Indie Haven June Developer Roundtable – How has the Minecraft “Rags to Riches” Narrative affected Indie Development? Laura Kate June 29, 2013 Features We at Indie Haven like to get you as close as possible to the games you love, and the people making them. That’s why every month we aim to bring together a wide selection of of Indie Developers from all walks of life, from BAFTA winners to teenage and student devs, to discuss the hottest issues affecting games, development, coverage and the Indie community. These chats will be broken up into chunks and released across the month, before we start all over again with new developers and new questions. This month we welcome a brand new group of developers to the Roundtable. We’ve got Anna Marsh (Developer at Lady Shotgun games, developers of Buddha Finger), Simon Roth (Developer of the huge Kickstarter success Maia), Ashley Ross (lead developer at OmNomCom and creator of the upcoming game Girl With a Laser Cannon), Gordon Midwood (Creative force behind the brilliant Derrick the Deathfin) and Andrew Roper (Recent University graduate working on the game Lazarus). Holly Keenan (Half of the husband and wife team behind A Virus Named Tom) also joins us toward the end of the Roundtable. If you’re an Indie Dev of any size that would like to take part in a future roundtable, please email Laurak@IndieHaven.com and let us know a little about yourself. The more the merrier. “What long term affect do you think the rags to riches narrative of Notch and Minecraft will have on indie development?” Ashley Ross: It inspires people to make games, which is good. It also inspires people to make games, which is bad 😛 Anna Marsh: I think most sensible people realise that this is not the usual outcome. Simon Roth: I think it’s made a lot of people forget about the value of patience and hard work over a long period of time. Andy Esser: I’m hoping that it’s encouraged a large number of younger people to take the idea of Game Development seriously and pursue such subjects at school and university. Ashley Ross: I think it really made the whole Indie-scene more popular, with Notch tweeting out links to the likes of humble bundles etc. Andy Esser: However, there are cases where it seems to have brought a certain “entitlement” to some people. Thinking that just because they’ve published a game, they should have £££. Ashley Ross: He even mentioned himself, he has the sole ability to tweet a link and basically guarantee success for that person, even if just for a short time. Gordon Midwood: I think it’s a positive development, but the exception rather than the rule obviously. Andrew Roper: It can show that the success of a few is doable, and doable on big scales. But what a lot of people won’t see is the amount of time that went into it to make it the success. Sure, it’ll hopefully inspire a lot of people to get into game development and take it seriously, but hopefully to not make a Minecraft clone. Is Angry Birds the Minecraft of Mobile? Anna Marsh: Do you think it’s been more influential than something like Angry Birds? Naive Mobile devs assuming that mobile leads to riches? Sorry, I’m meant to be answering the questions here. Ashley Ross: I think it opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the true development of a game as well, as if you entered it quite early on, you can see how it went from a barely-running buggy mess to the fairly polished game it is now. Andy Esser: @Anna There’s a story behind Mojang and Minecraft, but people are much more familiar with the story that it’s ‘one’ man that created it. Angry Birds is just a franchise that people know of that made a huge success behind some faceless company. Andrew Roper: I think Minecraft is the Angry birds of PC, if you think about it. When angry birds came about, lots of people tried to ride on it’s success and it inspired mobile devs. Minecraft is the same for PC in essence. Gordon Midwood: Angry Birds was Rovio’s 30th game or something. Ashley Ross: That’s a good point Andrew. Gordon Midwood: So you still need to put in many years of hard work. Ashley Ross: Minecraft was Notch’s 10th game or something. Andy Esser: @gordon Minecraft was Notch’s 50th or something. Ashley Ross: Not counting his experience at King.com Gordon Midwood: There you go, the story that the media hates to tell about success. It’s hard work and practice. Anna Marsh: I think Minecraft – and Angry Birds for that matter – bringing games to wide audiences in general is a good thing. It’s not just controlled by the huge brands (although they are now, huge brands). Gordon Midwood: “6 year old bedroom coder becomes millionaire overnight” is a much better story. Did the Press paint an unfair story of over night success with Minecraft? Simon Roth: Yup. Although that perception is entirely the press’ fault, so can be undone with a few more diligent journos. Anna Marsh: Do think the “rags to riches” narrative is unrealistic though. Gordon is right, its more titillating to read that than the truth. Gordon Midwood: Also, when someone is successful (Google, Notch, whatever), a direct causal line is drawn to that success in the media as if it’s inevitable. A sequence of well judged decisions that led to glory. Laura Kate: What do you guys think, is that something you’d like to see Indie Haven try to avoid perpetuating? Andy Esser: Success without the media is next to impossible in this day & age and industry. Anna Marsh: Yes – tell it like it is. Simon’s story about 16 hour days doing kickstarter is a great example of stuff you do as a developer you never knew developers did! Laura Kate: Do any of the rest of you have stories like that you’d like our readers to know? Gordon Midwood: I do, but with the success part missing at the end, that’s coming soon. Ashley Ross: Ditto! Anna Marsh: Well a really big part of my day right now is dealing with financial stuff. We’re looking for investors and talking to people about that, but it burns up so much time. You have to kiss a lot of bloody frogs to find the right deal and so many of the frogs consist of writing email after email that never gets replied to. But then something great happens that makes it all worthwhile! Ashley Ross: It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Think of the worst case scenario, I’d say you’re lucky to hit that. I’d still say go for it, it’s the best feeling in the world to make any form of success. Be it your first £1 or your 1 millionth download. Gordon Midwood: Yes its still the best time ever to be a small game maker so it’s all good. Anna Marsh: Not a bunch of big bucks yet but you know, trips to GDC & BAFTAs, lots of fun hanging out with other devs, getting quoted in the Guardian (my mum is so proud). Andy Esser: When I had a product on sale I had to phone my dad up every day with daily sales figs. He has zero interest in what the thing actually was, but it was nice for him to take an interest in me 😛 And with that we end another segment of Indie Dev Roundtable here at Indie Haven. Next time we welcome a new group of Indie developers to discuss E3, EToo and related topics for a whole month. What do you think? Has Minecraft encouraged a new age of Indie Development? Has the press painted a false picture of overnight success Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @Indie_Haven.