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Our Indie Experiment - MadMinute Games 62

Posted by Hemos
from the make-it-all-come-together dept.
baby arm writes "MadMinute Games' Norb Timpko has contributed the first installment in a series on independent game developers. He describes the balancing act required to get a game like Take Command: 2nd Manassas out the door while still having families and day jobs."
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Our Indie Experiment - MadMinute Games

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  • by SIInudeity (822415) on Monday May 29, 2006 @10:24AM (#15424493)
    Power to the indies. I myself, have been hobby-coding games since I was in Primary school. Power to these guys, who code games for the love of it, not the money.
    • "Power to these guys, who code games for the love of it, not the money."

      That's not strictly true as the article says that Mad Minute Games was able to pay both men involved a salary while using volunteers for a lot of the work (didn't Ultima Online get into a lot of trouble for using volunteers?). I suspect they wouldn't be doing it if they weren't getting a return. But yeah, more power to the indies.

  • by IntelliAdmin (941633) * on Monday May 29, 2006 @10:29AM (#15424505) Homepage
    I have total respect for any Indy game developer. It is a very tough business to get into. It is so saturated with Hollywood types that are constantly taking a loss on $10 Million game projects. Building a game is such a gamble. Its not like a utility, or p2p app where you can gauge the interest in it - you never know until you release the game what type of response you will get. Sometimes these Indy guys work on a game for years, release it and get nothing back.

    Remote Admin Tools [intelliadmin.com]
    • We don't compete with the $10M projects. We're not after the same markets to begin with - there's a clear separation between hardcore and casual gamers. Casual gamers are way more interested in gameplay (although the production values have been rising over the years) so you can actually compete with a 2 or 3 person team. The key is to "fight" on your own rules, make the limitations work for you instead of against.

      You're right that it is a gamble though. Your game may be a hit or a total flop. However ther
      • You right that you are not in the same market - Now that I think about it, it really has no weight in the issue. Last year my 5 year old nephew came over for a month. I have zero games, and was not about to put out $50 for some game I would never play again. Found a very cool indy game that he and I played for weeks - only cost me $14.95. It was a typical 2D shootm up (Kinda like the games you would see in the old days on the Atari 2600, or Commodor 64), and it was a really fun time.

        Remote Admin Tools [intelliadmin.com]
      • We don't compete with the $10M projects.

        I think that we do compete with the $10M projects, and very directly so. After all, we produce "entertainment," so we're already in competition with movies, restaurants, and fun gadgets for consumers' money. The potential customer doesn't separate indie games out from the AAA titles as much as we'd like. Their money is (presumably) finite, so their purchase of one game means that they're less likely to purchase another, regardless of who created it.

        We're not afte
        • The parent post is right. Indie games often do compete with other games, at least in the mind of the consumer. You may not create your little war game to compete with other war games on the market, but you can be sure that the war game fanatic is going to be comparing your game to every other game he has seen.

          The trick is to have a unique selling point that draws people. For a "casual" game, that usually means having a more streamlined experience and a lower price point. If a person can jump into a game
  • by crimguy (563504) on Monday May 29, 2006 @10:31AM (#15424507) Homepage
    Good article, and I'm glad MMG is getting some press. Take Command 2nd Manassas is a great game, and a terrific achievement for a 2-man development team. If you haven't bought it, give the demo a try - I guarantee you'll be impressed. It has my vote for wargame of the year (in my make-believe gaming awards in my head)

    And no, I do not work for the company. I hadn't heard of them until about a month ago.
  • Reading TFA, it seems that s/computer games/paintings and from the MO you have pretty much any bohemian artistic operation (minus the volunteers).

    A philosophy I agree with, and sounds like a fun way to do things. Especially if you like to be your own boss.
  • I suck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday May 29, 2006 @10:51AM (#15424563)
    If I say that in their low res demo movies it's obvious that the avatars use pretty low res billboard textures will make me suck won't it :P

    I'll get modded down, I'll get replies asking "if I don't have better games, I better shut my mouth" or how bashing is nor productive and how many work went into this game.

    But this is why the gaming industry is so tough nowadays. While all developers are small teams of talented boys and girls fascinated with technology, big budgets quickly up the ante and spoil it for everyone.

    Indie games have to differentiate and separate themselves from the general games market and stress on different values, like gameplay, originality and fun (is Wii the Indie dev dream console?).

    If they fight within the big market, too many people will stare at the low res textures on the avatars and sigh.
    • Re:I suck (Score:3, Informative)

      by crimguy (563504)
      If it's any consolation, the game has hi-res sprites as well. The demo is limited to the low resolution sprites. It's not 3D, but for the genre it's pretty good.
    • Re:I suck (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AnyoneEB (574727)

      (is Wii the Indie dev dream console?)

