How did you guys start?

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by Dyno Kid, Oct 12, 2006.

  1. Dyno Kid

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    Hi guys,

    Well i was wondering how you managed to break free and start life as an indie.

    For me as many of you know i have just finished my first ever game from a tiny budget and basic engine and now 3 of the major portals have said "Yes" to distributing my game.

    With the money i make from Dyno Kid i will put it all back in to my next game and make sure the graphics are good enough for ALL the portals and then hopefully my indie life will start with some good sales.

    So i have used my first game, learned alot, been lucky enough that 3 portals want it and i will take it from there.

    How did the rest of you start out on your own?

    Darren.
     
  2. Escapee

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    I started in late 2004 when i was unemployed ( laying off my boss :D ) , I developed a dweep like indie game entitled prodigious escapee after getting inspired by Steve Dweep gold and his "not necessary practical" but exceptionally motivational articles (for a newbie like me :D ) . I completed the initial version of the game and then went back to being a corporate warrior again and a part time developer for the minor improvement of the game. I received plenty of advice, suggestion and direct help from the forum members which i appreciated very much .

    On 17 August 05, I basically jumped to the rooftop when i received my first sales but it didnt do to well after that . It has been a freeware since 2 months ago and from time to time i received email asking about hints to get passed certain levels . It's wonderful feeling though the game doesnt generate me any cash flow.

    I 'm going to make another game very soon with either blizmax or PTK, stockpilling some cash now to buy either 1 .. ( ahh... how many times have i said this ... )
     
  3. Emmanuel

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    The impulse that got me started on funpause was to have fun/make money together with a long-time friend (Jerome, who's done all the art for all our games, and is also the godfather of one of my daughters), whom I thought was extremely talented, and I wanted the world to know that. I also wanted to do something purposeful and do programming again -- I founded another company previously and ran it for 6 years, it did and is still doing well, and did me well, but I didn't feel like I had much purpose there anymore.

    The first game (garden war) was a disaster. Tried to mix heavy strategy with cute (satisfying neither public), low production values due to worrying that it had to work "everywhere", thinking "small" due not to having updated our mental model of shareware -- thinking it was still stuck in pavlina days -- and pushing Jerome to think small as well, lack of accessibility or clear goals for the game, no clue about online marketing, spent too much time on my own engine and slapped gameplay together without structure, plus Windows only just to make sure I'd have a hard time reaching customers.

    Fortunately that left us unphazed -- "oh well, we'll just do a better one". At that point we were lucky to meet Patrice (Phelios, the ptk creator), that convinced us that the Mac market was a lot easier to access, and that making a living from selling downloadable games is incredibly hard and that we should refocus on different things; then I could switch to my more traditional way of growing a business (find a mentor, listen, and try to contribute a lot back so that it isn't a one-way relationship). Garden Golf was the first iteration, did quite well especially on Mac, contributed sales back to phelios, and through press releases and hitting the critical Mac sites, started building our own Mac customer base that would prove critical for future games. GGolf was still plagued by the "I'll make my own engine for 486's" thinking though, and trying to cater to a vague audience ("everyone loves cute minigolf!"). For both games, even though they were clearly not "top 10 material", Bigfish was courteous, helpful, took the time to offer suggestions, and launched them on their site as well. (Ok, they launch a game a day, but they had no end of submissions even at that point, so they still used a slot for our games). Some others talked down to us.

