The series is about asking a question. Every episode is a question about game design that we think the studio we’re visiting is trying to answer. As we travel to their studio in the Indie Van, we explore the answer to that question ourselves in the form of a game jam.
A Sample Episode
For example, say we travel to BioWare (not an Indie, but a great example!), they usually make games that involve branched storytelling and choices. The question for them might be ‘is truly consequential branched storytelling actually possible in video games?’ This is a question many folks have asked about game design over the years. Once we have The Question that is right for the studio, we hop in the Indie Van and game jam along the way, trying our hardest to answer the question ourselves. When we arrive at the studio, we interview the developers and ask them The Question – then we show them the current state of our game jam and see what insights they have. Now, armed with the sage wisdom of the masters, we finish the game jam in the van on the way home and release it with the episode as a digital download. (More on that later.)
Check out a video teaser for what kind of talk we talk with someone like Stoic!
Yes, indeed! We want to film an 8 episode series. That means we want to create 8 web episodes, featuring 8 indie developers, spanning 8 different cities, and delivering 8 small game jam games which could range from totally awesome to total trainwreck! These games will be made available for download at the same time the episode airs, so you can join us on the adventure.
The series is about the DIY spirit – start working now! Do it yourself! Just go find the people who are experts and ask them how they got there! You don’t need to wait to be discovered, go out and get it! The series is about travel! We wander through the world seeking out our heroes and trying to meet them at eye level! We explore the world and turn up pockets of awesomeness all over the place! We get travel-weary and car-crazy and grumpy and eat weird local food! We try to become a part of these places we’re visiting, like travelers, not tourists! The series is about Zeb and Chad and our dumb sense of humor! Our own weird perspectives on games and what we think is awesome about them! Our dumb jokes! About how our personalities are both similar and different and the celebration of that!
Games as well! Every episode features us doing a Game Jam that seeks to explore The Question that we are posing to the Indie Sages. As we make our way around North America, we will meet both success and failure in making bite-sized games in numerous styles in a bite-sized amount of time. Whether we win or lose, you can check out the awesome or awesomely bad results for yourself. Right beside each episode will be a way to buy the game from the episode. Since these games can be a gamble, we won't charge more than 99 cents for the awesome ones and the awesomely bad will be free.
Binary Solo is a two-man indie studio formed by Chad Stewart and Zeb West in
Austin, TX. Our mission is simple: Make the games that we would want to play,
and play the games that we would want to make.
Chad and Zeb met
while working on Star Wars: The Old Republic at
BioWare Austin and bonded over a shared
desire to charge into the vibrant indie scene
which has erupted in North America. With new
tools, markets and funding channels available to
the masses, and a rebellious dissatisfaction with
the increasingly bland games being turned out
by large publishers, now is the time to make the
game you dreamed about. Chad is
programming and president, Zeb is production
and design. Together they are on a crusade to
stamp out the jive and bring in the love.
The Indie game scene is so vibrant right now, with the tools for development and distribution being democratized – readily available and in the hands of the people! That’s causing some outrageous games to come out as a result of a revolution – shaking up the games that large publishers have been delivering to gamers, and giving rise to vibrant, experimental new flavors and genres, answering an outcry for something new. We thought it would be fun to get right inside this bustling scene, and show what the indie developers are doing – how they’re going about things differently, how that ‘do it yourself’ indie spirit is spawning innovation and creativity. Seeing how a small pack of passionate developers can turn out something better and more interesting than armies of corporate developers who might be so compartmentalized and disenfranchised that they've lost the fire for the games they’re making!
Video games are such a young industry it’s easy to forget that the development structure and a publishing model is still being defined! What happens when you put the tools of production in the hands of smart, savvy, hungry creatives who care more about making the games they want, than making the games they think would sell like a blockbuster?
This series will be vital to the next generation of gamers. They will get a window into the pioneers on the indie front. They’ll be inspired by that ‘do it yourself’ spirit and hopefully make the connection that everything they need is in front of them. That young developer or armchair designer will get an over-the-shoulder view of the back-yard wrestling of game development: The developers who took that scary leap outside the studio/publisher system in order to follow their passion.
This tour goes across the country (and maybe across the maple curtain into Canadian!) Starting in Austin, TX; we will be traveling around North America seeking out independent developers big and small. Who will this include?
Stoic Studios – Austin, TX
John Watson, Arnie Jorgenson, and Alex Thomas are the makers of the kickstarter-backed, gorgeous, and epic turn-based strategy game The Banner Saga. In the Spring of 2013, they released Banner Saga: Factions, and are currently working day and night to finish the single player version.
