Indie game news, reviews, previews and everything else concerning indie game development.

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Humbled Again By a Bundle [GDC 2011]

humblebundle2Let’s start with some perspective. In 2010, the two Humble Indie Bundles generated around $3 million dollars and were able to donate $1 million of that total to charity. With a little word of mouth, a favorable internet attitude and some luck, Jeffrey Rosen and John Graham of Wolfire Games were able to shake up traditional sales models and build upon the pay-what-you-want models with their new way of delivering games to the masses.

Geoff and I listened to a talk the team gave at PAX last September, but their latest breakdown of their sales prowess included the second bundle that went on sale in September and clocked in $1.8 million of the total sales between both projects.

Their second bundle proved that the first instance wasn’t just a flash in the pan or another event on which one could hang the label of “the perfect storm.” The first bundle, which took the press (even ourselves) a moment to catch on to, ended up selling 130,000 copies. The second bundle cracked 200 and landed on around 230,000 copies sold. The excitement surrounding the second bundle was enough to blast around $500,000 in sales in the first 24 hours.

While we’ve already been over some origins of the bundle, it’s notable to catch that Wolfire Games’ first attempt at such a project was their collaboration with Natural Selection 2 in which the two games bundled up to sell preorders. They pulled together over 1,600 people who paid $39.95 for the combo.

If you recall, the second Humble Indie Bundle didn’t include any games from Wolfire themselves. On this matter, they formed the company Humble Bundle, Inc. and accepted “tips” on behalf of their managing of the sale. Of all the funds diverted through the games in the second bundle, Wolfire Games earned around $133,000 for their work putting it all together.

Their swords were sharpened for the second bundle, because they knew the amount of traffic they may have to anticipate. On the second go-round, they had 70 instances of the Google App running so that nobody would crash the program or the servers while trying to nab their games. With a chat client that had them running 18 operators helping people through tech issues, this tiny team of independent developers achieved the kind of customer service that a major corporation could only dream of. These operators were faced with up to 30 chat sessions at a time seeing each and every problem through to its closure.

The bundles were unequivocally a success. That cannot be denied. And with the creation of the corporation Humble Bundle, Inc. we can foresee more bundles coming down the pipeline. Only time well tell which titles make it into the new package. The deal seems to be a success for the developers, the players and the organizers: the trifecta of good business.


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Indie Links Round-Up: Split It

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Indie Links bring tasty bits and morsels for everyone tonight. Opinions on the landscape, awards, developer advice and of course lots of cool games.

Opinion: A Declaration Of Independence (Brandon Sheffield/Gamasutra)
“In this Gamasutra opinion piece, originally published in the February 2011 issue of Game Developer magazine, EIC Brandon Sheffield takes a look at the definition of an indie developer, noting that the line between small teams and big-budget studios becomes blurrier by the day.”

Analysis: Business Tips For Building Your Indie Game Team (Mona Ibrahim/GameSetWatch)
“In this useful analysis for GSW, attorney Mona Ibrahim offers advice on business and legal decision-making for small video game teams, explaining how to distribute rights, defer leadership, document goals, and more.”

AGS Awards 2010 (ithamore/TIGSource)
“The nominees for the AGS Awards for 2010 have been up for a while, and now you can vote for them on the forums, which requires registration. Voting will close on March 4th at 23:30 GMT, so there is plenty of time to try all the games if you haven’t played any of them yet and are planning to vote.”

Review: Atom Zombie Smasher (James Murff/Big Download)
“Atom Zombie Smasher toes a very careful line. On one hand, it is a supremely accessible and entertaining game. On the other, it’s totally surreal and devoid of the context most people would associate with zombies. The result is a bizarre, hilarious, fun strategy game that manages to keep from being tied to a single genre. It’s not surprising given the developer’s background in blocky, colorful, surreal games. It’s the strongest indie release this year so far, however, and has the potential to keep its position at the top until 2012.”

Xbox Live Indie Gems: Squid (Richard Mitchell/Joystiq)
“There are plenty of shooters available on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel. More than a few of them pack in neon graphics, pulse-pounding music and lots of eye-catching explosions. In this respect, Salmon Steve Productions Squid is no different. What does make it different from most shooters out there is pretty simple: You can’t shoot.”

