Update: Thanks for the Memories
It looks like the Indie Console isn't going to hit its goal. How sad! But I wanted to thank everyone who supported it, spread the word or even bashed it and thereby helped me improve the idea. The core motivation behind the Indie Console was to try to help out indie games. This time, I tried to give them their own place to live. It didn't work out, but that doesn't mean I'll stop trying!
So thanks again! The Indie Console will be taking a break, and then coming back as a smaller, more incremental project. In the interim, I'll be working on some games of my own!
The Indie Console: http://theindieconsole.com
UPDATE TECH DEMO:
UPDATE Q&A VIDEO:
DISCLAIMER: I only have rights to the console software. All other properties (canabalt, tetris attack, dark forces, chrome, warning forever, etc) are owned by their respective owners, and have been used in this demo without permission. All games in this pitch are just placeholders I was using for testing! I don't know that these developers will have games on the console, but I hope they do!
You're doing what now?
You heard me. I'm developing a completely open "game console" for indie gamers and developers! It's been designed to lower the barrier of entry for tiny little game developers to get their games on a dedicated indie gaming machine. How? The console was built to run any of the most common indie game platforms, complete with an online game store and one slick shiny interface.
Already have too many devices crowded around your TV, or don't like the hardware specs? You can also just get the software and install it on your own machine!
Because I think the Indie Console needs to exist. Right now many small indie developers create great games, but the only place they can put them is up on the internet for free, or to be played on a tiny mobile phone screen.
I want all developers to make the games they want and have an option to put them on an unrestricted game store where old-school gamers with controllers can easily download and play them on their TV. In their living room. With friends.
Gamers won't just use the Indie Console to play web games that are already free online. This opportunity has never existed before, and I'm hoping developers will create all new experiences to play on the console.
What does it do?
There's so much I could tell you about, but here's a big list of some of the interesting features:
Hardware optional Don't like the hardware I am providing? Use your own and just install the software. Then you can customize it how you want to play whatever you want.
Game store Complete online game store built into console software. You just click, pay, download, play! The system keeps track of your purchases, so you can redownload them for free if you need to later on.
Polite DRM DRM doesn't seem to work, and I don't think I can fix that, so the console won't feature any traditional DRM. What it will do is attempt to detect when a player is launching a potentially stolen game, and politely ask them to buy it if it is indeed stolen. They can still play the game without a problem.
Quickmenu I got tired of not having an option what I see on my home screen on other consoles, so I made the homescreen of the Indie Console completely customizable with whatever apps you want.
Low barrier to entry Developers can work in whatever they are already using. A small fee (probably $10) gets you "licensed" as a developer, and you can start selling!
Transparent business While I need to make money to stay in business, I want this project because I think it needs to exist. That means when I make big decisions, I'll tell you why.
Open hardware The basic hardware is just a media PC with no proprietary technology. You can build your own machine, use any controller, install new hardware, whatever. If you can make it work, I won't stop you.
Why should a "console" be so locked down that you can't do anything else with it? The Indie Console is still a fully functional computer behind the software, and you can use it for whatever you want.
No ads I won't monetize this platform by forcing you to look at ads for random crap. The only marketing you will see is in the game store, for the games you want to buy.
Where will my money go?
I'm asking for $70K. That may sound like a lot, but I won't get all of it. First, 5% will go straight to KickStarter. That's how they stay in business.
Then Amazon payments will take 3-5% in transaction fees (KickStarter uses Amazon for all its payments)
Whatever is left will be sent to me. I'll use a bunch of that to pay for and ship out all of the rewards.
The remainder is what I will use to stay in business and keep the lights on. If enough is raised and there is enough demand, I will also be hiring people to help with the management, shipping and public relations side of things. Then I'll pay taxes on all of it. Yay.
It's important to remember that the Indie Console can only stay relevant if it gets a large enough player base, and enough developers. While a lower number may have been enough to get the project built, it would indicate to low a level of interest to sustain the concept after the initial push.
How far along is the project?
Let me tell you where I am right now. The launcher software is all working, along with a simplified version of the online store. Currently, a user can boot into the console, and view a list of downloadable games in the store. These all have preview images, a description, and other generic information stored in a remote database. The game can be downloaded, complete with a progress monitor, and is installed automatically when done. The game is then available in the user's library, and can be launched the same as any other in the interface.
So here's some major things that still need to be done:
- Proper sorting and filtering in the store and library
- Dual layer controller config (allowing almost any controller to be mapped through a standard config into any games button configuration - more details to follow)
- Console settings including color scheme, screen resolution, wireless / network, controllers
- Accepting payments through PayPal (already accomplished, but not implemented yet)
- Developer side of the store, where devs can upload, describe and price their games for download
What games will be on the platform?
