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 [email protected] 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.

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected]) 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] program.”

  • Dirkster_Dude

    It sounds like the Independent Developers now have the same opinion of Microsoft as they do of Sony.

    • Guest

      Yep and it’s getting even better as MS has an ecosystem that Sony will never be able to provide to any developer.

      • Dixie chicken

        Agreed…and microsoft is putting out exclusive titles like idarb and ori that are fantastic. Theres a difference, i feel like anything that is a microsoft exclusive is high qualtiy and has a great fun factor…other platforms not so much.

        • JerkDaNERD7

          Well, WiiU has some awesome and fun games. It’s the Ps4 platform and what Sony in my opinion is forced to develope for.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      If anything I think it was always good. For developers who saw the benefits, even though there were sketchy clause in the write up to what [email protected] was. Now that we’re seeing the first slew of [email protected] titles we can see Microsoft learned a lot from last-gen with their previous indie support. It’s about giving indie titles as much publicity as they deserve and a chance for “streamlined” publishing without all the confusion most indie devs go through. And most of all quality!

      For indie devs creating a game is one thing, but more than half of the battle is “nurturing” your game to further success and that’s what [email protected] provides.

      • Alex Connellan

        That’s exactly what Mike was saying. There’s so much more that goes into making a game – marketing, QA, etc – that developers don’t always have the tools or budget to handle. [email protected] takes care of that for them, which is great to see.

        They’re there to serve the developers, not the other way around.

    • Gordon

      wrong, sony just cancelled the indie developer program for playstation mobile, flip flopping on indie’s! screw sony

      • Dirkster_Dude


  • avi

    nice to hear

  • spideynut71

    A lot of the Indie negativity was coming from devs that already had an anti-MS slant, either from a previous “bad experience”, or just general hate for the company as a whole. Team Meat, Jonathan Blow….they came out swinging at MS this gen, and fueled a lot of the misinformation and hate concerning MS and Indies. It’s good that devs are starting to spread the word that all is not as it seemed, and that MS actually has a good platform in place for Indie devs. I think Win10 + XBOX will be a HUGE draw for Indie devs, going forward.

  • Sumothong

    I had a Twitter conversation with one of the guys from OSome Studio who just came out with White Night. He had nothing but great things to say about the [email protected] program. Said any problem or question they had that the guys from xbox were right there to help.

    • Alex Connellan

      That’s exactly what Mike said. It definitely seems Microsoft have turned themselves right around from a few years ago in terms of indie support

  • Guest

    Guy sounds like just another MS shill tbh. A fart in the wind.

    • Alex Connellan

      Mike Mika doesn’t have anything to do with MS, other than the fact that he’s developing a game on their system. He’s a developer, plain and simple.

      If you want to ignore what he has to say about the industry, and Microsoft, from a developer’s perspective, then that’s your loss

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