Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Business Side of Game Development: Part 1



A subject like this one can take years to discuss since it's so broad, but to break it down as much as I can, I will discuss what I believe to be the most important parts of the business side of game development. Some of what I will touch on will not be surprising to you while other things might. Especially with the way the Gaming Industry changes so fast, it's hard to keep a finger on what parts of the gaming business truly are important.

1) Money: You Need It
Let's start off with a no-brainer answer. Money. You need it. Most of the time lots of it. Sometimes you can get away with making an interesting game on a low budget, but it will be more challenging with less resources to turn to. In my candid opinion it amazes me just how much money certain game dev teams actually have at their disposal in a time when the economy is hurting, especially in the United States. If you have nowhere near the amount of money you need to pull off a multiple level experience of a game, then chances are you'll be in an uphill battle from Day 1.


I wish money didn't speak as loudly as it has in recent years regarding game development, but this is a fact I'm sure many of us have accepted. It's this resource that prevents many aspiring game developers from even participating in the game dev arena. You don't need to have a King's Ransom of a budget to make a great game because even high budget games are vulnerable to flopping if they're not executed well, but it would help your cause if you at least had a decent amount of money to work with.

2) Connections (Economic and Otherwise)
Point 1 dovetails into Point 2. One way to get the money you need to develop games is to have the right connections. Do you have any sponsorship deals? Do you know a person who can provide you some dev tools? Do you know a person who works or has worked for a game dev company? Any valuable goods that you can get from resources like these should never be taken for granted. Any experience that you can add to your new game dev team is a plus. Any unique game dev tool that you can use for a project should be welcomed with an open mind. Do you have legitimate work space for your team to just sit down and socialize with? Don't forget about this as well.


Any advice that you can receive from other devs who have more experience than you should be taken in. Why? It's because they know what to expect when going into a project, and they know what's important and what isn't in the dev process. It all begins with you approaching these connections and asking for help. If you don't ask for help you won't get the help you seek. It's as simple as that.

3) Business Plan (Written or Concrete; Doesn't Matter)
If your game dev team is clearly on its way to doing something cool in the future and you have the seeds planted for setting up your official studios somewhere as a company, then you absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt, must have a business plan of some sort mapped out already. If you don't have any clue as to what your company is going to achieve nor where it will be 5 years or so down the road, then you'll quickly get into deep trouble. If you don't get educated on the general swing of business topics, such as how to sort out expenses, savings, negotiations, etc., then you simply won't go far in the Gaming Industry. You have to have your ducks correctly lined up in a row.


Personally I wouldn't think it would matter so much if initially your business plan is either written out or put down in fine concrete, but what ultimately matters is that you have a business plan to turn to. You must have some idea of what kind of revenue your dev team and company are going to generate if you're going to safely navigate yourselves through the gaming wilderness. Like with any business out there, though this business is about having fun, the gaming business can sometimes be cutthroat. If you are not careful with your business plan --whatever it is-- then don't be surprised if your competition jumps through the doors that you leave open, and shut you out from making that next great game dev discovery in the process. It can and will happen at some point.

4) Gaming Industry Knowledge
Know what you're getting into when you declare that you're going to be a part of the Gaming Industry. Know your territory. Know your target customers. Know your capabilities as a company. Know the existing trends that are popping in the industry. Know what possible future trends could break out if you work on addressing them through a new project. Know what is currently "cool" with gamers and figure out what you can do to present your games and content as being cool in their own way.

While I don't agree with all of their business decisions, one tactic that Nintendo uses that should be celebrated just a little bit more should be their implementation of the Blue Ocean Strategy. Being in the Gaming Industry for decades, I'm sure that Nintendo knows what they can and can't do as a company in most aspects, and one thing I think they do know is that they can't blend in and be just like Sony or Microsoft. They can't copy those business strategies because what's the point of doing that? Sony and Microsoft are already finding success doing what they do with their consoles, so Nintendo tries to do something different.

