The Candy Stand
What I Learned
Goat On A Pole Origin
Bon Jovi
FuturePlay 2008

My name is Jim McGinley. I'm one of the organizers of TOJam, and a huge fan of indie games. I like them so much, I make them.

On Nov. 4, 2008 I gave a presentation at FuturePlay 2008 about community building and indie game making. Rather than make slides, I made this page. If you attended the presentation, this page is all you need. If you missed the presentation, shame on you.
Why does TOJam exist?

The Question

We exist to:

Our unoffical slogan is "We provide the motivation, you provide the magic." We really don't offer anything else. You could build your own games by yourself at home, but that requires muchos effort.

The community is what keeps you going - especially if you're a lone wolf. The Toronto IGDA socials, even though no game making is involved, provide the same thing. Simply knowing you're not alone in your desire to create games is a huge relief (and hence, and huge motivation).

Without that community, it's VERY hard to stay focussed on making games. If nobody cares, why bother? Also, for programmers especially, TOJam provides an opportunity to meet people on familiar turf (programming games). At this point, most of the game makers I know I've met through IGDA and TOJam. Building the community and building great indie games go hand and hand.
What I Learned from TOJam

Learning the hard way

  1. Graphics are STILL king!
    According to our stats, the games that get downloaded the most are the games with the best screenshots / YouTube videos. Artists are as important as programmers, perhaps more important. At TOJam #3, almost every team had an artist.
    Seas of Cheese - yay    Noodle - nay
  2. There is huge value in a unique game idea.
    People want to see something new. Unique (and fun) game mechanics are extremely hard to come up with - in many ways harder than implementation. At TOJam #3, the Cheese theme helped generate some interesting mechanics, as well as interest in the games.
    Goats Amoré    lightspeed    Happy Goat Lucky
  3. Game development has NEVER been so EASY.
    Thanks to tools like Macromedia Flash, Multimedia Fusion, Game Maker, XNA, and Torque Game Builder, everyone can make games. While we discourage it, we've seen people learn new technologies while building their game.
    Debugger    TOBam    The Signal    Super Cheese Repulser
  4. The most important thing you need to create a game is motivation & focus.
    Without the 3-day deadline, these games would not be made. Without the TOJam Arcade, the games would not have been improved. Very few people touch their game once the event is finished.
    Killer Coding Ninja Monkey    Office Smash
  5. Great Music (and Sound) make your game memorable
    Graphics get people to play your game, music makes them remember the experience. Great music and sound can offset low production values much better than better graphics or refined gameplay. Music has the ability to unify the entire experience. i.e. Suddenly that crap animation looks like it's supposed to be crap.
    The Scourge    Flowers of Error    Feed HIM!
  6. People that attend consecutive Jams produce better games
    Producing games on an impossible deadline is a skill that can be improved. People learn to scale back their game designs, or perish.
    Noodle > Goats Amoré    XIQ > a game about bouncing
  7. Toronto KICKS ASS
Indie Games are Indie Bands - Part I

Sonic Youth Baby

Enough people are creating indie games that there's a scene, attitude, and segmentation. Here is one possible grouping:

Jonathan Mak - soft spoken creator of Everyday Shooter
Jonathan Blow - outspoken creator of Braid, IGF Experimental
Orsinal - flash games with distinct look & feel
Cactus - bizarre artsy shmups
Jason Rohrer - small pixel art games packed with emotion

Messhof - games that break genres (Abortionist, Punishment)
McDickie - 3D wrestling games, Hard Time
Jazzuo - unintentionally bad games (Sexy Hiking)
Phil Fish - creator of IGF winner Fez, divisive opinions
Blurst - Jetpack Brontosaurus, Off-Road Velociraptor
Berserker - ultra-violent game by makers of Soldat

Jeff Minter - Space Giraffe, Neon, Tempest 2000
Petri Purho - Crayon Physics, one game a month
Kyle Gabler - Experimental Gameplay, Tower of Goo, Brain Cloud
Kenta Cho - Abstract Shmup Grandaddy, Parsec47, Tumiki Fighters
Eyezmaze - Grow series, Tontie
Cas - Ultratron, Droid Assault, Titan Attacks
Cliffski - Kudos, Democracy
Cliff Johnson - The Fool's Errand

2008 - Year of the Indie
2009 - Year of the Indie Backlash

The scene will officially be mature when Kyle Gabler, Johnthan Blow, and Jonathan Mak are deemed sell-outs.
Indie Games are Indie Bands - Part II

Sonic Youth Baby

A lot of people are making free indie games. Yo Yo Games (Game Maker Games) just reached 25,000 complete games. "We reached this in slightly over 500 days, so close to 50 games per day." The challenge is no longer making an indie game, it's getting PEOPLE TO PLAY IT. There are an awful lot of great, free indie games available, crossing all genres. Originality is no longer in short supply. Look no further than the demise of the Experimental Gameplay Project. Even worse, the release of good, quality games is accelerating.

Some amazing, free indie games:
Newgrounds, Miniclip and Kongregate -
huge communities featuring obscene amounts of free Flash games.

Cave Story - famous Super Mario style RPG
Knytt Stories - ambient platformer with lots of ambience
Crayon Physics - physics meets kids drawings
The Kingdom of Loathing - text based MMORPG, hilarious writing
N - cruel, hardcore, precision platformer
Every Extend - explode yourself to cause a chain reaction
Tower of Goo - build a tower out of goop
Chalk - draw chalk lines to attack and defend
Facade - a first person story + full language parser
Randy Balma - Municipal Abortionist - extremely strange
Karoshi 2 - figure out how to kill yourself
Dwarf Fortress - detailed fantasy game rendered with ASCII
I wanna be the guy - masochistic, unfair, hilarious platformer

Some amazing, inexpensive indie games:
Braid - famous platformer that plays with time, amazing graphics
Everyday Shooter $10! - artistic shmup tied directly to the music
Multiwinia - RTS featuring epic battles in a TRON-like atmosphere
Kudos 2 - live a life, see what happens
Hegemony - Philip of Macedon - recreates ancient battles
Mount & Blade - realistic swordplay, including horseback
DROD - Deadly Rooms of Death - turn based puzzle game
Determinance - mouse controlled swordplay
Puzzle Pirates - MMORPG featuring pirate theme and puzzle games
Droid Assault - Modern update of classic Paradroid
Cortex Command - Worms + Physics, started in 2000
My Point

My Point

So... if you're making a game, you need to:

The Peanut Gallery

November 5, 2008 8:01:44 PM

I built this gallery. Where are the peanuts?