This July, in Salt Lake City, there will be an event called GEEX. It's an Expo for gamers. Somehow I got penciled in to discuss Indie Game Development at the Expo this year. So I'm going to jot down a few thoughts that I might use later for my presentation.
What I've Learned So Far Developing Indie Games:
(In case you're wondering about Reclaimers of Rhuidia, I'm still trying to wrap up another game to get time for it, so I'll be discussing that)
Indie Games Usually Don't Have Funding- Therefore, you have to make time for them, and you have to remember to narrow the game's scope.
Indie Games Have Small Teams-Bring together one Programmer, one Artist, one musician, knock around design ideas and get going! It's exciting and also a reality you have to remember. As the soul artist on Siphon Spirit, I realized animation would pretty much be impossible to do, and still make a full-scale game. So I found cheats. I got the programmer to do particle effects, and enable moving artwork--Even if there's no animation, it doesn't have to lack movement!
Indie Games Can Innovate- Take advantage of the opportunity to try new game mechanics and concepts. I highly recommend not making a clone of another gameplay style. Why not find something different and new, and focus the limited time you have on building up that one concept? I started wanting to make an rpg, but then I scrapped everything rpg and made a game that plays in a new fun way. There are plenty of RPG's out there. The aspect of an RPG I really wanted was more in the storytelling anyways, so I got my friend to program a scripting system that allows me to incorporate art sequentially to tell a comic-style story sequence at any point in the game I want.
Indie Games Need to be Feasable- We spent 2 years on an RPG and are basically abandoning it. Why? Because it would take 2 more years to complete it. While we have this little simple game that will be complete in 4 months total. But what if you REALLY LIKE RPG's? You won't. Not after 2 years and no results. If you must make an RPG, remember your time and man-power limitations. You will probably want to cut out a lot of gameplay features you originally wanted.
Indie Games Should Start at a Fundamental Level and Build Up- The problem with the RPG I was making, was that we added a whole ton of features to the design up front, and then started taking them all out when we didn't have time for it. A better way, is to simplify gameplay as much as possible. Then, when you get that fundamental gameplay working, you can start to add in things as you go.
Make Simple Games First as Trials- You will be tempted to make a big game right off the bat. Because that's what you like, and they are prestigous. Don't. Try something small, and simple. Make a complete game. Learn the Process. You will be much happier knowing there's a finished product of yours out there for others to try, and now you can maybe make something a little larger in scale. I can't tell you what you will learn from making a small game project from start to finish. It's something you learn in doing. So don't miss this important learning step!