Recently, an article about Indie gaming went up on Ars Technica entitled Indie dev suggests peers should support OS X, Linux gaming. While I think Jeff Rosen and the Wolfire Games guys are making a cool game, and Ars Technica meant well, this is not enough in Today’s market.Eight years ago, when we were first starting GarageGames, putting your game on three OS’s was state of the art, and we supported it by releasing an engine and many games on all three platforms. Obviously, making sure your game can run on three OS’s instead of just Windows is a big step in the right direction, but now days, you need to expand your idea of what a platform is, and build your game accordingly.
Instead of debating OSX, Linux, and Windows vs. just Windows, you should be considering all OS’s, Flash, the browser, Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, Steam, Instant Action, Greenhouse, your own site, iPhone, Android, other smart phones, Nintendo DS, Xbox via XNA, XBLA, Playstation Network, Wii Ware, box distribution, Casual Portals like Big Fish Games and Yahoo Games, Flash Portals like Kongregate and New Grounds, international portals.
Concentrating on how you can make your game and intellectual property accessible for as many of these platforms as possible will greatly increase your chances of success. Look at how Popcap is growing like a weed in an era when most of the big publishers are losing money and market share, selling out, or going bankrupt. Concentrating on smaller IP’s that can exploit every platform imaginable is a much more viable strategy for Indies.
If you are an Indie trying to make the next Fable or Halo or Tribes, this approach probably won’t work, but for nearly every other type of game, I think an iterative approach to the development of the game and IP behind the game will work. If you have a BIG idea, you may want to consider making it smaller by using some of the techniques I described in the article The Art of Backing Off. If you have not read that article yet, please click on over, so we are all on the same page for the rest of this article.
Our game, Grunts: Skirmish, started as a big RTS + community for publication on Instant Action, but as per the Art of Backing Off article, it is currently a Flash game that will be available to play for free within the next few months (note: it is taking a long time because we are developing a company, several web properties, and the Push Button Engine at the same time). We like to call this first Flash version of the game our “Light Client” version, and we have plans to go from this version all the way up to “Heavy Client” versions like XBox and Playstation 3. However, we may never make it to the heavy client versions based on what we find out from the light client releases.
While you may argue that it is extra work to create light client versions of your game, I think it is the best method I have ever experienced for making a game so far in my career. Work on the light client has not slowed down or stopped our development of the intellectual property behind the game, i.e. the characters, back story, logos, or web site design. Plus, it has given us time to create and design a nice progression of milestones and prototypes that we can test along the way toward the end goal of the entire game. For instance, given the response to our characters already, I think people are going to like the IP, but there will be nothing like putting the game up on Kongregate to find out.
If players do end up hating the characters or back story, we are not too far into the concept or idea to kill it. We are flexible and not too invested. Developers that put their all into a huge concept for years, then find out players don’t like it, are screwed. Again, our idea is “too small to fail” right now. If we misjudged the market, we have dry powder to try something different. The same thing goes for the game play. Since we have only developed the first part of the overall game, we are not so invested that we will die if it does not work out.
Besides the above advantages of light and heavy client development, getting onto all of the platforms starts to get much easier. Check out what happens once we ship the Flash version.
- We immediately bring a subset of our full game and IP to a billion potential players world wide on Day One of ship.
- We are immediately available on Windows, OSX, and Linux.
- We are positioned very well to put the product on Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, or any other social network.
- Using some “special sauce” that we have worked up, porting our game to iPhone is fairly an easy task.
In one step, our game is delivered on over half of the platforms I mentioned above. In addition, we now have a great looking calling card and, hopefully, data to back it up, to allow us to pitch the heavy client platforms. Instead of going to Microsoft with a demo or a pitch, we can go to them with data that says our game was played by 7MM people that loved it and are looking for the next version. If you think about it, that is how Flow, Line Rider, and even the Behemoth guys got onto the heavy client platforms, although I don’t think they were thinking about that when those games were originally created.
To summarize, definitely make your game for more than one OS, but open your mind to where games are really being played in Today’s market.