Indie Developement: Thoughts on the delay

As you know, I am the webmaster of pzguides. It may not be apparent to some of you, but I am an avid gamer. I love gaming, I have played games all my life, starting with an old atari and moving my way up as technology improved. My steam game list has over 130 games on it. That’s a lot of money. I spend at least 7 hours a week gaming, and often many more than that. Why am I telling you this? So you will have an idea of where I come from when I talk about the new Indie way of developing games.


It took me a long time to actually get around to trying Minecraft. When I did I bought it almost immediately. Why did I buy the game? Was it because I could see that it was going to get much better? No. It was because it looked fun. It looked like a game I wanted to play. Do I feel like I’ve gotten my 15 Euro’s worth? Yes. Definitely yes.


There is a growing movement in the independent gaming industry where people pay small amounts for a game and then get continued access to it during development. Pre-ordering a game is nothing new. Check in at your local game store or on Steam, you can buy games many months before they come out, or longer in some cases. They often give you incentives such as special in-game content or other games or access to the beta. With the new indie way, you get to play NOW. You don’t have to wait for the final release, you play as the game grows.


Many people are criticizing this new method, especially in recent months due to the lack of updates of Project Zomboid. I can understand that people are upset and feel they have paid for nothing, but I can’t see that as being true. Now, I’m not going to be naive enough to think that all people have gotten the same level of enjoyment out of PZ that I have, but I’m sure that everyone who paid for the game did so because they want to play the finish product some day.


There has been a lot of talk about this new model of development, specifically if it is good for games or not. The cynical side’s belief is that once the game has been paid for the developers are done, they can walk away from the game and leave it in a permanent “work in progress” state. That would be true, if all the developers cared about was making a quick buck. I think the estimates of PZ sales were something in the range of 130 000 Euros, which is a huge amount of money in a fairly short time, even given the huge costs of living in London (just under 10k euros a year for housing, and that doesn’t include food or transportation.) As a business mode it simply wouldn’t work: they would run out of funds in a year or two.


But for most Indie Devs, and I know it is especially true of The Indie Stone, it is not about the money. For those working on Project Zomboid it is a labour of love. They want to make this game. They want to play it as much as we do, maybe even more. The Indie Stone was working hard on this game, so hard that they barely had food to eat at one point. Are they still in that predicament? No. Are they still as dedicated to the game? Yes. Double yes. Watch any of the interviews with any of the devs and you can hear the dedication in their voice.


Which brings me to my next point: would it be possible without the new indie development model? My money says no it wouldn’t have been. I have a friend who works for a large company, he has a few good ideas for side projects that he’d really like to do. A couple of really interesting game ideas, but he has no time to work on it. The thing is my friend also likes to eat and to have a roof over his head, and those things aren’t free, so he has to continue his job and is left with very little time for himself, and not enough to get started on his neat ideas. Yes, The Indie Stone is a company, and yes they would like to make money, but if they didn’t get the money they did from selling pre-orders then they would need other jobs. Sure, we wouldn’t have paid anything, but the game would probably never be finished either… it wouldn’t come close.


This model works. It has been proven to work with games like Minecraft and it will continue to work. The update has been confirmed to this week, and I expect there will be less delays between this one and the next. I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of PZ and Minecraft than I have from the blockbuster games. Sure, I spent 22 hours playing Bioshock 2… but I spent almost 36 hours playing Audiosurf. My time spent on Minecraft easily competes with any other game I own. Project Zomboid is just getting warmed up, but if this pre-alpha is of any indication, I’m gonna be losing many more hours to the Zombie Apocalypse.


I can’t wait for Sunday.