Introducing the Documentary about Gaming & Mental Health: Game Flow

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Interview By Ninichi | Contact | Follow

I’m really excited to be introducing you to Game Flow in this blog! It’s a really interesting film about gaming and mental health which I had the honour to learn about & get involved in after discovering they were in need of a composer. I connected with Emily Crawford, the Director, Producer and Editor for the documentary and together we worked on the music for the film.

The soundtrack to the film has been completed and I’m super excited to see how the film evolves and how people react to it! Check out the trailer for Game Flow:

Now, let’s check out this wonderful interview with Emily to learn a bit more about this documentary and why this topic of gaming and mental health is so important…

Who are you and how long have you been involved in films? 

‘I'm a documentary filmmaker, researcher, and writer based in Washington, DC. I've been working in film/television in some capacity for the past 7 years or so, but I only recently started producing and directing my own films. This will really be the first film on this scale that I've produced and directed myself.’

What’s Game Flow about and where did the inspiration behind this documentary come from?

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Game Flow is a short documentary about how gaming can be a powerful tool to help people deal with anxiety and mood disorders. It celebrates the positive impact that games can have on mental health, and attempts to debunk misconceptions about video games being addictive or encouraging violence. 

The inspiration for the film came from my own experience – several years ago, I was struggling with some mental health issues myself, and had also recently started playing a lot of video games for the first time as an adult. I noticed that games were helping me process my emotions in helpful ways, so I started researching the subject. I soon found that there was a lot out there to support what I was experiencing, not only anecdotal evidence but also studies that have been done, things like that. So I decided to make a documentary about gaming for mental health as my MFA capstone project for grad school, and that became Game Flow.’ 

Why do you feel this topic is important? What are you hoping people will takeaway or learn from this film?

‘I feel that this topic is important because outside of the gaming community, nobody really talks about the positive aspects of gaming. There is so much media attention given to the supposed downsides of games, like increased violence or addiction. But there's really very little solid research to support the idea that video games are addictive, or that violent games encourage aggression. There are interviews with psychologists and games researchers in the documentary that get into all of this. 

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Meanwhile, mental healthcare is really inadequate in most of the world, and mental illness still heavily stigmatized. Games are this potential tool for good that is largely being ignored. I'm not advocating for gaming to take the place of therapy or psychiatric care, of course, but games can be a really helpful supplement to treatment.

There is research being done on the subject, and there are some wonderful people incorporating gaming into mental healthcare, but no one really knows about it outside of some very small communities. So I wanted to bring attention the subject, to destigmatize mental illness and gaming, and to encourage people to explore the therapeutic potential of games, especially for mood and anxiety disorders. 

I hope that the film will change at least a few minds about games, and video games especially – because the documentary is about games in general, including board games, cell phone games, etc. But I focused especially on video games in part because they're the most heavily stigmatized. There are still a lot of people out there who think that gamers are all antisocial teenage boys or men who live in their parents' basements. I want to show those people that not only can games be this powerful art form and force for good, but that the people who play them are really diverse and often brilliant, inspiring people who are successful in endeavors outside of gaming.’

Who’s been involved in the film and what has the process of making it been like?

‘I've had a wonderful, generous team of crew members, faculty advisors, funders, and other collaborators, and I could never have finished production without them. The crew were mostly my classmates from film school, as well as my very patient boyfriend, Joey Trimboli, who has also helped with marketing and outreach. Filming was a great experience because it involved meeting all of the amazing people who are in the film. I was able to connect with people over our shared experiences with games and mental health, and I made several real friends along the way. 

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The postproduction process has been a little tougher, mostly because I'm busier with other things theses days – I've been working on other documentaries in order to gain professional experience (and pay the bills), and so have been squeezing my work on Game Flow into my evenings and weekends. But finishing the rough cut felt really good, and I was able to graduate and receive my MFA degree based on that, and have gotten some great feedback on it so far. It's been rewarding to see all of the final pieces start falling into place – now that the soundtrack is done, all that's left to do is a final audio mix, color correction, and finalizing the graphics.’ 

What was your thinking behind the music soundtrack? What made you decide to work with me (Ninichi) & what has it been like?

‘I had gotten this idea stuck in my head that I wanted to do something influenced by chiptunes and retro game music in general. I think I wanted to evoke nostalgia for the games people played when they were young, because that's when most people first connect with the medium.

I posted on social media (@GameFlowDoc) that I was looking for a composer for the film. I heard from quite a few people, but Ninichi's portfolio really stood out, both because of her talent in general, and her obvious familiarity and skill with chiptunes and game music. Most of the composers who expressed interest in the project had done music for games, which I thought was really cool, but Ninichi was unique in that she had already done things very similar to what I wanted for the film. 

