An interview I found with the creator of Super Meatboy and The binding of Isaac. He has some very interesting things to say on the subject of indie game creation, many of which I’ve found applicable to my own efforts. He cautions about the dangers of over ambition in your first game(s), and on the importance of maintaining good team relationships. The thing that took me by surprise was the notion that you can be a designer, but not the developer/programmer on games of that size. Normally when you hear of one or two man teams making games it’s starts life with a programmer. In Edmund’s case he creates the art assets himself and designs the game, but outsources the coding. It’s a setup that must require a huge amount of communication and trust in your colleague.
I also liked the way he was able to condense the design philosophies of his games down to single sentences. Meatboy was “Challenge without frustration”, and Isaac was “Different every time you play”. As someone who owns both games I can say the descriptions ring very true.
The lecture he gave on his career path was definitely interesting. I’d hoped for more insights regarding 2D illustration, however it was clear he considers himself a 3D modeller/rigger/animator first, and an illustrator second. the main lessons I took away from his talk were:
- The games industry is unstable, especially at lower levels. The number of failed game projects he’d worked on was frankly quite scary. While I’ve always known that game development isn’t the most reliable career I hadn’t realised just how many small to mid sized games never see the light of day. When a big AAA game is cancelled it’s fairly rare and generally big enough news, however evidently smaller titles can be killed off without my noticing. It’s definitely made me think harder about the risks of starting a company from scratch.
- Contacts are important. Not just for getting into the industry, but for staying there. For every project he was laid off of there was always someone he knew from a past job who was able to help him get back on his feet.
- Working in-house eases you into your role whereas going freelance means jumping in at the deep end.
- If in doubt, write a book. Well maybe not that exactly, but teaching in general does seem to be a common source of income for established artists. Artists like Noah Bradley even offer one to one tutorial programmes in addition to online classes and critiques. Publishing tutorials in magazines or on DVD is something that also helps generate exposure. It seems to be fairly lucrative if you have the skills to pass on.
- Don’t overspecialise. It’s important to be able to do something well, but when it comes time to lay people off companies will look to retain those who can fill multiple roles.
My biggest regret from last year’s end of year show was not having business cards printed in time. I was asked for them several times and the best I could offer was “I’m in the yearbook”.
This year I wanted to be sure I got some made well in advance of the show. I spoke to Mat about different options, both online and locally. I ended up ordering from Vistaprint who seemed fairy reputable, if unexceptional. For the design I wanted to keep things simple, I feel like the biggest selling point I can offer is to have some of my own artwork on the front. Aside from the main image I kept things fairly plain and uncluttered, positioning the text around the positive and negative spaces in the painting. I left the back blank. It cost significantly more to have it printed on and I couldn’t think of anything I wanted there. I also ordered the smallest number offered, partly because of costs, but mostly because I want to be able to update the image on the front as my skills continue to progress.
This is the image I used:
When I got the cards they were surprisingly high quality, and 250 feels like more than enough now that I actually see them. I have however spotted a pretty significant oversight in my design: I accidentally omitted my email address. I do list my portfolio page (which has my email displayed) as well as a contact number, so it shouldn’t prevent anyone from reaching me, but it’s something that really should be on the card itself.
I’m not a huge fan of social media or the culture that surrounds it. However I have heard time and again that’s it can be an important source for job opportunities and contacts. I’ve set up a Twitter account and a LinkedIn account and have started following professionals whose work I admire.