Spiderweb Games - Interview @ HardCoreDroid
HardCoreDroid has a new interview with Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Games about how to became a video game designer.
In 1994, I was in graduate school studying applied mathematics. I was miserable, and I didn’t see any future for myself in that field. I decided to take a summer off to write a role-playing game and release it as what was then charmingly called “Shareware.” Eight months later, I released my first role-playing game: Exile: Escape from the Pit for the Macintosh. And, for reasons I still can’t quite fathom, people bought it!
Now you have to understand that 1994 was a different time. The Web was in its infancy. The big tool for selling games was AOL. Malls had shops that sold floppy disks with sharewaredemos. Sometimes, these shops were not too vigilant about explaining that the customers were paying 10 bucks each for the demos. The angry e-mails about this came to me, not them.
Thanks to word-of-mouth and great good fortune, I was able to quit grad school and begin making a humble living as a full-time shareware developer. I spent the following 20 years plugging away and writing a new game every year or two: indie, low-budget, hardcore fantasy RPGs for Windows and Mac (and, later, iPad, Linux, and Android). I was building an audience and scraping and begging for every press mention I could get. I ran lean and mean to survive through good times (The Dot.Com bubble and the more recent Indie bubble) and the bad times (Every other time).
We’re a mom and pop indie operation. At our peak, we had three full-time employees and the standard host of freelancers. From our damp basement in lovely Seattle, we made the sort of games I loved as a kid. We followed one of the truest paths to indie success: We found a neglected niche of games with a loyal fan base, and we served it. Nobody will mistake my games for big-budget AAA titles, but the handmade feel appeals to a lot of gamers.
The business has changed incredibly since I started but the principles of working as an artist (and make no mistake: that is what game developers are) and running a small business are timeless. I certainly have some advice for young developers based on my experiences.