Book Review: Surviving The Indiepocalypse
Staff Writer By: Sergio Rosa (nemirc)
If you follow the game development industry, you have surely noticed the exponential growth in the indie scene in the last years: Apple App Store, Google Play and even Steam are saturated with a gazillion games in each platform, new indies are born (and die) every day, as well as indie publishers. This has happened mostly due to how accessible tools are nowadays. The only thing stopping you from making a game and selling it on Steam is your internet connection speed, and the $100 fee for Steam Direct.
I've seen a decent amount of "how to survive" media about the Indiepocalypse in GDC, Gamasutra, forums, YouTube, which means there's some people taking this subject very seriously (and you should as well, if you want to make a living by making games). "Surviving The Indiepocalypse" by Cassius Aurel is the latest entry I've seen regarding this subject.
The first thing you notice is that the author is "brutally honest" about how things are. Most of the people getting into game development will fail, due to various reasons, and while it may be a sad truth, it needs to be said. The book has 9 chapters, covering a variety of topics, from business and managing teams, to deal-making (as in signing with publishers, investors, etc.). In each chapter, the author goes direct to the point, giving advice and explaining how things should work, as best as possible, since game development companies can be very different one from the next, making it difficult to present a "one-size fits all" solution.
Even if it has 9 chapters, they are really short. The book is a really short read (around 40 pages), so you can finish it in one sitting. However, as it's the case with these kinds of books, it should be considered "reference material" meaning that you will need to revisit certain parts when you need a reminder, or re-read certain parts when things aren't very clear.
One thing to know is that, while the book provides many tips, you will need to find other sources to increase your knowledge on some subjects. For example, at some point the author will discuss "red teaming" but you will find yourself needing to read further from other sources. Another example is market research: while it provides all the different bullet points you need, it's not a book on "how to do market research."
Personally, I do think it's better this way, since it helps keep the book more focused on the actual tips rather than going off topic explaining all the different methods and techniques needed to apply those tips.
Another thing I liked is how the author puts the emphasis on the business side of things. Most of the time, game development is romanticized, because developers often talk about the passion that went into making the game, the artistic self-expression, etc., which are valid points, but unfortunately don't pay the bills. I think this emphasis is important because, at the end of the day, if you want game development to be your full time job, you need to treat is as a job, not a hobby.
On the other side, one thing I didn't like is the lack of examples in some parts of the book. I am the kind of person that understands things better when reading one or two examples, so it's a shame some parts of the book provide a few examples but others don't. Coincidentally, the examples were more prominent in later parts of the book, and this made it feel like the author grew more comfortable in those later parts. If there's a revised edition in the future, I'd hope they give a good pass to the first parts.
One thing I should mention is that this book is not a "step-by-step" guide. It will not give you a checklist that you must follow in order to be successful. However, as I said before, I don't think that's even possible since different developers have different focuses and different needs, and the steps taken by developer A working on a multiplayer ships game will not yield the same results for developer B working on a single person story-driven hack-and-slash game. However, the book does provide broad and extremely useful pointers for you to adapt and follow for your specific needs and the kinds of games, teams and platforms you are working on. If you aim to be a serious game developer, you should take a look at the links below to find out more information about "Surviving The Indiepocalypse" or purchase the book.
Buy Surviving The Indiepocalypse ($9.99)
Sergio Aris ROSA, Sr. Staff Writer