Working with Ninichi was amazing! I had never had the opportunity to work directly with a composer before on one of my own films, so that was exciting in itself. Ninichi made the process really easy, and was very receptive to my input and feedback. I really think that the music she composed makes the film more powerful. It's also totally stuck in my head all the time now!’

What are your plans for the film, where can we watch it and what’s next for you?

‘As soon as the postproduction for the film is finished (which will be in Spring 2019), I'll be submitting it to festivals and doing some community screenings in the Washington, DC area. After a festival run, we'll make the film free to watch on Youtube and on our website, gameflowdocumentary.com. We'll be posting updates on the website regularly about screenings, festivals, and our progress in general, so anyone interested in the film should definitely keep an eye on the site. You can also sign up to receive updates about our festivals, our release date, etc. 

I'm not sure what my next project will be yet, but I do know that Game Flow will be an ongoing effort even once the film is released and the festival run is done – I want to build out the website more, and make it a sort of living database of resources related to games and mental health.’ 

This all sounds fantastic! Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about Game Flow. We will be sure to keep our eyes out for the documentary and to spread the word where we can!

See other films Ninichi’s been involved in:

Articles for filmmakers:


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About the interviewer: Ninichi is a freelance composer who creates music for indie games, films and media. She is a great supporter of indie projects and runs this blog in the hope that it offers useful insights for the game development community.

She is open for commissions and would be happy to help you with the music to your game should you need it. Contact her now to discuss your project with her.

Game Development Tips from the Creator of Brass Bellow

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By Ninichi | Contact | Follow

Are you an indie game developer working on your first game or perhaps you’re part of a games studio and you’ve created several games already!? Either way, a very warm welcome to my blog!

I’m Ninichi and I’m a freelance game music composer. I make music for indie games, films, TV shows and anything else that needs music really! I also have this blog on my website, which offers a place for people to learn, get inspired, share experiences, get tips and hopefully much much more.

Recently I’ve been sharing my interviews with various talented indie game developers who have been kind enough to share some of their top tips and experiences with us. This time we have the creator of Brass Bellow, an indie game currently in development right now by @128_mhz

Please tell us a bit about who you are and what you’ve been up to with your game development!

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‘I'm, @128_mhz on twitter. I've been doing game development for coming up on 5 years now. The game I'm working on currently is Brass Bellow.

Brass Bellow is an open world seafaring adventure exploration game. You will find yourself exploring lush abandoned environments, and talking to fantastically strange creatures along your journey. I'm trying to take a deep dive towards making a world that feels like it has a pulse of it's own.’

Wow Brass Bellow sounds amazing and like a game definitely worth keeping an eye out for! What top tips can you share with us around how to build a following for your games and be successful as a full time game developer? 

1. Emotions: I focus on making things that provoke a emotional response in myself.

2. Being open to improvement: I'm always honest with myself about where I could improve my work in order to bring it closer towards the vision I have of the game. If it doesn't look like what is is my mind I keep reworking it until it does.

3. Not forcing yourself: When the creativity stops flowing I take a break, and do something else until I have some more energy to work again. It's not worth forcing yourself to work overtime, and compromise the quality of the game just to feel like you're not idle.

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4. Staying positive: I try to get excited about what I'm making constantly. When I am in a more positive mindset, I find that I get a lot of useful ideas that wouldn't have otherwise popped into my mind.

5. Pacing yourself: Working on a large game is not a sprint it's a marathon. There is no glory in working yourself into the ground in 6 months, and never wanting to touch a line of code again. Pace yourself, setting healthy routines will take you a long way. Only you know what work schedule is best for you. It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing, you do what is best for you, and don't feel guilty if it's not the same as everyone else.

6. Questioning: I ask myself a lot of questions of about what I really want the game to be about. I find the final vision of the game in my mind, and work through it, fleshing it out, taking the time to visualize all the details. Going through this regularly gives me a accurate direction to work towards everyday, and solid goals to achieve.

Do you have any tips you can offer around using Unity that may help other fellow developers?

‘When I work with unity, I get in the habit of making small simple behavior scripts very reusable. I like stuff like being able to drop a script on a gameobject, and have it be a fully functioning container the player can loot.’

Do you have any final words of wisdom you’d like to share?

‘Game development is a winding road, and just because you're stuck in the woods today doesn't mean things won't be completely different in two weeks. Keep your head up, and work towards making something you love!’

Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing your tips with us. To see more top tips from talented game developers see:


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About the interviewer: Ninichi is an indie game music composer who enjoys creating soundtracks for video games, film & media. She composes in a wide range of styles & loves supporting indie game developers and indie filmmakers with their projects. Find out more about her game music or royalty free music and contact her to discuss your project and music needs.

