Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris on learning to be indie

When MCV spoke to Positech’s Cliff Harris last month he mentioned publishing other indie games, namely ‘space comedy life-sim’ Redshirt, by one-person studio The Tiniest Shark.

That single developer is Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris, a PhD researcher who ditched her time in education to fulfill her passion for video games.

I was doing a PhD in creative technology looking at video game interfaces. I always knew I wanted to make games and I reached this point of frustration part-way through the PhD I was doing,” Khandaker-Kokoris says. I had a bit of a non-start as well because I was basically working with someone in San Francisco on a location-based game. It ended up not being a game. After the process of pitching to companies, it ended up being a thing I realised wasn’t game-like and it wasn’t fun.

That whole experience made me realise that I just wanted to work in games and have creative control over the games I made.”

Khandaker-Kokoris believes that the indie elders need to help out their younger brethren. Cliff Harris’ assistance on Redshirt was essential to its development.

Working with Cliff was hugely important. I’m glad I worked with him on my first game,” she says. The benefits of working with someone who has been indie since before indie was a thing can’t be understated. The advice that he gave as well as his massive audience, who are into the kind of game that Redshirt is, were hugely helpful.

There are so many reasons to work with an indie publisher. The working model was just really great. It was the first time I had tackled a full-on commercial release; it was great to have him on hand for design advice and any other advice I ran into, as well as getting his wisdom in terms of marketing and what to do.”

It makes perfect sense – indie developers largely have a specific set of skills, namely making games. Often the business side of things can be an extra annoyance that is best left to someone else.

Working with Cliff let me get on with development,” Khandaker-Kokoris says. I’ve called it my indie training wheels before – learning to be an indie with the support of someone else, making sure stuff like marketing and getting the word out there was being taken care of.

The whole concept of small or one-person teams publishing other indies is great. I’d encourage other indie developers to get into publishing other indie titles if they can. Some day I hope to be able to do that myself.”

Not only was working with an industry veteran important for all the advice Khandaker-Kokoris received, it was essential for the game actually getting made.

Redshirt is such a quirky game, I don’t think that traditional triple-A publishers would have gone for it at all,” she comments. It shows the importance of having indie publishers who are willing to give chances to weird quirky little games. I’d love to see more of them.

No-one would ever have heard of it without an indie publisher.”

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