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What to consider when 'going indie'
What to consider when 'going indie'
August 11, 2014 | By Mike Rose

August 11, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, GDC Europe

Industry veteran Don Daglow today challenged developers to consider whether going indie and building your own small team is actually the best move for your own individual experience and situation.

In a talk at GDC Europe, he posed a series of questions that devs who are planning to build their own team should consider before moving forward. Gaining experience as part of a larger team can be a good step before you go it alone, he reasons.

"When you set out to do it on your own, typically the more experience you have, the better you'll do," he notes. "You'll have seen it all before. Any problem you encounter a second time is an easier problem."

Let's say you do have the experience -- Daglow then asks, "Do you have a paying job you're giving up, or can you pursue your project in your spare time?"

"I would suggest taking time to think, 'OK, could we spend three months before we go full time?'" he says, suggesting that you keep your full time job and work part time on your dream project before you go full pelt at it.

"How much does our team need for every person to be OK and how long can we do this?" he says should be another question. "If your life starts to unravel, it's hard to make a good game."

Being able to pay rent, keep your car running and keep your family afloat is essential to remaining focused on your work, he reasons, and your money situation is always going to be the big one that could end up killing a project.

"The one thing that will kill you if you run out of it is cash," he says. "If you run out of ideas, have a sleep and something good will happen. If the design's not working, you'll come up with an answer. Almost every problem is solvable, but running out of cash is very hard to solve. If that's your only problem, it means you should be very careful with your cash."

Assuming you've ticked all he appropriate boxes at this point, Daglow has more words of warning for those planning to start up a game business with others.

"If you're leading a team, the bigger the team gets, the less time you will spend practicing your craft," he explains. "Being the leader becomes a full time job. Thinking about that before you start is a good idea."

He subsequently showed a picture of two skydivers -- one on top controlling the fall, and the other at the mercy of the professional, mouth open in panic.

"There are days running a company where I've felt like the guy in the top of the picture," he laughs. "It can be dangerous and unpredictable, but you're usually in control. Other times you're the bottom guy, and I find myself thinking 'Why did I do this?'"

"If you're looking to be in control, [remember that] being in charge and having control are two different things."

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Jacob Crane
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As an indie dev a lot of this is true. A few points I would like to add:

- Actually address what each member "needs" not "wants." Keep the idea that if you want to play on the murphy's law concept (which I do) you need to plan for stability. That means you save everywhere you can when you can.

- When you have success don't start spending money and raising costs. Watch the pattern of sales and think (Sweet we now have money to pay everyone for 4 more months, instead of SWEET we can raise everyone and pay at this higher amount for 2 months) REMEMBER the murphy's law. You need to gain a significant amount of padding before you start raising costs. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for trouble.

- Keep everyone on your team informed of goals and where you are and make tangible goals they can understand. Example: "Once we reach X number in resources of Months in padding we will increase by Y amount for everyone" (BE OPEN With your team members)

- Don't act corporate: It's your business and it's your rules. Don't start to try to act like a AAA or corperate because you think that's what works. Run it how you want too and as an indie you have a lot of power to create a work environment you love.


- If the only reason you want to go indie is because you want control, or hate your current job and think it will be easier. DON'T DO IT!!!!! YOU WILL FAIL!!!!! Let me repeat, YOU WILL FAIL!!!! unless your independently wealthy and time/money is of no problem for you.

Being an indie will be harder, more stressful, and be more problematic. The benefit is at the end of the day you control your own destiny and if your game fails YOU are the only one to blame. But also if you succeed you will receive the most of the REWARD.

I advise that if you want to go indie, start an indie company, you need to have more passion then you know what to do with and a goal greater than just I want to make decisions.

I know it's crazy but I'll tell you mine:

- When I was at fullsail AGE:22 I told my now co-founder I'm gonna make a game company. Why?
- I want to experiment and try new business ways to make games successful and create a more stable
- From there I want not only experiment and fail making games that try new things
- I want to help take those with the heart and passion to make games and teach them how to do the same thing I have done so they can eventually reach that same freedom
- I want to prove everyone who told me that it was impossible for me to ever run a company that they were wrong.

There are more things, but I'll stop there. =D