Blog Community: Making it Indie Style

By Sarah Avery, Zulama Community Advocate, Educator

Your students want to be indie developers? That’s great! It takes a lot of time and energy to become an indie developer; however, with the correct preparation, anyone can publish games!

What is an Indie Developer?

An indie developer is someone who develops and publishes games independently.  During this process an indie developer wears many hats, including marketer, accountant, networker, artist, developer, and more.  A common misconception is that an indie developer is only responsible for developing and designing a game.  However, once the game is completed, how will it reach an audience? How much will the game cost?  These are just two of the many questions posed to independent game developers.  Indie developers can spend months to years on one project, brainstorming playtesting, and iterating until it is publishable.  All the while the developer must network, research, and market their project in order to make money. Part game designer and business professional, an indie developer should be prepared for a wide range of responsibilities and hard work.

What are the Benefits of Being an Indie Developer?

With so much work involved in being an indie developer, it may seem to be easiest to work for a large company.  In some ways that is true; however, there are also benefits that accompany developing independent games including:

  • Freedom:  As an indie developer, you would have complete control over your game. You would be able to choose how the characters look, the artistic style of the game, how the story is developed and more.  You would have complete freedom to make the game however you feel is best.
  • Learning New Skills: With the wide variety of roles an indie developer takes on, it’s very difficult to not learn new skills.  As an indie developer, you would learn skills from marketing, to networking, to programming, and beyond. This is also a great way to meet established professionals who can mentor you through this learning process.
  • Passion: One of the main reasons indie game developers develop their independent games is their passion for game development.  It takes real love and commitment to spend months on one project before exposing it to the world for criticism and feedback.  Through this process you watch your game from an idea, to a prototype, to a published product. As an indie developer, you may not make a lot monetarily, but you will gain a lot emotionally and personally.

How can we Prepare Students to be Indie Developers?

As with all Zulama courses, the Game Production and Marketing course key skills needed for game development. However, in some ways it goes a step forward.  With a large focus on publication and marketing, students learn the skills needed to present their games to the world. As an indie developer, it’s not enough to just make a great game, you must also know how to share and sell it to an audience.  In this course, students do just that through a simulated economic market.

In addition, throughout the Zulama courses, students work in IDEA teams.  IDEA Teams, in conjunction with a focus on Project Based Learning, allow Zulama students to gain an in depth understanding into the design and publication process. From their in depth study of game design, Zulama students are well prepared to tackle a variety of career paths, from higher education to independently developing games.

To learn more about what it takes to be an indie game developer, check out the video below from Extra Credits:

How have you prepared your students to publish their own games? Comment below!

Game Review: Coup

Game lunches here at Zulama have been known to bring out the competitive side of our staff. Whether we play as teams or individuals, winning whatever game we set out to play is always one of the top priorities. This time around was no different as we bluffed, mislead and stole our way to power and ultimate control of a dystopian universe. In the fun and strategic card game Coup that’s just what you have to do to win.

The object of the game is simple. As players fall, be the last one standing using money, influence and a good poker face to take over control of the board. But that all really depends on the cards you have been dealt. First you will receive your actions card and two coins from the treasury in the middle of the table. The game gives you a deck of cards with different characters better known as your influences. Each influence represents a different action you can play on your turn. The influences include…

The Captain: Steals 2 coins from players and can block any stealing on the table.

The Ambassador: Can switch cards with any two from the deck to change characters and blocks players from stealing from him.

The Duke: Takes 3 coins from the treasury and can block taking of Foreign Aid

The Assassin: Can assassinate an influence after paying 3 coins to the treasury

The Contessa: Can block an assassination

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Each player is given two influences that they must keep hidden throughout the game. And with that the playing begins. Along with the assigned actions for each character there are a few others to be played to gain power. Collecting coins from the treasury is a big part of the game which you can do at any turn by taking income (one coin) or foreign aid (two coins). Once you have seven coins you have enough to stage a coup against the player of your choosing. If you last long enough to have ten coins, the game forces you to stage a coup.  But getting to those numbers can be tough as you have to bluff or protect your influences at almost every turn from other players. If you lose both influences, you are out of the game. The last one standing with at least one influence by the end of the game is declared the winner.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 12.30.11 PMAs with modern politics, we learned to strategize and build alliances with players whose influences met our needs. We found that it was extremely beneficial to have a Duke on your side because, though the Duke only deals with coins, money speaks in this game.  In addition to building alliances, we became mindful of other players’ strategies and motivations.  Constantly on the look out for others’ bluffs, we were forced to think two steps ahead in order to protect our place at the table.

Once we got the hang of the game we couldn’t stop playing. Alliances were formed, actions were instigated by side commentary, and even a little trash talk made it’s way to our usually friendly table. Overall though some were just better than others when it came to taking absolute power, all of us succeeded in having a great time playing Coup.



