Sean Murray, CEO of the indie developer responsible for PSN’s Joe Danger, has spoken with GI.biz about the realities of indie development and how to go from part-time hobby to full-time living.
After his opening keynote for the indie games track at Develop conference in Brighton earlier this month, Murray offered his thoughts on why indie development is often seen as a romantic proposition, and what happens when you attempt to turn that into an honest living.
“Well it’s a funny one, indie games, isn’t it? It’s the tortured artist. The tortured artist isn’t a great place to be but it’s also an aspirational place to be in some ways. Everyone wants to be the tortured artist because it implies that you’re producing great art.
“It’s almost people glossing over the realities of being on the breadline and starving. That kind of thing. Chopping your ear off. It’s seen in a whimsical way, in a fantasy way. The reality of chopping your ear off is probably quite grim.”
Explaining how that view changes when you’re actually living the process, he said.
“The reality is that, unlike when you’re doing it in your spare time, when you’re doing it full time, no matter what it is, it does become different. You do go through those phases of doubting what you’re doing. Of disliking what you’re doing.”
Murray went on to offer hope to those looking to break into the indie development scene, but warned that, as with any industry, experience can count for a lot.
“I think people can definitely become an indie developer straight out of university. I think people can not go to university and still be a successful developer.
“But like anything in the world, experience helps. I don’t know for me personally, how I would have done what I am doing now had I not had that experience. Because starting a proper games job is in itself a huge shock. Probably doing that alone taught to work 9-5, having been a student for a few years.”
His final words of wisdom concerned the importance of support from download service platform holders such as Steam, PSN, the App Store and Xbox Live, as well as speaking to successful indie developers who have been where you are and know what you’re going through.
“I think without the support of at least one of those outlets, the chances of success are reduced from tiny to almost non-existent,” he ventured. “I think that if you talked to other indie developers, they might say, we’ve been turned down by Steam, or XBLA or PSN. It’s a really common thing to hear, but it’s also often a real finishing blow for any studio.
“There’s nothing more reassuring than hearing from somebody who has had success. Who has made it through a problem. That they were where you are right now.
“I think that’s the most helpful thing that indies can talk about. I don’t want to de-romanticise it or anything, but I think it is important to tell people that, if you are going to cut your ear off, it’s really bloody painful.”
The full interview can be found here on GI.biz.