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile (in 3D) preview: The price of purty (David Hinkle/Joystiq)
“Whenever we hear about a game running in 3D, we’re always filled with questions about performance. Rendering everything twice isn’t an easy prospect, especially for something as fast and frenetic as The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile.”

Mod News: Independence Day (Lewis Denby/RPS)
“Another week, another excellent Half-Life 2 mod announces that it’s going indie. This time, it’s one I hadn’t expected, but it is one I quite enjoyed. I went to Egypt when I was younger, and this mod brought back quite a few memories of standing around the pyramids at Giza. Can you guess what I’m talking about? Read on, either way.”

Riah (Pixel Prospector)
“Riah is a nice little action platformer and tribute to the Castlevania series. Your weaponry: an extendable sword, an axe, a boomerang and knives.”

The Last and Final Word: Lazy Brain Games (Quote Unquote)
“Lazy Brain Games, which focuses on rapid prototypes with an “NES color palette and resolution”, was formed by a guy who had previously tried his luck with developing longer projects. He considered his previous work to be relatively unrewarding, considering the amount of time spent on development, while the rapid prototyping approach (with traditional pixel art) seemed to turn a few more heads.”

From Gardener To Game-Maker: Charlie Knight On Reaching Scoregasm (Simon Parkin/IndieGames)
“In 2006, UK independent game developer Charlie Knight gave up his job as a professional gardener to fulfill a childhood dream of making video games. Five years on and his fourth and most ambitious title, Scoregasm, is nearing completion.”


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DevLinks: All a Blur

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Erik J checking in as your DIY-DJ this weekend (unless any of the other fellows happen to pop-in, then I immediately surrender.) I’ve been away on business which will likely claim my attention again too soon, so let’s make the most of these next couple days shall we?

Along with plenty of new jams, we’ll be playing the hits all weekend long–so get tuned in as we ready ourselves for all the juicy GDC/IGF festivities coming next week. While I gather the necessary resources, let’s kick off my rule with some DevLinks…go out and play for a bit, then come immediately back!

Distractionware (Terry Cavanagh) — My new game
“My new game was finally announced today, so now I can stop being so cryptic and actually talk a little about it! This is a game I’m making for this year’s NYU No Quarter exhibition, which takes place in New York this May. It’s a two player game, designed to be played in an exhibition space. I don’t know what I’m calling it yet.”

2D Boy — World of Goo iPhone
“World of Goo on iPhone! We’re just about finished, and hope to release the game in the App Store as soon as finishing cramming the last of the Goo Balls inside. In the meantime, here are some answers to some “frequently” asked questions…”

Retro City Rampage DevBlog — Long awaited “Grand Theftendo” to finally be revealed at GDC
“It’s been a long time since Grand Theftendo’s original announcement in the fall of 2004. Many of you have been very curious as to what it was like, how it played and eager to see it in action. Well, your patience has paid off. I will finally reveal the precursor to Retro City Rampage on Tuesday March 1st in a lecture at GDC’s Independent Games Summit in San Francisco.”

Zeboyd Games — Desktop Dungeons Review
“Ever since I played Puzzle Quest on XBLA, I’ve thought that it would be cool to make a real puzzle RPG. Fun though Puzzle Quest was, it was basically just Bejewelled with a fantasy setting, character customization, and special moves. In my mind, I pictured a puzzle game where you’d have an RPG character or party and you’d have to get through carefully designed puzzle dungeons, doing all the things you’d normally do in an RPG, but in bite-sized portions with a limited number of solutions. Well, it’s not quite what I had in mind, but Desktop Dungeons is the closest thing I’ve seen yet and it’s even more fun than I expected.”

Dejobaan Games — Developer Diary 4: MVPs, Pax East, and Modding Competition
“This week’s diary brings you an update to Dejobaan’s marketing and distribution of Kick It. Our current goal is to create what the industry calls a “minimum viable product” (MVP) — which basically is another way of saying that we’re working towards creating a small, delicious core nugget that demonstrates everything we want the game to be.”

