I sometimes think indie game developers get a little bit carried away with new features. They cram in new stuff, in an excited and passionate way, without stopping to think that they should probably get last weeks feature working better first.
I hate to name names. Finishing ANY indie game is impossibly hard. You might notice that generally speaking, developers don’t criticize each others games. I did some twitter ranting recently about how Assassins Creed III seemed to be designed to torture me, but I try to avoid such rants. And most of that was ranting at stupid business decisions (unskippable crap, uplay, etc), rather than poor game design. I couldn’t get far enough into the game to even really play it…
…So I won’t name names, but I have played a few indie games recently where I wonder why they bothered adding new feature X, when old feature Y was half-assed. I am of the opinion that I’d rather have a feature not included until it can be done right. Feature-lists do not sell games. Quality, fun and atmosphere sells games. I thought GSB would sell better if I added the ‘feature’ of direct-control. It made no difference. (BTW the game sold VERY well, I’m not complaining…).
The problem is, developers come up with a new idea, and all they care about that week is the new idea. In a big studio, you have some dude in a suit (metaphorically) with a clipboard (ditto) who says stuff like “Dude, X is not on the approved feature list for this build. We need you to improve the agreed features so they pass QA”. As an indie nobody says that. You dream up some mad idea, and you race off to do it, forgetting that none of the buttons in the game have mouse-over tool-tips or a highlight state or crop text to fit because… fuck that’s so BORING! and the new cool feature is both NEW and also COOL.
I believe this to be a mistake. When you come up with a cool new feature, just write it down. When the game is finished, polished, bug-free, optimized, awesome… if you still have the time/energy and money, you can look at the idea again and see if it still feels so ‘must-have’.
A lot of indie games have historically shipped in an unpolished state because the developer is
- bored or
Now we have kickstarter, people can say it’s a beta and who cares :D But I’m still a believer in making sure you polish what you have. There are some hit games out there which are not at all polished, but I’d rather not gamble on making one of them. Polish is GOOD.