Living in an age where just about any somewhat dedicated small team can make a game does not come without its consequences. It’s kind of like the 80s, when there was a swarm of rock n roll bands, and almost every one of them produced absolute dribble. The same applies to independent games. To put it mildly most of them aren’t of the highest quality. Still, there are a good amount of notable exceptions but given the influx of games produced each week for various platforms, even good games sometimes get washed away. Zeboyd Games is an example of a small start up company that produces good games and does enough of the other things to have found success within a sea of mediocrity.
Generally speaking, if you don’t produce games about how to pick up girls, your game is going to have to actually be decent and maybe even innovative in order to succeed. Even then, competition is steep. That’s why most small teams don’t try to shoot the moon and produce games that are very limited in scope. Zeboyd Games did the same, to a point. They made a game that was fairly limited in scope, but it was an RPG. RPG’s are notoriously known as the hardest and most laborious of all the genres to develop. So why do it? Well, it was more than likely a combination of love for the genre, and some educated risk taking. The result of their efforts was Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, released in mid 2010 and Cthulhu Saves the World released late the same year. The games are modeled after the conventions of the 8 and 16 bit era. The perspective is top down, the characters are tiny sprites, and the battle sequences are relatively static. The stories are not exactly epic, as they generally lean more towards parody. This is where Zeboyd took a risk that paid off. It’s a unique and often times hilarious concept to take completely untraditional archetypes and put them in the role of hero.
Ok, so they made a couple of parodies of old school RPGs, but isn’t the audience for that type of game rather limited? Compared to the amount of people that want more games like Call of Duty, 8 bit RPG aficionados are probably rather rare, but there are enough of them and Zeboyd did their best to make people aware of their products. They maintain a homepage that does reviews of other independent games, acts as a development blog and links to Robert Boyd’s (lead programmer/writer) twitter account. Robert is very vigorous, updating his twitter several times a day and the website at least once or twice a week. His everyday, down to earth demeanor along with his continual updates is what draws people to Zeboyd’s site.
Other independent developers lean on Zeboyd for information. When Breath of Death VII was released on the Xbox Indie Games channel last year, Zeboyd always made a point to let others know how they were making out. It was very interesting to watch the rise of an indie team as it was happening. They were also very active in the community, offering help to newer developers and providing advice for how the service could be improved as a whole. They also pioneered last year’s Indie Games Winter Uprising, an effort to showcase the best upcoming indie games.
Due to a passion for developing games, a willingness to take chances and an active involvement in all things concerning the indie development business, Zeboyd Games has found a recipe for success. Their commitment has recently landed them on Steam. Other small teams should use Zeboyd’s accomplishments as inspiration that it still is possible to make it in the industry with the right idea and work ethic.