Frictional Games — The Dragon Speech
“This weekend I discovered the “Dragon Speech” by Chris Crawford and found it really great. He brings up a lot of good stuff, and touches on many subjects that I have ranted about…I am actually a bit embarrassed that I never seen this talk before. I have heard about it, but never thought much about it and thinking it was not worth any attention. Now that I have seen it, I can say that is definitely not the case and it is one of the best things I’ve heard/seen on games.”

#AltDevBlogADay — Collective Ownership by Julien Hamaide
“When you share something, aren’t you more careful about it? Wouldn’t you be ashamed of damaging a share good? If you would, you are ready for collective code ownership. Let’s put some context : Fishing Cactus is a small studio that not only makes games, but also advergames and medical serious games. With a small team of no more than 10 programmers and 3 projects running at the same time, there’s no places for an engine team, a tool team,… The flexibility of the team is really essential for managing day-to-day needs in projects. Collective ownership can be defined as : Nobody owns a piece of code, no one is responsible alone of a piece of code. In other words, code I wrote yesterday could be changed by anyone today.”


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DevLinks: Inside Out

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This week’s DevLinks offer a whirlwind of inside information. Have at it.

#AltDevBlogADay — Data Structures: One size does not fit all (Alex Evans)
“Whether or not you subscribe to Data oriented Design, you really ought to care deeply about the data-structures you use to describe your game’s state. Whether it’s a scenegraph, asset library, server-side data, user names, even string tables, a good data structure will make the difference between usable and unusable; between even performance and lumpy performance; between bounded and unbounded memory use.”

2D Boy — Analysis: World of Goo’s iPad Launch
“We attempted, and failed, to bring World of Goo to iPhone in the summer of 2009. Development was sporadic and slow as we worked with a series of four different contractors who, for various reasons, did not bring the project to completion. So we dropped it. When the iPad came out, we thought we’d try again, this time with a fresh round of confidence that the bigger, more powerful device would be able to support a console quality port of World of Goo.”

Charlie’s Games — Expert Mode
“Scoregasm has always been about making things that look difficult easy to overcome. Mike described it as a farce, which is probably a good analogy. That’s not to say the whole game is a cake walk, but it’s almost always easier than it looks. In fact, to some degree the difficulty is self imposed…”

The Behemoth — Storytime with BattleBlock Theater
“Greetings! I bring news of BattleBlock Theater, mysterious and exciting new screenshots of our cinematics, and upcoming Tradeshow information! In past tradeshows we’ve shown BattleBlock Theater’s Arena modes and Arena modes ONLY, all while having parts of this really cool Story mode.”

Cipher Prime — The Road Ahead
“This post contains 3 BIG announcements. After the response to our Pulse announcement, I’d wanted to make some things very clear about the direction of Cipher Prime. We’re not switching to the iPad. We’re switching to Unity.”

Cliffski’s Blog — The perfect indie game company
“Here is my vision of positech industries in 2012.”

Clint Makes a Game — All of my games are back online
“In talking to somebody yesterday while playing Coordinate Quest, I realized that Moon Harpoon, my GAMMA IV entry is no longer on the interwebs. This means I had the only copy. On my laptop. In my backpack. Oh my god that’s scary.”

Frictional Games — Thoughts on Dead Space 2
“So I just finished Dead Space 2 and wanted to discuss it a bit. Mainly because it is a perfect example of some trends in game design that I find are really harmful. I also find that it has some moments that could have been brilliant if just slightly changed, making it extra interesting to discuss.”

Terry Cavanagh — Catching up
“Sorry I haven’t updated much lately, I’ve been incredibly busy this year. Here’s a quick update on what’s been going on…”

The Witness — How many puzzles are in The Witness?
“Today I was deleting an old area of the island, which had about 25 puzzles in it that I wasn’t happy with. I took to wondering how many puzzles would be left on the island after I deleted those, so I added a console command to count puzzles…”


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Indie Links Round-Up: After You

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Indie Links rolls on this weekend with a variety pack of news, interviews, columns and featured games.

