Surviving Indie... More like surviving the movie! - Rant Time!

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Surviving Indie… More like surviving the movie!

Surviving Indie, what you see is not always what you get, as I recently discovered when I rented this movie on Steam. The trailer really sold the video to me and made me curious to see what the movie had to offer. Have you ever heard the saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’? Well, I wonder what it would be if the saying was ‘never judge a video by it’s trailer’. If so, then this video would suck!

surviving indie review by rant time

The trailer showed games like Journey and Super Meat Boy as well as indie projects, interviews, talks etc. Because of the trailer, it made Surviving Indie seem like it’s a must watch, rent or buy.

I’m currently in the process of making my own games, so this trailer made me really curious. I wanted to know some first-hand experiences from a wide range of people doing the same thing. I wanted to know what technology different developers are using, what their processes towards starting a game are, the hardships, if they reference any books or general information that we the people would find useful.

Just like me, I’m sure you’re looking for the same information, how to SURVIVE IN THE INDIE INDUSTRY. I thought this video would give some awesome insight and tips from multiple indie developers but what we got were personal experiences from developers that had/have hit rock bottom. To put it bluntly more bollocks than information in all honesty.

Guys you should know by now all Rant Time posts have Spoilers!!!

The description of the video:

Several independent game creators retell their struggles, failures, and triumphs while discussing what it means to be an “indie,” and what it means to be a creative.

While the video does do what it says in the description, I think it focuses way too much on the struggles and failures of being an indie developer of the SELECTED few. It feels more like a mental health video rather than a documentary on surviving as an indie developer. Imagine a water aid advert that’s over an hour long!!

It’s a shame but I’m sure Surviving Indie will put off a lot of creative people from wanting to develop their own games or platforms as the video has a big negative feel. The negative feel is upsetting, to say the least as it doesn’t really touch upon being creative” or the “triumphs” and when it does it’s written on screen at the end of the video, which is over shadowed by the struggles and failures of the hosts.

For example, at the end of the video for 13 seconds (including fade transitions) it displays:

“In November of 2016, Battlesloths was signed for distribution by a major publisher”. A formal announcement of it’s signing is set for January 2017

Now that is uplifting and joyous information, WHY IS IT SO HIDDEN?!!!!

surviving indie review by rant time

Here are my issues with the video and I have many.

Let’s face it, being an “indie” means you’re not funded, you’re not part of an AAA game company so the first thing is you need to do is to secure funding to develop your project whether you’re working on it full time or part time, that’s common sense. Not only that, unless you’re financially secure,  DO NOT leave your paying job to focus on your unpaid indie project otherwise you would be on Surviving Indie Part 2.

The video doesn’t really break down anything about how to survive (Survive: continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship. survive is also something we do to overcome.)

I think the video could have touched a lot more upon indie developers who have made it, how they made it and their individual struggles. YouTube has a load of indie developers who share their stories, just to name some:

Benjamin Anderson
He gives free tutorials on game making and has written an awesome book about Game Maker.
Youtube name is: HeartBeast 

Benjamin Anderson Game Maker


Matt Gilgenbach

The creator of the awesome and shocking Never Ending Nightmares has 230 video diaries ready to watch that he created during the creation of his game.

These are just 2 very inspirational people that have introduced me to their world and because of that, I will support them by purchasing their games/udemy videos or books like above.

Back to Surviving Indie, the video has a lot of missing parts that are mainly around the creative side of staying fresh and up to date in the industry. It displays Team Meat for just a few seconds, but why not get interviews from Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes instead of just rehashing footage from Indie Game the movie.

The theme seems to stick around the negative sides of game making and not making it in the industry and it really has this mental health feel to it. Just like everything in the world, some people make it and others don’t. The gaming world is over saturated with rubbish and promising games so having something new and exciting will set you above the rest. The gaming world has always been like this since the great console wars of the 80’s-90’s.

surviving indie review by rant time

The main question, is Surviving Indie worth buying?

If you’re thinking of watching it to see how to survive as an indie developer, then this is a big NO. Honestly the information in the video you will be able to find on YouTube from other developers and they will be a heck of a lot more insightful. If you’re thinking of watching the video and expecting to find ways additional ways of surviving as an indie developer, then I would avoid this video.

But if it’s a must watch for you then I say rent it, especially when it is discounted on Steam. While there are some very good parts which I will list below, the majority of the video seems to be focused around Richard. I would also recommend at this point for you to watch prior to this video one called “Indie Game: The Movie”.


Don’t get me wrong, Surviving Indie does have a few insightful parts but the majority of the video is of people that have hit rock bottom and talking about their life stories. The problem with the video is the rock bottom sections go on for freaking ages! There is a reason it’s called Surviving Indie but in all honesty, the video should be called Surviving Failure!!

Richard Cook, the director of the video, should have rechecked his storyboard because of this I can only imagine the negative views it gets. Though I am swayed as I liked some parts and hated others, I’m more swayed to say avoid the video rather than recommend it which is a shame as again it does have some very good parts.

It is very hard to stay focused when you have the same person telling the viewer he couldn’t do this because of this or he couldn’t do that because of that. You really feel a negative vibe from Richard from the start with its cold Kelvin footage. (color Balance to the video) The negative feel really starts to drags on throughout the hour and 30 minutes.

The biggest issue about Surviving Indie is Richard’s whining for three-quarters of the video! FFS! you start to blank out because of it, I found myself doodling more when he was on screen compared to the others which is, upsetting as this guy clearly has talent just bad management skills.

A great game designer is not someone who has a great idea but someone who, when they find out there first idea was terrible has 100 ideas to try. Kellee Santiago


What did I get from the video about the hosts?

