Tales from the Dev Side: What Xbox Live Indie Games Have Meant to Me

Trust me, nobody was more surprised that Indie Gamer Chick caught on than I was.  And I was even more caught off guard when I realized that I was starting to have an influence on the Xbox Live Indie Game community.  A positive one at that.  At most, I figured I would inspire people to raid my house with pitchforks and torches to tar and feather me while setting my dog on fire.  Instead, people actually use my reviews and my editorials as a case study on what people from my generation (gamers who started during the 32bit era) expect from gaming.  I have to admit, I never figured anyone would seek my advice when it came to game design.  I’m still a little stunned by that.  Part of me is flattered, while the other part thinks you guys need your fucking heads examined.

Realizing that I had something special going with Indie Gamer Chick, I thought about how so many people who come here previously had little to no awareness of Xbox Live Indie Games.  Obviously the lack of promotion on Microsoft’s part shares some of the blame for that.  But part of it is undoubtedly the fact that indie developers typically are faceless to the gaming population as a whole.  That’s not exclusive to XBLIGs, by the way, but I doubt anyone will be rushing to make an award-winning documentary on the trails and tribulations of creating Escape Goat.

It was in that spirit that I came up with Tales from the Dev Side.  Well, that and the fact that it would be an easy way to get content on my site without having to do much work myself.  Again, laziness prevails!  Since starting the feature in December, readers have enjoyed a wide range of topics from pricing to community acceptance.  Hell, one in particular has been cited as the definitive piece on creating online multiplayer games on the platform.  It’s really incredible to me how receptive my readers have been to the variety of topics discussed by developers here.  Thousands of views have been achieved between them.  The people want these, and I want you to contribute them.

Xbox Live Indie Games are niche.  The market is small.  The community is small.  But the people involved are wonderful human beings.  Being Indie Gamer Chick has changed my life, and all I do is write about the games.  I wondered if any developers out there would want to talk about what XBLIG has meant to them.  The results were, in a word, overwhelming.

I think it’s fair to say that without XBLIG I would not be making games, or doing anything to do with programming.  It was only after reading an article on XBLIG massager apps that I started to teach myself how to make games.  It’s because of XBLIG that I found something that I’m not only good at, but also really enjoy doing. Making games has becoming such a big part of my life this past year that I don’t know where I would be if XBLIG didn’t exist.

John Common (CSR Studios)
Dead Pixels

It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to develop for a mainstream console, and Microsoft should be applauded for that. XBLIGs have given many developers the chance to show off their talents, and I’m sure I speak for most developers when I say that making games is something most of us would happily do for nothing (and in most cases have been doing for a long time), so to provide us with a chance to make a bit of cash while we’re at it is even better. There are some really great games out there, and some great developers and development teams in the XNA community behind them. Long may XBLIGs continue!

Dave (Battenberg Software)
Minigame Marathon

XBLIG’s very existence still impresses us and represents an incredible step forward for open game development. Microsoft did well to build and distribute the XNA tools, infrastructure, and supply a storefront to an entire community of developers who have wanted to make and release a game on a contemporary console. The resources made available to developers officially, and by the brilliant community, allows anyone with passion to build games to the level of full Xbox Live Arcade releases, and we hope Orbitron: Revolution is a game that speaks to that. We can argue about issues of visibility, pricing, game size, peer review, etc. but the actual function and freedom the service brings to the developer in many ways trumps other avenues of releasing games on any other platform. It is inspiring to see the creativity and ideas of developers everywhere being released to XBLIG daily even in the face of known adversity. If our next game lands on XBLIG we won’t be disappointed, we just hope you tell all your friends about it and buy 100 copies!

Matthew Leigh (Firebase Industries)
Orbitron: Revolution

All I can really say is that the XBLIG community has been awesome to be part of, and seeing my games on the Xbox is freaking cool. Congrats to Indie Gamer Chick on her unholy rise to power over the last year. When she takes absolute control, let’s hope the goat game is still on the top ten.

