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Back Into Game Development

Video Game Development
Video Game Development (Photo credit: Dot Diva)

At the beginning of 2012 I got frustrated with contract work again, and I’ve remained frustrated pretty much the entire year. And I’ve got a whole list of reasons why contracting frustrates me:

  • Customers don’t bother getting the deliverables to me on time, forcing projects to end up being way late. That, of course, leaves projects hanging in the air, and me unpaid for long periods of time.
  • Customers are always in a hurry to get projects done. That’s just great, I’m all for it – except they are always doing “hurry up and wait” in the middle of other projects, which begins a cascade of late project.
  • I’m always a believer in under promise and over deliver. That’s a decision I make, of course. Unfortunately, that’s been working against me considerably lately. More time is spent on projects than necessary, or part of the quote.
  • Sales drives me nuts. I don’t like the process, in quite a few ways. I may teach others how to do marketing and sales, but I can’t stand it. And I’m not particularly bad at it, either, I just don’t like doing it.
  • I often have customers who SAY they want a project done, but months go by and they fail to deliver the cash to start a project (I require down payments on projects, for obvious reasons.) Nothing like planning on a project starting, without it ever materializing. Particularly aggravating with really large potential projects.
  • The economy is fairly poor, which means projects aren’t as plentiful as they should be.

There’s actually three reasons why I’m choosing game development:

  • Game Development is one of my passions. I love games – not just playing them, but the process of making them. I’ve done it seven times for myself, and three times for other companies. It’s not easy work, doing it as a complete end to end process like I do, but it’s really enjoyable.
  • Entertainment, particularly including games, is one of the few areas of sales that remains stable. And in a down economy, entertainment is one of the areas that actually goes up. (Side note: the biggest problem that faces game development companies is buyouts and eventual shutdown based on the economics of “big game” development companies. Small and mid-sized companies don’t have have the same challenges that cause turmoil in large companies. I have no plans of being an EA, or an EA style buyout in the future πŸ˜‰
  • I’ve been in the field before, and I’ve made money in the field before. I know it’s possible to make decent money, particularly with multiple releases. Parts of the field have changed, though, but for the better – App Stores and similar distribution methods makes for a much better process of marketing and distribution πŸ™‚

I’ve talked about, and considered going into game development for years now. There’s three industries I’ve discovered over the years that have a nearly irresistible draw form me; TV / moves, writing, and game development. Interesting that all three things that have the most draw for me are in entertainment. And, of course, I’m already active in writing. TV / movies… well, that’s not particularly likely to happen again anytime soon, unless I find money to start my own show again, or maybe finally make some shorts that I’d like to do.

So, what changed to make it go from “considering it” to actually going for it? Kat and I buying a house and getting married. Now I’m shooting for a great deal more consistency in my income – putting games out on the market isn’t an instant win, but a long term, slow-build system of creating consistency. A huge, big hit game is unlikely – that’s not how it works 99% of the time. I’m not going to take bets on being part of the 1% that have million-plus sales games. But, selling between 5k – 10k games per year could make a significant difference, if it’s spun right (I won’t get into the whole plan at the moment.)

Around May I started creating a plan. I wanted to build up a game library in a slow, methodical fashion. The first goal was to study the market a bit, and decide upon my goal games – which games should be produced in which order, and with which options.

Surprisingly, part of my planning resulted in me going back to my game development past: Jumpman 2049. Yep, a game I walked away over 10 years ago ends up being part of my destination again. And I’m pretty happy about that πŸ™‚

Of course, things aren’t so simple as just deciding to go that direction – God like to throw me some curve balls.

First, I come up with the idea of The Save Ferris Project, which mixes games with some philanthropy. That resulted in me changing the order and which games I’d be doing. (See either The Save Ferris Project website, or my blog entry about The Save Ferris Project for more information on that.)

Then, a second twist came along: I’ve been hired – for a small amount, but part ownership of the product – to do a licensed game based on the comic book “Space Pirate Takeo”, an interesting locally produced comic book. This is the first place I’ve ever mentioned the actual title. The project is a “go”, and they’ve made their downpayment on it (which only covered some licensing), and now it’s a waiting process to get a plot-line together and start building graphical assets up. And the music should be coming from a rather interesting source, too πŸ™‚

While it’s not going to end up happening based on my original plan I worked out, I’m glad to see it happen. Throw in some of the other re-usable app stuff I’m doing, and 2013 could be a blockbuster year for me πŸ™‚

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