I don't know yet! To be honest, it's pretty hard to get anyone to commit anything to this project. Developers can't commit to using the console because I can't give any guarantees as to how many users may end up using it. Gamers are hesitant to jump on board without any idea of which developers will get involved. That's why I need your help now, in the early days, to help raise interest and support!
I expect to see lots of fun little games, and LOTS of games that more than one player can play on the same screen. Just like the good old days.
If you are an indie developer of any size, or even a big developer, and you are interested in the project, I would like to hear from you. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org
How can it run games from different platforms?
The console ships with Linux (because it's free), but the software will run on either Linux or Windows. A number of emulators and helpers are used in order to get games from other platforms running.
- Wine Emulator is used to play Windows games on Linux. This means that not everything works 100% perfect, but most things do.
- Chromium browser is run in kiosk mode in order to support the multitude of web platforms.
- DOSBox is used to support your old school dos games.
- SNES9X is used to play SNES games (again, I can't help you get or sell you old games roms, but I can help you play them!)
- Other emulators may be introduced later on, and you can add your own, in order to support launching other types of games cleanly from the interface.
You can also add your own games to be launched from the launcher interface even if they weren't downloaded through the store. The system will even walk you through the process!
How are developers restricted?
Put simply, they aren't. Not much anyway. There will be a one time fee of $10 to start selling games on the store. After that, its open! If a developer wants to get their game stamped that it was at least reviewed, this will be available for $10 per app. This stamp means that the game was tested and is playable, and all the developers claims are true.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect way to test for malware or malicious developers. Users will be able to rate, comment and flag games, and malicious software will not last long.
While there are no ads in the console software, developers will be allowed to sell games with ads in them. It's not my place to restrict a legitmate monetization method just because I don't like it. However, the game will be required to list that it has 3rd party ads in it, the same as if it has mature content.
What happens when a game is purchased?
Users will buy games through PayPal (sorry to all the haters, it's the easiest thing for a small developer like me to work with) Lets say a game is bought for $10.
- First, PayPal takes 2.9% + $.30, which leaves $9.41
- There may be a download fee depending on the size of the game. This will depend on where game source files end up being hosted. If so, this will come out as a direct cost to cover hosting / transfer fees.
- Then, I take 15% of what is left ($.1.41) leaving $8.00
- In this example, the developer makes 80%!
Developers are paid their due once a month with no minimum balance.
The users machine automatically downloads and installs the game and makes it available to play. The system keeps track, both locally and remotely, of the users purchases, so they can be easily redownloaded on that or another console that the user has.
How are you going to do this as one person?
Well, keep in mind, I'm trying to keep this very indie. I will never able to support the software like Steam, nor the hardware like a next-gen console. Work with me here.
That said, if things go well and enough money is raised, it will be hiring time. I'll need people to help with shipping, support, etc.
While things are still small, it will be me writing the code, packing the orders and trying to keep it all running. I probably won't sleep much.
What about tech support and such?
If you build your own hardware and just use the console software, I obviously can't play tech support for your hardware, but I'll do my best to help you get things working. Software problems will be addressed via automatically downloadable updates.
If you buy the full hardware package, you are actually buying a specific model media PC from an established manufacturer. I'm just installing our stuff on it for you and shipping it off. That means that the device is still under warranty and fully supportable by the manufacturer!
How are you handling hardware production?
Backers have the option of ordering an off the shelf media PC complete with the Linux version of the console software already fully setup and running on it. Because I want to focus on not using proprietary technology (and because this is an indie project) the hardware will be in much the same shape as it would if you were to buy it yourself from a retailer.
I have already started talks with a retailer about buying the machines in bulk. When they arrive, I will be opening them up, imaging the drive with the OS and console software, testing them and sending them back out. It will not be a very complicated process, but if enough users want to order the hardware option, I will be hiring help to deal with this process.
Who do you think you are?
You've probably never heard of me, or any of the tiny games I have worked on. I am a self-employed creative who has been staying alive by selling artwork, doing flash dev work and making indie games. Here are some of the awards I have won:
- 10/11 - Conveyor Best Game: Adobe AIR App Challenge
- 10/11 - Level Most Innovative App: Adobe AIR App Challenge
- 11/08 - Harrahs TSQ Slot Machine 1st place Best Outdoor Ad
- 11/08 - Jumbli launches live in Times Square and across Facebook
- 10/08 - Takuta
1st place MeezInside Contest
- 03/06 - Swing Most Innovative Game Parson's Mobile Game Mosh
Side businesses: http://drmikey.com/art - posters of my paintings, whole site built and run by ME! http://defconyum.com - its like woot, only for cookies. Built by me, waiting to be relaunched!
Get social! Tell your Friends! Tweet it up! #indieconsole
http://www.theindieconsole.com (Full site coming soon!)