Ian Stocker (Magical Time Bean)
Escape Goat

XBLIG was a nice help to us while we created Antipole. The community was a great help at every step, with many people helping us out with play-testing and peer review.  We were especially grateful to find some developers who were kind enough to put a lot of time into helping us track down obscure bugs. The XBLIG developer community is great. The XBLIG release also helped us out with our releases on other platforms. The game was received well by game reviewers of both large and small web sites, which was a big help in getting the game onto Impulse and Desura. We were also able to get more attention for the DSiWare release thanks to the press contacts we made.

Edward Di Geronimo Jr. (Saturnine Games)
Antipole

XBLIG gave me the tools to take my first baby steps into making my childhood dreams of becoming a game developer a reality. It helped me liberate an idea out of my head and onto a digital canvas that I wanted to share with the world. It spoiled me with its excellent XNA framework, a low-cost of entry, and most importantly, access to a close-knit community of supportive developers and gamers. Working on Pixel Blocked! was one of the most fun and stressful times in my life, and I’d like nothing more than to be able to do it all over again.

Daniel Truong
Pixel Blocked!

We’re a new studio working on our first game, so for us XBLIG means we have an opportunity to develop Cockroaches Vs Cleaners and get it out for the public to play and buy (soon!) on a high-profile, widespread platform which people are comfortable with. No run-times, no packages to install; just play it on your Xbox. The tie-up with XNA has also been a fantastic success for us, allowing quick and easy development. Furthermore, while being able to say we’re developing “for Xbox 360″ sounds cool and excites our friends/family, we have found it is also very impressive to external partners, like funding bodies and support networks, and helps convey a professional appearance. Funding never comes easy, so we’ll make use of every advantage in getting it. Without a game available right now, we’re just excited that for a very small membership fee we get to put our game on a major global platform, have payments dealt with, and have a marketplace for customers, all in their living rooms. Hopefully soon, we will have happy players. How cool is that?

Daniel Cleaton (ObSkewer Games)
Cockroaches Vs Cleaners (Coming Soon)

Before learning about the XBLIG platform, I was making games, but with no real target audience or outlet.  After getting the broad strokes of a game finished, I’d wonder who was ever going to play it, and why I was wasting my time.  XBLIG was the light at the end of the tunnel, and the motivation to actually finish the games I’d started.

Adam Spragg
Hidden in Plain Sight

Steve: This whole experience has only re-inforced my love of gaming both as a developer and a player. The response we received for our game was phenomenal and far greater than what we expected. It has been a great start, and I can’t help but think that the XBLIG scene is essential for new developers who want to try out new things.

Victor: I agree with Steve that XBLIG has been a great platform for us to experience the process of developing a game from start to finish. The support from the amazing XNA community during development helped us shape We Are Cubes and enabled it to evolve much further than we had imagined. Sure the platform has its problems, but the XBLIG scene is a great community and we love being a part of it!

Steve & Victor (1BK Games)
We Are Cubes

Been struggling to think what to write about XBLIG. I’ve come to the shocking conclusion that I don’t have many feelings about it! I’ve never been that good at being properly involved in the community. I get occasionally dispirited about things like the marketplace layout but not for long. The main thing I do feel though is quite proud to have made some games for a proper console!

Craig Forrester (Ishisoft)
Johnny Platform Saves Christmas

Participating in Xbox Indies has given me the opportunity to meet a bunch of really cool people, and have quite a bit of fun. I’m just a hobbiest game developer, and getting the chance to make a little extra cash has been really nice, but nothing beats the connections I’ve made. I’ve been lucky enough to chat with my heroes, help developers I respect move their games to new platforms, and tools I’ve written have been used to make some really cool games. I’ve gotten involved with a local game development meet-up group, and I’ve started attending game jams, which has led to me making even more awesome connections. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for XBLIG getting me involved in the indie scene.

