Games like Celeste, Super Meat Boy, Cup Head and Hollow Knight make the indie game scene look like complete fun and games. Have an idea? Just make a game and the millions come. Right? It couldn’t be farther from the truth. In actuality, the indie game scene is flooded with games that big publishers turned down- and for good reason. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a bevy of positives to being indie, especially if you’re developing a retro-styled game.
In this exclusive Old School Gamer Magazine list, we break down the pros and cons of being a Retro-Indie developer and why it definitely has a certain allure to a particular brand of developers.
Smaller Teams: Want to develop a game the way the classics were made? Then indie is the way to go. Lock yourself in a space for as many hours a day as you like and get to work. By yourself or with a tiny team compared to today’s standards, you can create a game. The counterpoint here is a scary one though. You’ll often work for free with the hopes the game sells.
Full Creative Freedom: With just your vision to guide you, you can create a world, characters, gameplay, all without suits, marketing and any other non-creative to bog you down. However, with that freedom, comes a price. Can you separate yourself from your vision and be objective enough to create something that sells?
The Retro Look Inspires Nostalgia: The NES Classic spawned a myriad of copycats and brought the retro movement back in full swing. That’s great news for someone who wants to create a game using the same tools as their childhood favorites. But how does that affect the development community?
Developers must understand that customers who pay for a plug and play console and those who download digital games are not one and the same. While the retro look is a great one and can result in a buy here and there, many younger gamers see it as a game their parents would play and will pass on. That’s why you must take your creations a step further and develop some type of story, gameplay mechanic or feature that makes you more than just fan service.
Opportunities Not Available Before: An AAA company may have passed on your idea, but once your game gets released, you’re on the same digital platforms as they are. Without a marketing budget however, you’ll have to use social media as much as possible and go on every podcast you can to spread the word. More often than not, this is just as much work as actually developing a game.
More Competition: Again, despite having even footing on digital platforms, there are more games available now than ever before. What are you doing to stand out? What makes your game truly special? These elements must be apparent almost immediately to get gamers intrigued. A killer trailer, sexy box art. A score than you whistle to- all of it has to be there. Otherwise, you’ll be a permanent 50-cent game on the Nintendo e-shop.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega-publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.