Follow her @ninichimusic

Introducing the Web Series: Questionable Qloset by Dr Crafty

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Interview By Ninichi | Contact | Follow

Hello and welcome to the Ninichi blog! If you’re looking for something fun to watch on YouTube, check out Questionable Qloset! I came across Dr Crafty sometime last year and was delighted to learn more about this new show and to work on the intro theme tune for it. As a freelance composer I get the pleasure of working with many talented professionals in games, film & other media and this show is a great one to get to know and take a look at!

It’s a wonderful magical world where your questions get answered, so find out more about this show and who’s behind it now…

Who are you & can you please introduce your channel to us?

‘I'm Alexander Tansley aka Dr Crafty, and I host the Dr Crafty Youtube show, and it's spin offs; the CharaCafe, Top 10 tub, and the the recently debuted Questionable Qloset. My channel came about from watching speed art videos of other artists, when I found myself having difficulty maintaining attention to them, which lead to ask how I would take this basic formula and make it entertaining. So, after some tinkering and doodling, I came up with the idea of making a more establish frame work with character hosts, to make engaging commentary and comedic banter. And thus we have the Dr crafty show as you see it now!‘

What is Questionable Qloset about & how did you come up with the idea?

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‘The newest show on our channel. The Questionable Qloset, came about after I was growing tired of Q and A sites like Curious Cat and Ask FM, but still wanted that interaction with my fans in a meaningful way. So I thought why not make a show all about answering questions from my fans in a interestingly themed way. So that when I started coming up with the fortune teller idea, and just kept adding more to the aesthetic like the tarot cards themed around the rest of the Crafty Crew. Now my patrons can ask questions about anything on the show, and maybe see it answered in a more entertaining and interactive fashion!’

Who's been involved in the series and what are your plans for it?

‘The team behind my show has been steadily growing as more shows are made and the channel becoming bigger. You have the voice actors; Megami33 of Team 4 star fame, Toxicsoul77 and Katy Johnson (who are also the show's writers, our editing teams consisting of the fine fellows at http://toongrin.com  and RJGrid, and we've been expanding the team to include artists who design special merchandise items for us over at Teepublic we're always planning out new show concepts, and with patreon support, we'll be making those new ideas a reality eventually.’

Where's the theme tune & intro come from? What is that meant to convey?

‘The intro theme for Questionable Qloset (created by Ninichi) was largely inspired by the Poirot TV series opening theme, which helped add that feeling of mystery and intrigue to show, befitting the show host; Crystelle's mysterious and alluring character.

The reason I felt Ninichi would best fit this new series, is unlike the last 3 shows which all have a more lighthearted goofy tone to them, this show needed something more classical to create a stronger contrast between Crystelle's show and the rest of the casts. So Ninichi's intstrumentations really help this show stand out from the rest on the channel.’

What can we expect from Questionable Closet & why should we listen to it?

‘Questionable closet is a fun way to find out any fun or strange secrets that otherwise might not be explored on the main shows themselves, and the questions are always answered in a more entertaining way than simply getting a notifaction about it in text form. Crystelle adds more personality to the response we give those who ask us their questions.

So if you're a fan of the main show, and wanna know some silly secrets about the cast, this is the show to go to. You can find all of our shows at the Dr Crafty channel https://www.youtube.com/drcrafty, and eventually our own official website currently in development!’

How fun! Thanks for telling us more about Questionable Qloset. We will make sure to check it out!


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About the interviewer: Ninichi is an indie game music composer who enjoys creating soundtracks for video games, film & media. She composes in a wide range of styles & loves supporting indie game developers and indie filmmakers with their projects. Find out more about her game music or royalty free music and contact her to discuss your project and music needs.

Follow her @ninichimusic

Game Art Tips from Game Artist & Designer Lucy Jamie

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By Ninichi | Contact | Follow

Are you a game designer, game artist or indie game developer? If so, welcome to my blog! I’m Ninichi and I’m a game music composer. I make music for indie games, films, shows and anything that needs music really! I also run this blog on my website, which tries to offer a place for people to learn, get inspired, share experiences, get tips and much much more.

I’m delighted to be sharing with you some thoughtful tips and insights today, from Lucy Jamie - a super friendly game artist and designer based in Melbourne. She has over 5 years of professional experience in the field and is currently

Who are you and how long have you been involved in game art and game design?

