One of the recurring issues for developers used to working in large teams who strike out alone is, inevitably, loneliness. "For the first few months, everything about working alone was bliss," says Broadbent. "By the fourth month I started to go a little stir crazy, and the isolation really started to kick in. I was working seven days a week, and at my desk pretty much the whole waking day. I stay connected via Twitter and IM, but that's not really enough. Since attending this years' Game Developer's Conference I have been much more pro-active in seeing other people, and I aim to get involved with other developers as often as possible."
Maintaining connections with other indie developers seems to be a necessity for all three developers in sharing knowledge, particularly as many of the lessons picked up in mainstream game development don't necessarily carry across to their new ventures. "The biggest piece of cautionary advice I'd have to my past self is: 'Don't assume anything you learned on big-budget games magically carries over to indie development,'" explains Burns. "Personally, it felt like going from being an electrician on a skyscraper project to being the architect and builder of my own home– despite them both being construction-related, in practice they're two very different things."
While there are important lessons that independent developers can learn from mainstream development – "Don't forget that your ultimate goal is to ship the game," says Burns while Schneider advises "Being professional and disciplined doesn't make you less indie, it makes you a better developer" – the overwhelming sense from talking to these developers is that large, traditional studios have much to learn from independents.
"Being multi-talented and trying all aspects of game development gives you a better understanding of game development in general and makes you a better team member and better at your job," says Schneider. "Large studios need to make sure their developers get opportunities in more than just the role they were hired for."
For Broadbent flexibility is the key advantage that indies have over their mainstream counterparts. "I've learned how important it is to listen to your game, and revise the core gameplay when you find something more fun, even if you're 60% through the development cycle. That moment when you realise everyone is having more fun with the editor than with the main game is your game telling you to make Sim City, not a top-down street racing game."
"The biggest lesson for mainstream developers to take from indie development is: calm down!" says Burns. "I don't know what it is about mainstream development – the burn rates, the publisher beat-downs, the fan expectations, or what – but on many of the big studio projects I've seen there is a certain propensity to flip out at the slightest bump in the road. Please, just calm down. The other lesson is, if someone wants to do the right thing, why not let them do it?"
And what's the big plan for these men? Having climbed the mountain to the top of the industry and jumped off, what's the ultimate goal? "I've never really been one for goals, more for adventures," says Broadbent. "There isn't a long-term plan yet because the whole venture was experimental. It has gone very well (PSN-related launch troubles aside) and as such I am looking at continuing on the current venture for the foreseeable future, but I don't have an ultimate objective beyond 'make fun stuff', and make enough money to buy more games and nice food."
A year or two into their respective ventures, it's interesting to see that Burns, Broadbent and Schneider have no reservations recommending that mainstream industry workers should contemplate an independent life. "All personalities are different of course, but as a 'tweaker' by nature, and someone keen on messing with the status quo, it has been and remains a remarkably liberating and enjoyable endeavor," says Broadbent. "Placing all the responsibility on your own shoulders is daunting, but also encouraging and motivating. And of course all the rewards, the highs felt along any and all game development projects, are amplified many times over when the project is so much more personal, as it inevitably will be, no matter how invested in a larger project a potential indie might be."
"To anyone thinking of taking this path I say: do it," encourages Burns. "Most of the people in the industry who I have spoken to love the idea, they are just a little scared and need a nudge. The thing is, it almost doesn't matter if it works out or not in the end. The point is you have to try." Schneider agrees: "Yeah. Just understand that, once you go indie, it's going to be hard to go back to enjoying mainstream game development."