Some questions for indie devs

So I figure since we have a number of indie developers on Qt3, I might as well see if any of them can answer a few questions or, failing that, point me to where to search for the answers on my own.

I’m working with a small team on an iPhone game, and it’s fallen to me to take care of things like marketing and music/sound, and also to figure out how much we should pay our artist, because inexplicably, she keeps protesting that we’re offering her too much money.

So I’d love to hear any input you might have, even if it’s not specific, on these points:

What’s your experience been with iphone advertising/marketing?
Where did you get your sounds/music?
How much should we be paying our artist?
Free, ad-supported app? Non-free app? Free normal version and non-free “deluxe” version with no adds?
Leaderboards, y/n?

Caveat: Not an indie dev.

This is an interesting article from an Xlive indie developer, its generic enough that it might work for your marketing needs:

Cool article! And what is this that it links to? The Big List of Indie Marketing and Business Tips?

Awesome. There’re a couple things in there I hadn’t even realized I needed to start planning around.

So a companion piece to that other article contained in the first link:
it has bits on finding Royalty Free music and sounds.

(And the link from the original link for those interested)

Relatively successful indie iOS dev here, although in a rather particular market (kid’s games).

Click-through style web ads are pretty much useless (even moreso the lower your price of the game, think what your conversion rate needs to be if you are paying 25 cents per click through and you only make 70 cents a sale). There are a handful of sites that can single handedly give a big boost (touch arcade), but in general the only site who can have a big impact is Apple. Being active in forums is a good tip, the touch arcade forums have launched many an app up the charts.

There are ton of sites like Sound Rangers, Sound Dogs, etc etc etc who offer extremely cheap and pretty decent effects clips. Music is more tricky, they have it of course, but it’s pretty generic stuff.

If you’re not going to go the revenue sharing route, you pay your artists based on experience. We usually have our artists do a fixed bid – “here’s what we need you to do, how much will you charge?” I’ve also worked with artists on hourly rates ranging for $25/hr to $100/hr. I really recommend going the fixed bid route if you already like their work and tell them to build a couple rounds of revision into their bid. Much better to know your costs up front.

Not an area I have direct experience in, but I think the best combination is a “Lite” version which is ad supported and a full pay version with no ads. It depends a lot on what you’re making as well, just keep in mind ad supported games need a LOT of downloads AND a lot of replays on each download to make money.

For any kind of game for older kids and adults: absolutely, yes, leaderboards and achievements.

Very indie sounds of your very own: It’s a port of sfxr rewritten in AS3 by a friend of mine. :)

The iPhone doesn’t have anything like XBL’s achievement system, though. Do you think it’s still worthwhile to make achievements for various things?

With regards to sound/music, I feel like music is a huge part of a game’s success; when I think of casual games which I really enjoyed or even which I would be willing to buy, all of them (Braid, all of the Popcap games, etc) have amazing music and sound design. And I don’t even know where to start looking!

Achievements don’t have to be shareable or hooked up to some huge online database, just having them there is often effective enough on its own. I’ve seen PC games add their own personal brand of them even before Steam added its achievements, and found myself still trying to complete them. It’s basically just a way to get the player try playing in a different way they might not think of otherwise. Even if the reward is only a page full of shiny medals, its often enough of a challenge just to know it will be recorded.

I can see that. Hmm, yet another thing to put on the tentative “list of things to implement”!

The forum seems to be chock full of incredibly competent sound designers; now to get up the courage to actually email some of them asking for quotes.

Generally, how far along do people go before they talk to sound designers? I would think that having a game mostly completed (or at least being able to look at what the game is going to look like) would help a guy out a lot…

It does now–Game Center includes achievements. Or do you mean that Game Center achievements aren’t “like” XBLs in some way?

I’d really love to hear an answer to this.

I’ve got a work-in-progress iPad game as a hobby project. (Codename: iMoM, which should give you a pretty good idea of the concept. :>) If I ever get to the point of a fully working game (unlikely, but stranger things have happened!), I’m going to need something better than programmer art. While the odds of my actually reaching the point of hiring an artist are slim, I’m really curious how much I should expect to pay if I get there.

About how much does a good piece of 2D artwork (the equivalent of a Magic card) run?


Excuse me while I excitedly email my programmer to get a response of “well duh, didn’t you know about Game Center?”.

Because no, I didn’t know about Game Center.

Maybe the IndieGamer forums are a good place to get some qualified advice.

Maybe! Good thing I posted this thread on Qt3, or I never would have found the IndieGamer forums. :)

Yeah, back when I was an active indie dev, the indiegamer forums were great. Probably the best community for finding real answers to questions. I’m glad to hear it’s still alive and kicking.

It is a bit of a spam fest and a bit dead now. I think most indies now talk to each other direct, through email or IM, etc. The ones who are making a living from it do anyway.
I also recommend sounddogs and soundrangers. I can’t help with the other stuff because my experience is PC_downlaod specific, and Iphone games are a totally different scenario.

Go to DeviantArt or ConceptArt and start looking for artists that fit your desired style. Create some specifications for your job and contact some artists and either ask for a bid or suggest one. How much? Way too many variables to say. Good reliable art is hard to find.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that Magic card illustrations cost from $200-800 depending on the artist. I’ve also heard that a lesser level CCG that has really great art was being contracted out for $100 an image take it or leave it. If you can find a talented hungry young artist then you can both benefit by building a portfolio as well as references while you get the art at a good price. IMHO Art Directors probably aren’t paid enough. It’s a huge job if you have large requirements.

Danc just posted this re: artists for hire.