Jesse Chounard
Bluebones Curse

XBLIG gave us a shot at creating a game for a major console with almost no start-up costs. With no funding and having done nothing but PC demos prior, doing a project on the Xbox shed a lot of light in regards to challenges you have to deal with when developing for a console. Just to name a few: TV safe-zones, memory constraints, memory cards being pulled, controllers dying mid-game, profile usage, etc. These are all challenges non-indie console titles have to deal with too. Anyone looking to get a job in game development would do themselves a huge favor by making a releasable game on XBLIG. The other nice thing about working with XBLIG for us was the fact that we didn’t have to worry about be rejected from the market once we finished our game. Yes, sometimes less than sub-par titles get allowed because of this but, knowing we could get on the market in the end was a load off the mind. It allowed us to simply focus on making Spoids an enjoyable game.  Chances are we probably would have never made Spoids if we hadn’t run into XBLIG and the benefits it provides.

Roby Atadero (AirWave Games)
Spoids

For us XBLIGs is about democracy – being able to make our game Astralis available to gamers directly, without retailers, publishers or ‘bricks in the wall’. Having an open market like this where all games provide a demo, and can be priced fairly is better for everyone. Working together in a team is really gratifying experience – the more you build, the more you understand the people you’re working with. For us Dream Build Play 2012 was a busy but hugely rewarding time – so much is happening in parallel, everyone is focused and surprising the others with their latest creations. To summarize – being able to breathe life into the space you’ve designed, and then experience it. Seeing people play the game, and watching them respond to it and do new and unexpected things. We had one person who discovered how to ride the enemies! Unexpected things like this really make you think – why not?

Vincent Nathan (Foxhaut Games)
Astralis (Coming Soon)

XBLIG gave birth to our company.  On a whim in 2010, myself and a friend, Andrew Porritt, decided to enter the Dream.Build.Play. Old Spice competition. We made the finals and thanks to the thousands of people who voted for us, we won. Instead of buying a nice car or going on holiday we used the money to start up a games company. RadiationBurn Ltd. is now almost 2 years old with a number of finished games, including the critically acclaimed Bullet Trap on Xbox Live Indie games, and another title in the works that we are very proud of.  Simply put, without XBLIG this company wouldn’t exist, we wouldn’t be doing what we love, and our half-dozen employees wouldn’t have jobs.  So huge thanks to XBLIG and it’s fantastic community.

Graham Stewart (RadiationBurn)
Bullet Trap

Over the past few years, I’ve spent more time thinking about Xbox Live Indie Games and the XNA framework than I probably should. But you see, I can’t help it. This technology has allowed me to do something that I’ve wanted to do since I was about 8 years old — namely, to make video games. So, for well over 20 years these thoughts and dreams have been building up in my head. And now that I can actually do something about them, it’s impossible to not obsess over the whole thing. In fact, I was just thinking about it right then. Just as I was typing that last sentence. I probably spend an hour at night lying in bed planning out what I’m going to work on the next day. And that’s usually AFTER several hours of actual coding. I do this almost every night. The entire process of making games is both exhausting and exhilarating and I truly can’t get enough of it. Anyway, my name is Forrest McCorkle. I think about programming in XNA all the time, and it’s driving me fucking insane.

Forrest McCorkle (ChaosSoft Games)
EvilQuest

Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to make games. When XNA came out a few years back, I realized that the XBLIG Platform was a medium for me to prove to myself and to the world that I can design and code the console game that I always wanted to create. Hopefully, afterwards, I would jump into the Game Industry as a Producer. Two years ago I released Vorpal on XBLIG and it was my first real step into becoming a professional Game Developer. Today I lead big teams, worked with great talented people and produced all sorts of games for big clients all over the world. This would have never been possible without the experience that I gained from being an Xbox Indie and from its caring community.