‘I’m Lucy (@LucyJamie3) and I’m a 22 year old Product Design student. I haven’t always studied this at Uni though. I use to study Social Psychology, however, at this point it was because I was scared of being rejected in the art field. Outside of this though I’ve been working freelance and contract for Indie Studios and Online Community for over 5 years. As a 3D modeler, graphic designer, photographer and concept artist. In this time, plus beyond in my free time I’ve built up a large skillset. This has helped me today find work in almost any art field, however my chosen areas outside of Product Design are Environment and Prop design for videogames and indie films.’ 

What top tips can you share with fellow game artists and game developers? 

‘1. Your work is not going to look good to you - you’re going to think it looks bad and that’s never going to change. However, don’t give up, keep pushing and working and it will get better. We as artists and developers are too critical of our own work. This can be a good thing and a bad thing, just don’t let it get you down. Never give up and you have already succeeded. 

2. Theory is important - what separates good artists and developers from bad ones is their extensive understanding of art theory. This is things such as light and perspective and anatomy. You can keep working and ignore these and you will get better, however you will always be held back from the great artists. Art is technical, study is required too, just like any other field.

3. There is no such thing as talent. This is a big one. Far too many people have a resistant attitude to starting art and design. Coming under the false guise of “I’m just not talented”, this is a lazy way out. Granted some artists start a bit better than others due to a whole range of unknown variables. However, everyone starts somewhere at the bottom. Just like riding a bike, you have to practice and practice. You have to increase your mileage and experience. It’s a process, you can’t just start good.

4. Self promotion is key - if you’re a freelancer or contract worker you’re going to rely heavily on self promotion. We don’t have the luxury of companies doing it for us, we must get out there. Showcase our portfolios and be constantly active in our field. This helps us to find work, increase our skills, network and even find full time work. Great services to do this are Art station, Twitter, Twitch and Discord. Yes, that platform that was built for gamers to connect with each other. A surprisingly large number of the gaming audience is interested in art and design and need work done. It’s a great place to get started and start people talking about you work’

What are the biggest challenges or mistakes you see people making? 

‘The biggest challenges come from your own mind and your doubt of your work. You can doubt your work and this helps you to get better. You must though realize it has to stop at some point you need to push past this and not let the emotions stop you from working. You must never give up if you wish to succeed, it won’t be easy and it will take years but it will be a fun and worthwhile journey.’   

What do you wish you knew before you started?

‘I wish I knew that art wasn’t a talent. This was a major hurdle that I had to get over. Realizing that even I can improve my skills and get better. I was stuck in the mindset of “I suck, I will always suck”. You might suck when you start, and realistically you probably do. But it’s unfair and unwise to compare yourself to top of the line artists. It’s just not realistic and it’s far too impactful on your mood.  It’s great to have goals but know your limits, just realize that you’re not going to be at this level forever. If you just keep going you will get better, and maybe one day you will surpass those you once admired’

Thanks for these awesome tips Lucy! I hope that everyone finds something useful from these. It’s great to have your thoughts and perspective given your growth and experience so far in your field.

For further reading - here are a few other articles from the blog that could be useful to check out:


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About the interviewer: Ninichi is a freelance indie game music composer who enjoys creating soundtracks for video games, film & media. She's composes in a wide range of styles & loves supporting indie game developers and indie filmmakers with their projects. Find out more about her game music or royalty free music and contact her to discuss your project and music needs.

Follow her @ninichimusic

10 Awesome Sources of Funding & Grants for Your Indie Game

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By Ninichi | Contact | Follow

Are you an indie game developer wondering how to fund your game? Perhaps some of these organisations and indie developer funds could be worth looking at. I’m Ninichi - a freelance game music composer (see my homepage) and as such have worked with many different indie developers and indie game studios on their projects. One big challenge that I’ve noticed is often the financial side of game development. There are many options available to you, including self-financing, crowd-funding, finding a publisher and so on, but one area that is sometimes overlooked or not really considered is that of grants and other funding sources.

Through this blog (see more articles), I try to offer as much support as I can to the game development community, where I can. Although I’m unable to help with all aspects, I have put together this list of potentially very interesting sources of funds, which I hope may help some of you with your next steps.

1. Indie Fund

http://indie-fund.com

Indie Fund was created by a group of successful game developers as a way to support new and up and coming indie developers with their projects. They offer investment in indie games and are an alternative to the traditional publishing funding model.

2. UK Games Fund

http://ukgamesfund.com

The UK Games Fund is a not-for-profit organisation offering support to the UK games development sector. They focus on games in early development and want their funding to help create jobs, promote diverse new teams and generally help to build the games community and IP in the UK.

