Storage Informer
Storage Informer

Trent Polack from Starkdock

by on May.27, 2009, under Storage

Guest Post: Trent Polack from Starkdock

Hello All!

Today&aposs post comes from Trent Polack, an game developer extraordinaire (and indie game developer) at Stardock. See his blog here: http://www.polycat.net/
Enjoy!

Bite-sized pieces: My life as a game developer

Being an independent game developer is kind of a strange existence in the game industry. It&aposs a nebulous identity that, by itself, indicates nothing. Does an independent game developer live in his/her parents&apos basement and crank away on an old computer in between any spare moments? Is he a self-taught and motivated individual who had a great idea that had to be put into a game? Is he a professional game developer who wants to work outside the confines of professional work to make a neat if impractical design a reality?

An independent game developer is anyone who has an idea for a game and the motivation to follow through with that vision. How does a game like Flashbang Studios&apos Minotaur China Shop come about? Or a game like Jason Rohrer&aposs Passage? Jonathan Mak&aposs Everyday Shooter? 

Ideas come from everywhere. More importantly, ideas can be from anywhere and they can take any form. Play to your strengths and your interests. If you&aposre interested in politics and you&aposre watching television and see a news piece on torture and it makes you angry, that politically-charged statement and strength of emotion can be put into a game. If you&aposre interested in sociology or psychology, tap into something specific that fascinates you. If you just like enormous, constant blood and explosions, make a game solely about making things explode into fire, smoke, and gore. Much like authors deliver messages through books and screenplays, so too can game developers do with games. Take advantage of the interactivity inherent to the video gaming medium and deliver your message in ways that books, music, and movies can&apost; allow players to explore and feel your message through the systems and mechanics that govern your game. In Jason Rohrer&aposs Passage, the passage of time and the age of the game&aposs characters is built into the fundamental advancement of the game simulation and, as a result, the game&aposs most potent emotion is that of maturation, aging, love, exploration, and loneliness — all of which comes through with a player&aposs interactions with the game.

One thing to keep in mind is that in the scope of the independent game development scene, the more focused an idea, the better. The fervor and emotion with which indie game developers work is unmatched, but sheer will alone can&apost compete with the AAA budgets of games like Gears of War 2 or Far Cry 2. Understand and embrace your idea and design, but also understand that when it comes to making games, nothing is ever as easy and simple as it seems. The size of the development team for a game like Killzone 2 was upwards of 190 employees in the later phases of its development. Most independent game development teams have a handful of people at the most, so the expectations and scope of a project should adjust as such. This seems like common sense, but it&aposs something a lot of first projects fall prey to.

A lot of independent game developers are independent because, well, in most cases it just doesn&apost pay the bills. I&aposm a game developer by trade but that doesn&apost mean that people at work would be all too thrilled if I loaded up my indie projects and worked on those all day. So, in order for people to be able to work on their projects while still developing indie project, spare minutes in a day have to be thought of as time to work on a game. It&aposs easy to say "I don&apost have the time" to work on something, but that&aposs just silly.

A few minutes before I started writing this article, I closed down a twenty-minute long session with Unity3D putting just a few minutes worth of work on a game idea I had a couple of months ago. My "office" for this work session is a couch in the living room of my parents&apos house in the middle of a visit for Mother&aposs Day. Everyone went to bed a half-hour ago after watching Frost/Nixon, there is a rodent stuck in the ceiling between the ground floor and the second floor of our house that fusses about every three-four minutes, and I have no wireless internet connection. And in the last twenty minutes I implemented a prototype "life bar" and AI for one of my game&aposs more simplistic enemies. And, one time while I was getting the tires on my car rotated, I re-implemented the user controls of the game in the lobby of a tire store.

This is the kind of mentality that independent game developers thrive on. These are the thoughts, conditions, and ideologies that embody independent game development. In the end, it&aposs about the individual pursuit of exciting, unique, and innovative game designs at any spare minutes that crop up over the course of everyday occurrences. A game doesn&apost need to be spectacular in every facet, but one good idea executed well is worth the sometimes massive amount of work that independent game developers put into their labors of love. And, in the end, that is sort of the collective creed of the indie game scene: Love of the game.

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