Abraham Morales (Team RedWolf)
Vorpal

My brother and I have always had an affinity with games above all other art forms, when we were young kids we dreamt of designing a one-on-one beat ‘em-up on our ZX Spectrum and failed miserably. 25 years later and Xbox Indie Game’s with its exceptional community has enabled us to put our own small stamp on gaming culture. It’s all we’ve ever really wanted, for people to play a game we’ve made and find a uniqueness about it that can’t be found in the mainstream. XBLIG’s will make it possible for us to release our first ever game and we couldn’t be more thankful.  Oh, and happy 1st Anniversary Indie Gamer Chick, may you continue to be brutally fair!

Steve Smith (SuperSmithBros)
Obessive Collecting Disorder (Coming Soon)

I always had that urge to make games and one day I found out about XBLIG. Looked like a dream, playing my own games on a console? I purchased an XBOX360 about a month later and started to teach myself XNA, met some cool people in the community that motivated me into doing my first game ever, Vizati. Turned out the game was capable enough to go commercial and till today I always look back at XBLIG and XNA with lots of love even though our ways departed a bit.

David Amador (Different Pixel)
Vizati

We chose Xbox LIVE Indie Games as a platform to launch our studio because it provides an excellent opportunity for console development. XNA’s main selling point is that it is cheap enough that anyone can do it, which in spite of the criticisms the service receives is definitely a boost to the Xbox 360 and games development. With barely any barriers to entry, new studios, bedroom developers and students can easily gain experience of developing and releasing a game on a console. For us it was a good opportunity to learn, experiment and showcase what we can do. Whatever the future holds for Xbox LIVE Indie Games and XNA, it will leave an imprint on the games industry with the talent that it has cultivated.

James Woodrow (Utopian World of Sandwiches)
Chompy Chomp Chomp

Once upon a time I was just a developer with a dream of making games “someday”. Xbox LIVE Indie Games (XBLIG) turned that fuzzy future into a reality for today. I wish I had a talent with words to effectively express all the positive impacts the XBLIG game development community has had on my life, but I struggle to get the thoughts and feelings out. Acceptance, community, confidence, direction, friendships, knowledge, opportunity, purpose, skills. Those are all words that come quickly to mind when I think back on the past six years I’ve spent working with XNA and XBLIG. I’ve always felt like I was part of something important. Something bigger than myself. I’ve watched careers launch and I have loved and been proud  to have played a variety of roles over the years in the XNA/XBLIG community. It’s why I got my XNA tattoo. No matter what the future holds, for a moment in time, XNA/XBLIG let us all have a chance at living our dreams. Xbox LIVE Indie Games (and XNA) didn’t save my life but they definitely helped define it.

George Clingerman

Kissy Poo

As someone who wants to eventually make games for a living, XBLIG has been way more than just a stepping stone for me. Because of the service, I was able to create, market, publish, and essentially release my first game to a mass market. I don’t care what anyone says – that’s magic. Being able to take something that you simply like to do, to something that you’re truly passionate about…that’s just AWESOME. Topped off with the XNA Framework (which makes programming a joy) and a community of developers, gamers, and media/press folks that genuinely care about its’ content, it’s hard to say when the next time I’ll have this much fun making games will be.

Stephen Sefchick (Wimbus Studios)
Chain (Coming Soon)

I spent many years working in the Triple A game industry. (More years than I would like to admit). I got tired of it, because I didn’t feel like I was making games, just making little pieces of someone else’s game. I was a little burned out and needed a creative outlet. While watching someone play 1 vs 100 on XBL. I had the idea for Avatar Paintball, due to people’s personal investment in their Avatars, and COD MW2′s recent success. I needed to buy a $200 monitor to efficiently do XNA development, and I didn’t know if it was going to be worth it. So I made a series of smaller games as I built my technology, my first title, “Avatar Avenue” took only a night to make, and made over $25,000 after that I was hooked. Avatar Paintball became one of the all time best-selling games on the system, to date I have had 5 #1 bestselling titles, almost all of my games have been top 3 sellers, and CastleMiner is the best-selling franchise on XBLIG at over 1.5M unit sold. Needless to say I have left the “real” game industry behind, and DigitalDNA Games has grown into a small operation. I love what I am able to do on XBLIG, and I am so grateful that a system like this exists.

