The weather is getting better over here, so like all years, this is the period where we can finally start doing some short trips on the mountains nearby. I always loved trekking and walking in middle of the nature in general. While I was in one of those trips I was thinking that in some way, doing indie games is like climbing up a mountain.
When I started working on Cursed Lands, my idea was for it to be a small game ™ – you can laugh obviously – however as time passed, new ideas came to mind and every time it was like “would be a pity to not do this” and “this character should definitely have a scene showing her weaker side” and so on. The result is what you can actually play here: there’s even a free demo! One of the few indies still doing them!
While it might not be necessarily true for all games, in particular small games (for real, not like my 300,000 words / 50h+ long small games!) the process of making a game is really like climbing a mountain.
Whenever I start a new RPG, for example right now I’m working on Planet Stronghold 2, I am super enthusiast. Defining the characters, setting, the general plot, thinking about plot twists, and on the gameplay side the various classes, skills, combat system, items, weapon types, etc etc. It’s great, no doubts.
Then, the climbing starts. And slowly but steadly the initial enthusiasm fades away. It’s normal, happens to everyone. I’ve never seen an indie say “it was great working on this game from first to last day”. If someone says this, he/she is lying! 😉
As time passes, the climbing becomes harder, people find bugs, give you feedback, maybe not the kind of feedback you want to hear (the game is not fun! you should rebalance all the battles! and so on) until the end is on sight. The top of the mountain, you can see it! It’s there. But… you’re tired, very tired. Because you climbed the mountain until now, and you can’t wait to finish, to reach the top and then begin going back downhill.
This is the hardest part. This is where you should stand a few minutes on the top of the mountain and wait, looking around you. Look at the path you did to reach the mountain, think back at the experience. Did you do what you wanted to do? Is the game… yes being fun is important, but even more: it’s the kind of game you wanted to make? Is there still something you could do to improve things, without stumbling on your way down the mountain (spending too much time/money?)
The downhill is when the game is released. For many people it’s a nerve-whacking process, and I’m no exception. It’s when you know if all the efforts you put in climbing up the mountain were worth it or not. Though, in the (rare?) cases where I actually manage do finish a good game, it’s really nice to hear the customer’s feedback, the compliments, and the revenues, knowing that yes, you can still afford another trip. Yes this wasn’t the last one!
If you like something an indie made, spend 2 minutes to let him/her know. Send a short email, post on their social media, write one of those infamous reviews on Steam, spread the word, do what you want, but let them know, because it will make climbing the next mountain easier.