Lecture Date: Monday, November 27

What’s it mean to be “indie?”

The first thing we have to do is define exactly what we mean by “indie.” I suppose the technical definition comes from a game being “independently published,” as in there’s no official distribution company handling the publishing of your game. In the terms of this class, that’s probably the definition that matters. An indie game is one that you make yourself, promote yourself, and (effectively) sell yourself. Or perhaps a very small team of people (< 10 usually).

However, in the greater gaming culture, the term has taken on a slightly different meaning. People have often called Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons an “indie” game, but it was built by Starbreeze, who previously made the Riddick games among others, and published by 505. So, what makes a game “indie” in this case? The term has also taken on the same connotation as indie movies to a degree. Or perhaps “art house” is another way of thinking about it. Games that are non-traditional and usually take a relatively shorter amount of time to complete are often referred to as “indies.”

But like I said, for this class, the first definition is probably the important one. You have a game idea. You want to release it. How does that work?

Finishing A Game

There’s a fantastic blog article by Derek Yu, creater of Spelunky (an indie darling in its own right), called Finishing A Game. I won’t repeat everything that’s here – seriously, go read it on your own – but there are some things to pick out to discuss.

First and foremost, have an idea that you believe in and then iterate on it. Prototype. Play test. Revisit. All that good software development stuff we’ve talked about. It’s just good, honest, hard work! It will take several iterations to “get it right.” Don’t be afraid to cut or change based on feedback! But seriously, take what you learned in this course and JUST GO DO IT.

Now, self-motivation can always be tricky. Yu’s suggestion to use competitions, etc. as deadlines is a great idea. Look up when the game festivals are, when the indiecades of the world are taking place, and plan to have a build ready for then. Be ready to be rejected if it’s that type of festival, of course, but still JUST DO IT. You have to get the game out there, so do it!

Use tools that are available. That’s a great point. Don’t roll your own tech! If you get bogged down in a lot of the nitty-gritty, you’ll lose sight of what excited you about the project in the first place – the game! If the game runs and it can be played, then it’s a game and don’t stress the rest.

Tooting my own horn here a bit – don’t ignore what you learned in this class about design! Consider the mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics. Think about balancing. Look at the different AI options. All of that good stuff!


Getting the game out there can be tough. I’d love to talk here about marketting and all of that… but I’m terrible at that and really don’t know a ton. What we can talk about are the distribution platforms to consider.

Indie Game: The Movie

If you haven’t watched this yet, you need to. It follows the developers of Super Meat Boy and FEZ through the rather harrowing journey of getting their games out. There’s also some commentary from the creator of Braid. It’s absolutely worth watching and easy to get your hands on a copy (Netflix, Steam, iTunes, etc.).

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