My name is Thomas Reinking, and I'm the creator of and writer for Stories About Indie Devs (storiesaboutindiedevs.com). As a lifelong gamer and consumer of video games media, I became kind of disappointed in the direction that games journalism was heading. Most of the articles published on websites focused on unsubstantiated rumors, reviews, drama, and so on. There's been a distinct lack of, well, actual journalism in games journalism.

There are endless articles on various websites about the actual video games being released every week, but there are hardly any articles about the people who are actually making the games that we all play. These are people that put years of their lives into crafting games, and no one is talking to them.

So I decided to do something about it. I created Stories About Indie Devs as a place where I could interview indie video game developers and tell their stories. In the three and a half months since the site launched, I've talked to so many interesting people and written so many fascinating stories.

Some highlights include a developer who made his dream games out of his parents attic in Lithuania, an indie publishing studio in Spain that almost went under during the WiiWare boom of the 2000's, a 2-person European studio navigating game development after missing their original release window after a successful Kickstarter, and more.

Please ask me anything about indie game developers, games journalism, or literally anything else! I look forward to answering your questions!

Proof: https://www.facebook.com/StoriesAboutIndieDevs most recent post

Comments: 102 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

FountOfDumbQuestions37 karma

Hey! First of all, I think you're doing important work, keep it up! Second, do you have any interest in fan-made games that take place in an established universe? I'm taking about romhacks, mods, custom engines, or simpler "make your own level" features in games.

I'm only active in a few of these communities myself (Pokemon, Fire Emblem, and Beat Saber), but there's a beautiful world of sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always honest and raw fan-created content out there. Any interest in covering that, despite it not exactly fitting the indie games label?

we_gobba_go_back25 karma

Hello! I would absolutely be interested in learning more about that scene of game making! Honestly, when I think about it, that's a segment of game making that's in a blind spot of mine. If it's alright, could I message you to get more info?

sonofaresiii21 karma

What's your favorite indie game? What do you think it takes, resource-wise (time, money, tech, people, etc.) for a person to create a successful indie game these days? What makes the difference between whether an indie game becomes successful or not?

we_gobba_go_back40 karma

My favorite indie game is The Stanley Parable. The combination of "choose your own adventure" and comedy hit me in a way that no other game has before or since. Just a wonderful experience.

It takes A LOT of resources for a person to create a successful game. It's tough. One solo developer I talked to admitted that it could take 4-5 YEARS before their game sees a full release. That's 4-5 years without making a cent off of the game (aside from Patreon support, of course).

As for the difference between whether an indie game becomes successful or not, frankly a lot of it comes down to audience awareness and luck. A dev could make a totally unique game that does things never seen before, but if they aren't on social media trumpeting it to the masses, no one will hear about it. Sometimes it's just plain dumb luck.

One dev I talked to had his game played by Markiplier. It caused the number of downloads for his game to skyrocket. If Markiplier doesn't play his game, his career path is completely different.

The indie market is extremely saturated and it is harder than ever to stand out.

sonofaresiii16 karma

Thanks for your answers! As a follow-up,

The indie market is extremely saturated and it is harder than ever to stand out.

Do you think it's a worthwhile trade-off that making an indie game is (seemingly) easier than ever before, if it means that getting the game noticed then becomes more difficult than ever? How do you think things should change to promote the better games, and how do you think things realistically could change to promote them?

we_gobba_go_back18 karma

Man, those are good questions.

I think overall, allowing more people to create things that they love is a net positive, even if it's harder to stand out. I've talked to devs that have released games that legitimately only reached a dozen players, but they were still happy that they were able to create and release their game at all. Creating and releasing a full game is an accomplishment on it's own.

Honestly, I have no idea how things could change to promote games better. I wish I did haha it's a very, very difficult problem.

Scrapdog1513 karma

As a lifelong best friend of yours, I wanted to pop in here and just say I am proud of you. You are chasing a dream and finding early success at it! I hope you continue to grow and see this website really take off.

