One fateful day, some time in October 2010 an awful Indie Developer was in the process of starting his very first Indie game to be unleashed on XBLIG. This individual was to go on to make absolutely no impact on XBLIG whatsoever, but he’s had a lot of fun in his insignificance!
The first game I worked on was ETMD – ExtraTerrestrials Must Die. I was learning as I went along, as I reached dead ends because of my knowledge I learned the new skills to get round it. As most new XBLIG devs do I had high hopes for my first game, in March 2011 it was finally ready for release, I looked upon my creation with the rose tinted glasses of a virgin dev and jumped with joy as it finally got through peer review.
Unfortunately the Indie buying public were not looking upon my game with the same rosy glasses I was. The game had to be sold at 240 points due to all the music taking it over the 50MB mark, and my game was nowhere near to the standards of other 240 point games out there. It flopped … by god did it flop, at the time I couldn’t believe why hardly anybody was going near my game.
It was pretty obvious why, it wasn’t the price really, if the game was good enough people would have been happy to pay, my presentation and my artistic skills were basically non existent, the game was flawed, and the menus, oh the humanity, my menus were a horrible mess of a mockery of a sham of a catastrophe … programmer art at it’s very worst.
Looking back though I saw some positives, there were people who really enjoyed the game and though it sold few I now see that some people liked the game enough to pay triple the price of most indie games.
After picking up the shattered pieces of my pride I decided to work on the next game, unfortunately for the world whilst looking for inspiration I stumbled on an article for the old Cascade Cassette 50 for the Commodore 64, and then watched a youtube video of some poor bugger playing Action 52. Those things, combined with sulking and not wanting to put so much effort into a game just for it to fail, lead to the creation of 10 Amazingly Awful Games.
10 Amazingly Awful Games was vomited into the XBLIG marketplace on the 10th May 2011. I didn’t expect anything from it, it was quickly cobbled together for a laugh and possibly for a petty act of revenge against the indie community for not buying my first game. Shockingly a lot of people liked it … I never expected that to happen, sure there were bad reviews comparing it to the great Action 52, but the majority of feedback on it was very positive. To date 10 Amazingly Awful Games is my best selling XBLIG by quite a lot.
Block Vengeance Alpha, the third game, was essentially a souped up “Revenge Of The Blocks” from the awful games compilation. Most of the praise for 10 Amazingly Awful Games was directed at Revenge Of The Blocks with suggestions that it could have been a full price game by itself.
At this stage I was going to see if I could commission some graphics and actually make a decent looking game. Philippe Chabot did a great mock-up of what the game could look like with his art, but again my dev naivety struck again, I never properly thought how much it would cost and the amount of effort that goes into the art. I ended up sticking to my awful programmer graphics in the end, something I regret, I probably should have tried to find enough money from somewhere or held out.
Block Vengeance Alpha was finally released, with butt ugly programmer art on the 9th of July 2011. It didn’t do too badly, better than ETMD but not as well as Amazingly Awful Games, if I’d been able to afford Philippe’s graphics I think it would have done a lot better.
After this game I ended up in a new crummy job, started programming a lot less and eventually it dried up completely, but then at the start of the year I decided to push myself, and eventually 10 Amazingly Awful Games Volume 2 came out at the start of this month (April 2012). After a very poor first day sales it picked up a bit, but it’s come nowhere near the popularity of the first one.
Though it still has my programmer graphics it manages to look better than the first one, I feel the games were also better and more involved than in the first one, but yet it’s only done half as well. I think to be honest that the games in the first one and the whole package itself just had a more crap charm to it, it revelled in it’s badness and people had fun with it. At first I said I wouldn’t do any more of these ….. but they are fun to make, so Volume 3 will probably be spewed out of my mind at some point.
So we get up to now, I was messing about with a 4 player shmup called Strange Raiders, it was going to be a silly quirky shoot em up, and it was nearly finished, but I decided to can it. I just don’t feel like it’s good enough to release, yeah people would probably buy a few copies, it would make me some money, but if I ever want to do more than get a couple of hundred sales I feel that I have to be more professional about it and not just release a game that I’m not feeling just for the sake of it.
So what next? I couldn’t decide what project to work on at first but earlier this week I made my mind up. ETMD did badly because I did badly at it, I was wet behind the ears and didn’t have much of a clue about anything then, I made poor design choices and if the me of now met the me who released that game I would beat the terrible menu system out of him! I’ve started on ETMD2, I’m going to make the game I wanted to make back then but didn’t have the skills and knowledge that I’ve learned over this last year or so.
I’ve learnt from the lessons of the past, I always had lousy presentation not just because of lack of artistic talent, but because I left front ends and menus to the end because I find them boring. I love making the game, I hate making everything around it, and it shows, the menus and front-ends always look half-arsed because they are. With ETMD I have been working on all the boring stuff first, all the menus, the pause functions, the file storage, once it’s done to my satisfaction then all that will be left to do is all the fun parts!
So 18 months and 929 sales on how do I feel about XBLIG? I’ve got over the naive hope that I can ever make a proper living out of this. I’d love it to be the case but there’s some amazingly talented games makers out there who I will never be able to get near, they’re the guys who can make a living out of it and I’m happy for them. Making XBLIG games becomes a lot more fun when you accept that you’re not going to be the men, once you are doing it for the enjoyment and not for the hope of becoming the next break out indie dev.
I’ll never be swimming in my piles of cash, I’ll never be able to give up my crappy warehouse job to do games full time, but in another 18 months I’ll still be here, I’ll still be making games, I’ll probably still be awful :p and maybe, just maybe I’ll have scraped together enough sales and money to get a graphic artist on board.
Thanks for reading my ramblings, thanks to all the guys out there who have peer reviewed and tested my games, all the guys who have done reviews for me and to all the people who have pitied me enough to buy my games!