Your Bright Futures

So I’m making the transition from an XBLIG-centered site to more sweeping coverage of indies across all platforms.  It’s kind of scary.  I’ve spent two years focusing on this little unsung platform that is Xbox Live Indie Games.  But I’m not the only one braving new waters.  Hundreds of Xbox Live Indie Game developers are exploring new development formats such as Unity or Monogame, with the intent of going multi-platform.  With both Sony and Nintendo aggressively courting indies, not to mention upstart Ouya and the existing (and thriving) PC indie community, there’s no shortage of places to go.  Well, so far Microsoft hasn’t said anything.  My theory is they’re in a medically-induced coma after sustaining life-threatening whiplash following the quick and reckless 180 they pulled.  Again, just a theory.  But if you see any Xbox guys wearing neck braces, just nod knowingly.

Anyway, with this move I’m making, which has me a little on the jittery side, I was curious how the development community that has supported me for the last two years is handling the transition.  What plans they have for the future, and what lessons they’ve learned from Xbox Live Indie Games that they’ll be applying to the future.  Here’s what they had to say.

One year on since Cath’s 1st year anniversary as the Indie Gamer Chick & our beloved XBLIG is destined to go the way of the Dodo. XBLIG offers a diverse wealth of crazy genius and utter crap with an abundance of creativity & cloning in equal measure. The random nature of its content is one of its defining strengths & obvious weakness. A year ago we released our first game Obsessive Collecting Disorder on the platform & behold, stickman did alright. Since then we’ve grown in confidence & ability, with OCD for Windows Phone doing rather damn well. Our second game for Windows Phone Drawtopia (a physics based drawing game), will be out soon & it’s all because of our XNA & XBLIG beginnings.

Not just that but many of those awesome and slightly nuts dev’s & indie writing types have become good friends, the XBLIG community has given rise to some very talented developers that will help to shape the future of our industry. Cath has been at the forefront of the XBLIG movement with her unabashed assessment of what’s shit & what’s not, her site & readership have deservedly continued to grow. We may not be creating any more titles for XBLIG but like the 80’s I’ll remember it fondly. Sayonara XBLIG, it’s been a blast & happy 2nd Anniversary Cath!

Steven Smith

Super Smith Bros, developers of Obsessive Collecting Disorder (Currently Ranked #81 on the Leaderboard)

I feel very positive about the future of Tricktale. Apart from my continuing support for the PC release of Diehard Dungeon, with regular patches, I’m really excited to begin working on a more ambitious project.

With Diehard Dungeon, I have successfully (I hope!) combined the look and feel of a 16-bit Zelda game with Roguelike elements, to create something pretty unique, and something that I would like to explore further. A sequel is in the works (with a vengeance? Haha!), in which I plan to put Diehard Dungeon and an MMORPG into a metaphorical blender. Will it create something magnificent, or a monstrosity? Well I intend to find out. My goal for this game is simple: It has to be something that you can jump on and play for as little as 15-30 mins in your lunch break with random people across the interweb, or take part in a lengthier, epic dungeon crawl with friends. If that sounds interesting to you then please follow me on Twitter or ‘like’ Tricktale on Facebook.

Thanks to the likes of MonoGame, and the possibilities for Indies on the next-gen consoles, I hope to be able to reach a wider audience by releasing my games to more platforms. I’d like to wish the entire XBLIG community all of the best for their future endeavors.

Toby Land

Tricktale Games, developers of Diehard Dungeon (Currently ranked #44)

Robot Foot Games is currently a 1-man show and our first commercial releases were on XBLIG so it’ll always have a special place in our hearts. We decided to move on from the XBLIG platform shortly before the “XNA is dead!” news and with the “no XBLIG-esque support on Xbone” recent news, it seems like a good time to spread our wings, learn some new things and move on to new platforms.

RFG01

The as-of-yet unnamed next project of Robot Foot Games

Previously, we’ve been solely focused on 2D games, but I’ve switched over to using Unity and so far I’ve had a very good experience w/ it. Since XNA is more code-based, while Unity is more visual-based since it has a built-in editor and such, there’s a pretty big learning curve while getting used to everything. Anyways, the current (unnamed) project is a 3D turn-based multiplayer game similar to how Hero Academy is set up. At the start of a game, you get a handful of points to spend on “creating your base”. You can place walls and turrets and it gives each game a unique feel since everyone’s base setup will be different each game. After those first 2 rounds it turns into your regular turn-based game with the final objective being to kill your opponents power source. Everything is set up in a voxel-esque style, which means everything is made up of small cubes, and when things are destroyed the cubes explode in glorious fashion. Current release date is hopefully sometime within the next 2 months and I’d like to do a huge multiplatform release on PC/Mac/Linux(?)/iOS/Android and with how Unity is set up, hopefully it helps out instead of turning into a giant headache!

