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Virtual virgin cries for help!
by Arseniy Shved on 04/18/13 12:44:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

It takes money to make money.

There is no point [of developing a game] if it cannot generate at least 10 times of what it costs.


People are willing to work free, and they are willing to work for a reasonable wage; but offer them just a small payment and they will walk away.

Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational

 

For quite some time now, I’ve been working on my very own game, called Otaku. I am very fond of what is coming out of my work but I have to admit that the process is really slow. I know it can be developed faster. But I need professional help (not THAT kind help… or… who knows).

 

Part one: help me, anybody!

I have several options:

  1. I could ask friends to help me for free.
  2. I could ask friends to help me for money.
  3. I could ask strangers to help me for free.
  4. I could ask strangers to help me for money.

It looks like a no-brainer – friends are there to help, and they usually do it for free! So I picked option 1 first. Turned out friends are useful if you need your sofa moved or when they are bored and want to have a drink.

The second logical step was to offer a friend some money. After all, little money is better than no money at all. Or so I thought. But I was wrong again (I wish I had read Dan Ariely before trying that. On a side note I refer to his works so often that I wonder whether one day he would comment on one of my posts?). Not only his enthusiasm decreased, but our relationship became temporarily worse.

 

Now, why was I offering small amounts of money?
Because my financial situation is pretty damn tough even without my stupid dreams of doing a crazy game. Just a couple of quick facts: my monthly salary is $800. I have a wife and a daughter. On average we spend about $160 per week on food. Additionally we need roughly $350 per month to pay for rent, water, electricity and Internet (yeah, that’s already more that I earn). Also consider this: average game designers have a lower salary than programmers or artists.


The third step seemed like the next best thing I could try, so I did.
Turns out there are several important things one needs to keep in mind, when asking for strangers’ help:

  • Trying to impose a discipline (for example by saying “I would need this animations in 7 days”) does not show that you are dedicated, organized and have no desire to waste time. Instead it makes you look like Hitler.
  • Enthusiasm lasts only so long.
  • You need to try to work with dozens of people until you are lucky enough to find someone whose grandpa does not get sick every time you need stuff done.

The last concern is more positive than it might sound, but is not really applicable when you need to speed things up.

So, it seemed like the most unlikely option was the only one thing left to try (when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, huh). But I still had no money.

 

Part two: boring calculations based on assumptions.

And that’s when it struck me: strangers can be enthusiastic for a short period of time. And if they want to help – all they need to do is either spread the word or donate some money (which would prolong their interest a lot BTW). Only if they want of course.
And I could invest that money to hire pros that I need.

OK, I’m lying. I was thinking of crowdfunding from day one. But not from that angle. It was supposed to happen a lot later.

Now, how much money do I need?
Well, by my estimates $500.000 (holy cow!) would be enough to support a sufficient team for 2 years, right up to the moment the game should be complete. But, not having decades of experience it is a bad idea to ask that much:

  • First of all – during a development cycle something always goes wrong. And I know I cannot plan THAT well.
  • Second – even with the experience I have (and that is building a game of the same genre, and having exact same responsibilities), building a half-million game is just too much of a risk. And I have no intention of failing someone’s expectations, both moral and financial.
  • Finally – no one’s gonna give me so much money.

That means I need less, but with the eventual goal to get to the half-million milestone (not necessarily by crowdfunding – there are still publishers, private investors, venture organizations) with enough work done to be absolutely positive about customer interest, team’s capabilities and project requirements and potential.
How would I do that? Well, I have been repeatedly told that an investment should return 10 times of its original amount. If my goal is to get $500k, I need to successfully invest $50k. Ok, I could go to IndieGoGo to collect those funds, but doing that without a top-notch demo is a scam.

That means that I need to make a cool demo with a budget of $5k. Now we’re talking. If I continue to work on Otaku on my free time, I would not need to worry about paying myself, so all the money would go to “hired guns”. What can I do with that money?
Art is a must. No one cares about prototypes of mechanics with cubes and text warnings. Couple of models, basic set of animations, a programmer to put it all together.
No money for decent level is left, but it’s OK. We can show our fight mechanic on and abstract level. At this point the basic gameplay is much more important than everything else, right? What a shame, I’m so eager to show off my story. Anyway… a bit tight on the budget, but totally doable.

So, where can I get $5k? Well I could reduce my expenses by half by divorcing my wife, but I’ve been told that it does not work that way =). As an alternative I could think of a way to find $500 and invest them to get $5k. With this thought I came back to the idea of asking strangers for their money (seriously though, I feel like a beggar).

The more I thought about it, the better this idea seemed to be.

 

Part three: part one from another angle.

$500 should be enough to clearly express the concept of the game so that everyone could make an informed decision whether they would want to support the game or not. I could hire an artist (the title picture did not draw itself by the way, farewell my dinner=) ) to “document” the visual style I’m aiming for, show concept art of characters and locations. And of course deliver written descriptions of that stuff (that info is ready and waiting!). Artist, having done some initial work, will be a bit less crucial on the second stage of my plan (and that is creating a demo) – part of what will be required from him will be done now. Finally this is a low risk operation – the worst that could happen is that we would deliver the art, but it would not be enough. People still would get entertained by funny texts and pictures.

The plan is, however, to put all this media we would produce on the site and ask for $5k to fund the core mechanics demo. Or just to inspire potential colleagues. And keep everyone posted on the progress to gain trust.

 

Ok, that sounds like a plan. It has flaws of course. Like how on earth am I going to ensure that 10 to 1 ROI? Why do I even believe in that? How do I ask total strangers for money? And will people be willing to even consider donating at least $1 to a noname dude?

There is only one way to know for sure. To find it out I put together an Indiegogo campaign where everyone can contribute to the cause. You are welcome to do so=). 


OK, I’ve spent enough of your time already, so I’m almost done.
I seriously doubt that it was an informative article, but I hope it was at least a bit entertaining.

Also, I’d really like to know what are your thoughts on all of this. Please, if you have something to say – use the comments section. Additionally you can find me on twitter, facebook and my blog.
The link to Otaku on Indiegogo is: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/otaku-concept-art--2/x/1078070
Thank you for your attention!


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