It’s interesting to track my own metamorphosis as a game developer.

Not too long ago, if you asked me who my heroes were when it came to game development, I would mention people like Warren Spector, Richard Garriott (de Cayeux) and Peter Molyneux. These guys all started their work when game development was a very nebulous endeavor – no one knew what would work and what wouldn’t. They hit upon winning formulas, allowing them to become well-known and at least moderately wealthy.

But, as I’ve mentioned before, the “rules” of game development at the upper end are now set in stone – or at least in ballistic-grade gelatin. Add the fact that the cost of game development has skyrocketed and the fact that the industry is so volatile that it’s almost impossible to have a “work for 20 years at the same company and then retire” kind of career, and you’ve got an industry that makes games I like to play, but one I don’t find myself wanting to work in as much.

Which brings me great sorrow, but such is life.

So who are my heroes now? Who is Doing It Right? Who do I want to emulate?

My heroes now are mostly indies – guys and gals doing it hardscrabble fashion, showing lots of talent, doing whatever they want and almost certainly not getting compensated enough for what they do.

For instance…

Jeff Vogel. I’ve talked about him before. Since I wrote that article, he has since found further success on Steam and iOS devices. Again, he’s doing it just the way I’d like to – making the games he wants and making a good living at them.

Christer Kaitila. He’s a huge game jam fan – to the point where he wrote a book about them. He’s a longtime Ludum Dare contributor and composed my favorite LD Keynote ever. His star is currently rising as the creator and maintainer of #1GAM – the One-Game-A-Month project. The response to this has been overwhelming, the site has tons of entries and the new IRC channel is as busy as #Ludumdare usually is.

Jay Barnson. I’ve mentioned him before and I’ll probably mention him again. He’s a longtime friend who is currently working on a sequel to his successful game, Frayed Knights. He, like I, spent many years doing professional game development before going indie.

Sophie Houlden. She’s an absolute master of Unity, doing crazy awesome things in a frighteningly short amount of time. Unfortunately, a lot of her games (Swift*Stitch in particular) appear to be underrated.

Sos Sosowski. Not only did he design his own website, which is awesmoe, he developed the crazy/fantastic McPixel, which was all over YouTube after its release.

Daniel Remar. Yeah, yeah, I talk about Daniel all the time. I can’t help it; I’ve loved everything he’s done. And he somehow manages to make games while holding down a full-time job and then release them for free.

I also read recently about a woman who wrote a dozen books, one a year, while home-schooling her autistic son. I think you can see how a setup would be attractive to me.

I need to rekindle the dream of my own independent game development…and as far as I can tell, there’s only one path open to me. More on that later.