3. IndieCade Foundation

http://www.indiecade.org

The IndieCade Foundation is a non-profit organisation known for its dedication to the discovery, development and recognition of independent game developers around the world. Although it is a California-based organisation, it was created to encourage and support indie developers all over the globe.

4. Creative Europe

http://www.creativeeuropeuk.eu/funding-opportunities/development-video-games

Creative Europe offers funding for the development of narrative video games, helping to take them from concept stage to prototype stage. The fund is open to companies that have been registered for a minimum of 12 months and that focus mainly on video game production and that have developed at least one video game previously.

5. Unreal Dev Grants

https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/unrealdevgrants

Epic has a $5m development fund which offers financial support to innovative projects created in and around Unreal Engine 4. Anyone making something exciting using UE4 can apply.  You will keep your IP and can publish the game however you want to.

6. Cry Engine

https://www.cryengine.com/developer-fund

Games being developed using CryEngine are eligible to apply for their Indie Development Fund. There are two rounds in the selection process but if you don’t receive funding the first time you can re-apply every three months.

7. Wellcome Trust

https://wellcome.ac.uk/what-we-do/our-work/digital-games

The Wellcome Trust works with game developers and publishers to support the development of interesting digital games, in particular those that help to improve science and health research.

8. Ancient Games Fund

http://ancientgamesfund.co.uk

The Ancient Games Fund is a private games fund specialising in supporting indie developers making mobile games. The fund is open to solo game developers or small teams with a playable prototype of their game. Up to £25,000 is available, usually in 5 instalments and although the fund is a UK fund, it is open to all applications around the world.

9. Fig

https://www.fig.co

Fig is a community funding and publishing platform for independent video games. People invest in games on Fig in return for having access to certain rewards or revenue generated via game sales.

10. Creative England

http://www.creativeengland.co.uk

Creative England supports and invests in the games industry via their Greenshoots programme with Microsoft, and Gameslab Leeds, which focuses on supporting game developers and digital companies in the Leeds City Region.

The above list is in no particular order. I hope you’ve found some of these resources useful and if anything, they should at least indicate that there is support out there and various options open to you. Once you have established enough funds for your game development, don’t forget to allocate some to the music in your game – whether that is to be used to purchase stock music or to hire a composer. Make sure that some budget allocation exists so that the complete package i.e. your entire game is allowed to shine!  To explore working together on the soundtrack to your game contact me now.

Read next: 11 Places to Publish Your Indie Game

Also see my article on: 10 Crowdfunding Platforms for Indie Projects


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About the Author: Ninichi is an experienced indie game music composer and film composer. She has worked on the music to a wide range of indie games, films, TV shows and more. Check out her music to get a sense of her work and contact her now to explore commissioning her for your project.

Follow her @ninichimusic

5 Awesome Game Development Tips from Dan Wakefield

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Interview By Ninichi | Contact | Follow

Hello I’m Ninichi, a game music composer, and I run this blog (check out the blog homepage to browse more articles)!

I have a real treat for you today, which is an amazing set of tips from the talented Dan Wakefield who in my interview with him, tells us a bit more about himself, the many many games he’s worked on and what to look out for and do in order to be successful as a game developer! Let’s check it out now…

Please tell us who you are and how long you’ve been in game development 

‘Hello! I’m Dan Wakefield (@dantagonism) and I’m based in Oslo, Norway and I co-own two small game studios. In 2014, I started working with Antagonist on a game called Through the Woods, which is now out on PC and consoles. After the game was released I started a new company called Corvid Studio with my friend Torstein where we’re currently working part-time on several unannounced original games.’

What games have you worked on? 

‘I worked full time on the Norse horror game called Through the Woods, which released in 2016 and I co-designed and released a mobile VR game with my new company, Corvid Studio, for NRK, Norway’s national broadcaster, (like Norway’s BBC) which was a very exciting project for us. 

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Other released games include an educational reading game called Poio (the Norwegian and Swedish versions) and a small game called Deflector, which I created with my friend Thomas (available on itch.io). 

Unreleased games I’m working on, which I don’t think are secret include: Mørkredd, Vaesen, Poio (UK, US and Danish versions), Monsterminds, Capeesh, Seas of Fortune, BABY BASH!, Norse Noir: Loki’s Exile and Mari’s Road Home. There are also 10 games I’m working on that I don’t think I can talk about at the moment. Luckily these games are all spread out over the next year or two, so I’m not too stressed right now.’   

What are your best top 5 tips for fellow indie game developers? For example, what do you wish you knew before you started and/or what are some of the trickiest things you’ve had to learn or overcome? 