      I believe that is in Nintendo's plan. I hear the dev kit is $2000 (although it may be difficult to get one right now). Obviously, that is more than it costs to get started on PC ($0; assuming you already have the hardware in both cases), but it is cheaper than most consoles. Nintendo is offering easy XBox Live Arcade-style distribution of games via their Virtual Console feature. Actually, on that topic, how has XBLA been for indie developers?

    • I'm guessing that they're using sprites because they were concerned about drawing large numbers of soldiers in full 3D. Doing it all in 3D would take lots of lots of polygons, and would require a high-powered graphics card to run decently.
  • HELLO US EDUCATORS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RealBeanDip (26604) on Monday May 29, 2006 @10:54AM (#15424571)
    From TFW:

    I bombed vectors when I first took it at the Naval Academy, then I bombed it again when I took it at Penn State. Neither time did I care enough to really apply myself to learn. But when I realized that I had to learn vectors to make the little soldiers move realistically, I applied myself and mastered them. I wrote some C++ classes and immediately forgot them again, but the point is that when I finally had a real goal and application I was able to finally learn something that had eluded me twice before. I just took a little motivation.

    Please read and re-read that. It is this kind of motivation that is missing in a GOOD CHUNK of our K-12 education and I think it has a A LOT to do with why a lot of kids are not interested in "core" courses.

    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Please read and re-read that. It is this kind of motivation that is missing in a GOOD CHUNK of our K-12 education and I think it has a A LOT to do with why a lot of kids are not interested in "core" courses.

      Same here. But better give it up, educators world-wide believe you gotta stuff "knowledge" in the kids head against their will, or they will turn into little vegetables.

      A lot of the stuff you learn in school isn't even useful, a lot isn't useful for the particular student (for example vectors are a must
      • by DeadChobi (740395)
        Anything that makes a student think critically about how to solve problems is good for them and directly applicable in the real world. Science and Mathematics may not be directly useful, but the critical thinking and problem solving skills make them an asset. You may not realise this, but after you finish Calculus you will have studied a new method for looking at and breaking down the world. This is completely independant of and yet built on geometry and algebra.

        And when you're writing music, you still have
        • by suv4x4 (956391)
          Anything that makes a student think critically about how to solve problems is good for them and directly applicable in the real world. Science and Mathematics may not be directly useful, but the critical thinking and problem solving skills make them an asset. You may not realise this, but after you finish Calculus you will have studied a new method for looking at and breaking down the world. This is completely independant of and yet built on geometry and algebra.

          This is the regular excuse, but it doesn't re
          • There were several items of disputable value in your post, but I will try to stick to ones easily proved false.

            This is the regular excuse, but it doesn't really work this way. Students aren't thought to apply critical thinking. They are thought to learn facts and formulas by heart, and to fit a specific mold the educational material has created.

            I will assume you meant to say taught instead of thought and reply that it depends on the _teacher_.

            It's not a coincidence that some of the greatest mathematician

            • Again, it depends on the teacher. If your "mold" includes things like "Question everything", your stated limitation does not apply.

              Open the student's books or the program voted by the appropriate institutions for the education framework. Does it have stuff like "question everything"?
              Unless you plant a clones of that idealistic sample of a teacher in every school, this pathetic thought is just that: a pathetic thought.

              What's described in the documents is just a set of facts and sphere's of science and knowle
        • One more point:

          Oh, except for science curicula where memorizing physical laws and their names are very important to learning the language.

          That's the problem. You don't give someone a list of laws and says "they're useful, learn them". That doesn't work, it's wrong, and encourages the wrong idea on students.

          Instead give them a nicely layed out booklet or a page with the formulas, explain how they work, and ask them, using this booklet to solve problems.

          The learning of the laws by heart will come naturally as
          • by suv4x4 (956391)
            Thing about it.

            Aaand... ignore the typo/s/ (not a native speaker) :)
          • I learned geometry that way. We were given the axioms and a couple of theorems then i worked out the rest on my own.
          • > Instead give them a nicely layed out booklet or a page with the formulas, explain how they work, and ask them, using this booklet to solve problems.

            wow. that sounds exactly like the regents (NYS standardized public school test)
            • wow. that sounds exactly like the regents (NYS standardized public school test)

              Good for NYS. I keep fooling myself that other stuff than NYS or even USA exists, but that could be just my imagination.
      • Your argument is flawed, because the broad base of knowledge that you get in school IS useful in almost every field imaginable. In fact, even the example you give is incorrect.

        for example vectors are a must for 3D graphics, but quite not for a music composer

        Vectors aren't used in Rock and Roll, perhaps, but if a student actually spends a few semesters studying music theory, and post-tonal theory, they will discover that mathematical concepts such as vectors are commonplace. In post-tonal theory, Inter

        • Vectors aren't used in Rock and Roll, perhaps, but if a student actually spends a few semesters studying music theory, and post-tonal theory, they will discover that mathematical concepts such as vectors are commonplace. In post-tonal theory, Interval Vectors are used as representations of clusters of tones.

