Back in 2006 I wrote an article detailing one of the biggest problems I saw with indie game development. Since then, I’ve seen a rise in another problem that I’ll outline today. This problem stems from the lack of communication within the indie game industry and I look for possible solutions.
Indie developers have trouble finding other like-minded indie developers to work with.
I talk with a lot of indie developers and they tend to fall into three main categories: programmers, designers and artist. Each of these groups has a hard time finding quality people from the other two groups. This is a major problem for indie game development as fewer games are being produced and talent is going to waste.
The main cause of this problem is a lack of communication between the groups. There is no reliable way for Programmer Pete to find Artist Andy or Designer Dave. Pete was in the games industry for 10 years before “going indie” but he knows few people. He kept to himself and while he is friends with a lot of other programmers he hasn’t kept in contact with many artists or designers. Andy has a lot of trouble finding programmers and designers he can work with. They are always so restrictive in what they let Andy achieve. Dave is full of great ideas but can’t find a good programmer who’s happy to implement his idea.
There are hundreds of Pete’s, Andy’s and Dave’s in the world, but few of them know or have a reliable way of finding each other.
Key Contention Points
In the rare occasions when developers from these individual groups do meet up, often they are incompatible. From my experience, the key points of contention fall into these main categories:
- Compensation – Working for free, profit share, an hour rate or a fixed amount. Where a developer is in their life will often drive their monetary needs. While Dave has 3 years of savings he’s happy to burn through, Pete needs a large paycheque to buy all his programming books and pizza.
- Game Type – Each developer has their favourite game type and many developers don’t like to stray too far from their comfort zone. Andy just wants to work on an FPS but Pete is an RTS fanatic while Dave has an idea for the greatest MMO of all time.
- Game Size – Projects range from days to years to develop. The level of investment needs to match each individual’s situation. While Pete might be happy to spend the next 3 years slowly plugging away at a game, Andy wants it down within the next month so he can get back to working on his comic book.
- Availability – The bills still need to be paid and the time dedicated to a “real job” directly affects how much time each developer can spend on the game. Pete is a contract programmer who has half his week spare to work on the game while Dave works at McDonald’s 50 hours a week to make ends meet.
One solution I’ve seen for this problem comes in the form of “help wanted” sections in popular websites such as gamedev.net and indiegamer.net. These sites allow teams to post their project and the skills they are after. Another solution is networking. Taking every opportunity to meet like minded game developers and talking to as many people as possible until like-minded people are found. Whether visiting an IGDA meeting, the GDC or the local game development educational institute.
I’ve often thought that a site dedicated to connecting indie developers would be beneficial. Teams or individual developers could post their projects with exactly what they are looking for. Developers can also post their skills so others can find them. A match making system could connect these two groups and reduce the uncertainty when looking for other developers. Do you think there’s a need for such a site, or does this site already exist and it’s not well known? Would this site be beneficial to your current situation or are you happy with the current solutions?
Is this a problem you face as an indie developer? Of all the indie developers I know, over half of them are facing this problem right now. Have you managed to solve this problem, and if so, how? How are you currently finding other developers to work with and how do you determine if you are compatible?