Extra Credits: So You Want to be an Indie

This week, we offer some tips on how to be a successful indie game developer.

Episode video is on YouTube

Show Notes:

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Recent Comments:

  • Publishers will often buy your rights for far more if there's even the CHANCE of a conflict, so it's well worth the investment. I got a $15,000 payoff from Paramount for one of my novels just because the main character and her storyline was too similar to those in a screenplay they'd optioned. So, yeah - well worth the $35!
    There is also the 47 cent copyright - or what ever the USPS charges for a stamp these days...

    Mail yourself your work, and don't open the envelope. File it, and keep it on hand in case someone decides to steal your work. In the US, you are not required to file copyright for any work you create; you own the idea, under law, at the moment of it's inception. Filing for copyright exists as a means to prove when you created that idea, and that you created it, and a self addressed, post marked envelope accomplishes the same thing ;P

    Hate to break it to you but go read the US Copyright Office's General FAQ. They address exactly this kind of "poor man's copyright" and it's all but useless. Expressly you can not bring a suit for damages without registration, only for a cease and desist order at best.

    Also your language here is very inexact which is a massive problem when discussing law. Ideas are never protected by copyright, only the exact expression of them.

    Vlad's very much on the mark here. Circular 1 (pdf) specifically spells out the real facts about copyright. While it is technically true that "poor man's copyright" meets the criteria for fixed expression and more or less establishes when it was created, there's no public record that you created it. It's entirely possible that someone else could come up with the exact same thing without ever having seen (or heard of) yours and you wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

    Ideas aren't even worth the paper they're written on, and cannot be 'owned'. Even Magnavox's old patent on "the system of interaction between user-controlled representations and computer-controlled representations" (which essentially describes every video game ever made) was thrown out because it was ruled an idea. The specific manner in which such interaction occurs, however - as in the source code for a particular physics engine - is the fixed expression of that idea, which can be owned. Just like no one can claim copyright to the idea of a sword, yet the specific design of Andúril (as used in the Lord of the Rings movies) is copyrighted.

    Filing with the US Copyright Office creates a paper trail, providing you with full documentation - backed by the US government and reciprocated by most of the world - that it belongs to you! Such registration also covers legal fees in case of a challenge and awards statutory damages (in addition to actual damages) to the owner. The legal fees alone can easily break into six-figure territory, and statutory damages into the millions, which is why Paramount paid me $15,000 for my novel - it was a dirt-cheap way to avoid the cost and bad publicity of an infringement suit. (Truth be told, I'm actually glad to be rid of that novel. Some of the worst tripe I've ever written.)

  • I'm curious. The episode seems to look at this from the perspective of people coming out of college with their game dev degrees and plunging into the indie game dev thing full time.

    But what about the guy (clears throat) who has a steady job and is slowly learning the dev thing who then takes on indie game development as a side project? Does that ever work or do we just need to give up on that idea and try to find a way to get a loan or some money raised to work full time?

    Here's a Gamasutra article that tries to answer that question.

  • I'm here... get used to it!

    Indie developers, huh? I may want to take notes... maybe...

    I'm reminded of WayForward, and how they recently answered a few e-mails of mine... I didn't really think much of it, but yeah, there has to be people who can handle PR as well as get their game out there. After all, if people don't know that your game exists, it might not even exist... Word of mouth can only go so far...

    I like that image of Psy, because yeah, Gangnam Style was HUGE, but Psy had been working long before that... Just imagine, working all those years, then suddenly getting THAT popular! ...I wonder how many people still care about him now?

    Hell, hearing about the budget makes me think of all the Kickstarters out there, and how people think the money there is ridiculous for a game like that, not factoring in all the little details as well as unexpected crashes that happen during the project's development. I think a game's budge should have as much as possible, to cover any possible misstep that happens... But of course, money is finite, so you have to calculate just how much you expect to spend...

    Hearing about games being "misunderstood" reminds me of Jonathan Blow, and how people don't like him because he keeps trying to make us experience the game "the way we're supposed to". Eh, I dunno, I kind of feel that way, but at the same time, I can understand how he feels.

  • Well between the Touhou praise and the talk of copyright. I want to know how to get more advertisement for a game and how to get it out there. I've started an Indie project in my spare time and it is coming along, in my opinion, very well but I don't know how to get more attention or get it out there for people to play. I saw a what felt like a brief mention of steam and other sites but I'm still fairly inexperienced. If anyone is interested in trying my early demo you can come here: https://sites.google.com/site/undercombat/home or check out this forum for updates: http://extra-credits.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=5019&p=91621#p91621

    P.S. Sorry if someone else already answered this and I just happened to miss it. :?

  • I have to say, i was really happy to hear you tell your audience to get an attorney.

    I've been practicing law for eight years now, and I'm here to tell you that it's <i>far</i> cheaper to get a company set up to begin with than to wait.

    There's only 2 things your indie game is going to do. They are as follows:

    1. Succeed
    2. Fail

    If the game fails, then you're going out of business. If you have a pre-formed S corp or LLC (I prefer the S corp), then the company goes out of business and you go on with your life. If you don't, then the debt is on you, not the company, and you take the hit personally.

    If the game succeeds, there's now money coming in. The only problem is, noone knows who owns the game. Is it your company? Is it you? It it your buddy Bob, who now claims he did 60% of the work and should therefore get 60% of the profit? I've seen a sudden influx of cash just vaporize in a puff of legal filings when people aren't prepared for it with some articles of incorporation and some bylaws.

    I build "S" corps for a flat $400.00. Hell, if someone were to say Extra Credits sent them, I'd be all excited about it because I'd know they were interested in building a good game, and I'd shave a hundred bucks off that price. That $300.00 is compared to a base retainer of $4,000 for getting into a lawsuit over a failing company, or even more than that for a successful one.

    It is money well spent.

    Why an S corp over an LLC? I would think an LLC would be better since you have much more flexibility.

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