There is a tension as an indie dev between these forces.
if I rely entirely on middleware and someone else’s engine (Unity + EZ-GUI + some sound stuff + whatever) I can be extremely productive. I don’t waste any time wondering about correct vertex buffer creation flags or optimising sprite rendering, i can just work on the game.
But then when there is a bug in EZ-GUI or a feature missing from Unity, I am totally screwed. Suddenly I’m coding what they support, not what I want to create.
Similarly in business, if I rely entirely on steam for my sales, I don’t waste any time worrying about website design, visitor numbers, bounce-rates, chargebacks or coupon/discount processing, no worries about web server stability, demo download speeds, CDNs and other fluff. I can just work on the game.
But then when steam turn down a game, say they don’t have a slot for a promotion, or change a royalty rate, or screw up a payment (this has NEVER happened to me with steam), then suddenly I am screwed. I become entirely financially dependent on another company, and in that case the term ‘indie’ becomes somewhat shaky.
It’s a constant war between which is more important, and the answer depends on your circumstances, your skills and your attitude, not to mention your free time and team size.
As a lone indie, obviously I have pursued the totally insane route of complete independence in all areas. Even energy independence. Ahahahaha!!! I code my own engine for GSB and GTB, and all my games. I use 3rd party sound libraries just because I frankly find sound coding dull, but everything else is pure me. It’s a big concession to even resort to using phpbb and wordpress, I can tell you…
But something has to give. I am possibly taking on too much and maybe not doing the best job of everything. I need to give way in some direction. Shockingly, and maybe surprisingly, I find myself thinking of giving way more on the business side than the technical side. The thought of abandoning direct sales is madness, but the thought of obsessing less about them, and spending less time on trying to eek out every last bit of direct sales profitability certainly appeals. It also appeals regarding PR. GTB *may* be the last game I handle my own PR for exclusively. (pls don’t email me offering to be my PR guy. The best PR people are already known to me, and frankly if you’re not, then you possibly aren’t that good… :D)
I think I need to spend more time on design, and less on code and less on business. The code side is slimmed back easily by just picking less insanely complex projects for a bit. I also need to spend more time actually relaxing and maybe even enjoying life. A close relative of mine is unwell, and it makes me realise how important it is to enjoy life while you can. I may even manage to sneak in a trip to a nice sunny beach soon.
The only *wrong* decision for me at this point would be to bumble along as I am. I think cracks are starting to show.