Last week we've spent two days at the first Central European Games Conference 2015, at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien. And to keep it as short and simple at possible: we've greatly enjoyed being there. We've especially enjoyed the high quality of speakers, interesting (and mostly bearded) attendees, the overall organization and of course the afterparties. #CEGC16 we are coming!
While we were talking to lots of attendees and showing them our Shooting Stars prototype we had several discussion about our way to develop this game. Not from a tech-related point of view but much more how our game-jam(-ish) approach works and whats the ideology behind all that. There, we realized that the definition of being an indie game developer creating indie games couldn't be more diverse. Especially when everybody claims to be indie. Which (obviously) led us to the question:
What the heck is indie?
If we trust Wikipedia being indie or being an indie game developer means nothing less than:
"Independent video games (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams generally without video game publisher financial support."
So, that basically means: If you decide to make a video game without a publisher you are an indie game developer.
End of story!
If we compare a title like This War of Mine with e.g. Binding of Isaac, both being indie games, you're able to see lots of differences like graphics, sound, gameplay, ... but in our case none of those differences matter. Because the thing you can't see is the biggest differentiator: the budget!
So, This War of Mine is kind of an AAA indie game but separating the indie scene into AAA games and "other" games seems pretty useless to us. Because, we believe that having 30+ people on your payroll, and according to 11bit studios Design Director, Michal Drozdowski, 14 people in the core-team just working on This War of Mine, you need a shitload of money to fund this. And to earn this pile of money you need to have investors or a valid and working business (in 11 bit studios case they are just doing a pretty good job creating games).
And to finally come to my point, I'm going to borrow a definition from the startup-world.
"A startup company or startup is a company, a partnership or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model." – Steve Blank
So, if you are able to pay for people other than the usual founders and maybe first employees you've probably left the startup/indie phase and are in a growth phase but much likely it's not a startup anymore – it's a company, a company with a clear and valid business case.
In our case, we have decided to be an indie studio. We want to keep our team small, and work on crazy and funny projects that seem ridiculous. There is no desperate wish to roll in money and to head straight to our IPO. But sure if things happen differently than planned we may leave the indie phase to become a "regular game studio" like 11 bit studios is today.
To sum things up
We believe that being indie is a phase (that you don't necessarily have to leave):
"An indie game developer or indie studio is a company, a partnership or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model." – Steve
Oh and by the way, we actually love what 11 bit studios are doing! Additionally they're creating jobs, (hopefully) pay taxes and of course they create pretty awesome games. So, this article is not supposed to be a rant, they are just a perfect example for the situation we're talking about.