'Team Bondi had it easy' - Joe Danger dev voices the indie plight

Develop 2011: Hello Games' Sean Murray opens up on the challenges of working for oneself, 60-hour working weeks, and why the world needs independent developers.

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Who was there: Sean Murray, managing director of Hello Games, the self-proclaimed "tiny little indie studio" in Guildford that produced last year's PSN stunt racer Joe Danger.

What was said: Speaking about "The Five Taboos of Indie Game Development," Murray attempted to shed some light on the reality of indie game development as opposed to the fantasy.

Making Joe Danger was a lot of hard work.

Murray started off by pointing out that the glamorisation of indie development actually makes succeeding harder. While there are plenty of success stories that make indie development seem attractive, they don't prepare you for the reality as the failures simply go unreported, said Murray. It also means many startups, including Hello Games, have unrealistic time scales for development.

The reality of indie development is typified by guilt and lots of hard work. This is reflected by 60-hour--or longer--weeks. "Team Bondi had it easy," Murray said, quoting a response to a small survey he ran of indie developers. However, he admitted that the circumstances indie developers found themselves in were probably better. The motivation from knowing that funds are limited and that you're working for yourself makes things easier--being locked into a cycle like that for your own game can allow you to be more creative, and the sheer focus often leads to the best new ideas.

Talking about the joy of creating things for oneself, Murray said that "the reality of eating ice cream every day for every meal would probably be similar," meaning that it seems like a great idea, but it gets old very quickly. The reality of development can also hit hard; it's not all sitting in coffee shops writing code, or lounging in the garden creating artwork. "You can't go through [the certification process for PSN] in your garden, on your laptop, without a shirt on," he said, offering one of several examples of situations where reality will really hit home.

Despite this, the innovation from indie studies is essential to the games market, Murray said. The Electronic Entertainment Expo's main presentations this year contained "a lot of gimmickry," he explained, suggesting that new genres and innovative games were much more important than the rush towards 3D and motion control systems. There were new and interesting things being presented, but only by the smaller studios who were struggling to be heard.

Takeaway: Those who start up their own studios to make a game are going to find the experience vastly different from their expectations. But it's not just worth the effort; it's essential for the future of the industry as a whole.

Quote: "Apart from the first week, no one is ever happy ever again." Murray's view on the happiness cycle of indie development.

Discussion

19 comments
violentmonkey
violentmonkey

I really wish there were more developers out there talking about the truths of game development. It would save a lot of time and frustration for people who have this false idea of game development.

theKSMM
theKSMM

I think it's great that somebody is trying to dispel some myths about game development. I can only imagine the number of people who go into the process with rose-colored glasses on. If that doesn't interest you because you only play games, that doesn't mean his words are any less true.

Marsh87
Marsh87

Any interesting question we should now pose is How can Art or something fun be created under these conditions? However in hindsight I really applaud these indie developers in overcomeing such struggles.

Stressthesky
Stressthesky

I like my games on the hard difficulty. But Joe Danger could have benefitted from being just a tad more casual. That is one of the few games where I've been on the verge of snapping my controller in half.

cachinscythe
cachinscythe

Oh brother. You know, I was with this guy pretty much up till the end when he said mentioned that new genres and innovative games were much more important than the "gimmickry" of motion controls and 3D. To be fair, I understand thinking 3D is silly, but motion controls are in their infancy. They will improve over time. And furthermore, virtually anyone who I listen to saying there need to be more innovative games and new genres is unable to give me a SINGLE new genre idea or innovative game idea. I'm so sick of listening to people complain about the industry not providing something they can't even define in the first place.

WllDan7
WllDan7

So this article is saying it is hard to make games. Duh. If it is not hard work being put in, all you get in the end is something awful.

Spahettificator
Spahettificator

Also just noticed that the racer is in 3nd position in the image :D Looks like you missed a bit of code there Sean :)

MuffintopX
MuffintopX

It sounds like it was not what he was expecting. Maybe if Joe Danger was as big as Limbo or something he would change his tune.

WDHellS
WDHellS

1.Its very fun to do when on the art process,and testing. 2.It is hard when on updates behind all the already and better full 3d contents and big logo games.as also the society. 3.Focus is the key,knowledge can help as to do it like automatic, while focusing to learn and structure better the ideas.Art becomes harder to focus. 4.Basically everyone else are dumb and doesn't even know what are you talking about.Society priorities looks silly and stupid to charge things from you to do as they do. 5.You understand the activities of everyones,as they pay for everything that is free. To realize you are working full time at the fun time and no perspective of social money activity. As the expensive friendships likes to pay for every word. 6.Finally your production ideas will be available,and looks like now you only win the traitorship games on you. Then you are a game developer like it or not but the space out there getting smaller full of others business products taking your space. 7.Your creations are part of the development,the others to like it or not.

Spahettificator
Spahettificator

@Phil-teh-Pirate I think it's both. @pszone I'm sorry but what are you talking about? I don't recall The Getaway being mentioned in the article. All he said was that Indie developers end up working longer hours than Team Bondi did whilst working on LA Noire, a view which his little survey apparently supports. Oh, by the way, Team Bondi didn't make The Getaway games. That was Team Soho. The head of Team Bondi was a part of Team Soho when they made the first game (director and writer) but left before they did the second one. I think the guy is being honest here. It's not all fun and frolics, there's stress and sleep deprivation too :)

theshonen8899
theshonen8899

This is the most depressing article I've had to read for a while now.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

Well... isn't HE a bundle of joy and happiness.

Nodashi
Nodashi

@snes08 It's in the human nature. Give someone attention and publicity and they'll start behaving as cretins. That said, creative jobs are the worst. Probably because creativity is not measureable by standard means, usually creators are bound into role-playing themselves so they look cool and have a certain "aura" so they can talk executives into paying them well (or buying their projects). It's pretty much the same with the advertisement industry.

pszone
pszone

Hello Games are lieing. Team Bandi did the gataway games 1 and 2 for ps2 excllsive. Then was Gataway 3 what was cancelled because sony from euope cancelled the game. Then Rockstar Games pick them up and did LA Niore was going to be ps3 exclslive but took too long over 5 years so they decide reasle for xbox360 as well. So Hello games was only hired to do psn games at the moment so why your tell me Team Bandi had it easy. Hello games just started.

snes08
snes08

It didn't take long for this industry to become pretentious.

Phil-teh-Pirate
Phil-teh-Pirate

Shaun Murray - a very smart man. Working independently is potentially the best or the hardest thing you can ever do.