Indie development can be a nightmare. Ask anyone who has had a failed Kickstarter. It's a lot of blood, sweat, tears and sitting around in whatever room is available to you. It's hard work with minimal reward (unless you just so happen to make it big like Mojang or some such). And as optimistic as I'd like to be about this sort of things, let's face it: for every indie developer that makes it, there are probably ten that shrug and go back to their day jobs. Now, picture trying to deal with all of that and the creation of a god-honest MMO.
I can't. I mean, if you think about it, size is no guarantee of success either. We've seen entire squadrons of MMOs shut down or transformed into free-to-play services in a desperate attempt to keep up. We've seen big names hemorrhage players like it's going out of fashion. How about the little guy working out of his own pocket? Eesh. Frightening to think about it, no?
I spend a lot of time on Twitter, rambling on and on about one tangent or another. However, in between chattering avidly in 140-character blurbs, I read my twitter feed. Sometimes, it isn't pretty. You hear a lot of disappointment; a developer who can't seem to get any attention, a failed attempt at acquiring more funds, a conflict within an already tenuous network of co-workers. You hear surrender; I've lost track of the number of developers who have simply given up on a project on account of the fact that it's a financially improbable pipe dream. More often than not, a lot of that frustration seems directed at the fact that people can't seem to get the attention they need.
There's a lot that can be said about being more than a name and a subject line within a mountain of emails. I remember my first encounter with Lantana Games' Dan Silvers. I had vague recollections of his emails but had never gotten around to writing about his game. When I first met him at a conference after-party and skimmed past his booth, he rather literally jumped out at me. Asides from scaring me out of my skin, the 'surprise attack' worked in a different capacity. It got me to remember him.
That's the beauty of face-to-face communication, really, and the reason why hundreds of developers and press members toddle around the conventions every year: to meet people, to get things done, to be more than just a persistent e-mail. With PAX coming up in just a few days, it's hard not to wonder how indie names are going to hold up against the onslaught of swag, bright lights and continuous fusillade of dubstep. Will people even take notice?
If you're going to be attending PAX East this year (be sure to say hi if you see me! I'll be the purple-haired Asian girl trying not to be trampled in the crowd), here's a question: what do you look for in a booth? I'm not talking about the developers that you're dying to go see. You'd go see them anyway, regardless of whether they had an actual booth or a tiny table in a corner. I'm talking about the random sights, the people you casually stroll past. What makes you stop to peruse their wares? A great centerpiece? Attractive personnel? Swag? An interesting, you know, game?
As always, let me know in the comments!