I guess I might as well ask a question while I am here: What is your favorite indie game of all time?

we_gobba_go_back10 karma

Hello, friend :)

My favorite indie game is The Stanley Parable. The mix of comedy and "choose your own adventure" hit a chord with me that no other game has replicated. Finding all the endings and secrets CONSUMED me for a few weeks. I'm still waiting on the next-gen edition to come out :(

sunwupen11 karma

As more information comes out about how toxic a triple A studio is to work for (it's almost universally toxic no matter the company) I wanted to know how they are doing on the independent side of things. Do these studios have the same abusive workplace as a big budget studio or is it generally more relaxed and compromising?

we_gobba_go_back12 karma

I've only talked to a dozen or so devs/studios so far, but I haven't talked to a single one who said anything about any abusive workplace conditions as an indie. Some of them absolutely had bad experiences at AAA studios, but I try not to focus on that in my stories about them. Jason Schreier is doing fantastic work telling those kinds of stories. I like to champion what these devs are accomplishing on their own.

But yeah, to answer your question, I haven't heard of any abusive practices or workplaces from any of the small handful of devs I've talked to, which is fantastic :)

account_destroyed9 karma

What are the difficulties you have in getting connected to the various development groups to be able to get the stories you have? I checked a few articles and see several different parts of the world mentioned.

we_gobba_go_back14 karma

Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest difficulty is just finding a way to contact a developer or studio. There have been countless times where I see a game that's doing something unique, but the developer doesn't have a website, email address, or their Twitter account doesn't allow them to be messaged. If you're a developer and are reading this, please, PLEASE provide a way to contact you!

MasculineJeans3 karma

Does that mean you are open to suggestions? If so, I'd like to recommend my friends indie studio: https://www.tursiopsstudios.com/

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

I am ALWAYS open to suggestions! I will check them out this week! Thanks!

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

You know, it's really kind of funny because of the question asked in this specific thread, but I looked at their website and Twitter and they don't have an email address listed and messaging them on Twitter isn't possible haha if you could provide me an email to reach them I would love to get in touch with them

isurvivedrabies7 karma

jeff vogel of spiderweb software has been vocal about indy developer issues. have you talked to him?

we_gobba_go_back3 karma

I have not, but I'll look him up and reach out to him if possible! Thanks for the tip!

ForgedYetBroken6 karma

How did the idea pop into your head?

we_gobba_go_back14 karma

It was a combination of ideas, honestly. Almost a decade ago I got a degree in Journalism from the University I went to. Since then, I've always had a love of good storytelling. As the years have gone on since then, I've just observed the distinct lack of real journalism in video game press. Every once in a while you'll find an excellent piece of journalism where the writer does investigating or interviewing, but those articles are few and far between.

A few months ago, a podcast I listened to recommended a Polygon article by Mike Mahardy about Josef Fares (you can read it by clicking here). It was a fascinating article about Fares' life. We as readers would not have known about the struggles he went through without this article. I just had this thought click in my head like "there are thousands of developers in the world and we know nothing about them."

And that seemed wrong to me. Like, we know so much about athletes, actors, musicians, etc., but we know NOTHING about individual game developers. So I decided to do something about it and quit my job to start this website.

VincentChee6 karma

You what?? Quit your job for this?? Salute to you sir!

we_gobba_go_back11 karma

Yep! I had been trying and failing to work my way up in the banking industry for years. It left me constantly stressed out and unhappy with where my life was headed. Making this website and telling these stories seemed like something that could make a difference AND make me happy. I also have to give MAJOR props to my wife for 100% supporting me and pushing me to chase this dream :)

Beazl3y3 karma

This is honestly wicked, good on you for doing this, can't praise you enough!

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

Thank you! :D

LittleChuchiFace6 karma

Have you met Eric Barone? I used to be friends with him in high school. You should ask him about his band, 17 Colourful Feathers :)

we_gobba_go_back3 karma

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Eric Barone yet haha if I ever do some day, I will be sure to ask about his band, though :)

PmYour_ToMe3 karma

Really cool reading, thanks for doing this!

I was just reading about Descent Underground - really fascinating story. From their crowdfunding success, to near-release and then seemingly-endless legal battles with a publisher which is still in appellate court.

Have you looked into them at all?

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

I have not, but I will sometime this week! Thanks for the tip!

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

Hello again! It seems as if their website doesn't exist anymore and they don't have messaging available on Twitter. You wouldn't happen to know of a way to contact them, would you?

