This month (well, 5 weeks) has been great example of why I love making games independently! Its started with jetting off to San Francisco for GDC, took in a trip to the BBC in Manchester, launched a Windows Phone game part way through and ended up being featured on Apple’s iTunes store as an “Incredible Indie Game“!
I’ve never been to GDC before, and the first thing that strikes me is how HUGE it is! Filling 3 buildings of the Moscone Centre, I’m sure I must’ve returned far fitter than I arrived due to walking several kilometers a day between the venues. I unfortunately missed out on many of the talks and sessions due to work but every session I did attend I learned something immensely useful. The cost of GDC (if you don’t wangle your way in on a Speaker’s Pass) is high, but it is a mine of knowlege and oppoturnities to meet up with other developers at all levels. I was particularly impressed by Warren Spector who after his session continued to chat to and take questions in the corridor outside the conference room for at least an hour after he officially finished.
I was part of the Developer Rant session, a popular part of the conference which gives developers a chance to get passionate about anything in the industry. I was talking about how damaging the mindset that developers must “eat sleep develop game” and do nothing else is to our creative juices, arguing that working efficiently and taking in expereinces outside of games are necessary to create great games.
You can read my rant here, and the other great rants of Mitu Khandaker on race, Anna Anthropy on diversity, Naomi Clark on games addressing issues, and see Chris Hecker’s wordless rant on marketing BS.
The video of us is also here in the GDC “Vault”, free of charge to watch. I am the second speaker.
The GDC experience is not only the conference itself but all the networking parties organised around it. The Wild Rumpus party was particularly noteworthy, managing to pack the joint out despite being possibly the only party of the whole event where you paid for entry and drinks. Which is testament to how fab Wild Rumpus nights are! This game where you lay down and “sang” into a microphone to control it (with Chipzel playing a banging set in the next room) is a good indicator of the kind of experience to expect!
I also attended the Unwinnable Game Salon where a bunch of indies showed off their games in a beautiful San Francisco mansion the Unwinnable team had rented. A great chance to meet developers and journalists, chill out, talk games and not have to shout over super loud music, perfect for the last night of GDC.
And of course special mention to Jennifer from Nyamyam games who was there showing their extremely beautiful game Tengami – we economised our tiny indie budgets by sharing an even tinier hotel room!
We were supposed to submit the Windows Phone build of Buddha Finger before GDC but life being what it is, I ended up spending a morning sitting in the lobby doing the submission process, frantically preparing screenshots!
One or two hiccups and an update later, we now have not only the Windows Phone version but also the Windows 8 version is live, and starting to get some good attention. We couldn’t have done it without the great team at Lemon Moose Games who helped out with the code for the ports, and the support we recieved from Microsoft’s Phone department. As well as lending us hardware we also had access to a fantastic technical evangelist who helped sort out all our bugs and issues, and marketing support which makes all the difference for small indie developers with practically zero marketing budget.
I can’t say too much to my trip to the BBC in Manchester just yet, but I can say it was an experience. Media City in Machester is well named, it pretty much is almost an entire city in itself with both the BBC and ITV having huge buildings there. Spending a day with makeup, audio and wardrobe people buzzing around you really makes you feel like a star for a short while, and although it was super nerve-wracking, its certainly something I’ll remember for a very long time.
I finished up writing an article on Touchscreen design for Pocket Gamer, finding out I’m going to be a Speaker at Develop conference in Brighton, and getting featured in Develop magazine, and all whilst doing some freelance jobs and writing up concepts for some projects in the pipeline. 5 weeks in my life as a traditional console dev would have consisted of 25 days going into an office, seeing the same people and working on the same thing every day. I am going to read this blog post whenever the downsides of the indie life are particularly frustrating and depressing, and remind myself of all the amazing upsides it contains!
Oh, and I learned how to make QR Codes