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5 Years of Indie Game Development Will Kill You

Indie Dev HughSJ Shares his Experience Making a Game

In 2011, HughSJ and his older brother, along with two other programmers, set out to make their first indie game.

With tactical combat and fully destructible environments, Brigador is a real-time isometric mech game. They even went as far as creating their own engine, so they could build the game exactly how they pleased and give players a wide variety of ways to play.


Five years of development took its toll on the brothers, as evidenced by these photos, and when the game was nearing completion, they realized an entirely new hurdle:

Getting reviews

HughSJ had been demoing the game at conventions for two years, working with a PR firm for one, and sent out hundreds of emails to garner attention.


The result?

Twelve days after Brigador released, the game hadn’t even earned enough reviews to warrant a metacritic score — meaning the game had less than 4 reviews.

Five years of development for only a handful of copies sold.

A Year Later

It’s been nearly a year since the game’s release. The reviews on Steam now number in the hundreds and several major sites have also given it a strong thumbs-up. Is it all thanks to the article on Reddit?


HughSJ’s honest account about creating an indie game turned a faceless developer into a relatable human being. In the post, he was dedicated, passionate, and funny – qualities that easily transferred over to his game. It was excellent marketing, whether that was the intention or not.


StellarJockeys have since released the Up-Armored Edition, so it seems their determination hasn’t run dry yet. But what about the hundreds of other indie developers to pour years of their lives into creating an innovative game, only to have to fly under the radar and fall flat?

Some says it’s a numbers game. Make enough and eventually you’ll build up a reputation and get noticed. User Thyrork suggested that a website specifically catered to discovering hidden indie gems is desperately needed.

Whatever the solution, it’s a rough world out there for indie developers, where the stress is high and the payoffs are few and far in between.

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