Ben Kane is a "fixer." When he sees a discrepancy in the daily minutiae of the gaming community, he does something about it, something other than signing online petitions or leaving nasty comments under clever pseudonyms on developers' blogs. He actively attempts to fix the problem.
For example, at the height of the DLC outrage, when publishers first began blatantly shipping extra content behind transparent pay walls, Kane formulated his indignation into a modern-day Modest Proposal. He made DLC Quest, a satirical platformer that has players pay, with in-game currency, for essential aspects such as animations and moving to the left.
The game generated attention for its message, but also its engaging gameplay, and after launching on XBLIG it was included in the Indie Royale St. Patrick's Day Bundle. The bundle alone sold more than 33,000 copies. Kane may not have single-handedly fixed The DLC Problem, but he did turn it into a source of entertainment for others, and exposure for himself.
Again, when Kane noticed that there were no vlogs where developers discussed the day-to-day issues of building their games, he fixed it. He started Indie Chatter, a simple video platform where he can talk through the development process behind DLC Quest and any other titles, problems, conventions or happenings that he faced as an indie developer.
"Game development videos really only cover a small part of what is involved in indie development -- specifically, they show off part of a game," Kane told Joystiq. "But that only works when there's something interesting to show off. What about when you're coming up with the concept for a game? Or when you're adding polish and fixing bugs? What do you show when you're planning your release and thinking of how to market your game?" After talking to other developers at a local meet-up, Kane realized he wasn't the only person to recognize this void, so he decided to fill it with his own thoughts, words and face. He next pitched the idea to Reddit, and after he filming the first episode the forum helped him pick up an easy 500 subscribers.
Kane attributes Indie Chatter's success to general curiosity in the community, and to his own success as a developer.
"The general idea behind Indie Chatter is basically, 'Hey, I don't really know what I'm doing, but I'm having fun working it out as I go and I'm happy to share my experiences,'" Kane said. "I've managed to squeeze some success out of going indie full time and that's a story that people are interested in."
"I've managed to squeeze some success out of going indie full time and that's a story that people are interested in."
The Indie Chatter channel has more than 21,000 views and 757 subscribers, with viewers tuning in three times a week to watch Kane talk about ... stuff. Video game stuff. Interesting video game stuff. One feature on Indie Chatter is the Question Hat, where Kane puts on a magical talking wizard's hat and answers its questions about integrity and love and -- oh, wait. That's something else.
In the Question Hat, Ben answers questions from viewers, chosen randomly from a hat. The fact that he has questions to answer every week demonstrates the intrigue of Indie Chatter on its own, and responses like these from the wider audience motivate Kane to keep filming.
"I still have things to share and people still seem to be interested in listening -- and sharing back -- so I genuinely enjoy making the videos," he said. "It's fun to see it grow and find out what people are most interested in as well. I don't know where Indie Chatter will go or what it will bring, and that's part of what keeps it fresh for me."
Kane is present on social media and through Indie Chatter, and being involved in the community offline and in person can be an essential aspect of indie development, he said:
"More and more I see the benefits to reaching out and being part of the community. We all share the same passion, draw on a lot of the same inspirations and certainly face a lot of the same challenges. It's invaluable to have others to bounce ideas off of, to be able seek advice from those who have been there, and even just to commiserate when things go sideways. Being an indie developer can be a lonely affair if you let it."
Kane's solution: Don't let it.