Tom (DigitalDNA)
CastleMiner Z

About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

15 Responses to Tales from the Dev Side: What Xbox Live Indie Games Have Meant to Me

  1. Nice testimonials. On a tangential note, I strongly encourage Vincent Nathan to rethink titling his game Ass Trails.

  2. Moeez says:

    Awesome article, I’m glad your blog has turned so many people over to the (dark) Xbox indie side.

  3. Really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts. Lots of positivity :)

  4. Things like this are what make me hopeful for another XBLIG-like service on the next generation of consoles.

  5. Great to read everyone’s comments. Some stories really similar to my own (ex-big company, wanted more control and to make my own stuff, starting out small, etc.), so for me it just confirms XBLIG is a really great service (long-standing gripes about unfulfilled potential aside) and how criminal it will be if there isn’t an updated version on the new console.

    To everyone, best of luck with your games and your continued success. Also, for my fellow “coming soon” people, I hope to see you all in the market soon! ;)

  6. I’ve been writing games for 20 years, pretty much ever since I could type. XBLIG (potentially) gives me something I’ve always craved – an audience. Currently I’ve only made it as far as the Windows Phone 7 marketplace, but have delusions that one day I could get something onto a Console. That’s why I’m writing in XNA, rather than mucking about with Objective C, or trying to use my existing Java skills futilely battling fragmetation on Android.

    I can’t believe Microsoft would throw all that away… but the future for XNA looks rather bleak. C++/DirectX seems to be the way to go – I’d just appreciate some clarity from MS over whether there will be an XBLIG at all on the next generation of Xbox…?!

      • Glad to hear it – but when? Like Paul Harman, I write in XNA – in fact it was the discovery of XNA and its unique selling points – simplicity, low entry cost and the fact it runs on the Xbox – that got me back into game writing after 15 years out.

        I now have three titles out on the Windows Phone 7, with a fourth due later this month, and just as I was considering stepping up to Xbox, we start hearing all kind of conflicting rumours about the future of XNA. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time building up my studio, and without knowing what the future holds, it is impossible to plan – currently, I do not know any C++/DirectX, so will I have to rebuild my skill base from scratch? And then there’s the future of XBLIG itself…

        All in all, it’s very frustrating, and I’m sure lots of other indie developers feel the same way – considering that my work to date has been for the phone, had I been able to afford to replace all my kit with Apple, I would probably have jumped to iOS, given the amount of dithering there has been on Microsoft’s part in announcing what will and will not be available in the future. Fortunately, it seems common sense has prevailed for the time being and XNA games will work on the WP8… let’s just hope similar common sense wins out in this case as well.

        • People are sympathetic to the lack passion Microsoft shows for you guys. I am too. You lose people when you don’t ever shut up about it. Yes, the squeeky wheel does get the grease sometimes, but other times you just throw away the wheel. I was trying to show those people that have grown sick of the constant complaining that XBLIG has had a positive effect on people’s lives. I understand the frustration but this shit you guys posted, that completely missed the point of this piece.

          There is a time and a place for it, and any other time I have no problem with that place being Indie Gamer Chick. But this was not the time or the place.

  7. A space like XBLIG works best when there are creators, an audience, AND commentators. Thanks for being a lightning rod, Kairi.

    » Matthew, //dbg

  8. Greatly enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts.

  9. Pingback: What Xbox Live Indie Games Have Meant to Me « damni’s game development log

  10. Pingback: Screenshot Scrutiny – 2nd February 2013

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