Hi guys! My name is Richard and with me is Joyce and we are the founders of WIGU Games Studio. Prior to starting WIGU Games, our backgrounds were in law and finance. While Joyce worried about law suits, I fretted about valuations. In other words, we worked on many things that had little to do with games. So, we saved up some cash, armed ourselves with extensive game industry knowledge gleamed from playing Game Dev Story, and we dived into the world of indie game development eight months ago.
Now eight months later, WIGU Games Studio is kicking strong. We’ve just released our first iOS game Doctor Life and we were featured on the AppStore in 155 different countries on launch, and received a 4 star review in Touch Arcade. Read the review here.
Doctor Life is a cute simulation cross time management game where you encounter real diseases and actual treatments, so don’t be surprised if you come across symptoms like bloody stools when you play – don’t let the cuteness fool you :P
We want to share our experiences in establishing a small indie game studio with no game industry experience apart from a passion for gaming and a modest budget. By no means is this a guide as we are still very much learning, but we thought it may be useful for others to read about our experiences to date.
Be humble, let your passion shine, and you’ll be surprised by the help you receive
Looking back, what we did right was to meet people in the industry before we got into the industry. We went about it by attending as many game conferences as there were in the vicinity. As we are based in Malaysia, the first one we went to was Casual Connect in Singapore.
We went before WIGU was incorporated, and before we had a team together. We went, in part to get a feel for the industry, see what others were up to, but more importantly, to meet people and to find out about other people’s experiences. We could have read about it all we wanted, but after talking to people in our area doing things that we wanted to do, we got a much better feel for it than reading words off of a screen. By doing so, we also established relationships with people who had been in our shoes before. If you have the passion for games, people will see it come through and you will be surprised at how many people will want to help you if you ask. Don’t underestimate the generosity of humanity! A lot of industry veterans may be burnt out, but when they see passion in people, it also helps them reignite their flame.
Building a team
Invite people to grill others
Filling our small studio with the right talent was a difficult task. Both my co-founder and I had no technical experience. Thinking back to when we first started, we didn’t know what a wireframe was, what vector art was, what concept art meant. Let’s not even talk about our knowledge of programming. C# was a note, not a language. When hiring, how could we spot the good from the bad?
It was through reaching out to the people we met at Casual Connect and subsequent events that we were able to have a list of people who offered to come into our studio for a few hours and vet through the candidates we had shortlisted. We are big believers in hiring slowly, so we took our time and got opinions from industry veterans. They sat in on our technical interviews and ensured that our candidates had the requisite technical abilities.
Through the events mentioned earlier, we also met game development lecturers who were able to give great recommendations for fresh graduates. It really helped us to build a solid team where everyone is passionate and excited about making games.
Establishing the culture
Old school fixed hours is effective
Although we were new, we wanted our little studio to grow and more importantly, last. One thing we knew was important was to establish a cooperative working culture. There are many studios out there where you can show up any time you want as long as you get your work done on time. We played with this idea in our heads initially as it seemed cool and trendy. We could also see the advantages in that it empowers individuals as well as promotes freedom and creativity.
In practice, we felt it detracted significantly from a cooperative working culture. When a team is new, and people come in at different hours, a lot of issues arise. The first is cohesiveness. Morning scrum meetings don’t feel right with people missing. Communication suffers; people aren’t on the same page. Morale drops as the perceived amount of work each person is contributing is altered. The best way to establish a cooperative working culture is literally to work together, meaning showing up to work at the same time day in day out, knowing that the guy next to you will be there and that the team will be ready for the day at 10 am. Getting the bulk of work done at the studio as opposed to taking work home will reduce occurrences of merging issues on the programming side, and incorrect art asset preparation on the art side. I am sure flexible working arrangements can be successful, however, for a newbie development team, old school show up to work at fixed hours appears to be the most effective method for a co-operative working culture.
Cash is king
We were faced with whether to buy our software upfront or go with subscriptions. For us, the yearly subscription service for Adobe Creative Cloud as well as Unity3D, it’s a great way to manage your cash flow without having to put up this money upfront. Yes, it is cheaper in the long run to buy it straight out. However, for a starting studio, cash is king and anything that helps ease cash flow is a big plus. If it means we save a few grand on software in the short term, that money can go towards marketing which can have a strong impact on your bottom line.
Overall, these are just a few of the things we faced as newbies in the industry. We would love to share more if there’s any interest and we’re happy to answer any questions. Hopefully the experiences above will help those considering jumping into indie game development.
For now, we’re just ecstatic that we are shipping our first game! For those interested to find out more about Doctor Life, check out our press kit, or if you want to find out more about our studio, drop by our website and Facebook.