Indie Game Collective – Boston, MA
The Indie Game Collective is a unique group of studios and individual developers located in a single co-working space in Boston. They collaborate and help each other, a group of indies toiling together. The Collective includes: Ichiro Lambe and Rohit Shenoy (Dejobaan Games), David W. Evans (Hybrid Mind Studios), Erik Asmussen (82 Apps) , Michael Carriere (ZapDot), Trevor Stricker (Disco Pixel), and more.
ROB LACH – Chicago, IL
Rob Lach is the creator of POP: METHODOLOGY EXPERIMENT ONE, a game that has received praise from Indiecade, Fantastic Arcade, and others. As a single developer going it on his own, he embodies the Indie spirit.
Oreganik - Eugene, OR
Oreganik is a delightful play on words. They are currently making a game called Chess Heroes which you can now vote for on Steam Greenlight!
KLEI Entertainment - Vancouver, British Columbia (That's Canada!)
KLEI Entertainment are the folks behind the masterpieces Don't Starve and Mark of the Ninja (among others.) They are currently working on their new tactical stealth game Incognita.
As you can see, most of the costs of this project are actually related to having someone do the filming. This includes equipment that we will have to buy and rent. Otherwise, save for the fees, our biggest collection of costs is the travel costs. Driving around the country requires money, an amount which we have calculated using mileage numbers, gas prices, and Good Math.
Regardless of your Backer level, you will be able to watch the show. Different levels will offer an advanced screening, but no tier will leave you without access to the show itself! Where levels above $25.00 stand out, however, is that they include all of the games (8!) that we will create.
Indie Van Game Fan!
Receive a post card from the road! It wouldn't be authentic if it wasn't bought and mailed from somewhere on our trip! You'll receive a post card from a stop on the trip with a personal note from us. Will it be Chicago? Boston? Who knows!
Indie Van Game Clan!
Join the club! As part of the Indie Van Game Clan you now get access to advanced screenings of the episodes before they go live, including all of the game and social features that entails! You get to download the game (don't mind the Buy button, you'll have a special view!) While you will get to see our verdict during the episode, we also want your opinion! Tell us whether the game was Fun or Failure. Just like in this fancy, not final mockup!
Indie Van Grand Stand!
You're in the good seats! In addition to the Game Clan! rewards you get a downloadable version of the series after it has finished airing. This will also include new special features and bonuses.
Indie Van Tribute Band!
One of the rewards we have our heart set on is a DVD set. There is just something intangible about a physical product for some people. (We are some of those people!) For those of you who are tooting our horn, this is what a DVD set may look like:
Risks and challenges
There’s a ton of coordination and tour management to do to get all these trips and interviews planned – will logistics agree with reality in order to get the episodes filmed, edited and published? Flat tires? Blown head-gaskets? Game-jam arguments so headed we have to pull the car over and cry and hug it out? We have tried to plan for every eventuality, but sometimes fate puts a nail in your tire.
Video Games can be a boom and bust industry – maybe some of these studios might not last long enough for us to come interview them. Maybe some studios might be weird or paranoid about how they will be presented, so they may give us a hard time or resist sharing with us.
Some of the game jams might be disasters – that’s a lot of pressure stacked on top of all the logistics of just doing the interviews. Chad and Zeb might get into fights (although we think that might make for great entertainment!) Would it be as exciting knowing we will always succeed? We don't think so! Just like in Man Vs. Food the cloud of failure could hang above our head. We hope you will appreciate the journey regardless of the destination.
We actually borrowed the van to make this video. (Shout out to Kenny Gall: Van owner and stunt double! http://www.kennethgall.com) We really like the van and it served as our inspiration for the van logo. We hope to get one ourselves!
A game jam is a game made in a restricted amount of time, usually 24 - 72 hours. There are some famous game jams that exist like the Global Game Jam, Ludum Dare, and the MolyJam, We are going to make our games on the drive towards the studio we're interviewing and we're going to make a game that touches upon something they usually do with their games (albeit a smaller, distilled version.) We're not just making 8 clones, we're making 8 unique, original games with direction.
Producer credit on all episodes. Get the Game Clan! and Grand Stand! rewards. PLUS a late night bleary-eyed too-much-time-in-the-van ramble on any bizarre subject you choose. A tired and delirious Chad and Zeb will expound on any subject you desire, and the results will be in the special features of the DVD and digital releases!
Writer credit on an episode, Producer credit on all episodes. Get the Game Clan! Grand Stand! and Right Hand! rewards. Work with us to get YOUR interview question answered by an independent game developer. If we don't end up using it in the show, it will be a Special Feature.