Ty Taylor is the creator of one of the most unique puzzle indie games in the past few years The Bridge, which has won numerous awards from PAX, IGF, to IndieCade and more! Tumblestone is his latest project (I played it earlier this year — woot SWEET multiplayer puzzle actions!) — let’s hear what indie dev wisdom he has in store for us today.
1. Name and location
2. How long have you been an indie dev?
It depends on how you define “indie dev.” I’ve been making games basically my entire life (physical and digital), and I’ve been working on The Bridge and other major independent projects since 2010. For most of that time I was moonlighting while working at Microsoft on the Xbox One, and only recently I left Microsoft to work full-time on my own projects.
3. Games released
4. Sum up your game / studio style in 3 words
Ambitious, Innovative, Artistic
5. Your career path – in a nutshell – to here?
Creating games has always been a deep passion of mine. Literally since I could talk as a young child I would draw mazes or design puzzles, board games, card games, etc. pretty compulsively, and that never went away. In 9th grade I taught myself how program and have been making video games ever since. I majored in Computer Science with a minor in game design, and as I was getting a Masters I starting working on The Bridge. I accepted a position at Microsoft out of college, as with enormous student dept and no other income, an indie career didn’t make sense at the time. I continued working on The Bridge while also working on the Xbox One at Microsoft and released it in February 2013. Based on the passive income from The Bridge I was able to leave Microsoft to create independent games full-time.
6. Your favorite 3 tools or resources for indie development?
Unity, GMail/Google Docs, Git/BitBucket
7. Biggest lesson you’ve learned since being in the game?
Game scoping. It’s really easy to overestimate what you’re actually capable of producing, especially with your first major game. All the time with indie games you see time estimates being overly optimistic, and that’s because so many unforeseen design issues and rough corners come up during the development process that you couldn’t possibly account for. So if you set a deadline, you either need to cut features or push back that deadline. I’ve gotten much better over the years about how to scope the design of my games to something that I can finish in a reasonable time-frame while still delivering an excellent gameplay experience with excellent quality.
8. A piece of advice from a fellow indie that has always stuck with you?
“You can never promote your game too much.” I’ve heard it said that you should spend as much time on PR and marketing with your game as you do developing it. That seems like a lot, and this ratio of course depends on your team size and resources, but the point remains that if you make something spectacular and nobody knows about it, then it will never be successful. While creating games is certainly an art form, selling them is mostly just business.
9. What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m juggling porting The Bridge to new platforms and developing Tumblestone. I usually prefer to have multiple projects going at once so that I never get bored. While porting The Bridge isn’t the most glamorous work, it will certainly be very profitable and help me keep my indie career alive. Tumblestone is an entirely different game than The Bridge, focusing on casual pattern matching in the “block smasher” genre. With Tumblestone, I’m working on a team with two other programmers, in addition to the artist from The Bridge, so development that game also has a good amount of momentum, and we plan on releasing to consoles, tablets, phones, and Steam (PC/Mac/Linux) later this year.