Jeff Brown

Robot Foot Games, developers of.. well.. a lot of stuff I haven’t played yet. But I will.

There comes a time in every XNA developers journey when they think… “why should I deprive the hoards of Linux, Mac, Android, OUYA, PSVita, Windows 8 and iOS users from experiencing my awesome game? They’d bloody love this!”.  This is what we’re thinking now, however delusional that might be.  And OK, maybe there are not “hoards” of PSVita users but you get the idea.

Some background.  We’re a small team of indie developers and  we cut our teeth on XNA with a Pirate-themed Tower Defence game (the mighty “Horn Swaggle Islands”), then released a physics-based puzzler called “Gerbil Physics”.  We were very excited to get a phone call from Microsoft Game Studios who gave us a contract to port Gerbil Physics to WP7.  A dream come true!  A proper contract to make games!  We were less than excited when after 15 grueling months (much of it full-time) we came crashing back to reality on witnessing the less-than-stellar sales of Windows Phone, and similarly small sales for our game.  But hey it was really exciting to be working with MGS on a LIVE-enabled title.  They were great fun to work with, and we’d do it all again tomorrow.

Richard Gere has nightmares that end like this.

Richard Gere has nightmares that end like this.

So that’s the history.  Now we want to bring Gerbil Physics to the masses, and we’ve just released on Android and Kindle Fire (although on Kindle I suspect we’d sell more copies standing outside a subway).  I know you’ve already touched on MonoGame on IGC, and its a pretty good choice for doing an XNA port. You do get 95%+ code re-use and once you’ve battled through the many undocumented issues (some solutions to which I’ve put here), the result is good.

So yes, our future direction is to port to every platform we can think of.  From there, we want to do another “massively-cross-platform” title, and are playing around with an isometric 3d dungeon basher, in the spirit of Gauntlet.  None of this would have happened without XNA.

Beringela

Pencel Games, developers of Gerbil Physics (it’s on my to-do list, people)

I’m currently working on STRACO : Episode 2.  It’s taking a little while longer than I thought to complete so I’m currently missing my “Spring” deadline.  My wife also has a baby coming on Saturday so that’s probably going to delay the game even further.  I’d say another 2-3 months until it’s on the Marketplace.  Odds are that the game will NOT be called Episode 2 since I’ve been informed that is tres gauche. 😉  But for now… EP2 it is.

It will be released on XBLIG and it will be the conclusion of the STRACO game series.  I had initially thought to do 3 episodes, but since XBLIG is dying I thought I would play it safe and conclude the series now.  The result is that everything from EP3 will be in EP2 as well.

I also plan to release the game on Desura.  The PC version will have editor tools so that players can make their own episodes, import custom graphics, and tweak whatever they want.  Mac and Linux releases depend on my success with MonoGame.

After that?  Eh… Who knows.  I’m kinda burned out on the whole top down view so I’ll probably move on to a metroidvania project. The target platform will NOT be XBLIG since it won’t exist by the time I’m finished.

Mike Johnson

Not Very Original Games, developers of STRACO

The Tripleslash team had a fabulous time getting our first game up on XBLIG.  XNA was cool, but what made XBLIG special was the community: developers happy to share tips, reviewers enthusiastic about our progress yet ready to point out our slip-ups, and gamers excited to play independent games.  (There’s nothing quite like watching videos of gamers on the other side of the world swearing at your game in languages you don’t understand!)  We hope the awesome people who make up this scene find great niches in the larger indie community, console or otherwise.  Cause from where we stand, the future looks pretty awesome.

To start, we’re building a bigger, better, more balanced Magnetic By Nature: honed mechanics, refined level design, tightened presentation, the works.  This game will be on Windows, Mac, and Linux for sure.  We also have our sights set on consoles and handhelds, but only time will tell.

I was awed and frustrated by Magnetic by Nature. But mostly awed.

I was awed and frustrated by Magnetic by Nature. But mostly awed.

Next, we’re building a studio.  We don’t want MbN to be our last game together.  Partly due to our success on XBLIG, we were able to secure seed funding at a recent local start-up competition.  We’re not quitting our day jobs just yet, but our ultimate dream is an independent studio making distinctive, enjoyable games.  As a team, we’re still looking for our voice, so whatever we do after MbN is going to be different.  Crazy, maybe, but also crazy-fun.  Not much beats happy players!