Honestly, the majority of the host seemed on the level they gave good information but could have got a lot deeper if they had longer sections there was a bit of rehashed video footage from other movies which was a shame. Richard comes across as very lazy and you can kinda understand why his projects fail, Its like from the beginning he’s trying to give a negative message as to why you shouldn’t get into the industry.

There was even a section where Richard says he could have done a lot more on his game if he didn’t drink during that stage in his life. I understand that he opens up about his life but the information in the video doesn’t show a person that wants to achieve, it shows a person making a Mortal Kombat rip-off off, not hitting deadlines, not having a project to show at events and wants to know why he’s not getting nowhere.

It kind of makes you think, you’re developing a game to get your name out there, why are you not planning it out. Sticking to deadlines having a product for people to see. No one will take you seriously if you don’t hit deadlines and no one is going to want a product they can’t see, feel or demo. You can clearly see he has no plan of action, no realist goals and he’s waiting for his friend to tell him what to do because of this, he missed his deadline to show his game at a big event. But yet when he talked about the Janitor game we can sense a spark of passion and that game looked freaking cool.

Speakers from Surviving Indie

Rami Ismail The video started strong with Rami, he has some good insight he needed a lot more time on screen, he’s engaging and to the point.

Ryan Zehm – This guy has some very good information and touches upon situations that we developers go through. It’s such a shame it’s clouded with a lot of life story. Now I wouldn’t mind the backstory part as it was engaging but don’t forget we have already had half of Richards backstory already and by now it just feels like a dick measuring completion on who had it worse. Ryans section is very good minus the backstory.

Becca Blair Spurgin – Has to be the shining star of the whole video if any part of the video is worth watching its Becca Blair’s section as she talks about crowd funding to help develop her project, sharing on social networks and not relying on one platform to gain an income to start her project. Please note it is a very short section.

Jay Tholen also has a very good section where he shares his story of hiring a programmer to develop his game project. Jay also talks about how his art style changed during the process of his games development, which meant he had to go back and re-edit his earlier work. This was very insightful as this is a re-occurring problem for, artist, coders/programmers as you get better at something you realise the faults in your earlier work.

Tyler Coleman – Not enough screen time.

Richard James Cook – Damn, way to much screen time! it was like a battle of who has the harder life between himself and Ryan Zehm. Now you know Richard has talent he’s got some awesome looking projects online but none finished that I know off.

At the end of the video we are addressed with a section by Richard stating if you think there would be a happy ending to this video you are wrong. You can understand why the game isn’t a success story. Richard seems to suck at time keeping and/or project management. Or maybe the video is just designed to not to be a rags to riches video with an intended plot to fail.



Comment By : Kiwiforge and reply by Gamestar Arts Richard on youtube


Sorry but i cant help it, i just watched pixels and polygons, and afterwards i tried to find the game and found out you never finished it, I cant seem to find any games you’ve finished, How can you make a documentry about indie dev when you haven’t even finished a game?


Gamestar Art:

Fair inquiry. So, Pro Janitor Police got to about 90% done and then the team fell apart, which is probably one of the most difficult things I had to to deal with as a developer. It was something I lost control over finishing, because I created the game under the shell of a former company I worked on it with, and they owned the IP. So, even after the project dissolved, I couldn’t finish it for legal reasons. They wouldn’t let me, otherwise I would have. So I hope you understand that situation. To the current situation – I’ve worked in parts on some games since then. A couple of examples are here where I was the 3D artist – and this, where I was the UI artist – – you could even say I was somewhat successful with the most recent one, since it’s now being signed by Rooster Teeth, and was distributed by Humble Bundle. I’ve surely never made a game that got popular, but if that’s what you’re measuring the idea of what it is to be a developer on, then I suggest reevaluating that. So, it’s more of a misnomer to say I haven’t finished a game. You’re right to some degree. I’ve never finished one on my own. And that’s what this movie is about. It’s about overcoming failure, and less about rags to riches, romanticizing how great indie dev is, etc. But to shun me as a developer because I haven’t finished a game on my own is a bit over-judgmental, wouldn’t you say? I’ve spent half my career trying to get a job at a AAA company, and half of it trying to finish a game on my own. Life gets in the way, in ways we never expect it too. Maybe this is a movie about that. Maybe it’s about me being just like many other indies who have yet to make a mark, and relating to them on that level. I hope you understand. Thanks for taking the time to check out the trailer and my past work.


What an awesome reply and it’s a shame but if surviving indie had that little bit more to it like that post it would be an awesome film that provides deep insight.


4 thoughts on “Surviving Indie… More like surviving the movie!

  • “What an awesome reply and it’s a shame…..”

    What a bunch of BS! and such a PC excuse!
    Excuse for no games,
    excuse for no AAA career,
    excuse for no indie career,
    excuse for two really bad, pitiful & woeful ‘movies’!
    I want to cry :'(

    It’s really simple, If you don’t develop a game (which means to completion) your a dreamer, 6yo’s make finished games! lol

    This guy was a clown 4 years ago (disabling comments because they were harsh), and he’s probably paid others to give himself credibility and have ‘product’ to sell on steam.

    I don’t enjoy his brand of Pathetic!

    • I never really heard of the guy before till I watched the movie on steam
      I’m new to making games but that video really put me off from wanting to learn 🙁

      • Hi @Xcoder don’t let movies, comments or other peoples experiences sway you from trying to better your skills.
        If you have an idea for something new. Go for it full hearted, because you never know what you might create that could change the game for everyone.

        Remember there are a vast amount of skilled people in the world making careers doing what they love doing.

    • @gwald Thanks for the comment.

      I agree 6 Years is a very long time to develop a game.
      With it being in the indie field 6 years could also out date intended devices, platforms and programming languages.

      Its great that you have shared your thoughts on this.

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