”Making games is hard”. That’s what all the experts and veterans kept writing. “Making a living out of making games is even harder” is what they all keep saying to aspiring dreamers like me and you know what? They are absolutely right. Making games IS hard, harder than i could ever imagine. But why? Because there is a million things that can go wrong with a game’s development, as i learned through the School of Hard Knocks, this is especially true for someone with no talent, team or money.
My strategy has been a simple one; instead of spending ten years learning to code well, i can spend those years raising and saving money so i can then hire an expert to do the work better than i ever could. This gambit i made two years ago was the right decision, since now the market is being littered with game engines, programs to help non-programmers make video games and there are even new programs to help non-artists make graphics for their video game. If i would’ve chosen to master programming instead of learning marketing and entrepreneurial skills, i would’ve been competing against these new tools. Only in two years so much has changed, imagine how much these programs will evolve in eight more years.
It will be two years this 26th of December since my successful croudfunding campaigns in Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and there has been little to show for it. Some of you remember the first version of Tribal Pride.
I bought a game engine called the Railorz RPG Engine from a Russian programmer called Aleksey Dmitriev.
He told me he could fix bugs and make modifications for a price…up front. I used the Kickstarter funds and my personal savings to make some modifications to differentiate Tribal Pride from a re-skin of Mob Wars. I also used the funds to fix bugs. Well, the modifications i paid him for created bugs, he then charge me to fix those bugs and fixing those bugs created other bugs, which he refused to fix unless i paid him more. I was under incredible pressure to deliver and i did know any other alternative, so i paid the man. I paid him and he never delivered what he promised.
The first version of Tribal Pride was an unstable, buggy mess. Aleksey took weeks and months in making the modifications and bug fixes i paid for. I merely paid and waited and waited, for less than adequate results.
Like a crooked car mechanic, he had exploited me. He took all the funds raised and i was left with a game that eventually collapsed. He stopped answering my emails. The recession took my job away. I was ruined.
Without a job or savings i was ready to move to the street, but not ready to be homeless. My roomate at the time and good friend Jeremy, allowed me to stay until i got back on my feet. He was also one of the project backers.
The people that loved me and supported me pitched-in in little ways, despite the humiliation of being scammed.
Slowly but surely i started to climb out of the crater.
I finally found a new job after being unemployed for a year and surviving by doing odd jobs on Craig’s List.
Fixing computers, giving people rides, helping old ladies move. I did it all for chicken feed prices.
It’s ok, everyone was hurting.
So, i was happy that i finally found a job, albeit a crummy one. It was easy for me to save since i live frugally. I do not indulge in gadgetry, going out or even dates. It came to a point were i had enough saved to start getting this project back on track, so, i started looking for a new programmer. I couldn’t focus on taking legal action against Aleksey because the cost to do so would greatly outweigh the damages. I had to let it go and focus on what was really important; my promise to my backers and the development of the game.
I recalled talking to a team of programmers from Virginia, USA when i was searching for someone for the first time, before i met Aleksey. So i looked for them and found them; Janine and Phillip Holmes. We drafted a new plan for the game. I designed a new version and this time it was going to be in Unity and Phillip said it was going to be an online city-building RTS in 3D! They were great people to work with. I was able to raise more funds from within my family plus my new savings. But the problem with the design is that it is cheap programming-wise but very costly art-wise.
Unfortunately, things do not get done according to how pleasant people are to work with. Janine and Phillip had problems working in a team.
They eventually split up and she moved to California.
I was left working solely with one programmer that refused to work with anyone else for the sake of meeting deadlines. Development slowed to a crawl and Phillip, although well intentioned, did not deliver despite all the money i paid him to do so. This was Aleksey Dmitriev all over again, except that Phillip didn’t have malicious intentions to rip me off, he was simply too stubborn to work with anyone else or to listen to anyone else.
In the end, even though i liked Phillip (i even wrote him a recommendation on LinkedIn), i just had to let him go.
More time wasted and more money down the drain.
More disappointment of the results.
More embarrassment in front of my family and friends.
I found a much better job as a stagehand, building and collapsing shows in the Las Vegas strip. I was chasing this job for 6 months and finally my relentlessness paid off. The work is brutal, but it pays handsomely. After a few months of saving, i was ready to look for a new team of programmers. Armed with my new rugged attitude after two previous failed attempts, i felt ready to judge the wheat from the weeds.
I made a design document and a functional prototype using JustInMind.com. This time, i had enough experience and lots of advice from the wonderful Unity community in talking to programmers that i could tell which features were going to be the hardest and most expensive to build. The new version of Tribal Pride would be designed to be both light in programming and art and i use the word “light” very carefully, i do not want to imply that fine craft of programming is an easy task to accomplish. It would also be able to scaled up with relative ease and it would also be simple to play and hard to master, just like i like designing my games.
Tribal Pride v.3 will be as simple as Chess. Players chose their civilization, which gives them access to pieces unique to that civilization. Pieces will have unique abilities and movements, like in Chess, and no statistics whatsoever…for now. Players will also be able to customize their armies with the pieces they will collect, unlike Chess.
Better art, sound, music, animation and abilities will be added as the game grows. All profits will be fed back into itself for the sake of streamlining the game’s growth. My stagehand job will cover my living expenses and the surplus will go into developing the game further.
That’s the plan, anyway!
So, with a clear sense of purpose, i launched a campaign on the big freelancer sites and after much negotiation with bidders, i finally chose a team to develop this project in Elance.com. I hope i made the right choice.
Completion of the game is projected to be accomplished in 3 month’s time, that would be March 3rd. We set up three milestones, one at the end of each month, signed the contract and escrow the money for the first milestone.
Knowing how Murphy’s Law works, i have to make some backup plans in case this also fails. They are as follows:
- Backup Plan #1 – Keep living frugally and saving in order to be able to offer more money and hopefully attract a better team to get the game completed promptly. If the rate and/or amount in which i make money is not enough for this to work, go to Backup Plan #2.
- Backup Plan #2 – If the only way to get an adequate team to develop the game is by paying more money and my job is not enough, then i will proceed to move to North Dakota or Alberta, Canada. Those places have booming economies right now and not enough people to fill the positions due to the harsh nature of the jobs and living conditions. I will trade hard labor for money and trade that money for development. A formula that has been working thus far with my current job. If the conditions are too harsh for me to stay, go to Backup Plan #3.
- Backup Plan #3 – There is no Backup Plan #3. Bite the bullet. Get the money. Make the game.