With discoverability in the mobile and handheld gaming market becoming harder and harder, we've decided to shine the spotlight on the amazing and interesting indie developers out there.
So welcome to the Indie Spotlight, where each week a developer tells us about their life and work, and the challenges facing indie developers in the modern mobile and handheld market.
PocketGamer.biz: How did you get started as an indie games developer?
Benhaddou Malik: When I was 12 years old, I discovered computer languages on my old PCs. I got really fascinated by the beauty of coding from a blank page and giving life to something. I tried to learn coding at school at 18, but I found the theory pretty boring. I couldn’t stand it for more than a few months.
I like concrete projects and I like to learn alone. At the same time, I was playing online games such as Counterstrike and World of Warcraft and always thought that it would be awesome to be behind the screen and create some games. I learned almost everything I know by myself online. One day I decided to take the plunge and I started with a little game named Ball Genius - a casual game based on geometric shapes and law of physics - that I managed to finish.
Inspired by Mario Maker, I decided to develop Infinity Land, a 2D platformer on browser with an in-game level editor.Benhaddou Malik
Inspired by Mario Maker, I decided to develop Infinity Land, a 2D platformer on browser with an in-game level editor. In 2020, I founded Kosmoon Studio with my cousin and created Astrogon.
What is a typical day in your life as an indie?
A few years ago, my life was not very disciplined. I was not sleeping or eating well and lost a lot of time via the Internet. Developing games allowed me to learn efficiency, professionalism, organisation and a better life balance. Indeed, in order to create a decent indie game, you need to be thorough, think of every detail as well as be disciplined and focused.
I wake up at 7am, I code throughout the day with regular breaks to help my brain breath. I have a daily workout session, I regularly run, and I have a pretty controlled nutrition. I am so motivated to make the best game ever, that my passion for my project and my goals are unlimited sources of motivation.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far as an indie?
I faced two main challenges and neither were technical: Loneliness and entrepreneurship.
I have been a solo developer for a long time. Loneliness is dangerous for an indie game project. Of course, you have forums, Discord, Facebook groups, and the indie game developers community is really helpful, but working in a team is a great factor of success. It allows us to exchange on a daily basis on doubts. It smoothens the decision-making process. It's definitely funnier! More importantly, when you are alone, no one is here to boost motivation when you feel down.
Coding a great indie game is only half the battle. During my two previous projects, I put all of my energy and focus on developing the product. Finding and nurturing a business model, drawing and implementing a marketing plan, community management, creating a company, understanding accounting, banking, laws etcetera. It's all a challenge - especially when it is not at the heart of your interests.
How do you define ‘success’?
I define success in many ways. First, being able to make a living out of my passion is my global definition of success. Also, creating a great experience for Astrogon’s players and having a high level of satisfied fans.
On top of this, I would define success through the engagement and intensity of the player community. A community that expresses its creativity through Astrogon editing mode, with an intense interaction between the members, until I have the feeling that Astrogon does not belong to me any longer. That is my ambition for Astrogon.
What is your opinion of the mobile games market for indies right now?
The mobile market for indies is really promising. The potential is huge. In 2020, it never has been easier to access free online knowledge, from technical solutions to support from other indie gamer developers to create an indie game without the means of a big agency. The number of mobile game players is increasing every day; therefore, we are facing an ocean of opportunities.
Could you tell us about your latest game, and why it felt right for mobile?
Astrogon is a mobile arcade game in an intergalactic synthwave universe. Its gameplay, colours, graphics, creative mode and music make Astrogon a one-of-a-kind mobile game. The gameplay has been studied and designed to be easy to handle and to have fun from the very first seconds.
Start small, move fast, think big. Start with a small project and finish it. Use your mistakes as a learning process.Benhaddou Malik
It has vertical gameplay that makes it perfectly fit for mobile usage in any conditions, in addition to the fact that you may play a quick session in any circumstances, or a long session when you are more comfortable and have fun anyway.
How is the studio coping under the current Covid-19 pandemic?
So far, so good. Thanks to hangouts like Skype, Zoom, Facetime, phones etcetera. we are still going! On top of that, the confinement and other restriction measures helped us to focus on our project. The gaming industry keeps growing, while a lot of other industries are suffering. No complaints.
What are your current plans for the future?
Astrogon is currently at the centre of our plans for the near future. The launch date is on November 1st, 2020. We are working day and night to increase our chances of success. The game has been translated into 17 languages, so we intend to go worldwide.
We've prepared a country by country marketing plan while trying to take into account specificities, influencers, mobile gaming consumption habits of each region, and more. Regarding the future after that, we are full of ideas and opportunities.
If you had an unlimited budget, what game would you most like to make?
A new generation rogue with a creator mode mixed between Mario Maker, World of Warcraft, Fortnite and Zelda in 3D. All playable with VR glasses and sensorial technology as well as music fully produced by Perturbator and gaming design by Hideo Kojima, Sid Meier and Hironobu Sakaguchi. You did say unlimited, right?
What advice would you give other developers on ‘making it’ as an indie?
Start small, move fast, think big. Start with a small project and finish it. Use your mistakes as a learning process. Think of your business model from day one. Tale care of yourself through sport, good food and sleep well. In conclusion: respect the players. Always keep the player experience as your number one concern, and develop your game with ethics and love.