I am not a programmer, an artist, a gameplay designer, or a very good producer for that matter. Some people might well ask, what am I doing working at a small indie studio?
Well, I am ALL of the following people;
Its pretty much all the tasks that you might expect a man in a suit using lots of business jargon to do, not really the exciting nitty gritty of making indie games? Well, thats kind of what I have spent the last decade doing in various guises; dealing with the commercial side of the creative industry and making projects happen (not neccesarily in a suit though!). Roll7 (http://www.roll7.co.uk) was one of these projects and after 6 years of scraping by with a relatively mixed agenda, we are now focused on the one thing we all love!
I asked about 30 small indie studios recently how much work the business side of things took up - some were a low 10%, up to a full on 90% - but the average was 45%. Thats a serious chunk of time working on a whole new set of skills while you build your game, possibly more time than most young start ups plan for...
On average, people rated themselves with a self competancy in business of 34% (with 0% being totally incompetant and 100% being an expert), this is a clear difference from an average self competancy rating in Games Design/Production at 72%. So there is an obvious and accepted gap that exists in Indie studio's competancies around the business side of the Games Industry.
My Job (and to a large extent my business partner Thomas Hegarty's) is to basically to shield our Creative Director, John Ribbins from the day to day stresses and strains of the 45% Cashflow, Contracts and Crises in order that he may focus his efforts working with our fantastic studio team to make the best games possible...
Not every small studio setting up has the benefit of this full time position, so for my recent Develop talk I compiled a list of questions that any games studio start up might want to ask itself at various stages of the business cycle. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am not a business consultant or MBA graduate, it is essentially a list of questions that I wish I could step back in time and ask our fledgling studio back in summer 2008.
To help frame the questions, I have split them up into the business cycle (which I have translated into Game stuff in brackets).
1. Value Creation (Come up with game)
2. Marketing (Tell people about game)
3. Sales (Put game up for sale)
4. Value Delivery (Make sure game works)
5. Finance (Make money from game)
Here are my Questions based around this cycle...
Fundamental Start Up Questions
Value Delivery Questions
Obviously unless you nail stage one, it doesnt matter how well you execute the later four stages if the game is not 'good'. As the old Video Games adage says, 'You cant polish a turd, and rolling it in business glitter will only get you so far'. So definately not worth getting too worried about these other points until you are confident that your game is actually worth devoting a substantial chunk of your life on!
Anyway, hopefully some of these questions are of use, feel free to hit me up on twitter with any thoughts / questions... @rollsimon / @roll_7