    GGolf proved to us that making money out of selling games online was possible even starting in 2005.. We subsequently decided to actually try and make games that people wanted, decided the hell with machines that can't display "2D in 3D" -- their owners won't buy games anyway. At that point we hired another long-time friend, Jean-Marc, to produce movie-like music to try and give our games an impressive, emotional, polished look -- another decision that had a huge impact in retrospect. Making Atlantis with ptk was significantly easier than making ggolf, basically never worrying about the tech and being able to make the game look much more dynamic than what existed back then. The first Mac sale came within the first hour of putting the game online, first PC sale following during the night, even with our limited traffic by then, so we figured we may have made a nice game. Hit 25 sales/day from our site when we hit Mac site and sent PRs, and it went from there. Luck continued and Big Fish contacted us within hours of the game's existence to offer an exclusive and then a publishing deal, which we accepted, getting great placement and enabling the game to hit #1 on several top online channels (BFG, Real, Yahoo, Zylom...). Our own customer base that was already primed by GGolf grew significantly, sales on our site never hitting less than 10-12/day at the worst point of traffic (just before Fairies came out).

    We then reused most of what we learned on Atlantis to produce Fairies. We pushed the emotional aspect further by following Jean-Marc's idea of creating a song with his friend, "All about eve"'s extremely talented lead, Julianne Regan, so that customers would get an impression of quality right from the main menu. Once near completed, we naturally offered Bigfish to publish it, since they had done such an outstanding job with Atlantis -- beyond our wildest expectations. We went through our first session with testers and saw the importance of it, making some changes afterwards. Luck still was present, and sales on our own site started at 50/day when we announced Fairies. BFG launched it and it also hit #1 as well as on Yahoo, Zylom, etc. At that point we had an awesome working relationship with BFG, they were clearly the upcoming channel, tried and measured every marketing technique imaginable, had their own megahits (mahjong towers) and were mentoring us to move up another bracket in sales. The trade sale occured very naturally and was really a "1+1=3" deal. BFG really pushed us to improve our game design skills, and our subsequent games smashed sales of funpause's titles.

    So, if I were to start in 2006... I'd probably find myself a good mentor earlier, listen, forget about the tech that people aren't actually seeing (and paying for), make mac products first and foremost, recognize a good publisher, and enjoy myself :)

    Best regards,
    Emmanuel
     
  4. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I knew funpauses history because they somewhat grew up round these forums but it was nice to see it all laid out in one place like that, thanks emmanuel.

    Once thing I couldn't help but notice when clicking on the mac games link in your sig, 4 of the top 10 mac games on BFG are made with PTK :)
     
  5. ggambett

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Our story is quite similar to Emmanuel's, and way less successful ;) A buddy from college and I said "hey, let's make games" so I started making and engine, my buddy started making music and my sister made graphics. The result was PegSweeper, a basic game engine, and very few sales. We continued anyway with a weird concept - a girl serving beer to wacky patrons in a bar. We showed that thing called Betty's Beer Bar to several portals. Many rejected it. Big Fish gave us a lot of very useful feedback and then launched the game - this was november 2003, way before they were launching a game a day, so I thank Paul once again for believing in us and in a game unlike anything else in the casual space. Betty's Beer Bar did very well. Then we made FaceIt (2004) and Wild West Wendy (2005). In late 2005 we made Pirate Poppers and signed a deal with PlayFirst, our first time working with a publisher, and also made Pigllionaire, still in soft release mode (so soft I haven't announced it here yet).
     
  6. JoKa

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    Your storys are very inspiring, especially the part about your disasters and how everything turned into a successful business because you learned your lessons, staying on target :)

    I also started with non-sellers and the best thing was a flat fee retail contract for one of my games in a games collection. No big money, but ok for a Breakout-clone with low quality graphics. After a while I was skilled enough to create advertising games for some companies. But I prefer to produce and sell on my own, without taking care about product placement and corporate identities ;)

    In the last two years I created some stuff that sells constantly, but still not good enough. At least there is some evolution. With my platformer "Frutti Freak", created in 2004, I got some nice reviews and motivating user feedback as well as a smalll retail deal.

    The platformer-code of Frutti was also used for an advertising game in 2005, and for my latest game "Penguin vs. Yeti". With the penguin game, created in 2005, I got some awards for the first time and a more valuable retail deal than ever before.

