Many game studios are crippled by the amount of resources they require to keep operations going. I have seen plenty of companies that operate "contract to contract" with little hope of ever breaking out of the cycle. The studio growth required by the increasingly resource intensive modern crop of games is many times unsustainable. In fact, the problem seems to be getting worse.
According to a report by the BBC, "Back in 1982, the Japanese company Namco produced Pac-Man for $100,000. Now, the average PlayStation 3 title is estimated to cost $15m. Even after adjusting for inflation, that is still a significant rise. While production costs have tripled in recent years with the introduction of next-gen consoles, sales and revenue have hardly changed."
Independent developers usually operate
with very limited initial resources. By operating without a loan of resources,
they create a development environment for themselves free from outside
influences or restrictions. The only obligations they hold are to themselves
as developers and the people who play and purchase their games.
Here are 9 methods independents are using to develop games with fewer resources:
Design around getting the most bang for your buck. Think of your game as an engine, where developer resources are the fuel and the output is player value. Imagine how much developer fuel the Counter-Strike engine required to output so many hours of entertainment compared to how much fuel had to be poured into the Halo engine to get a commensurate amount of entertainment.
The two engines might not be on the same scale, but the efficiency in terms of resources consumed is radically different.
Efficient design choices to utilize could include:
Making a single player epic saga with hours and hours of linear consumable gameplay is not very efficient. A well designed multiplayer game that simply gives players a set of rules to play by can provide an infinite amount of gameplay for a fraction of the time spent creating content, as well as dramatically increase a game’s lifespan.
If you don’t have the resources to make large amounts of content yourself, why not give players the tools to do it? An even better argument is that it is almost a certainty that players will come up with things for your game that you would never have created in a million years.
Line Rider is a popular flash sandbox type game started by Slovenian university student Boštjan Čadež. In Line Rider, players draw a landscape which the player character, a little man on a sled slides down. This is a pretty typical example of what an average player might come up with after spending some time with the game.
It’s not terribly exciting, but there is a group of people that when given the chance to be creative, will initiate a nuclear arms race with others in the community to see how far they can stretch the system they have been given. Those people come up with things like this.
Garry’s Mod is a $10 Source Engine mod written by Garry Newman that unlocks low level functionality of the engine for players to experiment with in real time. The "gameplay" part of Garry’s Mod is exploring the creations of other users, many of which have evolved into their own scripted games within Garry’s Mod itself.
An example of this in action is this video of a player creating a robot out of Half-Life 2 props. That’s about what you might expect people to do given the power to animate pieces of the game. But then of course there are those people who look at the tools you have given them, and take things out of this world. Here is a list of other benefits your game could see by utilizing the player base’s resources.