Paige

Tripledash Studios, developers of Magnetic by Nature (Currently ranked #37)

Before XBLIG, the only games I had worked on were tiny flash games for an old website I used to operate with my free time during high school. XBLIG began my interest in making games as a viable source of income. Though, this has not happened quite yet. XNA showed me that with the right opportunities, even a small developer like myself could experience the joy of seeing their game played on a console. That being said, XNA has begun to fade, and with a new artist as an addition to our game studio, we needed to decide where to go next. We had briefly looked into Monogame as a solution to where we were heading next, but quickly turned our attention to Unity as its ability to deploy games to the web was perfect for game design competitions that we love to enter, such as Ludum Dare. Its cross-platform support and support for upcoming technologies such as the Ouya, made it seem like the most viable option for allowing us to continue our slow but steady growth of our skills and team. We are still finishing off our last XNA game, but we are even more excited about what games we will create in the future.

Zack Licastro

Elemental Zeal Game Studios, developers of stuff on my pile of things to play.

XBox Live Indie Games was a great learning experience for me. I’ve developed games as a hobby for over a decade, but I never knew what it took to promote and market one of my own works. The Dream Build Play 2012 competition was the catalyst for me to develop my first XNA game called Resistor. I’ll always remember the great feeling of accomplishment when I first saw my creation on the XBox marketplace. My game was generally positively reviewed, and I am thankful for those players who did pay for the full version of the game. Soon after its release, I started working on my next XNA game called Blasting Bits, which was a 3D side scrolling platformer. I spent about four months working on it, but in January 2013 I had a heart attack and lost interest in developing games for a while, since my sedentary lifestyle was probably a factor.

Last month, I decided to try to create a game for the 48 hour Ludum Dare competition. The result was a sheep collecting game called Amish Brothers. The competition gave me the motivation to learn the Unity game development environment, which simplifies the process of making a 3D game. To sharpen my skills with the tool, I created a simple puzzle game called Genetic Disorder for the OneGameAMonth site. Currently, I’m working on a new Unity game called EarthBall for the mini LD42 competition, which is basically pinball in space using the Earth as a ball. I don’t have any aspirations to sell any more of my titles anytime soon. However, I do get a small amount of ad revenue sharing from Game Jolt, so most of my future free web games will probably be posted there.

Levi D. Smith @GaTechGrad

Developer of even more shit I haven’t played. I’m not as on-the-ball as I thought.

The Challenge: To create a video game for each category. Sounds nuts, huh? Then again, madness is a key virtue when it comes to video game development.

Let’s face it: A one-man team with no experience whatsoever in the video game industry, with no advanced tools, no artistic background, no budget and not much time to spare, pretty much has no chance to publish anything. However, two years ago, I unlocked the secrets of 3D animation. The feeling is very unique: It’s an overwhelming awe emanating from a screen showing an animated figure that previously existed only as an incoherent, massive bunch of numbers. At that moment, I lost my grasp to reality and challenged myself to apply my own animation engine to create a game for each category. Yup, I was full of it. I still am. Still, so far, I got the flight simulator and the sports competition down, and the third person shooter is coming this way, followed closely by the scrolling brawler. It’s an epic quest, but every month that passes I’m getting closer.

No doubt, the stall of XNA has been a major roadblock. It’s not a show stopper, though. Since all tools have been created in-house and none of them depend on a specific technology, it’s easy to migrate to other consoles and  PC’s. I won’t deny I’ve been browsing Sony’s PS Network. Apple’s iOS is definitely out, as the million apps already available will bury any of my games within hours of its release. But the console that I really look forward to work with is the XBOX One. I’m not sure if I’ll make the cut. However, if I have a say on it and it’s within my reach, I’m staying with Microsoft.

Manuel (aka Tarh Ik)

Developer of Merball Tournament and A Snowy Slalom. Currently working on a third person shooter.