    I never expected my games to be shown on portal sites, but Frutti was released by Bigfish. Didn't do fine, but I startet to learn more about portal requirements. Penguin vs Yeti was also released by Bigfish and Oberon, although it's not optimised for portals (the game was nearly finished before I realised portals are a new opportunity for me).

    Now, in my current game that's soon to be released, I put everything I learned about casual games. Except matching colored stuff, but I hope it will sell good nevertheless ;)
     
  7. cybermonk

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    Very inspiring indeed! I'm still at the beginning of this, but I hope in a couple of years I can tell a similar story as you guys :)

    I'm full time since 2 weeks ago, but actually I released my first game, Bubblomania, about 10 years ago. I released a port to MacOS X 2 years ago, but it never sold very well.

    I quit my job after saving some money, to give it a serious go. And my first big goal is to finish a game and get it on a portal! :)
     
  8. JoKa

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    Although I'm aiming at portals much more than before, selling on my own is still the most rewarding thing. But no matter what's your priority, there's a lot you can learn from portal top-sellers. Many things work for any audience you're targeting.
     
  9. berserker

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    Enkord story

    Interesting thread indeed! You inspired me to post my story as well.

    I've been interested in computer/video games since I remember myself but business seriously started when I decided to look into shareware after failing to pitch some tech demos to CD-retail publishers in order to get some funding. As a programmer myself I thought I would just make a quick shareware game to earn some money to fund more advanced retail demo to pitch to publishers again with more success this time. THAT was really naive :)

    First game was JAM XM, published by Alawar and it was a total failure selling only few copies. I've made a major update with number of changes but it haven't helped a bit. I was disappointed with publishers and thought I should have relied on myself more.

    Learned a lot from my JAM XM experience I've studied market and made Clash'N Slash original version. This time I took another approach - I've followed every single possibility that made sense speaking of marketing and promotion. If something made just one sale it was significant result for me.
    While Clash'N Slash haven't hit top10 of big protals like Real or Big Fish, I've managed to push it almost everywhere possible and it was doing well on some more action friendly portals like MiniClip and ArcadeTown. And most important
    - it was selling phenomenally directly. Even now having 6 games almost half of direct sales are Clash'N Slash.

    By earnig some money from Clash'N Slash I've decided to start my own casual games studio instead of following hopeless retail path. I've rented office, bought computers and furniture, hired an artist, flash programmer, and later C++ programmer. C++ programmer was an old friend of mine and it was a huge mistake to hire him. Because we were friends he used that to work badly, come with a lot of lame excuses and so on. After six month and no result I've fired him and swore myself not to mix personal things and business ever again.

    First game to be produced within newly formed studio was Jewel of Atlantis. I was in permanent crunch mode to make this game for less than 2 months from concept to release (!). I was really afraid of running out of money before I will be able to release anything and get royalties. Jewel of Atlantis sold great and hit the top of most of portals like Real, Big Fish, Oberon, AOL, Reflexive and so on.

    After Jewel of Atlantis success I felt myself more comfortable and hired more.
    Next we've released Clash'N Slash: Worlds Away which wasn't nearly as successful as original. Perhaps we should have made it more different but I was originally planed to release it as an addon for those people who enjoyed orginal with major problems fixed and some characters and storyline on top.

    Next game was Jurassic Realm and it was quite successful as well. It is yet to see release on all of portals but so far it was in top 10 on Big Fish and Real.

    Currently we are 7 full timers, 4 part timers with 6 titles released.
    But the story continues!... :) We are moving into a new office and I plan to double staff soon. We have 3 exciting in-house projects in development and several third-party titles as well. We have released new game Zodiac Tower couple of days earlier and I see a lot of opportunities for building up my business.

    Cheers,
    Yaroslav
    ________
    MEDICAL MARIJUANA
     
    #9 berserker, Oct 20, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2011
  10. zoombapup

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    Thats interesting Yaroslav, I guess it is probably a bit easier to expand your business in the Ukraine given the currency difference.

