Interview with Indinera Falls

Today, we have an interview with Indinera Falls, founder of Aldorlea Games and creator of the Laxius Force and Millennium series. I sat down to chat with him about his reliance on RPG Maker, about his plans for the future, about his business model, and about whether direct sales are going to remain viable going forward in the face of Steam’s ever-expanding grip on PC game distribution:

Why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers? (What is your name, what is Aldorlea, etc?)

Hi, I go by the name of Indinera Falls and Aldorlea is my commercial venture, started in 2008 – and alive and kicking since then!

Laxius Force was the first commercial game I released and was an instant hit! The first day of sales was enough to allow me to live a full month. 3 Stars of Destiny followed and did very well too.

In 6 years Aldorlea has now released 16 games, and counting.

How did you get into making games?

I always tremendously enjoyed making games. I would write them on paper and play them with my brother. In 2001 I came across the RPG Maker software in a magazine, and I immediately wanted to try it! Laxius Power was about to be born. A massive freeware game that saw downloads in the 7 figures!

Would you say that most of your sales of the original Laxius Force come from people familiar with Laxius Power?

No, I wouldn’t say so, only maybe the first few hundred. Most people who download and play freeware games are reluctant to pay for commercial stuff.

You’re a longtime linchpin of the RPG Maker community. Have you ever thought about switching to your own engine, or do you find you can accomplish everything you want just using RPG Maker?

Not everything I want, but certainly everything I want within a certain genre (JRPG). I’m not a programmer so RM suits my needs. I wish they would come up with a tactical-RPG Maker – I’ve always loved these. Plenty of my “paper games” were actually tactical.

Do you see yourself sticking with making JRPGs for the foreseeable future?

I like JRPG but also all kind of RPGs. Might and Magic VI as well as Daggerfall rank among my favorite gaming experience ever. So I’ll see what kind of opportunities arise.

How have your games evolved over time?

I think mostly production values and quality of the script are the two things that have evolved the most. I was never big on graphics, nor too talented in the field to be honest, so I can’t say this is where the games really evolved.

From my perspective, it seems like you’re getting much higher quality original art than you used to. Do you find yourself investing more time and/or money in your visuals as time goes on?

Yes, definitely. This is what I called “production values” just above. Art is something I treasure in my games and I try to make sure the bar is always high.

You’re one of a few developers that have managed to make a living off of selling games directly to players. What did you do to make that work? (Affiliate sales, selling game walkthroughs, etc.)

Probably a bit of these two: having great success with my freeware offerings, and releasing games of consistent quality. A lot of my fans actually purchase most of my catalog. If you like one game of mine, it is likely that you will like them all. I never overlook depth and replay value in my games, and I always make sure the storyline is interesting and full of twists.

How has the widespread adoption of Steam affected your ability to sell directly to gamers?

It hasn’t changed things much. There was always Steam, and my community is interested in my games, not theirs. Over-saturation of the market is probably a bigger danger than Steam itself.

Do you see the jRPG market becoming oversaturated?

Over the years, more people have tried their chance. With the word getting out that it’s possible to make money off that type of game, many new developers have appeared, although in my opinion quality has not increased since 2009 – quite the contrary, games are often shorter and more generic than what they used to be.

Another thing that has contributed to saturating the market is Kickstarter – with it you can make money without even having to make a game, so of course a lot of people were going to be tempted by it.

How has the experience of being on Steam Greenlight been for you?

Quite frustrating, to say the least. I tried mostly with Millennium. I would have thought reaching 10,000 votes was enough to get greenlighted, but apparently it isn’t. I am clueless what goes in the mind of the person in charge of selecting the games. You would have thought that a popular series of *completed*, ready-to-sell RPGs would make an obvious choice, but it seems not, to them at least… better greenlight a kickstarter that might never see the light of the day, I suppose? I can only hope I get better luck next time. I know Millennium is a great seller, that it did more profit than a lot of games they have greenlighted. The ball is in their court, not mine – I did my job, I reached the required criteria.

If you’ve topped 10,000 “Yes” votes, that must mean that Millenium is in the top 40 games on Greenlight. How long has Millennium been sitting near the top of the heap?

Since late December it’s been a legit candidate.

Why Steam? Do you view Steam as a promising untapped market for your games?

Well Steam is the place to be when you are an indie game dev, isn’t it? They hold most of the market, plus my games have already been successful on similar platforms such as Greenmangaming or Gamersgate. If I can do just 10 times more than what I did with these, it would be massive.

I’ve been to events where people from Valve actually talk about their process for selecting games for Steam; I’ll just tell you right now, they say that while they weigh a game’s position on Greenlight, they also consider other factors like whether it’s been trending upwards, awards and accolades, media attention, things like that. Have you had the opportunity to present these sorts of other factors to anyone at Valve?

I think if they knew the money this series has made, they would not hesitate a second. As I said, they’ve greenlighted games that didn’t make 10% of what Millennium made. A business venture should care first and foremost about the ability to sell.

Does Millennium still sell well?

Yes, very well, and I’m talking about the first game here, that had a very good 2013 year. The sequels also perform very well.

Do you think direct sales are going to remain a viable alternative to Steam going into the future?

Hard to tell for sure. I believe it depends on how well Steam themselves embrace my catalog.
But I’ll always be selling first to my community, and as long as a core of players want to support me, direct sales will remain a viable option. More than 70% of my income over 6 years has been through direct sales. It’s not something you can (or want to) change overnight.

Would you be willing to provide a ballpark figure on what you make from direct sales in a given year?

No, but I believe most folks out there would lowball it. 🙂

[Editor’s Note: within one hour of wrapping up questioning, Indinera emailed me to tell me that Millennium had been Greenlit. Not even joking. I added a bonus question to account for this development:]

Now that Millennium has been Greenlit, is there anything you’d like to add?

Nothing, really. It was a long and difficult road – one full of lessons, too. I’m glad I finally made it. Persistence does pay off it seems, although I knew the game deserved it, just for the stats alone, if nothing else. There is still a long way to go, but this is a big step forward.

Thanks for your time.

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