Worth Reading #2: It's a volatile business

Worth Reading is a weekly rundown of interesting stuff I've found. Sharing is caring! <3

Today I've got a bunch of business-y stuff to share with you, and a really cool tech resource (if you're into platformers, anyway). We'll also touch on an important message about depression, and see what Raph Koster has to say about our social responsibilities as game creators.

Unity on the democratization of game development

Develop brings us this interview with Unity CEO John Riccitello, co-founder Nicholas Francis, and former creative director Charles Hinshaw, in which they frankly discuss the pros and cons of the massive democratization of game development in recent years.

Also check out this related piece from The Guardian which posits the question: does indie gaming's biggest engine have an image problem?

I think some players have a false perception of Unity and that might be of our own making,” [Riccitello] says. “We require free users to employ a Unity splash screen [in their games] but professional users are not required to show off the fact their game was made using our engine. Maybe in terms of how the engine is perceived we ought to do that the other way around.
— John Riccitello, Unity CEO

And speaking of Unity, they just recently published a public development roadmap, which you might find useful to keep an eye on!

10 years of indie stats from Orangepixel

Wondering how much a sustainable one-man indie startup actually makes in a year? This Gamasutra article from Orangepixel's Pascal Bestebroer provides a candid case study and concludes with some important business advice and lessons learned.

Case study of a 42-hour Greenlight success

This piece by Crashlands dev Sam Coster explains why he thinks his game was able to shoot from zero-to-Greenlit in just 42 hours. Hint: it's all about that wonderful trailer. ;)

Why people pirate video games

Video game piracy doesn't get talked about as much now as it used to, but it's still a significant issue facing many game developers, especially relatively-unknown indies who rely on every sale they can scrounge up just so they can make rent each month. But piracy is a lot more complex than just "cheapskates stealing games", as this wide-ranging Kotaku article explores.

Depression is a serious problem for startup founders

This Business Insider piece is aimed at your Silicon Valley entrepreneurial types, but I think it's equally important for indie game developers to consider. Anyone who's done this for any length of time knows the job comes with enormous emotional stress. Maybe you're worrying about how and when your game will recoup its costs, or struggling to negotiate an impossible truce between your work and your life. You might be weathering a hateful tide of Internet harassment, or dreading the enormity of your audience's expectations, or battling persistent imposter syndrome.

Whatever your challenges, it's important to recognize if/when they morph into something more. Depression is real and it's serious, and especially in America it's often ignored or even mocked by a culture obsessed with burnout-intensity work culture. Fortunately, some high-profile founders are starting to speak out publicly about their own experiences with depression; hopefully this will lead to more people with depression actually recognizing and addressing their symptoms, and to all of us chilling out a little bit when it comes to the intensity of our work. If you're a full-time indie, or planning to become one, then you absolutely need to read the piece.

(By the way, if you have depression or know someone who does, be sure to check out Take This, a non-profit dedicated to educating the community about mental illness and reducing the social stigma around these disorders.)

The guide to implementing 2D platformers

I've talked a lot about business stuff, so let's shift gears and look at something a bit more technical. Here's a fantastic, detailed guide to implementing 2D platformers. It covers a bunch of different implementation methods, from cinematic platformers like Another World, to tile-based games like Mega Man, and even the pixel-perfect destructible terrains of Worms. There are a few code examples, but mostly the article focuses on a deep explanation of the concepts and mathematics at work; very useful for intermediate and experienced programmers!

Who needs math, anyway?

Speaking of mathematics, Austin Dixon picks up on this amusing Twitter dichotomy between Jonathan Blow and JW (of Vlambeer), and goes on to present a case study of how he found a very practical use for his own math knowledge on his upcoming game Script Kiddies.

(Personally, I think Jon Blow and JW are both right: you need to understand what the math does so you know what tools to use and where, when, and why to use them; but you don't necessarily need to know how to calculate every little operation longhand, because as JW says, you do have a math API to do that part of the work for you.)

Games do affect people, and that's okay

And finally, we have this editorial from Raph Koster about how games do affect people (despite certain anti-game legislators' historical comments to the contrary) but how those effects are different than you might think. He contrasts points like games' capacity for positive education with things like gaming addiction to show that games affect us in a myriad of ways and to make the argument that game creators thereby incur a certain level of social responsibility.

Saying games can’t affect people is to denigrate them. It is to call them lesser. They are not lesser. And that means it is proper to worry. And also to work in them anyway. There isn’t anything worth doing that doesn’t carry the risk of ruining someone’s life in some way. It’s called “making a difference.”
— Raph Koster, "Games affecting people"

That's it for this week. See you next Friday!