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"Just start building!" - Farm Punks studio on how to make it as an indie game dev

We spoke to Sleeping Giant Games about what it takes to find success as an indie game developer.

Published onAugust 31, 2019

It’s no secret that the mobile gaming industry is booming. But with big players like Nintendo, Blizzard, Square Enix, Microsoft, and others expanding their mobile foothold, it can be hard for indie game developers to get their foot in the door.

Read also: How to make an Android game – for complete beginners

So how do you make your game to stand out against the thousands of games that flood the Google Play Store every day? We spoke to indie game developer Sleeping Giant Games about its first mobile release Farm Punks, and how it managed to push through the crowd and find success on mobile platforms.

The potential reach of mobile indie games

Farm Punks crop duster
Concept art for Farm Punks’ crop duster vehicle.

Although this was the first mobile game Sleeping Giant Games had developed, the team behind Farm Punks wasn’t exactly new to the industry. They had previously developed a multiplayer game on Steam called Arrow Heads under the studio OddBird before shifting their focus to mobile and transitioning into Sleeping Giant.

We had the idea for a light-hearted game that everyone could play and enjoy.

“The decision to make a game for mobile grew out of our excitement for what was happening in the mobile games industry,” the team wrote in an interview with Android Authority earlier this week. Without having to cater to traditional PC gamer profiles, they could make “a light-hearted game that everyone could play and enjoy.”

The potential of the mobile gaming market cannot be understated. Mobile games already represent nearly half of the global games market, just about doubling revenue from PC games. Plus, that gap is only going to get bigger in the future. This new audience is just as hungry for hyper casual games as it is for meaty RPGs and strategy games.

The evolution of an idea

Farm Punks fruit concept art
Early concept art of Farm Punks’ fruity characters.

The first thing you need before you can get started developing your next mobile game is an idea. For Farm Punks, it all started with a fruit basket. “(Art Director Shae Humphries) crafted the idea originally as a fruit basket … But as the idea evolved, we joked about what would happen as the fruit ripened and expired. This led us down a path of trying to offload your fruit before it expired, and through a series of interesting leaps led to the final iteration of Farm Punks.”

For those of you who haven’t played Farm Punks, the core gameplay loop revolves around growing charmingly anthropomorphized fruit then launching it out of a cannon and rolling it down a hill. The further you can roll the fruit before it goes rotten, the more money it fetches at market. There isn’t a single fruit basket to be found.

Farm Punks UI concept sketches
Early Farm Punks UI sketches.

This evolution of your idea is key. Often indie game developers focus on having everything set in stone before getting started, but the team’s experience says otherwise. They insisted that “you don’t need to have the perfect idea, you just need to start building and work through the problems that arise.”

You don’t need to be a technical genius to start developing, either. Often all you need are a few basic tools and a healthy dose of creativity. In the words of the team behind Farm Punks: “If you’re not an artist, use cubes, if you can’t code use a visual language, but don’t let those barriers stop you from having fun making games!”

Read also: How to make a basic Android game in Unreal Engine in 7 minutes

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Farm Punks plain pastures concept art
Concept art for one of Farm Punks many stages.

So what do you do if you think you’ve got a game that can top the charts? For Sleeping Giant Games, Farm Punks was such an exciting title that it was in development for nearly a year before being officially released. This gave the team plenty of time to fully flesh out the concept, and add “additional features and content for players to fall in love with.”

Being our first foray into the mobile free-to-play space, we wanted to partner with a publisher that had proven experience.

But when it came to publishing the new title, the budding company felt it was best left to the experts. This meant searching for a publisher to partner up with. Working with a publisher can help with everything from development to marketing and promotion, which is often beyond the scope of indie game developers.

After researching several publishers, Sleeping Giant Games teamed up with Noodlecake Studios of Alto’s Adventure fame. Noodlecake’s proven track record in the free-to-play mobile space (plus the fact that it’s another Canadian studio), made it an ideal choice to get Farm Punks out to the masses.

Farm Punks was soft launched in June, and was launched globally on August 22nd. It’s since racked up hundreds of thousands of downloads. Check it out now at the link below, and be sure to check out some of our other resources for Android development!