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RPGWatch Forums » Games » Indie RPG » Jeff Vogel: Surviving the post indie bubble

Default Jeff Vogel: Surviving the post indie bubble

June 21st, 2014, 12:00
http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/2014/…wasteland.html

This must be the most incredibly long blog post I have ever seen but here's some excerpts.

Our Greatest Advantage!!!

Our biggest advantage is that people like us. They want us to succeed.

Small game developers fit the archetype of the lone tinkerer, slaving late into the night, creating because they are driven to create, damn the consequences.

In my culture, at least, this is a truly powerful and beloved archetype, one buried deep in the cultural and professional DNA of our society. When people see you as a driven tinkerer, rich in drive and creativity if not in wealth, they will want you to succeed. It is then a short jump to actively helping you to succeed.

As long as they like you. (But more on that later.)

Indie games will have their ups and downs, but they will always be around, because people will always be driven to make toys, success be damned. And there will always be profit in that, because some people will be determined to make them succeed, because they can't stand to live in a world where the little guy can't make it.

Advice #2: Never forget that people want to root for you, and be someone they'll want to root for. When your survival is necessary for the psychic health of others, that’s good.
Maybe it's just me but every time this guy posts something the manipulation level is incredible, and this kind of gives a peek into his thinking. He definitely milks the indie indie I'm an indie angle more than anyone I have heard of. Honestly if he made games as well as he made blog posts he would have driven EA out of business by now.

Heading Out On the Path

OK, here's the usual scenario. You're passionate about games (or music, writing, acting, etc). You've been doing it as a hobbyist for years, and that's awesome. Creating things as a hobbyist is a noble activity. All those famous designers you look up to? Practically all of them were writing games for years before they made the one you heard of. It takes ten years to make an overnight success.

But you've been doing it for a while, and now you have a hot idea. You think you can turn it into money. You want to Go Pro.

Now, before, I always gave the advice to look for an underserved niche and serve it. I kind of have to take that back. One of the tough things about the glut of indie games is that the number of underserved niches has gone way down. As I write this, Steam is getting a new RPG a DAY. So many. Does this worry me, a writer of RPGs? Hell yes. But I write RPGs for a living. It's all I'm good for. So, even if I see a sexy new market somewhere else, I have to die on this hill.

Inspiration strikes where it strikes, and individual creative processes are very important. Write what you care about, even if it's another 2-D platformer. If you like to work alone, work alone. If you need to be part of a team, do that. If you don't mind doing things on the cheap (like using stock art and music), that can work. If you need perfect professional work for everything, that's what you need to do. (But be prepared to pay the price.)
This theme he keeps repeating really baffles me. Are any of these indie RPGs coming out "every day" anything like the games of old? Is this something he really possibly believes?

Then, Budget

After you know what sort of attention you can get, figure out how much you can afford to spend on your game. I don't have a lot to say about this. If you're SURE you need a hot big-name musician to score your game, hey, that's your process. My opinion is unimportant.

Just remember that every 5% you shave off the cost of making your game gives you a 5% better chance of business survival. Just make sure that 5% is worth it.

Me, I live cheap. I'm a bottom feeder. I'm merciless about reusing assets from game to game. Rendering creatures in Poser instead of getting a pricey freelancer. Buying cheap, royalty-free sounds. We sell detailed, interesting stories, written in nice, cheap text, and skimp on everything else.

We're so cheap that sometimes, at conventions, other developers make fun of me TO MY FACE. If you know how generally cordial indie developers try to be to each other, this is worth noting.

Most indie developers would rather throw their computers into a fire than release products with my level of polish. But I have a plan. I intend to retire in this business, and I will do what it takes to make it happen.

Advice #5: Don't forget that the best reason to go indie is that you get to do things your own way.
Remember, this guy made 200k a year in sales before even before avadon. So basically hos whole post is complaining he can't spend 2k on art budget and make 198k off of a game that took him 1 year to make because there is this "bubble" that has burst, and people have to buy even more games for more money or he won't be able to retire with enough millions of dollars.