Does this strategy always work? No because the execution isn't always there. However, the idea is brilliant on paper. If I had a game dev company and I wanted to make fresh new games that people haven't seen before, I need to be different than other companies. I can't copy what other companies do. This is what Nintendo does get in the business world.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Punchy Business Update: Close But Not Quite

 
Contact me at stevenvitte12@yahoo.com if you're interested in helping me finish this demo!
 
Update: Here is the anticipated (depending on how my readers will follow this) update on my custom game project titled "Punchy Business". I am very pleased to report that a ton of progress has been made on this demo, bringing to life many of the aspects that I had envisioned this custom game idea to have. In just 1 tutorial style level Punchy Business proposed to have this boxing kangaroo character be the main protagonist and go through a platforming style level. Once he completed this platforming part he'd go straight into the fight, a setup similar to that of Mike Tyson's Punch Out but with a few obvious differences, against a protagonist, an intimidating tiger. 

The email update sent to me by Peter Kirk below basically highlights the entire development process of this demo in just the short 6 weeks it took. As you know game development is a learning process that takes time to get fully acquainted with, and throughout this development process we all had the opportunity to work out the things that made sense to implement, and what features really weren't necessary to implement. As a game dev you will face this often. What can you do? What can't you do? What fits with the proposed deadline? What doesn't fit? 

In summary the demo for Punchy Business is essentially around 90% finished, with the artwork and animation not completely implemented. The game mechanics are in place and the sound is where it should be, but the art is the only missing piece from making this 100% complete. 

After reading the below email and taking the entire experience in, how do I feel about how I handled this project? I believe that for the most part I did everything I could to help the game dev team out. I felt like when I needed to provide my creative input fon pressing issues, I did just that. I wasn't super hands on as a creative lead, but that has never been in my game dev structure. I'm more of a guy who relies on teamwork and lets the team do their thing. I'm more like a "player's coach" if I can use a sports analogy. 

As for the future of Punchy Business, I have absolutely NO plans of canceling this project. I have made it too far with the development of this demo to just pull the plug on it. Ideally I'm not one to quit so easily. Like a boxer I like to get back up and go back to punching away. I believe in finishing what I start, and this project will be no different. I want to see to it that this Punchy Business demo gets 100% finished and then released out to gaming communities. 

If you are a game dev and you're interested in helping me finish this demo, please contact me at stevenvitte12@yahoo.com and we'll have conversations at any time. Thank you!

Hey Steven,
 
I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you. I just wanted to have everything finalized before I gave you the rundown of how everything stands.
 
So, the fact is that we were unable to complete the project. Functionality and sound elements are all there, but the art is not. I believe I am at fault for giving Justin so much animation work despite his inexperience along with not managing his progress well enough. For that, I apologize. I wanted our team to complete the project in the allotted time, but we have failed. I am immensely sorry.
 
I realize we had not decided on a contingency plan for what happens if the game is not finished. If this were paid work, my team would either return some of the investment or put in overtime to get the game finished. This is unpaid, and essentially a trial run for us all. Therefore, we’ll be staying consistent to our model and moving onto our next project after a short break. Justin is burnt out and needs to refocus.
 
As it stands, the project is essentially the same as the one you last played. I’d suggest downloading the latest version just in case. This project contains art that doesn’t fall under creative commons so a release is impossible. It IS fine for you to share this game with anyone, including to present it at the COGG meetup as a demo, if you desire. We will maintain the source code, so if you find another team who wants to continue from our work or you wish to hire us for another project, just contact me. If you’re looking to use our work for a release, we’ll discuss matters of compensation when the time arises. Know that we will not use you IP for any of our future projects without permission. This does not include the technologies we created in making this game. If you feel that we are in breach of that, please, let me know so we can rectify the problem.
 
I want to thank you for the opportunity to try to make your IP come to life. It has been a valuable learning experience not only based on your designs, but also with working for a third party. I believe that we will be able to take what we learned and apply it to future projects, enhancing our potential.
 
I hope this experience has been a positive one for you as well. You put in a lot of work creating and editing the GDD and that’s the reason we were able to work so smoothly and without having to call on you daily. I hope this experience aids you in your future endeavors.
 
*Whew* I think that’s everything! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me.
 
I wish you the best,

Peter Kirk
Studio Head, Programmer
Sketchy Games