‘Tough questions! I’ve been doing this for a few years but I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on game development. Some things I’ve learned that could possibly be useful to someone out there: 

1. Make sure you’re making games for the right reasons. 

I think it’s common knowledge that more games fail financially than succeed. I don’t have the figures, but I suppose it’s the same kind of thing with writers and bands. Success is rare and very hard to achieve. A game failing to sell or find an audience, almost by definition, is something you don’t hear much about. So if you’re making indie games because you want to be rich, you would be much better off getting a job at a company with a salary.

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It’s a balancing act. Ideally you should make sure you can make a game without putting yourself into too much financial jeopardy. You hear about teams that quit their jobs, use all their money and remortgage their houses to pay for their game and their game becomes a huge success, but this is not normal or likely. So be careful and be sensible.  

If, however, you love to make games and are more or less financially stable, or live in a place with a good social safety net, then it’s a lot less likely you’ll become homeless. In Corvid, my friend Torstein and I talk about games a lot, and when we keep talking about the same game all the time, we work on it in our spare time and see if it seems fun. If not, we either drop it or put it on hold and work on something else. Obviously it would be great if any of our games made a little money, but really we just like making stuff and like working with each other.’ 

2. Being helpful and nice will pay dividends in the long run. 

‘Perhaps this sounds obvious, but I think it’s important. I think being open and helping people out with things is a great way to make strong connections in the industry. If you give advice or suggestions or share contacts freely, you don’t always need to think about what you gain from it short term; just know you’re putting good out into the world and it can often return to you in interesting ways. You don’t need to be secretive about everything you’re doing.’  

3. Write blogs and post-mortems about things you’ve learned.

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‘This also comes under being helpful, I guess. I used to do this a lot at Antagonist but struggle to find the time now. I wrote a couple of pieces that got featured on Gamasutra about our Kickstarter and our first trip to GDC, etc. You don’t have to be a pro, you only need to have done something one more time than someone else for you to be able to potentially help them a lot. 

I’m bad at proactively putting things out there now but if anyone asks me about how I created a certain sound or how it was negotiating with our publisher and potential pitfalls to look out for, I’m happy to try to help.’ 

4. Learn a little about marketing and social media. 

‘It’s hard to know what will work for your game and the road to success will be different for every title. It’s never too early to try to start to get an understanding of what makes people interested in a certain post and the psychology of what makes people want to share your posts, for example. People like to share things that make them seem funny or clever, or if they think something might be useful to others. Posts with images often get shared more than those without. That’s oversimplified, but it’s basically what often happens to get the ball rolling. 

It’s hard to make every tweet or Facebook post work this way. I’ve tweeted about releasing a soundtrack on Bandcamp and no one really cared. I’ve tweeted an image once of my first little pixel art person and it got a lot of attention. I’m not an artist, but it’s a nice image and I guess people thought it was fun that it was my first attempt at something. 

Some developers tweet rarely and cryptically, some tweet about every little aspect of development. I’ve seen both be really successful. But there’s almost always a consistency to it that works for them.’

5. Try for a marathon, not a sprint. 

‘Games often take a long time to make and development can be incredibly taxing in terms of health, motivation and family life. Burnout is common. I personally was at the point of burnout in the run up to the release of Through the Woods, where I was trying to manage everything, finish and implement the audio and dialogue, write the story and deal with publishers. I also bought a house and had a baby! I felt like I wasn’t in control of anything and that I was being pulled in ten directions at once and there wasn’t enough of me to go around. It was essentially an extended period of crunch for all of us with too few employees to do the necessary jobs. 

In a perfect world, development would be like a steady walk and things like milestones and costs should be meticulously planned. Someone should be responsible for making sure that the team can hit those milestones at a steady pace, without subjecting people to overly long hours. Bad planning can ruin all motivation and enthusiasm. 

If you don’t absolutely have to, try to avoid painting yourself into a corner by announcing a too-ambitious release date, or revealing it too early. Lots of studios I know of don’t build enough time in the cycle for proper testing or for console certification, etc. This can lead to unhealthy crunch, or, if you end up having to delay, often you lose in terms of goodwill, enthusiasm and momentum from staff, fans and press. 

Talk to other developers who have made similar games and try to get a real sense for how long your game is going to take and what it’s going to cost, and get advice on things you may not have thought about.’  

What final tip can you offer that you think will really help a fellow indie game developer? 

‘I’m almost out of sage advice, but have fun and challenge yourself! Really, if you don’t love what you’re doing, there are probably other things you could do with similar skills. 

Thanks so much for having me! Hopefully someone finds something useful here. Good luck to everyone making awesome games out there.’ 

That’s awesome advice from Dan there which I hope everyone can find something useful from! A few follow up articles that could help build on some of Dan’s insights:


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About the interviewer: Ninichi is a freelance composer who creates music for indie games, films and media. She is a great supporter of indie projects and runs this blog in the hope that it offers useful insights for the game development community.

