Recently, Gamespresso sat down with #IDARB creator Mike Mika to discuss the game and its development process. During the interview, Mike brought up Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, and how incredibly beneficial the program is for indie developers, saying that Microsoft is “night and day from where they were 3 years ago”.
As is well-publicised, #IDARB started out as nothing more than a shell of a game – an idea that Mike decided to take to the fans. Posting a tweet that asked what he should do with this concept (the fabled ‘red box’), Mike had no idea the overwhelming response he was about to receive.
“I had an avalanche of ideas coming my way,” Mika laughs.
This initial tweet appeared in January, 2014, as you can see below.
— Mike Mika (@MikeJMika) January 3, 2014
“Microsoft called us I think February first, and then they put us in the booth (at GDC) March sixth or seventh or something like that. It was really fast,” he recalled.
When asked about how encouraging Microsoft was during #IDARB‘s development, Mika described the company as having gone through a complete overhaul.”I’d say it’s night and day from where they were 3 years ago.”
“They’ve come a long way, and I think other developers (in the ID@Xbox program) feel the same way.”
Microsoft’s positive attitude towards indie developers has become incredibly apparent over the last couple of years, especially with the introduction of ID@Xbox. The program, although vague towards consumers, has received incredibly positive feedback from developers of all calibre.
“A lot of people were very upset at the way Microsoft handled indie developers last generation,” Mika said. “And when this came around, and kind of when Chris (Charla, head of ID@Xbox) took the reigns of this program, I don’t think there was a single day where we were very frustrated with anything, or a single day where we had not felt completely supported.”
In changing their image to better support independent developers, Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program gives every developer anything they could possibly need, whilst treating every group as equals.
“We would get on the phone, and they would make no distinction in their culture between a AAA game and an indie game.” Mika said. “They would treat you exactly the same as they would treat Activision or Electronic Arts, and they went out of their way to do that.”
“When they invited us to GDC to be on the show floor we assumed we were gonna be in some sort of prototype lab area… and we go to the kiosk and we’re sandwiched between Dead Rising 3 or whatever it is, and Titanfall.“
Mika recalled how dedicated Microsoft was at nurturing #IDARB as if they were helping develop it, offering support where it was needed, being cheerleaders on the sideline and encouraging any and every creative decision, and even going out of their way to discuss the game on a personal level, rather than as a business transaction.
“Every step of the way, they’re getting excited about your game, they’re just there to support you in every way, shape, and form.”
Aside from cheerleading he key element that ID@Xbox offers, Mika revealed, is the weight that the program takes off independent developers’ shoulders during the development process. This ensures that all the developers worry about is the game, while Microsoft deals with the logistics.
“We were looking at the sheer amount of work we would have to do to get it through certification, and things like ‘how should we market this, what kind of rules are there for this being on Xbox One, what can we and can’t we say, how are we going to afford hardware’,” he recalled.
“All of these things are something you worry about when you’re a smaller group… We’d worked on bigger games before – and that stuff is usually given to us – and now we would have to do this ourselves. But ID@Xbox takes care of all that.”
#IDARB‘s free two month-run on Games with Gold is a testament within itself to how Microsoft is putting its developers and gamers before itself.
“We always had these moments where we were prepared to switch over (from free to $14.99), and Microsoft would come up and say ‘hey, we wanna do another month‘”.
After recalling his experience in working with ID@Xbox and Microsoft to develop #IDARB, Mika has expressed how intriguing it is to go back and develop another title under the same program.
“…it was really easy, and having done it now once, it’s really alluring to go back and do another game under the ID@Xbox program.”