My Indie Game — Finding a Composer, Launching the Website, and Game Updates (Part 9)

This is an on-going series where I document my transition from a full-time career to becoming an indie game developer. In case you missed it, you can catch the last segment here:

It’s been another week, and without a doubt this is probably the busiest I’ve been through he entire project. Today I’m going to cover some updates regarding my search for a composer, discuss the new promotional website I’ve launched for the game, and of course show off some exciting improvements to Minirl! So let’s get started…

Adventures in Audio Accrual

It dawned on me this week that I’m in the last month of development and I’d still yet to lock down a composer for creating the game’s music and sounds. I pride myself on my design and dev skills, but when it comes to audio I’m useless. So it’s always been my intention to contract a highly skilled composer. I’d been following up a couple personal leads but decided to give Reddit’s /r/gameDevClassifieds subreddit a try. So late Wednesday evening before bed I submitted this simple post:

I’d expected maybe one or two messages by morning, instead I woke up to nearly 30+ emails and 5–10 messages on Reddit! I was utterly blown away! I seriously underestimated the response I would receive.

Wanting to give everyone an equal opportunity I replied with a mass, canned reply initially while I followed up one-by-one:

This provided some specifics for what I was after, as well as asking for a ballpark set of rates and total dollar quote. I also wanted to make it clear my budget had a hard limit.

On Thursday, over the course of 12 hours I send a personal follow up to each and every applicant. To organize myself I created a spreadsheet with the most crucial details about each composer as I went. This included:

  • Where we spoke: email or Reddit message
  • Their name
  • Their location (city, state, country)
  • Links their portfolios or other samples of their work
  • Whether they handled music, sounds, or both
  • Their rates and total ballpark quote (if provided)
  • Details on their audio rights and ownership preferences
  • Other general notes or interesting tidbits
  • Indication if they were a “stand out” (more on that below)

By the end of the day I had around 50 total applicants. This list became invaluable. I could quickly scan a particular individual and remember my thoughts on them and their work.

The quality of all the applicants was simply top notch. Not a single applicant was below the level of quality required for me to consider them in a serious manner. However, it was becoming clear there were several “stand outs”. Meaning their style and quality of work was above my expectations for Minirl.

These stand outs eventually became my top 10, then my top 5, then my top 3 as I weeded them down based on my requirements. These final three were phenomenal to communicate with. They were all speedy to respond and an absolute joy to talk with (which is invaluable when working remotely). Plus, their quality of music was above and beyond.

I‘m only in a situation to be able to afford one, however I came up with the idea to give them all a quick shout out to help promote them. If you’re in need of a great composer you can not go wrong with these folks. See their details below. And please note, this has been provided with their permission.

Liz Rainsberry
Location: London, UK
Twitter: @LizRainsberry

Liz impressed me right out of the gate with her first email. It was clear she had did her homework before applying — mentioning details from my previous posts here on Medium. She also pointed out specific pieces of her music that she felt accurately reflected what I was after, and provided high level details about her background. Her follow up replies were just as delightful and full of useful information. She also provided some great QA feedback when provided a test build of the game. I plan to listen to more of her music while I work.

George Vlad
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Twitter: @theGeorgeVlad

George kept his first message short and to the point. He made a couple comments about the project and provided links to his music he thought relevant. His technical prowess is readily apparent, and his range is impressive. He really carried himself as a professional, and his work was the popular choice within my core group of testers for Minirl.

Jesse W D James

Jesse was a late entry, or at least one of the last ones I got a chance to check out. His first message listed off interesting tidbits about himself and linked to a positive review of his Pixel Tsunami EP on Chip=Win. He also expressed a lot of interest and excitement after play testing the game. His responses have all be extremely quick even though he’s currently traveling this week.

I spent the next 24 hours reviewing these three individuals in great detail. What helped make the final call was a suggestion by one of my core testers, he said to listen to their work while playing the game. It quickly became apparent that Jesse’s work was a perfect fit to what I was after. We’ve been in touch and he’s agreed to work on the project over the next few weeks. So expect great things from him soon!

Again, please also check out the other two individuals linked above. You would be hard pressed to find as good of talent as these fine folks.

Wrapping up on audio, here’s some interesting tidbits:

  • The average quote for 8 songs (looping; 1–2 mins each) and around 20–30 sfx was around $1000.
  • Only four of the submissions were from women, leading me to believe there may be high gender imbalance in this industry.
  • These women did, however, price themselves at or above the average quote. So that’s awesome, great job ladies!
  • I had one submission from a gentleman that quoted the entire project at $100 total. I was shocked! His quality of work was above average, so I made a point to suggest he raise his rates!
  • I received applicants from at least 10 different countries, with the UK in first place and US in second.
  • The overwhelming majority provided both music and sounds, and only a select few being music only. Not a single applicant was sound effects only.
  • The music rates were mostly quoted at $/per minute ranging from around $25 to $250 per minute. SFX ranged from $4–$20 per sound. All USD.
  • The most common reference links were SoundCloud profiles. Very few used BandCamp or a personal portfolio website. (Note: hey guys, web dev here that’ll be looking for freelance work after Minirl ships ;)
  • I was still receiving new applicants and replies well after hiding the post on Reddit. Long shorty short, there’s a lot of great composers that need work. So please help these talented folks out!

Minirl’s New Website Launched!

On Monday I soft launched the new promotional website for Minirl. It’s simple and clean and features some basic details about the game, screenshots and links to the Presskit. If you’re interested in being notified when the game goes live please sign up via the form near the top of the page!

I’ll be working with Jesse on some new music for an upcoming gameplay trailer for the website. ETA is within the next week or so. Once that’s live you can expected to see the game start popping up on various distribution services (Steam, etc). I may also begin my early marketing pushing, so PR and Press folks, please reach out!

Updates on the Game

As if a day of emails and launching the website wasn’t enough, I also managed to complete my to-do list of new features and issues for the game. This week features a hefty update, plus I’ve extended testing to around 10 new volunteers for a closed beta. I look forward to all the feedback!

Here’s some visuals of the biggest additions:

I’m starting to see this more often.
The ESC menu with a quick tutorial. Be sure to embiggen for best results. This is a first draft.
Note the new GUI in the top-left corner. This shows details on what world you’re on, plus health, Minirls (aka XP), revives, speed and shields stats.
I’ve also finally started adding new enemy powers such as the Satyr’s music wave — which puts you to sleep for a few seconds. Leaving you open to attack.

You might also note the HUGE world sizes. This has helped make everything feel less cramped, gives speed boosts power ups more use, and extends the length of each play session. It’s really a ton of fun to see in motion, so I’m excited to share the trailer soon!

That’s it for today. Next week’s post should include details about distribution stores, mobile functionality and controls for the game, and perhaps some other surprises. Until then, thanks for all the support!

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