On Being Likable

Seriously, the greatest advantage indie creators have is that people naturally sympathize with us and want us to succeed. Play to your strength, and remember, every time you act like a jerk in public, you're hurting all of us.

Cultivate a FRIENDLY personal relationship with customers whenever possible. Answer e-mails. Be present and engage users on forums in a friendly way as much as you can stand. Try to make a demo available so users can make sure your game will work before they pay for it. (I haven't been good about this lately, and I regret it.) Give refunds. Give advice. Use smilies. Be a nice person.

If you do a Kickstarter or Steam Early Access, be damn sure to live up to your promises, or give the users a timely, informative reason why you didn't. Doing otherwise hurts all of us.

Do your best to say yes to REASONABLE requests. It's OK to say 'no,' though. It's your game, your baby. Sometimes, you have to live up to your own ideals, even though you'll get a lot of undeserved hate for it. Here's a good example.
He's telling other developers to be nice, but the subtext is "YOU ARE RUINING MY CASH COW! I WANT TO GO ON KICKSTARTER SOME TIME TOO!".

I hate how blog posts like this have become a thinly veiled sales tool in general that seldom even bother to mention what they are actually selling, but this takes the cake. Sales are slumping and he just can't take responsibility for it. 1980s graphics were bad enough in 2000 but they just don't cut it now unless they are the 1980s version of AAA. Making more simple games now means he has a million people all over the world to compete with, too. Many of them being much better at it.

I'd be fine if every developer went full Cleve and told me he was certain I was posting from the Fulsom Prison library, at least that would be amusing. All the other indie RPG makers seem to spend at least 80% of their time on forums talking about how you can have any sex or race of main character you want as it is, while shipping out supposed alphas of their games that don't even have save-game functionality yet.

In his way Vogel is a genius, at getting people to pay for the same stuff a million times over, and get the most income for the least development time and effort. However I think with some modest incremental improvement from his first few games instead of cutting corners every step he could have games that would net millions on the kickstarter alone. I really can't understand this strange mentality, it's kind of like the guys who choose indiegogo over kickstarter because it only takes 7% instead of 10%! Yes, you give up more money per transaction but your intake will probably be ten times as high.

I really wish I never read anything of Jeff Vogel's at this point, but once read I cannot unread this blog post, or stop myself from commenting on it.
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June 21st, 2014, 12:36
Don't Look Sauron In the Eye

Conversely, if someone is mean to your game on some stupid forum somewhere, never ever engage them, attack them, argue why they're wrong, whatever. Nothing good has even come out of doing this. Ever. Some people won't like your game, or they won't like your face. Let. It. Go.

Here's a rule that I have violated many, many times, and I've always regretted it: If you must go out in public and air your edgy opinions, remember that goodwill is like money, and you are spending it. It is very easy to cross the line from being a positive archetype (sincere, small creator) to a very negative one (dour, humorless, judgmental blowhard).

This is one of the reasons I wrote the article a few weeks ago defending mobile games. If you are the hip indie developer who lectures gamers about what they should or should not want, you will make them defensive. Then they will get angry. At all of us.

Obviously, I'm not saying you should never say anything. Goodwill is money, and money doesn't do any good if you don't spend it. Just learn from my mistakes. People like us much better when we come forward in a spirit of being friendly, accepting, and eager to help.
So is what you say more important or what you do? Criticism doesn't come because you didn't smile enough, it comes because people don't like what you are doing. Still can't accept any responsibility on this front either.

It's just feedback, not some response to his failure to bolster himself as much as possible in PR as he likes to claim. Feedback will no doubt be different if he makes his actual games go in a different direction.
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June 21st, 2014, 13:40
I can't say I'm interested in anything Jeff Vogel has to say. He's been regurgitating the same mediocre games for years. Personally, I can't understand why anyone would want to play his games when there are so many better RPGs out there.
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June 21st, 2014, 14:31
I think your read too much into what he says. It's his blog, his experiences and his opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.

And that's my opinion.

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June 21st, 2014, 16:51
Interesting quotes there.