Limbo, Inertia Win Top Prizes At 2011 Indie Game Challenge (Kyle Orland/Gamasutra)
“Playdead’s Limbo won Best Professional Game and Team Hermes’ Inertia won Best Non-Professional Game at this year’s Indie Game Challenge, each receiving over $115,000 from sponsors Gamestop, the AIAS and The Guildhall at SMU and EEDAR.”

Xbox Live Indie Gems: Vorpal (Richard Mitchell/Joystiq)
“Crowded as it is with farting massage simulators, it can be hard to find worthwhile titles on Xbox Live Indie Games. That’s why we sift through all that rough to unearth a few gems. That way, you get the skinny on quality games and we get to indulge our secret passion for fart machines. This week, we take a look at Red Wolf’s bullet hell shoot-em-up, Vorpal.”

The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Sequence (Justin McElory/Joystiq)
“This week we talk with former DS Fanboy blogger and Iridium Studios head Jason Wishnov, about his rhythm RPG Sequence.”

Interview: Stout Games’ Jeroen D. Stout on ‘Dinner Date’ (Jeff Mattas/Shacknews)
“I reached out to Stout Games’ founder and auteur, Jeroen D. Stout, to ask him about (among other things) Dinner Date’s design and development. He also shared some of the challenges inherent in bringing aspects of the narrative richness of other established media (novels, movies, etc.) to the growing subset of gamers seeking more intellectually and emotionally engaging experiences. If you’re that sort of gamer, Stout Games is almost certainly a studio you should put on your radar.”

Help Pirates, Says Preloaded’s Phil Stuart (John Walker/RPS)
“Phil Stuart, creative director at Preloaded speaking at A Winter World Of Love, explained to the audience that the secrets to indie success include, “Work with pirates.””

Rules For Games: Do & Don’t #3 (John Walker/RPS)
“Six months ago I took over the world. My decrees for gaming are the result, and all developers and publishers are obliged to follow them. You can read previous entreaties here. Since they only began half a year ago we haven’t seen the results yet, but any day now. Here is a third instalment of that which must be obeyed.”

Indie Game Documentary On Track For ‘September (ish) 2011 release’ (Eric Caoili/GameSetWatch)
“BlinkWorks Media has posted an update on its progress for Indie Game: The Movie, its documentary about independent game developers and their projects, and the production company says the film is “on track for a September (ish) 2011 release”.”

Winnitron 1000 At GDC 2011 (Eric Caoili/GameSetWatch)
“The Winnitron 1000 — Winnipeg’s custom indie games arcade cabinet built specifically to play titles from local developers — will be at this year Game Developers Conference for attendees to play at the Manitoba booth. For many, this will be the first time they’ll be able to play exclusive editions two-player editions of popular indie games like Semi Secret’s Canabalt and Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box.”

Dr. Blob’s Organism (Pixel Prospector)
“Dr. Blob’s Organism is a circular petri dish shooter where you have to destroy greenish one-celled organisms with concentrated microscopic weapon power… Just swirl around the petri dish, collect powerups and blast the organisms away! Really nice arcade fun.”

Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles (Derek Yu/TIGSource)
“I don’t play a whole lot of puzzle games, but Yuan Works’s Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles caught my eye last week with its fun mechanics, great presentation, and cute Story Mode. The game was originally released in 2007 for the Korean GP2X handheld and was re-released for the Dreamcast a year later (both of these were commercial releases). Its creators recently made the game free to download on Windows.”


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GDC is Coming Up, We’ll Be There!

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As many of you may or may not know, GDC, the pre-eminent developer conference in the world is going to be taking place from February 28th – March 4th. Basically, if you’re a developer, this should be the one pilgrimage you make should you be able to.

Anyway, the reason for this brief post is because, well, we’ll be there representing DIYGamer! Both myself and Peter will be available, although Peter has some other sites he needs to write for. In either case, if you are an indie developer and you would like one of us to swing by, say hi, check out your game, etc. Email me, right now!

We’re an indie games blog and we want to see and speak with indie developers, no matter how small you think your game might be.

Email me at: geoff.gibson [at] diygamer.com to schedule a meeting, informal or whatever.