I’m a hobbyist game developer. Between my day job, commuting and my kids, I don’t get anywhere near as much time to devote to writing games as I’d like. But as a hobby, I don’t have to choose which platform I develop for based on how much money it may or may not make me. For me, XBLIG is beyond awesome. I get to write games for my Xbox 360 – how cool is that? My first game, Rocks. In. Spaaace!, wasn’t a raving success.  But I learnt an amazing amount doing it. I learnt that I’m bad at art, blogging, self-promotion, tweeting and a lot more besides – but I also learnt that I love XNA, I love C# and I love programming games. My second game, Airport Anarchy, is a fairly niche title but it’s one I’m proud of and enjoy playing myself. If I’m honest, XBLIG is not the best platform for the title. I expect it would do a lot better on mobile – but I have no interest in writing games for mobile, I want to write games for consoles. With that in mind, for the foreseeable future at least, I’m sticking with XBLIG development. Not everyone will be able to afford a PS4 or Xbox One straight away, and with the lack of backwards compatibility I reckon the 360 has a good couple of years left in it. I’m currently working on two XBLIG projects but I don’t have a whole lot more to tell you right now. I’ve not even given them names yet. Once XBLIG finally dies, I’ll move on to whatever looks the most fun, but I for one am hoping it’s demise is a way off yet.

Matt

RZGames, developer of a Rocks…………..In…………..SPACE!!!  (I made it more dramatic for you, Matt)

Under my game developer moniker, Roppy Chop Studios, I released three games on XBLIG: Bub Block, Craftimals, and Build ‘n Bump. All three emphasized some sort of “building” aspect as well as a multiplayer element, and I’ll continue to focus on that going forward. Being able to play a game with family and friends is super important to me, but as sales have shown, local multiplayer is a tough sell. As reluctant as I am to get into it, it looks like I’ll need to finally buck up and tackle online play. For now, I’m leaning towards HTML5 to accomplish this. I come from a web development background, so in my internal debate on where to go next (PC? Android? iOS?), I naturally gravitated towards browsers. I’ve already got a minimized version of Build ‘n Bump running in HTML5 , which is really exciting. I’m glad I finally found an outlet that combines what I get paid to do (web programming) with what I love to do (video games), and I owe XBLIG a lot in helping to bridge that gap.

Roppy Chop Studios, developers of Bub Block, which I heard was pretty okay. Another “I gotta get around to that” title.

Having authored the much reviled ‘Super Dimension Iliad’, it is perhaps an exercise in masochism on my part to show up here on Indie Gamer Chick and promote my upcoming XBLIG project; ‘Psychic Warrior Susan’.  Eyebrows will no doubt be all the more raised when considering that this game is also an action-platformer.

Given the relative success of ‘LCD Dungeon System’ and ‘Nukewar ‘84’, it would seem logical and sane to stick to those smaller scale projects. Still, I don’t like the idea of not trying something just because one’s first attempt was a failure. The value in Indie Gamer Chick’s review of ‘Super Dimension Iliad’ was in correctly identifying the specific ways that game failed. I can only hope that I’ve sufficiently absorbed those lessons. This is part of the difficulty in being a one-man-band developer; without outside perspective, it can be difficult to objectively judge your work.

The other difficulty is obviously in trying to be good at everything in addition to the programming; art, animation, design, sound and music. I like to remember the motto of Grasshopper Manufacture; ‘punk’s not dead’. To me, that means expressing yourself through your game the best that your abilities will allow, even if the result lacks refinement and has a lot of rough edges. Just do what you want to do and to hell with the haters.

After ‘Psychic Warrior Susan’ is out, look out for my fist title for the PS Vita through PlayStation Mobile; ‘LCD Dungeon System 2’. The Vita feels like a much better fit for the kinds of games I make, and I’m excited to take on the challenge of expanding to another platform.

Greg Falkingham (As in “I can’t believe I dropped the Falking Ham on the floor”? Sorry)

We Love Hamsters Software, developers of LCD Dungeon System, and all around good sport.

After releasing Toddler Tantrum for XBLIG I wanted to make a game that actually showed some skill and competence in development.  While Toddler Tantrum was a nice learning experience it was not at all a game I was passionate about nor did I want to play it personally (though my kids seem to like it well enough, so mission accomplished).  Frankly it’s downright embarrassing to go to some type of game conference and when people ask me if I’ve released anything pointing to that.  I was lucky enough to be a part of the Indie Megabooth at PAX East this year, and at the mixer the night before I felt like the biggest phony in the world.

So I’m developing something real.  Something I can point at with pride.  That something is Railgun Express, a twin stick shooter for XBLIG, PC, and whatever else I can port it to with MonoGame that will have me.  Unlike a normal TSS the player has no control over movement.  Instead each stick controls an independent gun, and each can be cycled to a different weapon for a different situation.  Swarm of small enemies coming from the left while a big beefy boogley is coming from the right?  Set one gun for the minigun, the other for the missile launcher, and take them out simultaneously.

