[Indie developer Flat Earth Games got its start by co-habituating and co-developing its first title with an established game studio, and in this article the developers involved explain how you could benefit from doing the same.]
In late 2011, two brothers with an idea for a video game got the attention of their friend Morgan Lean, who runs a local developer in Sydney called Epiphany Games. The three signed an agreement that they would co-develop the brothers' first title, and thus Flat Earth Games was born as a new indie developer. The pair moved in to the Epiphany offices and work began on the project in earnest. What follows is a record from Morgan, Rohan Harris and Leigh Harris on why indie developers and established studios can benefit each other by working hand-in-hand.
Morgan Lean: When we heard Rohan and Leigh's idea (before they'd founded Flat Earth), we at first saw it as a unique opportunity to work on other indie projects. I mean, our projects are always independent, but on a much larger scale. That said, we have been running a services business delivering iOS and Android titles on the side for some time now. So we already had the expertise and the adaptable and fast turnaround team structure to make a smaller-scale game happen.
Leigh Harris: As a pair of aspiring game designers, Rohan and I lacked the ability to bring our idea from concept to fruition, as we didn't have the business and technical acumen to really deliver on the promises we were eager to make. We had skill in publicity, marketing and some programming, and were both chomping at the bit to try our hand at game design, but without a third party to fill that void, we'd never have had the impetus to do anything beyond make our studio a pet project. A commercial entity is a completely different prospect to gleaning a game from a cool idea, and would require us to pay attention to bringing artists, musicians and animators on board, figuring out the details of creating our own company, learning how to write contracts, manage our accounting and be able to outline accurate milestones for our team to stick to.
Of course, a commercial entity doesn't have to embody all of these things, but ours did. Our idea, which seemed simple (they always do) at conception, was actually quite a complicated one -- a fact which would dawn upon us time and time again.
The developers at Flat Earth Games and Epiphany
Rohan Harris: There is a lot of pleasure independent developers get from being 'independent', and pride in that descriptor -- and rightly so. However, just because you're independent doesn't mean that having enormously talented, experienced people accessible to you isn't a huge advantage.
I can't help but think that this kind of 'cohabiting' and 'co-developing' process is a spectacular thing to encourage.