Well, there's nothing new in art, anyway.
CH: Yeah I know, exactly! Right -- take it and go, and let's not dis' people who do! I hope that more people take it. [Indie developer Steve] Swink is a perfect example. They're taking Shadow Physics all the way now. That'll be great. It's a game design idea -- Shadow Physics. Hey, guess what. There's a light source in the room, and the shadow that the stuff in the room makes on the wall becomes a platform level. And so you get this weird 2D/3D projection thing going on, and space is nonlinear, and there's all kinds of ramifications, right? Boom.
You could easily imagine the four day version of that game, but you could also imagine the two year version of that game, and I would much rather play the two year version of that game. I want to see someone really take it deep, and so every time I hear about somebody doing that, I think it's the right thing for the industry.
Now, not every design idea deserves to be taken that far. Some design ideas are four day ideas and that's fine, but if you're doing a jam and you come across an idea that really feels like it's got that thread-pulling aspect to it, pull the freaking thread!
And the greatest thing about the industry, I kind of call what we're in right now kind of "the golden age of indie," and hopefully it will last until I ship at least. Hopefully it will last forever, but that never tends to happen.
Nothing lasts forever.
CH: Exactly. But we're really in a golden age now, that started back around the Braid, Castle Crashers time frame…
Long, long ago, in 2008.
CH: Yeah, exactly. Well, I don't know. How long do golden ages last? The indie segment is, I think, in some ways healthier than triple-A or casual, because there's almost a direct correlation between quality and sales in indie right now. You can put your game up on Steam, you can get on XBLA maybe, you can get on PSN, just put it up for download somewhere and if your game is good, you will sell copies of your game, and if it's not you won't, and that's that.
There's no marketing cost associated with it; you have to be smart about the way you talk about it, and things like that, but the majority of the thing is make an awesome experience for people, and you will be able to make enough money to make another one. And so that's great, and it means that you can actually keep pulling the thread now.
It used to be, "Oh, well, I don't have any savings, so I can't make a two year game out of this, because I'm screwed," but now if you can just afford to eat long enough to pull the thread until it comes out, then you can do it because you'll make the money back. I mean I'm not actually personally guaranteeing all possible indie games here in this article, but…
Are you even guaranteeing SpyParty?
CH: No, but I'm pretty confident because I'm clearly risking it for SpyParty. I'm confident enough just because I see this really healthy indie golden age thing happening right now. And by "golden age", I don't mean it's the gold rush like it was on Facebook a year ago. Or I don't mean it's like, "get in there quick and cash out!"
It just feels really healthy to me. There are multiple “competing platforms,” and I don't mean competing meaning they are hurting each other, they're actually helping each other. Steam, XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, DSiWare, the 3DS eShop, plain old PC download.
People forget Minecraft -- and it's slightly disingenuous to use Minecraft as an example because it's kind of like using Doom as an example in 1996, because it was so huge. But there are lots of games. Magicka is a great example. Magicka came out on Steam, very little marketing, some smart funny stuff, and good gameplay, and sold 200,000 copies in a month, right?
Boom. There's enough money to make the game, finish making the game, make the next game, maybe even have some savings left over, pay some people. That's really healthy. That's great. It just feels really healthy right now and I hope it lasts like this. Contrast that with triple-A, in which, "I gotta spend $50 million, I don't know whether I'll make it back."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but your goal is to make a living wage out of making inventive games. The goal for a big triple-A game is to make a shitload of money and create dividends on shares.
CH: Exactly. There's a huge discussion we could have about publicly traded entertainment companies, which just seems like a disaster to me, given the way the market works and everything. But ignoring that for a second, yes, my goal, I think "living wage" is a great way of saying it.
I would like to have, well, I call it the "midrange band" thing, somebody like They Might Be Giants or Béla Fleck are examples I use all the time, where -- and there's a ton of these bands where these guys aren't making U2 money.
I just saw a thing that said Jon Bon Jovi makes a $149 million a year touring. None of these guys are making that much money. But they have a healthy living and they have total creative freedom. That's what I want.
They have a career they can devote entirely to their music, also. They don't work in a convenience store on the side, or whatever.
CH: Yes, exactly. Right. So this living wage. The way I say it is, I want to make a game that sells well enough so that I can make another game. And that's great. And if can put a little money away, because I have a daughter, that would be awesome too. But that's the goal. I want to be able to have complete creative freedom. And it seems right now that that's possible with indie games, and that's awesome because that did not used to be possible.