She is open for commissions and would be happy to help you with the music to your game should you need it. Contact her now to discuss your project with her.

Introducing the Game: Railed (A Casual Puzzle Game on Steam)

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Interview By Ninichi | Contact | Follow

Last year, I discovered Railed, a railroad puzzle game, at the time, in development by WarGem LLC. I was commissioned to work on the game music soundtrack and was so pleased to learn all about it! It’s an amazingly addictive game which is easy and fun to play but challenging to master. Here’s my interview with the maker of Railed…

Please tell us about Railed Express and what it’s all about!

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‘Railed is a railroad-themed, casual puzzle game where players connect train tracks between four destinations and a gold/silver mine. Railed is procedural and each game is different. Players start with $30 million dollars and make strategic tile placements with random track pieces. The high scores are tallied on a global scoreboard and players can build rank according to their scores.’ 

Where did the idea for this game come from?

‘Railed is based on an interesting pen & paper game, 30 Rails, by Julian Anstey. Although the gameplay has expanded in Railed, it still captures the original essence of the fun puzzle game.’

How and on what platform can you play the game?

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‘Currently, Railed is adapted to the Windows PC. Rolling train cars delivery railway tile pieces that the player places on a 6x6 game board in rows and columns corresponding to the color of the boxcar. These pieces can be rotated and assembled to connect railroads and ore mines. There are bonus track pieces along the way that add to the dynamic gameplay.‘ 

How long have you been working on it and how did you get into game development?

‘All-in-all, the development project took about 9 months, not counting a couple extended breaks. I began learning to program games in 2016 and this is my first release.’

What part does music play in the game and what do you think of it’s soundtrack?

‘Every great game deserves and requires a great soundtrack. Ninichi was able to capture the melancholic mood I had envisioned and set the tone perfectly with her original compositions. The music is relaxing and beautiful and players enjoy it very much.’  

What’s your plan for the game and after it’s release? 

‘After the release of Railed, the plan is to provide a free version of the game, called Railed Express, that could increase exposure to a larger player base. Until then, caring for the game and the customers is my main focus.’

Where can we play it?

‘The Railed storefront can be found on the popular Steam platform. Plans to publish on itch.io and Humble Bundle are also in the works.’

That’s awesome and very exciting. I’m sure that we all look forward to seeing how Railed develops and giving it a go! To check out other interesting indiegames take a look at:


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About the Interviewer: 

Ninichi is a freelance video game music composer & big supporter of indie games. If you need help with the music for your game or project, contact me now to explore how we might work together. 

Learn more About me (Ninichi) and check out examples of my game music here.

Introducing the Game: Arcadium (A Brick & Paddle Retro Game)

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Interview by Ninichi | Contact | Follow

After having worked with William Palma (@Gedorgames) on the game music to his new and exciting game Arcadium, I am really excited that it’s now on Kickstarter! Arcadium is a super fun game and here’s a little interview with William to give us some more information on it…

How do you play your game Arcadium?

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'Arcadium is played mainly with the mouse to control the paddle. The keyboard is used for the menus. Half of the game is pure brickbreaker action with the goal being to destroy all the bricks in the level. the other half has other goals like destroying enemies, bosses, or competing with opponent paddles & getting the most points or trying to get the ball past them in classic Pong style.

You lose a life if you lose the ball or the paddle gets destroyed. there are 3 different game modes for making the games easier or harder. I plan to have 7 sections of the game with ten levels on each section. the game also has a lot of enemies with their own movement and also powerups that help the player in the levels.'

What made you decide to create this game?

'Well, as a kid growing up in the late 80's and 90's I remember playing Arkanoid and similar games like Traz and Krakout. I always liked those games & i wanted to create something that connected me to my childhood and the retrostyle.

I also wanted to experiment with what I could do with these kind of games to make them more fun & add a little variation to the gameplay.  When I am creating this game i'm always asking myself: "How can I make this game as fun as possible?".'

What did you build the game in ?

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'I am making this game in a program called Game Maker which is really easy to use and great for both beginners and more experienced programmers. If you don't know any programming language and just want to have a quick start at making an easy game or just try and experiment with it then you can use something called the Drag and Drop (DnD) commands which don't require any coding.

However, I would advise people to learn the Game Maker Language (GML) as you can do so much more with it. I learned how to use the code and at first it was quite confusing since I did not have any experience with any programming language prior to Game Maker but after a while I got more comfortable with it and this game is made completely in the GML.  I learned a lot from trial and error and understanding why some things work and others don't.'