    I think a few portal sellers here would be good, but not enough to start hiring unless you hit top 3? maybe top 5 every time?
     
  11. Roman Budzowski

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    Yep, we have to take advantage of poverty of our countries. Chances to take advantage of it doesn't come to you every day. You take advantage of your country wealth each day you wake up ;-)

    cheers
    Roman
     
  12. berserker

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    Of course I take advantage of selling to US market using local resources but honestly it's just technical stuff like art and programming which can be outsourced anyway and a lot of guys from these boards do that to cut down expenses. I still handle game design which is most important thing. Unlike US there are no decent game designers in Ukraine. Every coin has two sides...
    ________
    1937 FORD HISTORY
     
    #12 berserker, Oct 21, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2011
  13. Emmanuel

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    Gabriel's success was inevitable.. He did thorough research for Betty's Beer Bar before even showing it to Bigfish ;)

    Best regards,
    Emmanuel
     
  14. Jack Norton

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    You're wrong, that photo is for his 3rd game, called Betty Boobs Bar!
     
  15. Pogacha

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    Men, I was trying to work here!
    Now I will have to bite my lips to stop laughting for the rest of the day!
     
  16. ggambett

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    This is definitive evidence that I'm a hard working man and I do thorough research before each game. Too bad that time I was researching graphics and not soft body physics simulation though.
     
  17. Sharpfish

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    I think most of us have posted our "story" before but heres a quick recap for the sake of the thread.

    1980s > starting coding on the Spectrum in Basic. Nothing decent but learned about programming structure and that there was more to making games than simply hooking up something to your TV and pressing random keys.

    1990s > started out promising, made a couple of Amiga games and apps (~ 1992/1993) and got paid for a couple of titles from a mini-distributor. This was just as "Public Domain" was imo dying out and being overtaken more and more by "shareware" and licenceware. Spent rest of decade pretending to be a rock star (in my own bedroom).

    2000s > Started learning a "proper" language (C++) and looked at Direct X. Worked @ Codemasters for a while at a junior level (not coding), had to leave because of moving and it tied in with my new found knowledge of making stuff for PCs (about 2 years ago). Decided at first to make games for the fun of it and if they sold then great, if not then whatever... visited Indiegamer.com and suddenly everything looked different, more business like and serious. Decided to tailor my choice of games in development towards a viable market while still retaining the core fun/passion element for myself.

    2006> See above, but factor in too much posting on this forum and too much procrastination and burnouts from working all hours. Hopefully to release game soon, with another 2 not far behind (all are someway along in development).
     
  18. amaranth

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    For me, it started in 2001, the year after I graduated college. I'd just moved to a new city and started working as a technical writer. I didn't know anyone, so I spent a lot of time at home pacing around. A true hermit, I suppose (I still am). I wanted to play an adventure game, but I couldn't find any in the stores, so I tried to make one.

    My very first game was made in flash, was five minutes long, and quite scary looking. I went online to learn more about how to make adventure games and up popped a site created by Chris Jones for something called Adventure Game Studio. I couldn't believe my luck. I'd never heard of a game creation system. I downloaded it and tried it out. I was ecstatic. I spent the next four months making my next creation, another scary-looking adventure game, but this one was six hours long! Along the way, I got familiar with basic game scripting. I'd taken a programming class in college, but this was the first time I'd ever used the skills I'd learned in class. I released the game and it wasn't that popular with the AGS crowd. This was a bit of a bummer, but it made me more determined than ever to make something better.

    Now that I'd had some experience with programming, and I understood how the game development process worked, I decided to finally make a game from scratch. I picked up some great books by this author, Jonathan Harbour, and built my own engine. What was disappointing though, was that none of the books I read discussed building a game creation system. They only talked about the game engine. Since I'd worked with a game creation system, I realized how quickly games could be made with them, and I wanted to make one for my next games.