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Game of the Month: Dixit

This week’s game was Dixit, an award winning, family game whose game pieces are beautifully illustrated and engaging.  If you are looking for a fun game that will spark creative storytelling and test your vocabulary skills, this is the game for you!

Designed by Jean-Louis- Roubira, illustrated by Marie Cardouat, and published by Libellud, this game is a delight to play, though a little complex.  There are many ways to earn points on your quest to be the first to 30; however, with so many ways to score sometimes the enjoyment gets lost.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.39.29 PMSimilar to Apples to Apples, this game involves creativity, innovation, and a bit of collaboration.  In this game the active player (or team as we played it) selects a card from the hand and creates a clue.  Other players look at their cards and selects one that fits best with the clue.  Then, all cards are slid face down to the active player who shuffles them and places them face up along the board.  Players look at the cards and secretly choose the one they think belongs to the active player.  Their secret choice is revealed and points are awarded.

The game is suggested for ages 8+.  While this is possible, we decided that 8 might be too young to get the full effect of the game.  Middle school aged students and adults might get the most benefit from this creative and aesthetically pleasing game.  We would not suggest playing in teams as we did.  As we were all sitting in the same room, collaborating for ideas without other players hearing was extremely difficult.

One of our suggestions is to add a timer.  The Zulama staff tends to be very competitive and we took a long time trying to think of creative, but not too obscure clues for our cards.  We probably doubled the estimated time of 30 minutes.  So, adding a timer would be beneficial.

We also suggest checking out this game for writing activities.  The game includes 84 beautiful and creative cards that can easily be used as writing prompts or story ideas.  They even offer additional card decks to use when the enchantment of the originals wears off.

Overall, a bit complex, but visually stunning.  Definitely a game to play more than once!

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Crossing Borders Through Games

By Sarah Avery, Zulama Community Advocate, Educator

With our global economy and game industry, it’s important that our students are provided chances to improve their skills and shine.  And they are! With a variety of innovative initiatives, both through Zulama classes and other technological projects, students are given opportunities to code, design, build, and create, even at the global scale!

In the Classroom

Today teachers are expanding their classrooms beyond national borders.  Take a look at the following video.  You’ll see students at the Qingddao Amerasia International School connect with Dan Geisler, award winning designer, through a video conference.  During that conference students were able to learn about the industry and the design process from across the world.

In Higher Education

In addition to classroom conference calls, many students are able to cross cultural bonds in higher education while studying something they love. Centered in Barcelona, leading game design companies, Digital Legends, Crytek, Ubisoft Barcelona and King collaborate on the new Bachelor’s Degree in Video Game Design and Development taught 100 percent in English at the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya.

Students from across the world, joined by a common language, come together and collaborate on games while learning valuable industry skills at this university.

Ways to Make Connections

Holly from edTechTeacher wrote an article titled, Five Amazing Ways to Collaborate With Another Class, where she provided examples of ways to widen the educational reach of your classroom, not just with games.  Examples include project collaboration through google docs, video conferences, cross culture blogging, and more.

For some ideas on connecting with classrooms around the world, check out Fractus Learning’s article, 5 Great Tools to Make Global Classroom Connections. Many of the examples provided are similar to pen-pal letters on steroids, thanks to the invention of social media!

As a final recommendation, if you are looking to connect with game design professionals, I suggest sending an email to ask. Consider the possibilities when students research companies to connect with and write professional introduction and invitation emails to those companies!  Through organizing the google hangouts I have found that it never hurts to ask.  Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by those  interested in sharing their knowledge and experience, especially for the sake of education.

In coming weeks we will be joined by professionals, directors, and students in our next hangout, The Global Games Industry.  During this hangout we’ll be discussing topics ranging from concerns of an indie developer to global diversity and originality.  We would love to have you join us and tweet in comments and questions to @ZulamaLearn.  It will definitely be time well spent!


Until then, please enjoy some of our past hangouts:


How have you inspired students to connect globally? Comment below!

Awkward Family Photos

This week’s lunchtime game was Awkward Family Photos.   Based on a popular website and a New York Times best-selling book, Awkward Family Photos promises to have players in stitches!  As the game advertises, some pictures truly are worth a thousand laughs!

Game play begins by flipping over a photo card, rolling the 20-sided die, and reading aloud the corresponding question. Questions like “If your friend found this photo in your wallet, what explanation would you give for owning it?” and “What celebrity would be a great addition to this photo?” lead to some hilariously absurd answers!

Awkward Family PhotoAll players, except the roller, writes down an answer. Answer sheets are collected and read aloud by the player to the right of the roller. The roller then picks a favorite answer and tries to guess which player said which answer.  The player who wrote the favorite answer places one of their five chips on the board. If the roller matches two or more answers correctly, the roller also places a chip on the board.  The first player with five chips on the board wins!

Everyone at Zulama had a blast playing Awkward Family Photos, definitely a great game to enjoy with friends or your fun-loving (sometimes awkward) co-workers!



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