I’m also working with a real artist this time, Michael Derenge, who I met through RunJumpDev, a game development group in my area (and the reason I got to be part of the Megabooth).  So I might not be making the next blockbuster yet, but using XBLIG as a step I’m honing my craft until I can.  Hopefully RGX will buy me enough free time to work on something even more awesome.

Randy Napier

All Messed up Games, developers of the upcoming Railgun Express (video shown above)

I’m currently finishing the port of my browser-based 2D shooter, Super Rawr-Type to Windows 8. It has already passed Windows 8 certification, so I’m just fixing one small bug before I post it to the store. Originally I was a C# developer, but have since learned JavaScript and HTML5 and prefer those languages as they run on nearly every platform. Super Rawr-Type was an opportunity for me to quickly build a title and deploy it to various platforms using JavaScript. My goal is to port it to iOS next month.

For me, XNA was an opportunity for me to finally learn how to program and develop games. Established community members Michael Neel and George Clingerman encouraged me to try my hand at programming during Microsoft’s 2012 Dream.Build.Play competition. From that brief experience I’ve discovered how much I love to develop apps and have been extremely active in various programming communities. This has afforded me the opportunity to begin my career at Comcast, where I’m a Software Engineer on their Xbox team at their Philadelphia Headquarters.

I can’t put into words how fortunate I am each day to have this opportunity and the freedoms it affords me. I’m working on a number of interesting projects, and often cannot wait to get into work each day. How many people do you know can honestly say that? Again, this all began with the help of the XNA community, their enthusiasm, and everything they’ve done both alongside me, and with me over the last several years. I can only hope that the next generation of consoles offers others the same fortunes XNA has offered me.

Dave Voyles

Developer of a game so incredible I dare not type its name out. And also one of my best friends.

 

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

11 Responses to Your Bright Futures

  1. Awesome to hear so many cracking former XBLIG devs plans for the future, I wish you all the greatest luck with your new projects and platforms. Let the devs of XBLIG land go forth & spread their gameage goodeness to every damn platform there is. Happy 2nd Anniversary Cath, it’s been one hell of a year!

  2. Nice article! Thanks for including my story.

  3. Manuel says:

    Hi Cathy!!!

    Thank you very, very much for including my thoughts in your article!!! It was very touching to see my notes along with so many talented people, you included as well!! Definitely, I’m forwarding the link to all my friends, family and everyone I can think of (except my boss, who may arrive to the wrong conclusion and think that I have way too much spare time – now that’s a scary thought).

    Thank you very much for your support during these years, and setting such high level of expectation! Believe me when I say that there were ripples in the AppHub forums when the MVP at msdn started to measure their answers with the following criteria: “What would the Indie Gamer Chick say about it?”

    Congrats for your 2nd anniversary!!!

  4. Stephen says:

    Hello,

    I was very excited to see both Sony and Nintendo supporting indies and self publishing. We have definitely come a long way, but it felt like we were taking a step backwards with Microsoft.

    I was very disappointed with Microsoft’s E3 showing as most were. We all wanted to hear about some type of support for indie developers, but nothing.

    However, not only has Microsoft done a 180 on the state of the Xbox One, but they’ve finally released some details on how they vow to continue supporting indie developers and self publishing.

    Microsoft recently released these details at their annual Build Conference. Microsoft say’s that if you want to develop for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows 8 start by learning to build Windows 8 Apps as the Xbox One will support these apps.

    During the conference Microsoft also revealed a partnership with Unity to allow for the ease of game and app development using the Unity engine. Unity will start supporting all Microsoft platforms and even integrate itself with Xbox One and Smart Glass technology.

    I hope this clears up some of the confusion.

    • Hi Steven.

      I had actually been told for months from sources in MS that they had an indie plan similar to the one they’ve vaguely laid out.

      The problem is it’s too little, too late. Two console manufacturers courted indies. Microsoft treated indies like a waiter at a snooty restaurant who hemmed and hawed and asked indies to take a seat while they waited for a table to open up. And they have an abysmal track record of creating a platform for indies to thrive on. Not EXIST on. They did that with XBLIG. But thrive.

  5. This is true, I hated the way they made me feel, but am glad that I still have that as an option if Sony and Nintendo don’t pan out. That was the best description thus far, I did actually feel like I was at a snooty restaurant waiting 🙂

  6. Pingback: Indie Links Round-Up: Smooth Operator | The Indie Game Magazine - Indie Game Reviews, Previews, News & Downloads

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