programming in the
twenty-first century

It's not about technology for its own sake. It's about being able to implement your ideas.

Tough Love for Indies

At one time I was the independent software developer's dream customer.

I was a pushover. I bought applications, I bought tools, I bought games. This was back when "shareware" was still legitimate, back before the iPhone App Store made five dollars sound like an outrageous amount of money for a game. I did it to support the little guy, to promote the dream of living in the mountains or a coastal town with the only source of income coming from the sale of homemade code.

Much of the stuff I bought wasn't great. I bought it because it showed promise, because it clearly had some thought and effort behind it. That I knew it was produced by one person working away in his spare hours softened my expectations.

The thing is, most people don't think that way.

These days I still gravitate toward toward apps that were developed by individuals or small companies, but I don't cut them any slack for lack of quality. I can't justify buying an indie game because it has potential but isn't actually fun. I won't downgrade my expectations of interface design and usability so I can use a program created by two people instead of a large corporation.

That whole term "indie" only means something if you go behind the scenes and find out who wrote a piece of software. And while I think it's fascinating to watch the goings-on of small software developers, it's a quirk shared by a small minority of potential customers. The first rule of being indie is that people don't care if you're indie. You don't get any preferential treatment for not having a real office or a QA department. The only thing that matters is the end result.

(If you liked this, you might enjoy Easy to Please.)

permalink June 20, 2011


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I'm James Hague, a recovering programmer who has been designing video games since the 1980s. Programming Without Being Obsessed With Programming and Organizational Skills Beat Algorithmic Wizardry are good starting points. For the older stuff, try the 2012 Retrospective.

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