Indie game developers seem to be divided into two camps: cloners and non-cloners. The cloners are doing it for the money and the non-cloners are doing it for “art”. I fall into the cloner category at the moment, but there is a reason for this … read on.
In December 2004 I started making a kung fu platform game with BlitzPlus that I thought was going to be pretty interesting. Then, after around 6 months development, I realised that the target market is (potentially) tiny, plus my game was realistically going to take years to finish at the current rate (I was working on it during evenings and weekends). What I really wanted to do was complete a game and actually sell it, and I knew that the platform game was too complex and that I should start with something simpler and more marketable. So I changed “game” plan, so to speak, and made a Tetris clone as a practice piece, and a couple of other free games/demos: see http://www.greyaliengames.com/free.php
Then I made a match-3 engine to see if I could get it to commercial standard in a quick(ish) time period; however, it was still HARD work. The idea was to get experience in the Indie market with a couple of easier-to-make, and popular games, before finally venturing down more interesting paths. Then hopefully my more wacky games (that I’ve yet to make) will be accepted by the portals, and if not, I can fall back on the skills that I have learnt and sell the games myself via my own website.
What I have done is a means to an end; a sound business plan – clone to gain skills, then release the cool stuff later. You’ll just have to see whether I do that or not, or maybe I’ll just become REALLY good at cloning (the match-3 “King”), or making clones with something different in them … who knows.
In fact the idea of making clones with something different in them is interesting (to me) because you think “hmm, here’s a cool idea, but why isn’t in the other clones, maybe the players won’t like it, or it’s too fiddly to implement, or maybe it is just plain cool and should go in after all” etc. Plus you get to explore FULLY how a certain game engine works and what is good about it and what isn’t so you can either a) duplicate or b) remove or c) improve. Many people fail to do both b) and c) with their clones I have noticed. I think one of the key skills in making good games is the ability to criticise your own work and to improve it accordingly.
Anyway, watch this space, the match-3 “King” will rule one day soon…