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Clash of creativity and business
by Pascal Bestebroer on 09/09/13 08:16:00 am   Featured Blogs

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.

 

Back in 2005 I started Orangepixel as a one-man company, and 8 years later it is still basically just that. I do use the skills of freelancer musician Gavin Harrison (http://gavinharrisonsounds.com/) to create all the music for my games, and my girlfriend "filters" the various email inboxes and takes care of some of the social media thingies alongside me, but 99% of the time Orangepixel is just me.

What this means is that I get up in the morning, put my laptop on the kitchen table, and start working for 8 - 9 hours, usually I then make dinner as a great break and relaxing moment, then after dinner I move the laptop to the couch and continue working while watching some tv... this of course only if I feel like working, cause hey, I'm indie !

The important information to have here is that my work never, ever, feels like work.. it's always extremely fun and feels more like my hobby.

But my work is not just one single job, my work is a lot of jobs that sometimes require an almost split-personality when creativity clashes with business.

Creativity

Every game starts with my creativity cap on, I try to come up with a new game concept, graphical style, and gameplay. I usually create a lot of different little bare-bone game prototypes, adding some graphics to the mix and see if it "works". It's very rare to hit a great idea on the first prototype, so this often takes a couple of weeks experimenting with ideas.

Schermafbeelding 2013-05-06 om 17.31.41

My new game, Heroes of Loot, took a lot of attempts, actually spread over 8 years, to finally come up with a "dungeon game" that I was happy with. It then took about four months to get a first version that I could show to other people and actually made publicly available in "beta" form.

That's where the problems begin, people who tried the beta loved it and were very positive about it.. but my creative-cap wasn't pleased with it. The game was losing it's focus on gameplay, it was not the game I set out to make, and it needed drastic changes and improvements to get it back on track.

This process took over 4 months of extra work on the game. During that period I had ups and downs concerning the game. At some points I just wanted to quit and start something new.. the game was not my friend, it was my biggest enemy that had to be defeated by completing it.  I had weeks of feeling sick, depressed and generally not happy at all.

I started feeling paralyzed when sitting at my computer, "having" to work on Heroes of Loot.. having to complete it before doing other stuff..

Business

A large part of the struggle I had with the game was my business-cap becoming more and more vocal.

On average I work about 2 months on a game, and for all those years that is what really works for me. Some of my biggest games were actually written in only a few weeks, obviously working many hours a day and, if the girlfriend allows, also in weekends, gives you a lot of time to work on your game, but still just a few weeks where my creativity was soaring.

skully

The thing was, my last game was Gunslugs and it did amazing, easily my best game so far, but it was also a game which took me about 8 months to create. It was released in January 2013, and since then I have been working on Heroes of Loot. I did some small things in between, like releasing a small game on mobile (Sketchbook Squad) as a "freebie" release I do each year, but nothing big or worth mentioning business wise.

The problem is, that as a game becomes older, it slowly fades out from people's view. Sales slowly dwindle down to 0.  This is called the "long-tail", and the long-tail on all my games was keeping money flowing in, but it was a downhill graph.

My business-cap wasn't happy, a new game HAD to be released and Heroes of Loot was the only candidate. So my business-cap was hovering over my creativity-cap for the last few months of development.

Who wins the battle

This struggle between creativity and business can really tear apart a developer. The problem is: who do you listen to?  The business cap is usually the wisest of the two, and the smartest solution to listen to.

So I listened to the creative-cap. I knew my game was moving in the right directions after doing various changes to the gameplay based on feedback from various other developers and gamers. I set various deadlines for myself to have the game completed by those dates.. I missed all of them, which never happened before in all those years.

Finally I put the release date on September 12th, I was done, the game was done, it was playable and enjoyable and every game session I had took much longer then I originally planned on.  Heroes of Loot was finally the dungeon/rogue-like I wanted to make for so many years,  it was the dungeon game the way I wanted to play it, reminding me of the original Gauntlet on the Spectrum and C64...

The business-cap was happy that the game was finally done, and wanted to push it out in the world.

The creative cap was terrified (and still is) about other people's opinions.. I invited some people to come and play it with me on the Ouya.  They loved it.  I completed the desktop version and asked some people to give it a try on their PC  / Mac..  they loved it.

Still I'm terrified.. but the business-cap has started working overtime.  Mailing press, doing social-media, letting people know the game is coming, a rogue-like in Orangepixel style.

One journalist, in writing a preview and interview of the game, asked me "is this your magnum opus" .. I said no, I don't think it is..  but it sure was a huge mountain that I had to climb.

Heroes of Loot is released on September 12th, 2013
for iOS, Android, Ouya, PC and Mac.. with a PS Vita planned ..

www.heroesofloot.com

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Comments


Patrick Khuu
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Thank you for sharing your personal experience, Pascal. I'm only a student right now, but it's always insightful for me to be able to get a glimpse of the professional world, especially from an indie-standpoint (although I understand that every experience is different and can be circumstantial). Best wishes to your future endeavors!

Pascal Bestebroer
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Thanks, and you are right, every experience will be different! Only thing I can recommend people is that if you have the chance, go for it.. give it a try and fight for doing the thing you love to do..

just make sure you go all-in, and that comes with learning business smarts and marketing.. not just creating games :)

Jay N
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A great writeup, loved the twist where you went creative instead of businesslike. Too few people dare focus on the creative aspects of a game in most projects, I think. I gather you have no major financial issues hanging over you, since you are able to do that. In the long run it usually pays off, if you can afford it. Thank you for sharing your story.

The game itself looks good, too. I'll be keeping an eye out for the PS Vita version, seems like a perfect fit. But please do make sure to add a full trophy set, including a Platinum, to the title, or it'll fall to the back of my list.

Pascal Bestebroer
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I was lucky that Gunslugs had done awesome, so yes there was some financial security.. I wouldn't recommend such risks to startups tho, as mentioned I've been doing this for 8 years now and lucky enough to have build up a fan base of awesome people who play my games and love my games.

as for trophies, there are limitations to what downloadable titles can or can't use concerning the amount of points/trophy types. Usually not up to the developer ;)

Nelson Ribeiro
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Fascinating insight and Heroes of Loot looks brilliant.


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