A recent conversation with a fellow indie about their first game, and it’s (relatively) low sales led me to think about how best a small games company should break out of a ‘cheap games and low sales’ rut.
GSB took way more effort to make than any of my earlier games. It was a bit of a big gamble for me, but it paid off. I don’t have exact figures to hand, but I’m pretty sure that the return-on-investment per hour of dev time for GSB is higher than for my earlier games. That makes me think if this might generally be a good rule to follow.
It’s easy to get stuck into an assumption that there is simple linear mapping between effort and reward, but I’m pretty sure that’s not true in game development. Very big smart companies don’t seem that keen to work on lots of small projects. Call of Duty X is always a huge stupidly expensive project, and the profits from it are always staggering. Nobody ever thinks ‘hey maybe spending >$30,000,000 on a game is a bit crazy, why not do two $15,000,000 games?’. I suspect that is because the profit on the one 30mill game is bigger than the profit on two 15mill games.
So for indies, I’m wondering if we should take a leaf out of valves book. Team Fortress 2 took 7 years to make. Half life 2 cost a fortune (at the time) but then sold 12 million copies. Maybe indies should be spending more in time, money and effort and taking much bigger risks in scope if they want to make a decent return.
GTB will definitely have higher production values than GSB. I thought GSB seemed pretty good, but some bits could have been better. I’m aiming for more polish, and a more impressive initial release. If that means it takes an extra 3-6 months, then I’ll do it, but I still hope to release in 2011, if I knuckle down to it :D