    While I was pondering my situation, I downloaded a game called Laxius Power, a free RPG from download.com. I loved it! It reminded me of the old console-style RPGs that I played on my Nintendo. I hunted down the maker of the game and to my surprise, I learned he had also used a game creation system. It was called RPG Tsukuru 2003 (RPG Maker 2003). I purchased the game creation system from a Japanese game import store called HimeyaShop and immediately got to work. After a year of work, I finished my next game and released it as freeware. Within a year, it was downloaded a million times, and lots of people were emailing me for help. I set up an online community so that the players could help answer each other, and that helped with the email problem. I realized that I was potentially sitting on something big, and decided to make my next game shareware.

    Luckily, around the time when I was getting ready to make Aveyond, RPG Maker XP - English had just been released. Not only that, but it included a robust scripting language, Ruby, and developers could release games made with it as shareware. I was ecstatic because the stars had lined up at just the right time! I learned how to program in Ruby and made Aveyond. Aveyond has done okay, but I think there is a lot room for improvement.

    One extremely important lesson I've learned is that a compelling game name is the gateway to success. I look back at the names I've used, and hands down, Ahriman's Prophecy was the best. Out of all of my games (both freeware & shareware), it has been downloaded the most. Aveyond has a great conversion rate (3.8%), but it doesn't have a power-packed name that makes the majority of people want to download it. I've been sweating bullets over the name for my next game because I feel deep down that it will make or break it.

    Today I have several plans up my sleeves and I'm excited to take all that I've learned from my past into the future. Right now I am working with Torque 2D to build a truly casual RPG for Windows, Mac, and Flash (January). I'm also building a new type of interactive online community that I've not seen before (February). After that? Aveyond II: Ean's Quest (July), and the game creation system of my dreams. :D
     
    #18 amaranth, Oct 23, 2006
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2006
  19. Grey Alien

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    I'll keep mine brief as I gotta go out to my accountant's.

    Age 8 (uh 1983) got Spectrum, learnt to program it. Then programmed C64, Acorn, BBC, Amstrad, Amiga. Did assembly on some 8-bit but got really into it on Amiga - then also got Blitz Basic 2. Got a PC around 12 years (Doom time) and coded C++ and ASM for DOS. Then learnt Delphi and was a professional developer for 9 years (www.merlio.com).

    Oh yeah been playing games all this time too of course ;-) both on home computers and consoles.

    In Nov 2004 I found Blitz was available for the PC and because I loved it so much on the Amiga I bought it for the PC. I started making a platform game in my spare time and after 6 months realised that at this rate it would take years to develop so decided to make some smaller "finished" games to get my game development skills polished. Finally, in Dec 2005 I released Xmas Bonus, my first commercial game, which did well enough for me to carry on. Pretty much all of 2006 I've been full-time (with the odd IT consultancy job making up the "real" money). I release Easter Bonus in March and since then I've made a game framework for BlitzMax which I plan to reuse many times. I've also been developing my latest game in conjunction with a U.S. Producer (I'm UK-based). I've also got another Christmas game in the pipeline. So...if my next two games do well, then I'll make more ... watch this space.

    Why did I choose this path? Well I've *always* wanted to make games since I was a kid, and I got sidetracked with good money in business software, but ultimately it bores me, so I'm making games and earning less money (at the moment).

    Good luck yourself by the way.
     
  20. grumpee

    grumpee New Member

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    I started programming in BASIC when I was 9 or 10 (cant remember exactly) and was making simple games and stuff back then.

    I took a summer course at the local community college on progamming in which we made a 'space invaders' game.

    I have been doing website/web application development now for about 10yrs and I have just started my own dev studio with 2 friends. I hope to release a couple of acarde style games over the next few months and then do an adventure game, then a RTS game by the end of next year.

    I too get bored with applications and that is why I have decided to move into games again...
     

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