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DevLinks: Unbound

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If I were to classify Developer Links this week, I’d say they’d fit into the genre dramaction. Of course I’m a bit deprived of the ‘ol sleep right now so maybe I should keep my made up words to myself.

Enjoy.

Wolfire Games — Counterfeit Lugaru on Apple’s App Store (developing)
“You may recall that two weeks ago we added Lugaru HD to the Mac App Store for $9.99 (the same price as on Steam, our own site, and all other distribution channels). You can imagine our surprise when we saw it listed on the Mac store for only $0.99! When we looked into it further, we saw that it was uploaded and sold by someone we had never heard of (using the pseudonym of “iCoder” / “Michael Latour”) and had the name “Lugaru” instead of our “Lugaru HD”.”

Dejobaan Games — Diary #3: Procedural Content Generation Discussed Randomly
“Manually creating gaming worlds — everything from the background to characters, from objects to the sounds they make – takes time. What if there was a process that can take the painstaking manual labor out of programming, while allowing programmers to etch their creative marks in effective code? That’s the basic tenant of procedural content generation (PCG). It’s been around for over thirty years in gaming development.”

Unknown Worlds — Game Statistics
“Version 162 of the game had a semi-hidden feature. We began tracking game end statistics. When a game ends, the game server notifies a web server about a few pieces of information. We send the map name, game version number, game length, and the winning team number. So far we have tracked 1,445 completed games in build 162. While this data will mostly be used internally for play balancing, it is easy enough to make it publicly available.”

Spiral Game Studios (via IndieDB) — Italian girls LOVE ORION: Prelude!
“We didn’t think this was true, but Paolo and Oliver, our new italian localization folks, credited towards games like Zeno Clash and The Ball have insisted that Italian models are loving ORION – we are here to prove it – and why you should too!”

radiangames — The Big One
“Do you see that score? A billion more than the next highest score. That’s INSANE! I guess Chris (TodaysForgotten) should be the one writing the high-scoring tips, not me.”

Arcen Games — What’s Coming Up For AI War?
“Version 5.0 is out most places (not yet Steam, but that’s coming) along with the latest massive expansion, Light of the Spire. This is a big milestone! And you might notice that the next expansion isn’t due until late this year at the earliest. So what happens in the meantime?”

Lazy 8 Studios — Global Game Jam 2011: A Postmortem
“For my third year in a row, the Global Game Jam was an immensely positive experience for me — an opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, and see a game design through from inception to completion. I worked with a team of four at the San Francisco venue. Robin Yang and Sara Thatcher focused on game design, UI, web design and gameplay tuning. John le Plastrier and I played the role of programmers.”

Spaces of Play — Our favorite player reviews of Spirits
“Sometimes, other people are much better at explaining your work then yourself. Here’s some of our most favorite reviews of Spirits, written by players on the AppStore.”


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Indie Links Round-Up: Overview of the Underground

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Indie Links got the time off needed to recharge its batteries. Back strong this week with interviews, opinion pieces, and of course plenty of other indie news our little ol’ site didn’t get to this past week.

Opinion: Minecraft And The Question Of Luck (Tadhg Kelly/GameSetWatch)
“Minecraft is a game that makes industry heads spin. Its developer is on the way to becoming a superstar, it’s generating huge sales for an indie game, and yet it’s the nerdiest game that has been seen for years. Many insiders have quietly concluded that the game is just lucky– a non-repeating event, a freak of nature.”

The Future of the Video Games Industry (Joe Hegarty/#AltDevBlogADay)
“I am sure that many of you watched the recent State of the Union Address given by US President Barack Obama. In it, he spoke a lot about making the US education system better and investing in science and technology. The UK government has also made similar calls that investment in science and technology is what will pull Britain’s economy out of crisis and build its competitiveness for the future. To me, a big area of potential growth is the games industry.”

The Last and Final Word: Beau Blyth (Quote Unquote)
“Beau Blyth has slowly but surely made a name for himself as an indie developer to look out for with the memorable likes of Armed Generator Doom Machine, Fish Face, Action Fist and Shoot First (all receiving favourable coverage of varying degrees from indie community). He has grown comfortable with Game Maker, is uncomfortable that so many of his games have involved shooting so far and is positive about the future and learning more about the craft of development.”

