Compared to Tiger Style Games and Haunted Temple, Australia-based Uppercut Games is just an infant, having been born less than six months ago. But it has fewer funding concerns than the two U.S.-based indies, mainly because of Australia's government support policies.
Even though its two co-founders consider Uppercut to be self-funded, they've received help from the New South Wales government's Digital Media Fund.
"New South Wales [Australia's most populous state] is trying to encourage digital media and is very specific about being interested in games," explains Uppercut co-founder Ed Orman. "I think one of the reasons they liked us was the pretty decent plan we put together to show them what we intended to do... and also because of our pedigree."
Until January, he had been at Irrational Games/2K Australia for nine years as a lead designer, and co-founder Andrew James had been at the same studio eight years as an art director. Together, they have 28 years of experience in games and have worked on such titles as Fallout: Tactics, BioShock, Tribes, and the upcoming XCOM reboot.
While Orman wasn't able to discuss what funding they received, he made it clear that "we will be spending a lot more of our own personal savings in the long run than what we've been given. The great advantage of having worked the hard deadlines at a big studio like 2K is that we hadn't taken many holidays, and so we both walked away with a fair nest egg to spend, and we've been churning through that. So the government money will definitely come as a great shot to that."
When the pair left 2K in January, their motivation was "having been in one place for a very long time," says Orman. "While the opportunities there were fantastic, we just wanted to try and do something different and to be our own bosses."
Both developers had spent all their time in PC and console games, but their first Uppercut title will be Epoch, an iOS combat action game set in a post-apocalyptic world powered by the Unreal Development Kit. It's scheduled to be released this fourth quarter.
"I had an iPod Touch and A.J. had an iPhone 3GS," recalls Orman. "We just started playing games on them, and found that we really liked not only the simplicity of them, but also the fact that the graphical power was starting to catch up with other devices."
Orman says their intention is not to have eaten through their funds before Epoch is shipped. "We did the numbers," he says, "and figure we can survive long enough to knock our first game out of the park. The reason we're going with a big, quality game is that we hope that whatever it makes will be enough to fund our second game. Yes, it's riskier, but we think it's going to pay off in the end."
Meanwhile, there's a second game in the works -- tentatively named Plunder -- which is also receiving government funding. The duo has several programming contractors and contract artists spending time on it so they can turn their attention to it as soon as Epoch is complete.
"Our strategy is to have multiple projects on the go so that we can roll off completing one and immediately roll into the next one," says Orman.
"Something we learned at Irrational was that you can't throw all your eggs in one basket," adds James. "There were always several projects in the works so that, if something fell through or a build didn't happen, there was always a fallback plan. I think that's a good strategy to maintain."
Of the three indies, Tiger Style's Smith has the most experience under his belt as an independent developer, and is perhaps in the best position to offer his advice to others who are considering following suit.
Surprisingly, despite his exuberance, he cautions others to make the move only when they are good and ready. If they aren't at a point where they feel confident, if they don't have a great idea that they believe can succeed, he suggests they stay inside the studios, building their experience, until they feel they are ready to take the risk.
"Being an indie is a very entrepreneurial move," he says. "It's exciting, it affords you a lot more freedom, but it's high risk and it's only the right thing for certain people. I had enough money saved up and I was willing to spend it all. If you're not committed, well, there are plenty of horror stories out there about people who thought they could make it and died trying. You need to be very cautious not to become one of them."