Indigo Entertainment was founded in 2007 with the dream of developing games that feature “awesome” intellectual property (IP). For several years Indigo Entertainment pursued that dream, creating games for clients with popular IP.
However, as Indigo Entertainment President and Co-Founder James Ronald Lo notes, “everyone in the game industry has hopes and dreams of building their dream game” – and, in 2016, Indigo Entertainment began its venture into independent game development.
Their first independent game, 2D mobile action platformer Agent Aliens, was born out of a studio-wide call for game ideas – “sort of like a game jam” says James. The only requirement was for the game to be fun because, as James notes, if the gameplay is done right, IP can be built around it.
The studio’s main challenge, they found, was learning how to properly monetize a game. James notes that the studio’s core DNA, up until their foray into indie games, was to build games according to client specifications. “We had monetization sensibilities, but it’s a completely new ball game when you start thinking about ROI from players and not clients,” James says.
The studio sought guidance, experimented, and tweaked things until they got to a point they felt they were doing things right. While it required effort, the benefit was being able to apply everything they’d learned to IP going forward.
From the very beginning, Indigo Entertainment intended to build franchises around their game IPs. “The idea is to continuously improve and iterate as we go,” James explains. With Agent Aliens holding its own “out there in the wild,” James says players can expect new content and features in the future – and even a sequel. In the meantime, the studio is also working on their second independent game: Garrison: Archangel.
For Garrison: Archangel, Indigo Entertainment wanted to try something different – so they made the game a 3D PC “couchplay” fighting game involving mechas. “Expanding to indie game development was an exploratory process for us,” James notes. The studio wanted to know which types of games worked for it as a studio – and, in order to get its feet wet, they have developed projects that align with different directions they are interested in heading.
James also explained that Indigo Entertainment has been known as a 2D studio in the past and, with Garrison: Archangel, they wanted to show they could do 3D as well. “Building blocky robots, using simple textures, and going with an arena format was a conscious, strategic decision,” James says. “Going this route allows us to finish the game sooner. The mecha theme for Garrison: Archangel also worked for us because we’re mecha fans!”
The game heavily emphasizes customization of the mechas and James notes that reviewing parts, building and experimenting with different loadouts and trying out color combinations is arguably half of the game experience. Every fan, he says, wants to be able to customize their own mechas – and Indigo Entertainment wanted to give that to players.
So was the process of developing an indie game smoother the second time around? Not necessarily, James says. “Garrison: Archangel is a completely different ‘animal’ so to speak. We have to deal with multiplayer features now, both local and online, plus a whole lot of balancing for weapons, maps, and so on. It helps a lot to have a community of users playing the demo we released, providing comments and suggestions.”
Indigo Entertainment definitely prizes its community of users and makes no small deal of the role they play in their games. In fact, the studio regards player feedback as a central part of Garrison: Archangel‘s evolution. “We want to develop the game with our players,” James says. “We put a lot of effort on receiving comments and suggestions from our users through the many channels that we’ve set up. We believe that a constant dialogue with your target user base is key for a game like this.”
Indigo Entertainment released a demo of Garrison: Archangel on Steam Greenlight this last May and, even though the game is still in development, the studio has already released two or three updates to keep players engaged. While the development team ultimately decides what changes get made to a game, James says that their players “have a good sense of where we’re moving towards so their suggestions are more or less in line with what we want to do, which helps a lot.”
One of the most surprising things for the studio has been the initial reaction to Garrison: Archangel from the gaming community at large. James notes that the reception to their Steam Greenlight debut was more positive than they had expected and shows them that they’re moving in the right direction. James also notes that some of the most requested features have been online competition, more weapons, and a PVE mode – which players can likely expect that down the line.
The Path Forward
While Indigo Entertainment is busy delving into independent games, James notes that they still serve clients. The studio currently has separate teams dedicated to its client projects and independent projects – though, during their downtime, these teams will help each other on their tasks. James says that, as they prepare for the future, pursuing both client and independent projects benefits the studio. “We believe what we learn from our indie initiatives can benefit our clients, and what we learn from them can improve how we work as a whole. It’s a very adaptive process, we just need to iterate as a studio whenever necessary.”
While the studio has succeeded in remaining competitive for 10 years, they want to make sure they’re around for another 10 – and beyond. To that end Indigo Entertainment plans to “grow as a studio, nurture client relations, release lasting indie IP, and maybe expand to other platforms.”
But it’s not just themselves they want to see succeed. “We’d also like to give back to the industry by organizing workshops and sharing our experiences with other devs,” James says. “One of the great things we learned about the indie scene is that everyone is rooting for everyone to succeed. Indie devs help each other in one way or another. Every success for any indie game is an inspiration as well as a cause for celebration.”