RPGs still viable as a genre (for independent development)?

Well, I’ve been doing budgeting and such lately for my indie game… For those of you who don’t know, I’m moving to Russia in April to start up a studio.

One of the games on the agenda is an RPG with a bunch of unique twists. However, that said - are these even viable?

Sure, if you’re Spiderweb, and it’s just you and your wife, and there’s basically 0 engine technology involved, no problem… Just crank out the content and - bam, RPG.

But when you’re actually going to have employees and (obviously) not AAA content, but good content - is there enough of a market?

Even Fable, a AAA Molyneux game didn’t do that great did it? Did Dungeon Siege 2?

Now, I’ll be marketing on an indie scale, most likely, so my sales numbers won’t be even close to a retail game, but it worries me.

Is it stupid to spend money to bring an RPG to market these days?

Geez, I sure hope they are…

MAKE THE GAME 2D. It’s the only way you’ll manage. Look at Divine Divinity for inspiration. If you try and go 3d, you’re just opening yourself to a world of pain and a magnitude more complexity. Whereas with 2D, you can do probably just about anything you’d like to do for an RPG, and help mitigate a lot of the issues you’d have otherwise. Plus you can make the game look better with less people/talent.

Ya, only the combat engine is going to be 3d. I’m actually not a big fan of the full 3d rpg. I’ve got some pretty unique ideas there, hopefully it should be good. I’m trying to make it as close to a table top DND experience as I can.

But my fear is - if I spend $100k or whatever making this thing, am I going to make that back without a publishing deal (ick!)?

Also, note that if you are making a PC game, people tend to like their combat integrated with the world rather than an abstracted console-like system. Learn from Anachronox!

Oh yee fucking gods yes!

Please, please learn from Anachronox.

Fable actually did pretty great. Over a million.

What? I hope you are just expressing your sadness about the commercial failure of Anachronox. Because I just thought you were dissing the combat system. And you didn’t. I hope.

I know you’re probably not interested in my opinion, but FWIW, I can’t think of any indies off-hand who have self-published and made $100k or more, let alone indie RPG’s. (Star Chamber, maybe? Maaaybe pre-steam Darwinia?)

With a $100k budget, though, it seems like there would be a number of distribution/publishing deals you could get that could really help you get your money back. From my research, working with a distributor/publisher will almost always yield higher total revenue for the developer, assuming they’re a good fit of course.

No way man, totally interested in your opinion.

Ya, and that’s what I was sort of getting the sense of… That I was going to come out the other side with a game I love, having spent a lot of cash on it, to find that the indie marketplace just can’t support it and I have to go retail.

Never having gone that route before, reading the stories of what happens to first-time devs with publishers pretty much horrifies me. :)

EDIT: Oh, and I’m trying to get ahold of a copy of Anachronox so I can learn from it, or be awed by it or whatever.

Fable has sold >1.8M, Sacred (a German PC-only Diablo clone for chrissakes) has sold >1.5M, no numbers to hand on DS2 but I bet it did alright. In fact, I would argue that most “good” RPGs do fairly well and those that don’t have clearly identifiable points of failure (marketing, overwhelming bugs, unfinished, too obscure setting (PS:T)).

If you just want to know whether people would buy it, I think a lot depends on the quality with indie games. They really depend on word of mouth. Plan not to make the money back right away. If you are lucky, forums like this one will like your game and it will sell (see Space Rangers 2). SR2 didn’t even release here in the U.S. Most of us got it from gogamer. It did have a publisher though…so it is not the same thing. Fate is another, perhaps better, example. These games thrive on putting quality gameplay first. Sales result from that. Also, be VERY customer friendly. Games like Space Empires and Escape Velocity have grown because patches and content were added and customer input was always considered. As an indie developer, word of mouth is your greatest advertisement. Try to get someone to write a review of your game that will appear in a magazine, too. There are people around here who do that, and it will help.

For the specific question, I think RPGs are just as viable as any other indie project. The people who play indie games often love RPGs. Fate is again the perfect example of this.

I’m ready and willing to trash everything about Anachronox other than the dialog. Because some people just have no sense of majesty.

I bet this question was asked a lot back in the mid 90s. The answer came some time in the late 90s. :P

BTW, does anyone have any idea how “successful” Fate was?

How much money has Fate made? Also, I’d agree with the sentiments about 2D – if you made yourself a decent 2D tileset ala Fallout, you can reuse that stuff over and over and just focus on the story and progression. Hell, even the Fallout main character was just a regular world model. That game was engineering genius.

If you want to go 3D, though, I still think it’s possible, it’s just going to take longer to produce your assets. There are a lot of time-saving design choices you can make, though, you just need to be willing to make certain sacrifices.

For me the biggest thing about an RPG is the story. The next is character development.

If you are going to start a studio and do not have a mountain of cash, I would agree with the sentiment to go 2D. It is much eaiser to create a really big, nice looking 2D world full of adventure then a 3D world. Of course you could always do the ‘fake’ 3D world model which is an extruded 2D world in 3 dimenions like that Sewers of Waterdeep game (I forget its name). I am sure this type can be done with only slightly more effort then a 2D game and without all the overhead of a “you can go anywhere you want” 3D game world.

As a player Id much rather have this kind of world that was much bigger and much richer then a nicer looking 3D world. Other options that I think may be more palatble to the general gaming populous would be an ortho-graphic 3D world like Baldurs Gate.

I think you can do a cool RPG as long as the story and character development are there. One request though, make it Sci-Fi, not fantasy. If I never see a game where “An ancient evil…” it will be far to soon again.

As an added bonus if you are really feeling ambitious, add multi-player, a random dungeon creator (where you can set theme, size, and difficulty), and an editor to your game. Do all that, and you will be printing your own money.

Take a page from Lucas and do both. I’d love to see a John Carter on Mars type RPG. Swords, ray guns, busty Martian princesses, what’s not to like?

JCoM ripoff would be ace.

Anachronox would’ve been infinitely better if there was a code to skip all combat.