games in that vein. We want to make a great competitive multiplayer game that people can play on the couch with their friends, and it just so happens that the iPhone would totally suck for that. Sure, we could slap some virtual controls on it and release it on iOS, but that’d be evil.
So mobile is out of the question, and PCs aren’t great for local, same-screen multiplayer, so consoles are the only thing that make sense for us. Given that the Wii is already a dead console in the minds of traditional gamers (our target audience) and that Playstation Minis is a bit too restrictive for our purposes, XBLIG is the only reasonable platform for FFLL. Plus, everyone who would buy a game like FFLL already owns an Xbox 360.
Ease of visibility in the marketplace
With FFLL, we’re filling a void. There aren’t any games like FFLL on the Indie Game Marketplace (or on any other distribution platform available to Xbox 360 owners, for that matter). We’re not making another shm’up, a creepy dating sim, or a side-scrolling whatever, so our hope is that people will latch onto FFLL for its originality. More than once, I’ve scrolled the XBLIG channel searching for a solid multiplayer game to play with friends. With few exceptions, there isn’t much out there.
Also, I feel confident enough to throw this out there. We have better box art than every other game on the XBLIG Marketplace.
Microsoft and the XNA Community Are A++
Lee Dubose and Jonathan Broom are handling coding duties for FAST FAST LASER LASER. I’ll let them speak to this:
“Microsoft has made almost every resource that they could available to programmers to create things on XNA. That’s what the essence of the XNA platform is––the drawing methods, the update methods, everything is designed so that we don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel. Their tutorials, code samples, and APIs have been really well done. It’s extensible to any sort of project you’re working on. For every aspect of video game programming, they have tutorials or code samples, which greatly reduces the learning curve of coding for Xbox.” – Lee Dubose
“The XNA community is also very helpful. There are a lot of devs who are willing to take the time to help you with problems that they’ve encountered before. The Creator’s Club is full of people who know what they’re doing. I lurk so hard on those forums.” – Jonathan Broom
C# Is For Cool Kids
“A language as robust as C plus added features like garbage collection (because memory allocation sucks) is exceedingly user friendly. The library is large, too. It’s very extensive. It’s an easy language to learn. I didn’t know any C# before beginning this project. Building off of my own knowledge of Java and C, I had no problem picking up C#. It’s an efficient language that’s been optimized for projects like this. In my case, I’ve also had some previous experience with Visual Studios.” – Jonathan Broom.
†“Its [Visual Studio’s] enumeration abilities are fab.” – Lee Dubose.
Proportional Potential for Profitability
This one’s the most important.
We’ve seen a lot of independently reported numbers, and we know that not many XNA devs “make it big.” Luckily for us, FFLL isn’t the sort of project that needs to sell 100,000 units to be considered a success. It’s a small game; there’s no story mode, no fancy ranking system in multiplayer, and no plans for post-launch DLC of any sort. It’s a simple game based on some inventive mechanics that we think make it a really fun multiplayer game. Oh, and there’s bots.
FFLL is being built on a very restrained budget. Other than our $5,000 Kickstarter campaign (which might not be successful), it’s being funded entirely out of our own pockets.†
We’ll be selling FFLL for only 240 MSP ($3). That’s a low number, but it’s a good value for what the game is. It’s low enough to ensure that people get their money’s worth, but high enough to reflect the time we’ve put into crafting FFLL into a really solid game.
With all that in mind, we’d be happy with as few as 5,000 downloads. That’s all it would take for us to consider FFLL a success. We’re believing/hoping that it will sell many more units than that, of course, but we’re trying to be reasonable about things.