          I'll be rude, if you're easily offended please don't read any further.

          FOR FUCK'S SAKE DON'T TURN THE LAST REMNANTS OF WHAT IS ART LEFT, INTO FUCKING SCIENCE.

          I think the brain of a great composer does a l
    • Most elementary, junior high, and high school teachers in America are government employees. That's bad enough. To make matters worse, they're given a checklist of things they must teach (and answers that students must regurgitate) in order to continue being employed.

      Now, I don't have high expectations for civil servants in general, but I can't escape the conclusion that teachers are set up to fail. The ones I know work far more hours than any of their governmental supervisors. Given that the vast majori
      • Perhaps what we'll see in the future is a more entreprenurial version of way the military operates. Employers could foot the bill for training employees in skills that matter for their specific jobs. In exchange, employees would sign 2, 4, or 6-year contracts for long hours in low-paying jobs during which they can be fired but can't quit.

        So basically, you want to bring back serfdom [wikipedia.org], with the difference that instead of being tied to a patch of land you'd be tied to a corporation. And, of course, the empl

        • Honestly, I think unions and tenure are two of the big reasons why America's educational system is steadily deteriorating.

          In California, a large part of educational spending goes to the teacher's union, and to the cost of negotiating with the union, rather than to the teachers themselves or to the cost of books and supplies.

          Tenure, meanwhile, promotes freedom of expression and thought at the expense of the freedom to hire and fire teachers based on performance. One major lesson being learned by students to
      • Employers could foot the bill for training employees in skills that matter for their specific jobs. In exchange, employees would sign 2, 4, or 6-year contracts for long hours in low-paying jobs during which they can be fired but can't quit.

        What you're describing isn't something new; it's called indentured servitude [wikipedia.org] and it was a common form of employment in colonial North America. As we've become more attentive to the rights of the laborer, this and other forms of slavery (and being legally bound to a c

        • Perhaps I should have worded it as "...2, 4, or 6-year contracts at prenegotiated salaries during which they can't quit without repaying the cost of the education they've received."

          Frankly, without my initial, cynical wording, it really wouldn't be indentured servitude, at least not in the very-nearly-slavery sense. Rather, it would be the exchange of labor for education, at the end of which the worker would have both training and experience, two things an entry-level worker would benefit from having.

          BTW,
    • He's BOMBING VECTORS in the NAVAL ACADEMY? Whatever did vectors do to him?
  • Why waste time? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why waste time playing games when you could be writing them, like this guy? How much time do you waste grinding in WoW, trying to increase some number in a database? You could spend that time doing something productive -- creating something.
    • So that other people can be increasing the numbers in the database of your game?
    • by creepynut (933825)
      And who would play the games?
    • Re:Why waste time? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Aladrin (926209) on Monday May 29, 2006 @01:06PM (#15425041)
      Maybe because some people prefer the tedium of MMO grinding to the tedium to MMO writing.

      I've wanted to write my own game for YEARS. But that dream is only a dream. I like the planning, I like the thought of having my own game and doing what I want with it, but the reality isn't nearly so rosy.

      As soon as your project gains even a little fan-base, you've suddenly got a group of people telling you:

      A) Your game sucks because it's not (insert reason/other-game-name)
      B) Your game needs to do this. Yesterday.
      C) They hate you because you don't listen to them on YOUR game.
      D) Everything is peachy and wonderful and they have nothing to say, really, except they want to waste your time and if you don't respond, they turn into C.

      This is, of course, assuming you work alone. If you work FOR someone, or WITH someone, you've gained at least half a boss.

      Life in game-dev land is NOT ALL ROSES.

      Add in the fact that the average career of a game dev is 5 years and you've got a recipe for disaster.

      More power to the game devs that make all the games I love playing, but I no longer want to be one of them. I'd much rather pay whatever I have to and just have FUN playing them games. Ultimately, they come up with more ideas that my single brain could ever create anyhow.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Maybe because some people prefer the tedium of MMO grinding to the tedium to MMO writing.

        No need to write an MMO game, or even write a game at all. It just makes me angry and sad to think of all the effort that is being wasted trying to get the +5 Sword of Futility or the +11 Shield of Pointlessness by people who are surely smart enough to do something useful with the time.

        It is often argued that MMO games are little different to other forms of entertainment. Perhaps time spent playing WoW would otherwise

    • Re:Why waste time? (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why waste time playing games when you could be writing them, like this guy? How much time do you waste grinding in WoW, trying to increase some number in a database? You could spend that time doing something productive -- creating something.

      Pfft. I spend all day long doing something productive at work - writing code, fixing PCs, toubleshooting network issues, talking with clients... When I finally get home in the evening I've got more productive stuff to do - clean the house, mow the lawn, feed the pets

  • i downloaded and played the demo, it is definately a fun game. i really love commanding columns of troop brigades and marching them into enemy flanks, and rushing them with the CHARGE! command.

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