Indie games given advocacy boost

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The Independent Tech

Over the past couple of years, we've been blessed with some stunning indie games from Braid to World of Goo.

But not every great independently-produced game proves to be a success - which is why a new group aiming to give struggling developers a helping hand has been formed in Britain.

Indievision has been created by former programmer Robert Swan, who has worked for top development houses Kuju, Climax and Sony, and Richard Hill-Whittall, the founder of Icon Games.

They aim to act as an international voice for small developers, promoting indie studios and giving them technical help, contacts and advice with marketing, tax and any legal issues.

"It's not easy for people producing games on their own," says Robert. "Although developers can put a game together and made it playable on the web, mobile phones or consoles without too much pain, there are still many pitfalls which indie programmers often fail to avoid.

"Even simple things like creating effective press releases or using social network sites to market a game can prove to be troublesome for many.

"We're here to share information and knowledge and we don't discriminate against anyone."

The group is run by volunteers and it doesn't charge membership fees. Among those involved are former Ocean Software development director Gary Bracey, former EA and Evolution Studios animator Yacine Salmi and Chris Shrigley, a senior developer at Disney Internet Media Group.

"Some indie games fail to make it big despite being brilliant and that can be down to a number of factors," says Robert. "Poor management, insufficient capital, cash flow problems, over expansion, poor planning and a lack of risk management can drag games and their companies under. With our expertise, we hope to be able to steer people away from those problems."

Indievision is similar to a programme set up by Blitz Game Studios which aims to help small teams get their game to market.

However, Blitz, owned by Philip and Andrew Oliver, creators of the cult Dizzy game of the 1980s and early 1990s, takes a share of the profits from games it takes on board but it also helps to fund the development of the games.

The company allows small firms to use its expertise in programming, art, animation, audio and quality assurance and it uses its contacts with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to help developers to take advantage of having their games on consoles.

One of the games it has recently taken on board is the Xbox Live Arcade title Clover. Blitz has pumped some money into the title and it is set to be released as an enhanced PC version.

"If you're a small team, there are usually areas which you have little experience," says Philip. "A lot of small teams also need funding in order to complete their games to the standard expected by consumers. By giving them a helping hand, we're hoping to showcase some really innovative titles.

"The indie scene is a hotbed of ideas and they need to be supported."