Xbox Live Indie Gems: Corrupted (Richard Mitchell/Joystiq)
“At first glance, Corrupted appears to be no more complex than most twin-stick action affairs. Players are quickly surrounded by enemies that must be dispatched. Naturally, this is done by pointing the right analog stick in their general direction. The base formula is one we’ve seen many times, especially in the downloadable space. Play a bit longer, however, and you’ll find an experience that much deeper.”

Interview: Where Next For Desktop Dungeons (Alec Meer/Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
“Desktop Dungeons: an incredibly smart roguelike, which takes 10 minutes to play and turns roleplaying into something akin to a puzzle game. We went slightly bananas over it last year. Desktop Dungeons: a game ripped-off shamelessly and sold for profit by someone else. Following an attempt to buy the DD devs off with a free iPhone (!), clone-game League of Epic Heroes finally panicked in the face of DD’s lawyers and disappeared from the App Store. There ensued a web-wide argument about plagiarism/inspiration. Suffice to say it’s been a strange year for South African studio QCF Design.”

Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword Expansion Coming to PC Later this Year (Xav de Matos/Shacknews)
“The Mount & Blade franchise is continuing its expansion with a new installment announced during a Paradox Interactive press event in late January…Set to arrive in Q2 2011 and with it bring “fully customizable troops, new siege options, and an exciting new age of weaponry.”

Geek Mind (Pixel Prospector)
“Geek Mind is a charmingly great video game quiz where about all kinds of games from the past as well as from the present. Simply name the games that are shown in the picture in order to add a few extra seconds to your timer and to earn some points (and medals). If you shouldn’t know the name of a particular game either skip it or click “hint” in order to get a little help. A simple yet fantastic idea perfectly executed!”

Interview: Frictional Games (Animate Dead)
“Frictional Games was behind 2010’s most scary game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. By some accounts, the most scary video game ever. Considered by fans, a spiritual successor to the well-received Penumbra series. Amnesia is their most critically acclaimed effort yet. We reached out for a few comments on their success and on being an indie developer.”


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Indie Fund Picks Three Teams, Coming Out Party Set for GDC

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The fine chaps over at Indie Fund have passed along some exciting news: the group has selected three development teams to fund and we’ll likely see games from two of them sometime later this year.

The dev teams are set to be revealed at this year’s GDC (now just a month away!) during a panel IF is putting together for the Independent Games Summit. Featuring partners of the organization along with reps from each of the three teams, the discussion will focus on operating and working with Indie Fund from the respective parties. Some combination of Geoff, Peter and I will be on hand and I’m sure we’ll have plenty to share shortly after.

The fund also points out that only half their budget is being committed to fund the three teams and thus they’re still looking for more projects to invest in. Basically, the submission process is still quite open at this point. So if you have something but nothing to back it, consider applying.

For more readily available info about the Indie Fund check out our chat with 2D Boy’s Ron Carmel, one of the head honcho’s behind the fund.


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8-Bit Funding is Now Live

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Whew! After a week of agonizing market planning and bug fixing, the site is finally live! Hurrah! I mean, there are still bugs, and I wish I could have delayed the site by another week to make sure it was absolutely perfect, but I have a feeling this is as close as we were gonna get for launch.

Oh, sorry, some of you guys might not know what I’m referring to exactly. A while back I created a post to let everybody know what I was working on and why my activity here on DIYGamer.com had slumped a bit. The short answer is that I’ve been building a new website called 8-Bit Funding, a dedicated crowdfunding site for indie game developers to try and raise funds to complete their games.

The concept is pretty simple, a developer will create a project with a video, description, and perks. They will then market that project to their fans, friends, and family in an attempt to secure funds for their project. The idea is that people will like the project, see what they can get via perks and then contribute accordingly.

It’s a very similar idea to Kickstarter, but with 8-Bit Funding being both international and game developer-friendly.

Anyway, the site is now live with 7 projects up and running and more coming soon. I’d love it if you guys checked it out.

P.S. Yes, there are bugs.

[8-Bit Funding]