Home > Flash Games, Game Development > Listening to Other Indie Developers

Listening to Other Indie Developers

So I spent a good amount of time listening to the Infinite Ammo podcast today, specifically the one with Andy Moore. I think it helps a lot to listen to other game developers, especially when they have more experience than I do. Their discussion ranges all over the place, but here’s a few things I pulled from it.

Hook your players quickly

Like Murphy Lee said, “Wat da hook gon be?” For flash games specifically, it’s important to get players excited about the game as soon as possible. Players aren’t paying any money up front to play a flash game so if they aren’t enjoying it they have no reason to stick around. With more traditional, paid games, players have a sunk cost that they want to try and recoup before dropping a game. It’s a behavioral economics thing.

I’ve read before that with a flash game, you want to try and hook a player in the first minute, including load time. That’s also one of the reasons why keeping game file size down is important because people without a fast internet connection might give up on your game if it takes too long to load. Ideally, the player will feel like they’ve accomplished something within the first 4 clicks.

That might seem extreme, but why not? One click for “Play”, one click for “Okay” on the tutorial slide, one click to select your unit, one click to select an enemy. BOOM! You’ve defeated your first enemy! YAY!!!

I’m trying to keep this in mind as I design my user interface.

Metrics can make games better

While it’s important not to rely on metrics to design your game for you, they are a necessary tool for fixing and polishing your game. For example, let’s say you’re tracking what percentage of players are completing each level. Over all 20 levels, about 3% of players quit during every level, but you find that 20% of players quit on level 5.

Is it because level 5 contains an especially difficult challenge? Is there a glitch that causes some people to be unable to complete the level? Is there a mistake on any of the hints on that level that causes confusion? This merits further investigation, but without the metrics you’d have no way of knowing that there even was a problem.

Tips for new Indie developers

I realize I’m still in the target group on this one, but here are a few of the tips I gathered from the Infinite Ammo podcast.

1. Release your games
It’s very difficult after spending a lot of time on a creative work to think rationally about it’s quality. I know from just a couple months of working on this game that it’s all too easy to put an endless amount of work polishing, correcting, adding new features and generally improving the game. But if you do this forever, you’ll never release your game.

It’s also possible to get to a point where you’re sick of the game, having playtested it for the thousandth time and still not being satisfied with the way the characters move or with the level difficulty. At that point I think it’s time to fix any big glaring bugs and then publish it. It’s better to publish a game that has a few issues than to never publish a game at all.

2. Secure your code
This is a particular issue with flash games. Because of the way flash saves your game, it’s all too easy to decompile the source code, make whatever changes you want and then upload the game as your own. Fortunately there is software that encrypts code so that it’s more difficult/ near impossible to make changes to the swf file. Flash Game License provides a 25% code for Kindisoft’s secureSWF. It’s still $300 for the professional version, but it’s better than having your games ripped off.

3. Don’t be afraid to be inspired by other games
While this isn’t specifically mentioned during the podcast, it’s a lesson I drew from it. Around the 2:20:00 mark they discuss game clones. While copying a game action for action and level for level is definitely too far, there is a point at which you can borrow from other games. Innovation comes when people take what came before them and either reimagine it in a new way or combine it with other things to make a new combination.

It’s all too easy for critics to call any work derivative, but at the same time it’s impossible to construct a creative work in a vacuum. If you’re especially inspired by another game, don’t be afraid to say so. As long as you put your own touches on your game you have nothing to be afraid of.

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  1. January 31, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Great tips! The one I fall victim too most often is never actually publishing my games because I spend too much time trying to polish them up 🙂

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