I think this guy is a master of the RPG genre. Yes, his games lack high tech graphics and sound design, but they are satisfying to the inner RPG nerd in me. I've only played Avadon 2 and an hour of Nethergate, but I can see that a lot of love goes into his games for fans of the old-school RPG. Avadon 2 was brilliant and I look forward to his future games.
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June 21st, 2014, 21:51
He's got some good stuff, definitely. I think if he made 4-5 higher quality more complex games instead of about 30 many of which are just thrown out there haphazardly he would be the hero of everyone.

That is what I expected to have happen now that he has a decent following and some money to spend on making games with a decent budget.

Instead he seems intent to repackage same stuff over and over, and I think his real issue is he's alienated most of his old fans now so no longer gets their support. Hopefully he will wake up and realize he is headed in the wrong direction.
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June 21st, 2014, 22:15
Originally Posted by Fluent View Post
his games lack high tech graphics and sound design
This.

The year is 2014. It is not 1914.
Please feed our inner graphics whore, modern engines are not utterly expensive any more.
And if devs of Expeditions could find an indie composer to make such awsome music for their game, there is no excuse not to have at least something mediocre instead of utter crap.

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June 21st, 2014, 22:21
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
This.

The year is 2014. It is not 1914.
Please feed our inner graphics whore, modern engines are not utterly expensive any more.
And if devs of Expeditions could find an indie composer to make such awsome music for their game, there is no excuse not to have at least something mediocre instead of utter crap.
Exactly. Maybe he can't go to 3d but he could make things look better without spending much money and would get way more sales. At the very least some music. 5k is more than enough to get some amazing music and you could probably get something pretty good for 1k.

You have to spend money (and time) to make money and all that.
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June 21st, 2014, 23:27
To me the graphics are just fine. His games have a style which I like, and I hope he'll keep it. Sound is not good, but that's of minor importance.

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June 21st, 2014, 23:39
I'm pretty sure I'm not the majority. But to me the music is one of the essential parts of a video game.

I'm aware that some people turn off the music completely for whatever reason. But I have a relative that's deaf. To her, sounds definetly aren't important at all. To me, they are.

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June 21st, 2014, 23:43
Originally Posted by pibbur who View Post
To me the graphics are just fine. His games have a style which I like, and I hope he'll keep it. Sound is not good, but that's of minor importance.

Pibbur who
I agree that the graphics are fine. I enjoyed the art style in Avadon 2.

The sound needs work and could use some improvement. I like music so maybe that can be added.
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June 21st, 2014, 23:49
By all means, I appreciate good music and sound effects. But that doesn't prevent me from enjoying the occasional game without it.

Pibbur who has all his 10 or so senses working.

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June 22nd, 2014, 02:10
I don't think that there your computer games in 1914.
Am I wrong?
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June 22nd, 2014, 03:28
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
This.

The year is 2014. It is not 1914.
Please feed our inner graphics whore, modern engines are not utterly expensive any more.
And if devs of Expeditions could find an indie composer to make such awsome music for their game, there is no excuse not to have at least something mediocre instead of utter crap.
Originally Posted by pibbur who View Post
To me the graphics are just fine. His games have a style which I like, and I hope he'll keep it. Sound is not good, but that's of minor importance.

Pibbur who
It's not just the graphics, it's pretty much everything, including the writing. His games have gotten more and more formulaic and more simple over time and smaller in scope when it should be the opposite. Graphics are actually better since he went to ipad but still not fantastic.
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June 22nd, 2014, 18:37
Originally Posted by pibbur who View Post
By all means, I appreciate good music and sound effects. But that doesn't prevent me from enjoying the occasional game without it.
Same here.

Avadon 2 still gets a 5/5 rating from me, even without top-notch graphics and sound design. The actual parts that really matter in the game are done very well indeed.
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June 22nd, 2014, 20:45
The man can do no wrong, imo. I've yet to play a single game of his that I've not thoroughly enjoyed. BTW, Vogel's games are also the only ones I'll play the day they are released, as I've not yet seen one that needed a patch asap. Every other game I've learned to wait until the 3rd or 4th patch before buying and playing.
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