Indie Fund backs Miegakure.

(by Jonathan Blow)

I am happy to announce that Indie Fund, continuing our tradition of backing interesting and innovative games, is funding Miegakure by Marc ten Bosch.

“Miegakure” is a Japanese term meaning “hide-and-reveal”, and refers to an art of garden design that creates an illusion of a larger garden within a smaller space.

Miegakure, the game itself, is a puzzle adventure that takes place in four spatial dimensions. Our everyday world has only three spatial dimensions, but there’s no limit to the number of dimensions we can simulate on a computer. Miegakure simulates a higher-dimensional space and invites you to solve puzzles inside that space. The hiding-and-revealing happens because, though Miegakure’s world is 4D, we can only see three dimensions at once; as we play the game, we are finding different vantage points from which to see the four-dimensional world, revealing something new each time.

This makes for very interesting puzzles. But it’s also just mind-expanding and trippy.

Here’s a video showing the way the game handles movement and visibility:

This video goes deeper into the technical foundations:

I am deeply interested in games that help us see the world in new ways, and that make new mental states available to us. Miegakure is the best example I know of such a game. By the time you finish playing, you may feel your mind has changed, and that you now understand 4D in a new way, a way that is intimate but difficult to fully grasp.

Also, the puzzles are very cool. They are fun to play.

I first saw Miegakure years ago when Marc demoed it at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop in 2009. Back then, the game was very new; though only a few months of work had been done so far, Marc had already put together the basic gameplay. He could have released the game then, but instead he’s worked on it for years, making it as beautiful and as interesting as possible. You’ll feel all this effort when you play the game.

Ron Carmel, one of the chief instigators of Indie Fund, has also played Miegakure. He says, “When i play the game I feel like my mind is at the cusp of understanding something profound about the 4th spatial dimension, even though it never quite gets there.” It’s a very interesting feeling!

For more information about Miegakure, you can visit the game’s site.

Indie Fund backs Burly Men At Sea

Burly Men at Sea offers up a whimsical world where players shape the narrative not just through their choices, but where they point the camera. It’s a beautiful game with a Scandinavian-inspired storybook aesthetic and high degree of replayability.  Indie Fund is pleased to play a part in helping this game (and story!) come to life.

Burly Men at Sea is the second “quiet adventure” from Brooke and David Condolera of Brain&Brain. The wife and husband team already won critical acclaim for their first attempt, Doggins, but the introduction of a widely branching storyline and unique control scheme where players move the game’s viewport rather than characters within it, make Burly Men at Sea even more ambitious. Not unlike the wandering bearded brothers that star in the game, Brain&Brain kept costs low during development by living and working on farms across America through WWOOF.

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“I first met Brooke and David in person when they were showing Burly Men At Sea at the Indie Mini Booth at PAX Prime — they are really a charming team and have a wonderful way of telling stories with games in a way I don’t see very often”, said Aaron Isaksen, one of the Indie Fund partners.

Burly Men at Sea is coming to PC and iOS later this year, and is 20% off on pre-order in the Humble Store. You can learn more about the game by charting a course to their site, or following Brain&Brain on twitter.

Indie Fund Backs Duskers – Available for Early Access Now!

Alone in the dark, isolated, surrounded by old gritty tech that can only give you a partial picture about what’s going on around you – a motion sensor that goes off, but doesn’t tell you exactly what’s out there. Duskers, launching today on Steam Early Access, is a deep dive into the feeling of complete dependence on technology in a (somewhat) fictional era in which tech can limit you almost as much as it empowers.

Developed by Misfits Attic (a studio led by Tim Keenan, who also made A Virus Named TOM), Duskers is a game in which you pilot drones into derelict spaceships to find the means to survive and piece together how the universe became a giant graveyard.You are a drone operator, surrounded by technology that acts as your only eyes and ears to the outside world. What you hear comes through a remote microphone. What you see is how each drone sees the world. Motion sensors tell you something’s out there, but not what. And when you issue commands, you do it through a command line interface.

