I’m an indie dev and really passionate about it and I always feel compassion with other struggling indie dev around the globe since I can relate to what they are facing.
Players are usually brutal toward indie developers not understanding the enormous difficulties they are facing along the way.
That’s why I love helping other indie devs as much as possible. Even in cases of ‘pay later’ or ‘I do X for your game you do Y for my game’, or I will only pay $500 a week (which is far less than my rate) I try to help as much as possible. I understand the frustration you have when you are almost done with a game and only need some more help to get to release but don’t have enough money to survive your personal life alone not to mention paying others to get the game done. Some developers just plainly refuse any kind of work that’s not immediately paid and advise others to do that, however if that’s how all indie devs think, a lot of indie games wouldn’t have been possible. However I also struggle like any other indie dev and in some cases any unpaid cooperation is not feasible on my side.
But some indie devs just don’t deserve that compassion and they not only bring our image down as indie developers, they also destroy trust in the indie development world. Because of those people we hear developers warning against any unpaid work. I would say trust in the indie dev world is a key for the indie dev community to survive.
Here’s a tale of one of failed co-op tales I had.
I was approached by one of “EXOGENESIS ~PERILS OF REBIRTH~ POST-APOCALYPTIC VISUAL NOVEL ADVENTURE GAME” creators to do final tasks programming for the visual novel.
I really liked the game when I checked it and wanted to be part of it. I did a small research on it and found out that the project is struggling with backers attacking the creators for taking so long to release. I felt compassion for them and offered to do the work initially for free to lessen the burden on them in-exchange of their team doing the art of my VN after exogenesis is released. I thought due to inexperience they had wasted a lot of backing money and now they are in a bad situation. I can relate to that since managing a project like that financially can be too difficult.
It’s no secret that the project is a disaster. I kind of expected that and wanted to help, but it was far more disastrous than I even imagined. I can’t share the details but the code and managing of it is a nightmare. The owner who contacted me didn’t have a clue of simplest things in the project and even previous ‘programmers’ who worked on the project didn’t cooperate at all. Things were slow frustrating and time consuming as hell. I repeatedly asked the owner to change how the code is managed and stored but he insisted not to do that which lead to more time consuming and frustrating work on my side. I wanted to refactor a lot of things to make work faster but the owner told me they had a release by the end of December (which seems to be not true since the owner is not transparent at all) so I decided to work with what we have but it just turned out to be more time consuming and not feasible. If he was more transparent I might have taken better approaches in development that would have saved a lot of time.
I also had a lot of things going on with my life like having twin babies, going to Japan for fulltime job, then getting back to egypt to get my family and returning back to Japan. That was too stressful in terms of time and of course financially. However I was still passionate about the project despite all that and I did a lot of progress provided the state the project was in the first place.
The exogenesis owner didn’t appreciate all that and always blamed me for being slow and was pushing me over the limits. I repeatedly told him I understand his pressure and how backers are pushing him to get something out after about 4 years of successfully being backed on kickstarter but the way he acted was too pushy so I decided to contact the character artist to see if it really deserve to push myself to limits with the messy project and the answer was shocking. I was being deceived all the time.
??? art for your visual novel?
never hear about that? wth
— ★くろまい★ (@Kuromai) January 5, 2019
Kuromai was contacted by the owner of the project and for some reason deleted the tweet and sent me a private message telling me that she can’t work on my visual novel which is reassuring that exogenesis creator is a scammer and doesn’t deserve the support from gamers, backers or other developers.
He clearly told me that he discussed with the art team and they agreed which was clearly a lie. I gave the owner enough time to clear any misunderstanding and he told me that it was only a matter of him telling them to do the art and they would do it. But I didn’t get any follow up tweets or messages from the artist.
Confronting him with those facts, he instead of apologizing kept attacking me, and underestimating my effort to be only 4 days which is a lie. He really doesn’t have any information about simple things in the project, and can’t get previous programmers to cooperate and obviously he is not in a place to estimate the work I have done into the project. And his argument was so irrelevant since the deal was simple, I get exogenesis programming done, then after the release of exogenesis, exogenesis art team do the art (and puzzle design) for my vn instead of money.
Everything the owner said after confronting him with the tweet and how Kuromai reacted and the fact she didn’t do any follow up even though I left enough time to clear any misunderstanding suggests that he never had the intention of doing my vn after I’m done with exogenesis. I have nothing against Kuromai, she’s a great artist and I admire the great art she created for exogenesis.
I was too compassionate with the owner but now I realize this is perhaps not a tale of inexperienced passionate indie creators struggling to create their dream game. The attitude of the owner definitely drove the project to the disastrous state it’s in now. Among the important updates I did to the project is the creation of a tool that would help greatly and reduce a lot of time with scripting the dialogue. The owner would probably use that and other updates and get the game done and my effort would probably be wasted. Even though I like exogenesis and happy for it to see the light I regret wasting time on it. If I used the time I worked on exogenesis working as a freelancer given my reputation as a freelancer I would have made a lot of money in this very critical timing in my life.
Stories of failed indie dev teams who were never able to deliver or who couldn’t survive after release or worse failed cooperation tales like those and of course kickstarter scandals are greatly dis-encouraging and generally create poisonous atmosphere around the indie dev community.
However I’m optimistic. I believe that the indie dev community now is getting better and better and getting more tools and platforms into their hands that was out of reach of our hands before.
And I’m open to cooperating with honest indie developers out there even after this experience.