Ammo_Can3 karma

When I have more time I'll read some of the articles. What games are featured in some future articles? You should look at Banished if you haven't already.

we_gobba_go_back6 karma

Within the next week or so, I'll be publishing an article about a married couple who fell in love alongside playing games together and now makes games together. They are absolutely adorable.

Further down the line, I'll be talking to a 3-person studio making their first game and a studio who specializes in realtime streaming games on Twitch.

I'll check out Banished later this week :)

fuzzywolf231 karma

That wouldn't happen to be Ska Studios, would it? I would love to hear more about their story.

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

Unfortunately it is not, but that's cool that there's another married couple making games!

Birkeland19922 karma

Are there any studios/indie devs that you meet and think, wow they're going to go far in this business?

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

Oh, absolutely. Specifically there are devs/studios that have been around for years and understand the gaming market more than a dev who is at the point of just "trying to make a good game." Talking to a dev/studio making their first game and talking to a dev/studio with years of experience is night and day. Fortunately, the knowledge gap between "years of experience" and "just starting out" is narrowing significantly with all of the resources available online.

fuzzywolf232 karma

I didn't see anyone else ask this, but have you watched the YouTube channel NoClip? They do mini documentary style videos on indie development. If you're looking to do this but in print, then you will have a loyal reader forever in me

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

I only know of NoClip in passing and from listening to Danny O'Dwyer on the Giant Bombcast. It's one of those series I've always told myself to check out, but always forget to haha

From what I understand, though, NoClip tackles how a studio developed a certain game/series. As much as I'd love to say I do that in print form to gain you as a loyal reader, I must admit that my stories are a bit different! Stories About Indie Devs focuses almost exclusively on the developers themselves, instead of the games they make. I like to show their journeys from playing games to making games, the ups and downs, and the lessons they learned along the way. The lovely folks at NoClip do what I assume is a wonderful job at showing how a studio develops a game, I try to tell the story of how the studio got to where they are now :)

ttak821 karma

I guess I am late to the party. But I just discovered your website because of this thread. Looks interesting.

What is your opinion about Axiom Verge?

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

I've never played it unfortunately so I don't have an opinion on it, sorry :(

scientist011 karma

Wow, thank you for making this, I bet a lot of these people must have gone through some sad and some happy moments, and worked so hard to achieve their dreams? How did you get your gaming career started, and what prideful and depressing moments did you go through?

we_gobba_go_back3 karma

Oh absolutely. Some devs have dev blogs where they update supporters on the progress of the game they're making. Some games released by devs are not financially successful. It's heartbreaking reading through past dev blogs where the dev is full of hope and optimism, knowing that the game eventually won't be financially successful.

Before I write too much about your second question, what exactly do you mean by gaming career? Do you mean game playing, game writing, or game developing? I have zero experience actually developing games haha

B_Eazy861 karma

This is marvelous. Thanks for taking the time to tell these stories!

Have you ever considered working on video games yourself in any capacity?

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

Like everyone I'm sure, I've had ideas for games that I think would be neat, but I absolutely don't have the time needed to learn and actually develop a game. Maybe if I ever retire someday I'll start making games haha

therealjohnfreeman1 karma

Are you related to Alex Reinking? I recently read his post about dual linkages in CMake.

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

I am not related to Alex Reinking, but he seems like a cool person! haha

give_me_contrast1 karma


we_gobba_go_back2 karma

One of the most difficult things for an indie to do is advertise themselves, but it's something that almost always has to be done. I can't think of any social media avenue where a dev shouldn't at least TRY to reach out on.

Their own social media will probably have the most positive initial response, being that it's friends/family, but that support won't necessarily be long term if they aren't gamers. A business social media is best for finding actual gamers/building interest in an upcoming game but it's TOUGH to stand out and build that initial following. Reddit is also difficult because of the rules against self promotion on many of the largest subreddits.

A lot of social media outreach comes down to plain dumb luck, but you're more likely to experience that dumb luck if you reach out to as many avenues as possible.

DomDeluisArmpitChild1 karma

What's the craziest story you can think of?

