Submissions for the second Indie Open House, a game development residency program for independent developers sponsored by IGN and GameSpy, closed on August 11. Announcements about those selected to participate in the upcoming session, which will begin on September 12, are expected soon. The program gives a handful of selected developers access to free office space, development resources (including GameSpy technology), and access to the IGN editorial staff.
I recently had a chance to interview Drew Curby, GameSpy Technology’s senior director of sales and Indie Open House program manager, about the residency program, including its benefits, goals, atmosphere, and adjustments being made between its first and second renditions.
Indie Games Channel: Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your role in the Indie Open House program?
Drew Curby: My day job is Senior Director of Sales and Developer Relations for GameSpy Technology, which means my team and I spend our time talking with developers about their games and working with them to make their designs become realities. With regards to the Indie Open House, I’m the program manager. I work with a committee of my peers to coordinate team selection and also manage the day to day aspects of the program.
Indie Games Channel: Why did IGN and GameSpy decide to create such a residency program for indie developers?
Drew Curby: We’ve been working with indie developers for a long, long time from a technology standpoint – providing services to developers to help them build features like multiplayer matchmaking, player stat tracking, or cloud storage (for stuff like save games and, media and playable content) into their games. About a year and a half ago, several of us were talking about what we could do to further support the indie community. We’d just started to develop our GameSpy Open program (which puts our services into indie developers’ hands for free) as well, and someone joked that, since we had a few open desks nearby – maybe we should offer the space to some developers. A simple idea but one that resonated with all of us.
Indie Games Channel: The Indie Open House is currently accepting applicants for its second official “class.” Tell us a bit about the goals of the program, and what benefits the selected participants will receive?
Drew Curby: The goals of the program are pretty straightforward: We want to provide the IOH participants with as much support, feedback, and exposure as we can provide. We provide an environment for teams to work one on one with their partners, interact with other indie developers on a regular basis, be given opportunities to interact with the industry as a whole, and generally show the world that it doesn’t always take lots of money and big budgets to make great games.
Indie Games Channel: What’s the application and selection process like? How are the submissions vetted, and how many applications do you expect to receive?
Drew Curby: We ask all interested teams to fill out an application that gives us a profile of their team and the game(s) they’re working on. Some teams provide video and playable builds, while other teams are early in the process and provide design docs.
We have a group from various industry disciplines that reviews and rates the applications on a variety of factors – game idea, team make up, etc. We then meet at the end of the submission period to select a group of finalists with whom we will meet personally in order to make sure there’s a mutual fit and interest. Considering the size of the program and that we’re limited to the Bay Area we’ve had a really great response – all told we’ve had just shy of 100 developers apply for the program.
Indie Games Channel: Describe a typical “day in the life” of the Indie Open House.
Drew Curby: You know, each team certainly has their own style and plan for how they work but generally the teams get into the office sometime before 11a.m. and, depending on their schedules and team dynamics, either get to work programming or having a SCRUM. For the most part they work through the day until somebody suggests a quick play test at which point anyone that can take a few minutes off to help out with testing. This daily play test is one of the hidden gems of the program and helps the teams get great feedback on their games on a regular basis. And at least a few days a week end with an extended play test involving more people from GameSpy Technology and IGN (accompanied by a healthy dose of pizzas and beer).
Part of that day-to-day might also involve the teams availing themselves of the resources that IGN and GameSpy Technology provide around the office – so, asking GameSpy engineers for some consultation on online features, for example, or attending a “TechTalk” from the IGN Engineering staff. We also bring in guest speakers from various parts of the industry to speak to the IOH teams about issues like digital distribution, or publishing, or successfully pitching to the media.
Indie Games Channel: What’s the atmosphere like at the IOH? Would you describe it as mostly collaborative, mostly competitive, or a blend of both? (Based on the first Indie Open House, did you find that developers from different teams were prone to collaborate in any way, or did they tend to work mostly within their own teams?)
Drew Curby: I think the atmosphere is really quite collaborative with the teams supporting each other when and where they can, which has been really great. I mentioned the play tests previously as a great element of the program. I’d also mention that there have been quite a few times where one team who is stronger in design or in programming has helped out another team and vice versa.
Competitive? Yes to some extent – they all want to have the best game and have great success but thus far not at the expense of another team. They really pull for each other.
Indie Games Channel: When does the submission process for the second round of the Indie Open House conclude, and how many entrants will be accepted this time? How do you think round two will compare to the first outing, in terms of the number of participants?
Drew Curby: We’re wrapping up the selection period for the second class now and will be extending offers over the next two weeks. I think we’ll end up with about the same number of teams (we had five in the first class) as we’re limited on space and resources. Any more teams and I don’t believe we could give the right amount of attention to them that they deserve.
Indie Games Channel: The feedback I received about the Indie Open House from the developers who participated in the first session was very positive, overall. What sort of feedback did you receive from those who participated?
Drew Curby: That’s great to hear! We’ve worked hard to provide the teams with a positive and valuable experience and I hope we’ve succeeded with the first class. Based on feedback that we’ve received internally, we’re working to provide more regular access to the various teams within IGN and even more access to our network of industry experts.
Indie Games Channel: Are there any adjustments being made to the Indie Open House program for session two, based on feedback or ideas from that came out of the first session?
Drew Curby: I mentioned a few above but the biggest enhancement I see to the program is giving the teams enough time to properly prepare demos for GDC Prime. (As we did this year, we’ll be providing several kiosks at the GameSpy booth to showcase Indie games that are part of the Indie Open House or that are working with us as part of GameSpy Open).
In our first class, which began in January of this year they only had a few weeks to prepare, I think they all agreed that a bit more time would have been great. We plan on providing demo space to the teams at the conference, which gives them a great chance to show other developers and to the media.
Indie Games Channel: Is there any general advice you can give to aspiring indies about how best to get their projects noticed for consideration in the Indie Open House residency program?
Drew Curby: Have a great game or idea! Other than that I’d encourage any indies interested in the program to reach out to us and come to a few of the events that we will have over the coming months. (We’ll host several demo nights and are also hoping to host one or two hack days – we’ll be sure to get the word out ahead of time!)
Indie Games Channel: Thanks very much for your time, Drew!
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