Monday 4 November 2013

Gamedev start up journey - post mortem

The Company Journey

Here we go again. After the Lightning Lab I decided to work with another friend in our own game company. Our objective was to create sustainable games that would contain financial literacy lessons embedded into them.

It didn't take long for us to realise that we had a key missing component: none of us is an artist or designer. It didn't matter what game we would build, it would always look "square". We recruited one artist along the way, but our direction and scope was a bit different from his expectations which meant that for him it became more of a chore than an enjoyment to work on the game.

We pivoted several times. We were trying to streamline the game. Keeping it simple but engaging, the more we progressed with development and market research the more we realised we would have to invest in art.

That is when we decided to take a different approach and try to bring in a sponsor or partner where we would create the games for them. We talked to some big financial organisations and unfortunately most of them did not have the interest in games or, the one that was actually interested, considered us as a risk because we were an start up.

Then with this grim scene, I joined a game jam weekend and created a game named Contagiosus. I did enjoy building and playing the game. I have polished the game enough to be "releasable". Reality is, even for a simple game such as Contagiosus there is an enormous effort to make the game ready that excludes content and game mechanic. That is instructions, tutorials, sounds, game settings, game flow and general user interface polishment.

The Reality

 Reality check: we did not have funds for be iterating more games, paying art and marketing the game. Any game we create we will need several future iterations with feedback from the community which means an extended time is required. And even if we go through the progress we may end up finding that the game is not good enough to be financially sustainable.

 Looking at those elements, we could not justify spending more time and money on it.

We didn't have the big budget to go through all those elements at a full time rate. The game community will not be built over night and it is a long process to get it up - going full time doesn't necessarily makes a big difference.

Funny enough there are lots of blogs out there that say exactly the same thing. I hope this reaches someone who is intending to go full time for his game.

Lessons Learned

It has been a great experience. I had to do it. I wanted to do it. I definitely put something to sleep that has always been in my heart: game development. It is not an easy business.

Build your game prototype and community before going full time

As mentioned before, it takes time for building the community and it is a long process. Going full time does not necessarily helps it.

Have goals and objectives to guide you through the process

This is one thing that we did well. We always had in mind what we wanted and when we wanted. It helped us to always move forward, plan our journey and having points where we were reevaluating our direction. "We need this to get that"
Example:  we built our prototype to have content and ideas to present to prospect sponsors and partners - objective was to get funding for art
Having objectives will also help you decide when to stop. For example, for the prototype we needed to have certain elements. When we got those elements, we decided to stop otherwise we could spend time for something that will not go ahead.

The uniqueness of your game is your value

If your game doesn't have anything unique what do you actually have? Another clone or copy? That is fine but is it enough to get above the indie devs noise? There are amazing games out there being built.
Our game unique proposition was our "garden", where the player would build his own area and share with friends. The challenge with this proposition was that there was alot of art work required hence why we needed funding.Maybe if our game play was more unique and interesting we wouldn't have this big art dependency and would be easier to get out there.

Sell from day 1

You need to build your community. Doesn't matter what you are building, start talking about it. Get people involved.

That is definitely something we should have done. The benefit is your participation in the game dev communities out there. It increases your exposure and you get valuable feedback.

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