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Cliff Harris, head of Positech Games and Indie Fund investor says, “The minute I read the pitch for Duskers I knew it was a game I was going to love, before I even saw a screenshot. As someone who grew up with the Aliens movies, the idea of replicating that claustrophobic ‘can’t see whats going on’ feeling in a game really appealed to me. And for once there would be a tense action/strategy game where my ability to type fast might actually give me an advantage. Misfits Attic have done an amazing job in producing an innovative game that has tension and
atmosphere, as well as a truly original art style.”

Intrigued as much as we are? You can check out Duskers starting today on Steam Early Access (Windows to start, Mac and Linux coming shortly).

How to Pitch Your Game to Indie Fund (or just about anyone)

Since the Indie Fund restructured, we’ve had questions pop up about how best to apply. We also have the awesome insight of the many more investors involved who are helping us add further transparency to our process, and who have contributed to putting this information together on how to prepare your materials for Indie Fund, or for any potential investor.   

Indie Fund aims to support the growth of games as a medium by helping independent  developers get financially independent, and stay financially independent.  Indie games, for better or worse, encompass a wide range of scopes and budgets now.   If you haven’t already, check out how to apply to Indie Fund and hopefully this post will help you to prepare your Indie Fund pitch and, if necessary, to think critically about your project and its financial requirements.

 

OVERVIEW

Indie Fund provides funding that helps developers make great games, but we are not a publisher.  We don’t do QA, we don’t manage your game for you, don’t run your booth at PAX, and we don’t do your PR or marketing for you.  On the other hand, we also don’t own any of your IP, don’t expect to be repaid if somehow your game doesn’t launch, and don’t pressure you into launching on an arbitrary launch date.  What Indie Fund does best is:

(1) have a simple, open, time-limited contract that doesn’t require negotiation and lawyers to sign;

(2) have a rapid turnaround so you can be funded much quicker than most other ways games get funded;

(3) have a well rounded group of advisors that you can ask for advice when you inevitably run into some tricky problems; and

(4) allow game creators to create with as few burdens or impediments as possible.

That said, we are also very selective, because it is our own money we are investing, so it is extremely important to make alternate plans in case your project is not a good fit for Indie Fund.

 

YOUR PITCH

What sorts of things should you include in your pitch? It depends on the exact game project and team, but you can find a breakdown of what to submit over on the Apply page.

Let’s explore what happens when someone does pitch to Indie Fund. The basic process is that the investing members ask themselves a lot of different questions about the pitched game, which mostly boil down to these core concerns:

  1. Is the game interesting, special, and well-crafted?
  2. Do we believe the team can achieve their goals with the game?
  3. Do we think the game will make enough money so we can recoup our investment and the developer can make their next game without any outside funding?
  4. Will the game’s proposed budget and schedule result in the creation of a financially successful game?

These are not empirical or quantitative questions with precise answers, but Indie Fund members use their many collective years of game making (and game playing!) experience to make the best assessment they can. If the project looks like a good fit, one Indie Fund member will champion the project, taking charge of the paperwork but also collecting other Fund members to help complete the funding if necessary.

To further help you in applying to the Fund, we’ll dive into further detail on how we evaluate games based on these three points.

 

1. Is the game interesting, special, and well-crafted?

Any financially successful game first needs to have some combination of these qualities, and we need to see this reflected in the application materials when you submit. This might mean that you have a game with an interesting mechanic that players can feel in your prototype, along with a clear plan for how to integrate art and execution with your mechanics. Or, it could mean that you have built something like a “vertical slice” – a short gameplay demo that reflects near-final mechanics, art, and audio all together. By playing it, we can see, hear, and feel the final experience you are going for and can see how your budget and schedule will get you there. It could mean a combination – a more simple gameplay prototype along with video and mock screenshots to demonstrate your vision for the final game. We also look at any feedback you received from showcases, festivals, players, other developers, and/or the press, so feel free to link us to references if you have them.

