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Indie Spotlight: Radiangames’ Luke Schneider | Pocket Gamer.biz

With discoverability in the mobile gaming market becoming harder and harder, we've decided to shine the spotlight on the amazing and interesting indie developers out there.

So welcome to the Indie Spotlight, where each week a developer tells us about their life and work, and the challenges facing indie developers in the modern mobile market.

This week, we spoke to Radiangames founder and developer Luke Schneider surrounding the launch of Speed Demon on Apple Arcade and leaving THQ and Volition to start his own studio.

PocketGamer.biz: How did you get started as an indie games developer?

Luke Schneider: I've been in the industry since 1997 when I started as a level designer on Descent 3. In 2010, Red Faction Guerrilla had wrapped up and I decided to try my hand at Xbox Live Indie Games, as that was a new and exciting platform to develop for.

Finding the right amount of focus and work-life balance is by far the biggest issue.
Luke Schneider

I left Volition to start Radiangames in March of 2010. I made seven games for XBLIG in 11 months but moved onto Unity and iOS games after that and, for the most part, have been working in this space since.

What is a typical day in your life as an indie?

After I drop off my daughters at school, I go to the office and sit in front of a computer for about eight hours. As for what I work on, it just depends on what the project needs. Lately, it's a mix of programming, tweaking numbers and working on 3D models or particle effects.

I'm definitely more productive the less I interact with the outside world, which includes the internet, email, Twitter, YouTube, etcetera. Occasionally I'll work from home a little bit too, though that's been less common since Speed Demons ended.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far as an indie?

Finding the right amount of focus and work-life balance is by far the biggest issue. Last summer I worked 80 plus hours a week for multiple months just to finish Speed Demons. In contrast, now I'm struggling to get 30 productive hours out per week.

I had a similar swing in productivity the previous year as well. I've had some recent stretches of normal work-weeks but they seem to be the exception more than the rule lately. I'm trying to use self-imposed deadlines/milestones to see if that helps.

How do you define 'success'?

Working on games that lots of people enjoy. I want to make as many cool games as I can before I die (I'm currently aged 43), so the real measure of success at the end of my career will be the catalogue of titles - both the quality and quantity.

So far things have gone pretty well in the first 10 years of Radiangames, but I'd say in the future there will be more of a mix of smaller projects that take approximately two-plus months and larger titles that take over a year.

It's difficult to separate financial success from a game's overall success, still, I try not to conflate the two. After I've been away from a game for a while, it's a lot easier to play it again and figure out how successful the game was as a game, not a product.

What is your opinion of the mobile games market for indies right now?

It's very uneven and uncertain. There are definite opportunities right now but it's also hard to figure out the best way to make money. I'm still unsure if I would have made Speed Demons either paid or free if it wasn't on Apple Arcade. If I were to make another puzzle game on mobile, really it should be free-to-play. The problem is, I don't enjoy working on the freemium/ad portion.

Could you tell us about Speed Demons?

Speed Demons is a top-down high-speed physics-heavy racing game. It features 10 plus modes, 40 plus cars, and 400 plus races. It's like watching a high-speed highway chase from a helicopter with retro-modern aesthetic. It plays well with a controller or on the touch screen, though I'd recommend the two-thumbs control style if I had to pick one on iOS (you can also drag your finger to control the car).

How did the partnership come about with Apple?

After I created the initial trailer for Speed Demons, I got in contact with a couple of different publishers. The most interested one wanted to make it a free game, however I wasn't sure. So, I tried contacting Apple and set up a launch feature for the game so I could keep it as a paid release.

There are tons of good games out there, so making a good game that's not unique is pretty pointless.
Luke Schneider

Funnily enough, instead of getting in contact with an App Store editor, I somehow managed to find the person in charge of selecting games for Apple Arcade (it had a codename then). Many stressful months later, the game was signed to a contract and I somehow finished it in time for the launch of Apple Arcade.

What attracted the studio to create a game specifically for Apple Arcade?

It was my first opportunity to be a part of a new platform at launch. It simply would have been foolish to say no to that.

What are your current plans for the future?

I'm working on a new project. It's currently in the prototype phase, which is one of the more exciting parts of game development. I'm pretty sure it'll make it to being a full game, but which platform is uncertain. Beyond that, I'll be doing one last big update for Speed Demons later this year and I have a long list of 'would-love-to-make-them' games that I want to get to sooner or later.

If you had an unlimited budget, what game would you most like to make?

There's a number of multiplayer-centric games I'd like to make with a team. I don't want to work on them full-time though, as I've already been traumatised by enough previous multiplayer experience. An unlimited budget would let me be more of a consultant/director and keep working on more single-player games as my main job.

What advice would you give other developers on 'making it' as an indie?

Write down every idea you have for a game. Focus on the ones that are actually kinda unique and exciting to describe, while not being unrealistic for you to make. There are tons of good games out there, so making a good game that's not unique is pretty pointless. If you don't have the means to make a full game yet, then it's okay to focus on gaining those necessary skills first.

Once you do have the idea (and how others will perceive it) is more important than anything else if you want to succeed. Don't believe anyone who tells you that ideas don't matter. Execution used to matter more, but almost everyone is executing well these days.

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