What's the game development process been like?

'When I first started on this game I did not think it would take that much time to finish, maybe a couple of months at most. However, I have learned that making games always takes a lot longer than you think since I have worked on this game for over a year.

I think what most people don't understand about making a game is that all the little things about it like fixing bugs, adding new enemies and bosses, adding new elements and functions to the game is really time consuming, as is the polishing & re-doing of things to make it better.  I constantly see things in my game that I am not happy with or that I know I can improve and doing all these things takes time, but every time I fix something or add new sounds or improve the graphics I always feel really happy about it even if it is just a small thing.' 

What is your plan for the music & what do you think of the tracks?

'The original idea was to have a track for each section of the game and I think I will stick with that. I also want a theme for the boss and a final boss theme as well as an introduction song and a song when you beat the game. 

I have enjoyed working with you and I am really greatful that you showed interest in the game and wanted to help me out with the music. I also appreciate all the help with the marketing and I hope that this article will help make more people interested in my game as well as your music and your talent as a composer. 

I really like the tracks and I think they suit well for the game. It is important to have music that you can listen to for a long time without being tired of it and I think that can be said about the tracks. I have discovered that I actually like the tracks even more now than when I first heard them.'

That's really great! Now a bit more about you - would you want to work in a team?

'Working in a team would speed things up a bit but I think I prefer to work mostly alone with my games since I want to be free in doing the kind of games that I like and not having to compromise on anything.  

I am not completely alone though since my brother has helped me alot with the graphics & making a lot of the sprites for the game and of course now I have you helping me with the music for which I am very grateful.'

Have you had any challenges along the way? 

'There is sometimes the problem of motivation! Sometimes I feel like working and other times I am not so motivated! I guess it depends on what I am currently doing, since some things are really fun to do & others things are boring but they are all necessary in order to make a good game.

Most challenges were in the early process due to the fact that I was a beginner and constantly got stuck on things. The most challenging thing about the game is to avoid getting the ball stuck inside something. Even if I had added a lot of code to fix collisions with the ball there are still things that i will have to work on. However, it has gotten a lot easier and I feel confident that I can do everything in code now. It is just a matter of thinking of a good way to do it since there are many ways to make something.  When I learned how to use variables everything got a lot more easier.'

Tell us more about you & how you got into game development... 

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'I was born in Sweden & grew up there with my mother & two brothers. I have always been quite calm and never wanted to draw attension to myself. I have always liked to play games both board games and video games.

I remember that my oldest brother used to own different computers like the Commodore 64, Atari and Amiga 500 & I loved to play computer games whenever I got the chance. Back then you used floppy discs that contained the games which you input directly to the keyboard. I guess the computer was built into the keyboard since there existed no hard drives then.

With the Commodore 64 however, it was even more primitive as you had all the games on cassette tapes, which you put into this thing that looked like a tape recorder with a three digit number that was always set to 000 and went to 999. You had a cassette tape with games and all the games had different numbers, so if a game had the number 073 for example you had to wait as the tape recorder slowly began rolling from 000 and upwards one number at a time. But, it stopped each time it reached a number where there was a game, so you basically put the cassette tape in and then played the first game it stopped on and then continued on until it stopped again and so forth. I also remember the startup screen - it had a lightblue background and white letters and everytime a game was loaded you had to type "Run" to play the game. I know that all of this sounds like the stone age compared to what we have now but back then that was the reality & no one thought it was slow or clumsy then! 

I grew up before the internet existed & before mobile phones were used. I am quite happy to have witnessed how everything has evolved when it comes to technology - especially the computer & video game industry.'

When it comes to me becoming a game developer it all started when I was on vacation with my family. We bought this magazine called 'Retro and Retro Gaming', which had articles about the gaming industry - how it all started, old games from the 70's, 80's, 90's and early this millennium. I found it fascinating to read about people who founded great companies who made computers like the Commodore 64 and Atari and also people who worked with making games and how the process was and what they said about games.

My interest in game making made me search for programs to make games in and i came across Game Maker, learned how to use it and here I am today making my first game. Thanks to the support of my family I can work on this full-time for which I am more grateful than I can put into words, I have the most fun and best job in the world.'

Arcadium sounds awesome! Let’s all go and support it’s development now on Kickstarter.


About the author: Ninichi is a game music composer and created the soundtrack to Arcadium (amongst other games/films/media). 

If you need some music for your game or project, contact me to explore working together now! Learn more about me (Ninichi) and listen to some of my game music.

Also feel free to explore Ninichi's music blog further for more interviews with game developers and tips/advice on marketing games and creating great game music. Follow me @ninichimusic