2.Do we believe the team can achieve their goals with the game?

Optimizing your team (and therefore, burn rate) is key to succeeding on an independent budget, so Indie Fund looks at all the information and uses our experience and intuition to see how we feel about your team’s ability to execute. Applying teams could be tiny, or they could be larger. We’ll take a look at your pitch materials, and try to rectify if your teams experience, and the amount of people, can result in the game you want to make. We frequently see teams trying to make a massively ambitious game with far too few people, or overly large teams with unnecessary roles making small games.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean we don’t fund new teams – in fact, many of our games represent the developers first title. Nor does it mean we don’t fund tiny/micro/solo devs, or larger teams with higher burns. However, it does mean that we have to believe your team is staffed correctly.

3. Do we think the game will make enough money so we can recoup our investment and the developer can make their next game without any outside funding?

This can impact our pitch review process in a few different ways. First, if we see a very large team involved, especially with multiple managers, this can be a red flag. There are no hard rules about any of this, but the bottom line is not a lot of independently produced games are going to make millions of dollars. So, if you need over a few hundred thousand dollars just to finish your game, that makes it a risky investment for Indie Fund. On top of that, you would have to earn over a million dollars to ensure you could pay back the investment with a decent return AND be able to make another game without borrowing more funds in the future. There are other funding sources out there that can work with those parameters – it’s just not Indie Fund. That said, there are ways to mitigate the risk of the investment, like experienced team members and/or a highly polished game demo, for instance.

Secondly, we are looking at games through the lens of the current competitive landscape. So we’re very interested in understanding what platforms you want to distribute on and why you are choosing those particular platforms. Sometimes we see applications that have a launch strategy that seems primarily based on what everyone else is doing. While there is some wisdom in the crowds, what’s right for many other games may not be right for yours. Does your game have controls that can easily translate between a console controller and a touch screen device? Is your target audience primarily on one device but not another? Are you having talks about marketing commitments from platform holders and that’s why you feel the need to do a simultaneous launch? Or an initial launch on a platform with a smaller install base? These are all questions you might get if you haven’t answered them upfront in your application.

4. Will the game’s proposed budget and schedule make sense?

Do you have the right people in place to make the game successful? This includes the right talent, but also additional PR or Marketing support if you need it. Sometimes we will recommend increasing a proposed budget to include travel to conferences or to hire a PR consultant. Our Fund assumes that the developer has the capacity to see their game through a successful launch on their own. That means they will be managing conversations with platform holders, organizing the format and submission process for each platform, submitting to festivals as appropriate, coordinating with press for interviews, and buying ad space if needed. Feel free to ask us for recommendations or for sanity checks on consultants you might be looking at, but we don’t supply these resources. Also, we have worked with developers who have received additional funding from grants and who have arranged deals with a porting house or publisher to help bring the game to other platforms.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Our terms are structured extremely favorably to the developer because we expect our developers to be putting a lot of their own “skin in the game.” We do not pay full salaries for team members who are participating in profit-sharing from the game. The expectation is that the funding you receive from IF is keeping a roof over your head, keeping people fed, and keeping the team from distractions created by taking on additional work just to make ends meet. Don’t start from industry averages and work backwards from that. Figure out rent costs, basic living costs, and build your IF budget from there. Sometimes IF funding is used only to hire those contractors needed to bring the game to a high level of polish for commercial success – like a graphic designer, sound designer, PR consultant, etc.

Just one more tip: please do not make up a budget that you think will get Indie Fund interested but you know is unrealistic.  We have seen budgets before and can tell when they are unrealistic. Beyond that, we are real people using our own money to invest in indie developers to get them a chance at financial freedom for their next game. If you mislead us about your budget that just means you end up with an unfinished game and some disappointed investors.

Hopefully this has been able to help you understand how Indie Fund examines a project and our new application process.  Everything that comes through Indie Fund has to go through this process, and even if you’re not pitching to us, we think these are good questions to ask about funding your indie game.