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

I talked to a developer in Lithuania whose whole story is incredible to me. He started out making video games on the family computer in his parents attic on their farm. I'm not sure if it's the same now, but when I talked to him a couple of months ago, he had never played a Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox console in his life. Some of the games he released while making games in that attic found a small audience, others didn't, but it was just incredible to me how far we've come where people from all over the world can create games that people from other parts of the world can enjoy. Maybe not the craziest "story," but it's still just crazy to me to think about haha

Alphascout1 karma

What is the diversity of your content like or how do you seek to feature a range of indie developer stories? There’s been coverage of really interesting indie gaming developments all around the globe especially in third world countries. It’s incredible to see the universal joy of game development.

we_gobba_go_back9 karma

I think the most important way to acquire a wide range of developer stories/experiences is to not have "requirements" on who to talk to. I firmly believe that EVERYONE has a story to tell, so I try to reach out to any developer I can find. When I reach out to a developer from a country different from my own, I specify that I'm interested to learn about what gaming and development is like in their country.

You're absolutely right about how incredible it is to see game development growing in countries all around the world. We're in a true golden age where almost anyone can develop a game, presuming they have the tools needed.

samtheboy1 karma

Do you have a "wishlist" of devs you'd like to speak to? One of my favourite indie studios is Wube (factorio) and given they have historically been very interactive with the community wonder if they'd be up for this.

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

I know this may come as a surprise, but I can't really think of any developers that I'd have on a wishlist to talk to! I want to talk with them all haha that's interesting to hear about Wube. I'll reach out to them sometime this week, thanks for the tip!

thoriginal1 karma

Not so indie anymore, but what're your thoughts on Nicalis/Edmund of SMB, The Binding of Isaac, etc?

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

I haven't had the pleasure of talking to them, but I love Super Meat Boy as a game!

sleepy_gamer0071 karma

Very cool, will read Into when I get off work.I bought Dreams when it first came out then I downloaded Unity a few months ago and followed along some of the tutorials but it got so complex (specifically the coding) I kind of lost interest. Started messing with the development stuff in horizon on Quest 2 a couple nights ago and find it very interesting. Have you messed with that at all?

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

My experience with actual coding is VERY limited. Like you, I messed around with Unity once like 5 years ago and that was the last game dev program I touched haha

mikeyhavik1 karma

How do you (and those with whom you communicate) feel about the Nintendo eShops’ relationship to indies / indie devs? I always sort of got the impression that, while it’s a great platform for aspiring indies to get traction, there is just a ton of “noise” funneled through there all the time making it difficult for the wheat to separate from the chaff. (Probably a bad expression to use here - not meaning to diminish the work of any developers, but you know what I mean - referencing the lower-effort offerings)

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

I've only talked to one indie publisher who has released games on Switch, Abylight Studios, and we honestly didn't talk about visibility on the Switch eShop, so unfortunately I don't have anything I can share from any of the devs I've talked to. Sorry about that :/

As for me, it's pretty obvious that visibility is one of the hardest problems to tackle for indie devs and console/PC marketplaces. I genuinely don't have any idea how to fix the problem. It almost feels like whatever system is in place for visibility, there will always be some studios trying to "game the system," like you see on the Switch eShop. I wish I had a better answer, but it's a tough problem.

Muted-Sundae-8912-1 karma

Have you met game Devs who make games based on furries? Are they like their consumers or are they different?

we_gobba_go_back2 karma

This isn't quite exactly what you asked, but I do have a story about a developer who is a furry and does furry art alongside making her first game. You can read about it by clicking here. I will say, though, that the article makes no mention of furries as her game doesn't feature furries. I wish I had more for you, but that's the closest I've come. If I ever do talk to and write a story about a dev making furry games, I'll try to remember to update you :)

kpiyush88-8 karma

why did you create a website and not a subreddit?

kpiyush88-5 karma

or a podcast?

we_gobba_go_back6 karma

I got a degree in journalism almost a decade ago and writing has always been a passion of mine. There is a subreddit for the website where I post the articles from the site (You can find it by clicking here), but that has had literally zero activity since the website started haha

But yeah, for me I've always loved writing and conveying a story through written word. Podcasts absolutely have their place in telling stories or doing interviews, but the way that you can construct someone's story after interviewing them is just what I'm most passionate about. I just LOVE writing haha

kpiyush881 karma

nice.. makes sense.. thanks for answering..Not sure why my question got downvoted, I was legitimately curious..

we_gobba_go_back1 karma

No problem, I honestly don't know why it was downvoted either! It's a good question. I've even thought about the possibility of having my interviews with devs in podcast form, but I figure it's better to focus on just writing for now