Let’s start with a little bang into 2014 – shall we?

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Kudos to Motohiro NEZU 

First of all – welcome to 2014! It’s been a while. Well i don’t know how you started your new year, but for me the new year started with high speed and that’s also a good thing. So basically i wanted to post about my experiences with the AppStore feedback from customers and how i tried to handle that but this post has to wait as yesterday i stumbled into a discussion about the games developer scene in germany.

It all started with an invite to a talk to which Johannes Roth (Mimimi Productions) will be attending. It has the title “Indies in Germany – top or flop?”. As some of you may know i often have a problem with the definition of what is indie and what not, but let’s go on. Little did he know that this posting would turn out to be a battlefield of different opinions and statements about the state of the games industry in germany (at the very moment we have 179 comments!).

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Let the stoning begin [moviegourmet.com]

Long story short – Someone says that 95% of the german games are crap. He mentions a game specifically. The guy that is responsible for that game sends him an email. The other guy posts on facebook that he recieved an email from the guy who made that “crappy” game – this guy answers in the comments – and so on. Welcome to the internet. I won’t get into much details – that is not what i want to talk about. I walt to talk about some facts that popped up in that discussion:

1.) The term “indie” and the “i / we am / are an indie developer”-effect

So according to the one that started that little brawl, 95% of german indie games are mediocre crap. He then names some of them. But seriously – none of this games i would call “indie games”. But, that’s only my own categorization. And exactly that’s the problem and why i hate the term “indie”. I call myself an indie developer, yes, but for what reason and why? I started Studio Fizbin together with friends in order to do what i love, games. We wanted to do games that we love and try to reach as many people as possible with it. With “The Inner World” we did a not-so-bad-job at this, but you can check that out for yourself. We signed a publisher that totally gave us the freedom to do basically whatever we wanted with our IP as long as we finished our game and provided him with a gold master. He never called and said stuff like “Well you have to change that in the game, because the market requires it” or stuff like that. We had total creative control. That and nothing else is what I for myself think being independent means. We had other offers from publishers where they would get the rights to our IP for at least 5 years. Don’t get me wrong – i don’t moan, i just say that is not the way we wanted the deal to be. Our IP should stay our IP, so we could keep total creative control over it. So why do i hate the term indie? Well that little word changes the way i think about a game. I instantly have the impression that i’ll play a game where i can be sure that no marketing or market research destroyed the often very beautiful ideas of creative people. It’s a bit like the “organic” label on food. So because today indie games are rising and the label “indie” gets you a higher market reachability, some people think they should call their games indie. Which they should not, imho.

2.) The quality of games, their according budget and the ROI

As the discussion was about the mediocre quality of german games the topic of the needed capital for games came up. I hate money and numbers attached to them, but as we all know, i need it to play games and to eat, sleep, live and stuff like that. Games are pretty expensive (read this – but expect no exact numbers) – everyone knows that. So everyone should be aware that it is not pretty easy to get that amount of money, especially as a little dev studio with no experience whatsoever. No one just gives you 250.000€ and says “Make the game of your dream for it!”. So how can we still develop a game? Well basically with hard work (no vacations, 7 work days in a week etc.) and your own investment. How do you invest without having money to invest? You work for free – except your needed food which results in very low wages. But it’s not THAT bad. There are funding possibilities and i have to say here in Baden Württemberg, where our studio currently resides, they are pretty ok. I love the people at the MFG and their efforts for the DCF (digital content fund). But – there is still much to be done. Let’s say you need about 250.000€ in order to produce and market a decent adventure game in germany. Let’s say you get funded with 100.000€ – then you still have to get your hands on another 150k. Own work – low wages – trainees. You could also turn down the quality of the game and lower the amount of work to be done. But that would destroy the chance of your ROI to get big enough, that you can work on your next project. So it’s pretty hard to manage this three variables Quality – Budget – Time. Well in the discussion someone mentioned that you could do a okay-ish hidden object game for about 22k with outsourced programming. That raises the question under which circumstances such games are produced. But with all the outsourcing topic we tend to forget that some games are produced here in germany with a lot of unpaid people as well. And that sucks everywhere. But appareantly our game industry needs that workforce in order to produce enjoyable games :-/

3.) The missing innovation

The missing innovation in the german scene was discussed very broadly in that thread as you can imagine – but … guys, seriously? “Tiny and Big” – “TRI” – “Beatbuddy” – “Giana Sisters – Twisted Dreams” – “Brawlin’ Sailor (Just one of 12 awesome mini games by Major Bueno)” – “Perfect Woman (nominated for IGF!!!)” – “Future Unfolding” – etc …(sorry for all the other cool guys i forgot …)
Of course i’, just listing the well known devs, but my list could go on. I don’t think theres missing innovation. It just does not come from some guys arguing in that conversation. Sorry guys. We have a lot of cool devs here in germany that explore the possibillities of game development in a creative way. We just have the problem of a lacking network. Thankfully Martin and Jana are doing their best in order to provide a platform for the little devs that try to do games for their living and try to explore their creativity instead of just following market researches (thank you guys – again!). So the missing platform is not the problem – we are the problem ourselves. I know posting in forums and helping each other out is pretty hard while you’re at work and trying to finish your project – but last year we experienced what the outcome of networking and the efforts of some people can achieve. We had a little indie booth @ gamescom that was pretty awesome by the way. I couldn’t say “THANK YOU” enough to all the people envolved in that. So let’s try to be as open as possible about our work in order to get cool stuff to the people. Because there definitely is some cool stuff happening in germany. We have to be more openly visible for other people as a developer community. The indie-arena booth at gamescom was awesome and pretty cool. But we also had to compete with big companies in the meanings of visibility and attention. I loved the indie display on Casual Connect. About 20 indies from all over the world (although obviously half of the attendants were from russia or the ukraine) were sitting at one table and could chat the whole day while also showing their games to publishers, investors alike. I met so much awesome game makers and also made some new friends – i guess we could improve that here in germany.
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CasualConnect 2013 in Kyiv – talking with the guys from BeautifunGames
Wrapping everything up:
Of course there are crappy games made in germany, as they’re all over the world, but i think that the good games just don’t have the visibility they should have – maybe some of you would think different if they knew about these awesome games.
To the devs -> we should try to work together and try to do our best to improve our industry the best way we can. That means trying new things as well as trying to produce good games at reasonable costs. With reasonable work loads.
To the players, our customers -> I love the current time as you do. Steam Sales and Humble Bundles up your a$$. But maybe the next time you buy an App, a game on the next Steam Sale or another Humble Bundle we should think about what good games are worth to us in the currency of the country you currently reside.
Thanks – Pepe

p.s.: I just removed the link to the discussion. Although there are some very interesting comments, there also are some nasty things being said that i don’t think have to go public.

Alex