And Yet It Moved



           From Student Prototype To Published Indie Game




This lecture will be about what we, at B...
• Timeline

         • Prerequisites

         • Deals

         • PR & Promotion

         • Make Money

         • Learn...
And Yet It Moves over time                                                                                            Lice...
Prerequisites




now most of them are probably obvious but i think it’s also good to repeat obvious things because one te...
solid core game design




      something else as a coating




-> Good game design AND something else

something else ca...
5

after that what is important I think is that one dares to go for it. Of course one needs a good game concept at hand bu...
You need a great team and work on it together

    we worked the best when together

    there will always be communicatio...
jan
                                                                                                  visual lead
        ...
8:30:we have met at university, which means through coincidence
for that our team has worked quite well and we all turned ...
Use online tools for easier collaboration

    svn, google docs, blog, im, skype

    although working at the same physica...
9: Once you have a prototype use festivals/competitions to test how good your idea/prototype is

    igf, igf student show...
And Yet It Moves over time
                                           IGF 2007 Deadline                        IGF 2007


...
Deals




the decision is made: the game concept is good enough and the team starts working on it.
now is the time to star...
Be serious

    it is a lot of responsibility

    think about founding a company, it makes signing contracts alot easier ...
Don’ loose your charm/fun

    the big ones want fresh air, innovation, unique views on the industry and talent

    don’t...
14

Go international, digital distribution means no more limits

     especially true for non americans

     once you hav...
approximate

units sold




we started with Steam and shortly after that Greenhouse (and our own site)

we only actively a...
16: Go Multiplatform

    More platforms means a wider audience

    but remember as a small team one can’t really do ever...
18 Consoles:

    PSN, XBLA, WiiWare they are all interestd in indie games

    Write them once you have a prototype that ...
points to look out for in a contract
example contract that kind of shows a common denominator of a fair deal
meant for a s...
• Royality Rate in the developers favor

       • of net receipts = ( revenues

       • – costs of returns, refunds, frau...
• at least quarterly payment, reports monthly

        • NONexclusive

        • duration: 1 - 3 years

        • fair ter...
Licensed Nintendo Developer        Greenhouse    Launch

                                                                 ...
PR & Promotion




i’m not a marketing guy so this is not traditional marketing
still even as an indie you need to work on...
biggest, most effective and cheapest tool: Use festivals to reach out to people

    journalists can’t deal with everythin...
27

Don’t be all anal about your work, tell the people what you do

Start early with telling the public

     good time is...
Use online communities and spread the word

Have a blog, twitter, email contact with fans etc.

these are blogs of other s...
Demo Conversion Rate:                         1.5%




Also think carefully about what to put in demo and in trailer:
on o...
competitions: not many users who play them, roughly 5 unique users,
BUT links from the other developers blogs bring new us...
steam indie bundle




31
picture of tale of tales The Path sales spike. the graph shows units sold, not profit
go for spec...
Support & Update

                                                    Full Version Full Time




08                       ...
Make Money :)




Although I believe in Purrhos statement:
“When making the game is more important than selling it, then y...
Get Professional Help!




Get a business expert

Trust him/her

Dont be afraid to go mass market

    use non standard di...
60 000 €                                          7500 €




if you are in europe: check out state fundings, subsidies, et...
20.000 € payment / 7400 manhours

              2.7 € / hour




37

we got a subsidy which fulfilled most of our money ne...
Business Expert

                     (through subsidy)




                                                          Talk...
1000 € / month = ~ 600 € / month into our pocket




We haven’t though that much about money during the development...
but...
sales per distributor




                               7%



                   13%




             16%


             ...
price drop




                                                                      that hurts!


let’s look at steam uni...
to be part of the steam indie best seller list: roughly > 30 / day to get into top ten
(we once made rank 4 with 70 / day)
piracy
i like to call it bootlegging as it’s the better fitting word
~93%

45:the truth is of course it’s just your average nice and friendly computer user

we have roughly 93 % calculated us...
DRM




      no drm and the likes, it only gets cracked anyway

      only way to deal with bootlegging: make it comforta...
also watch out for regional price differences...
users don’t like to be treated differently...
although we still do it, bu...
49: generally i don’t think you can make a living of one game only
try to have several projects running and shorten releas...
Learning by doing




now that you heard the hard financial truth, a little bit more uplifting stories
–

           • contacted press too late

           • too short

           • priced wrong

           • demo & trailer s...
design the games you want

build a trackrecord

but also: if it’s your own studio there is lots of work to be done that ha...
meet great people

for business, sharing knowledge, at conferences, etc.

from idols, mentors, colleagues to the next prom...
talk to press and peers

and you (conference :)

becasue you have something to be proud of
And Yet It Moves over time                                                                                            Lice...
ules founded

ect2Drive, MacGameStore

liver2Mac


     Zoo



iWare Version



Update




                          2010
...
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GDC Austin 2009 - Independent Games Summit Talk: 'And Yet It Moves: From Student Prototype To Published Indie Game'

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GDC Austin 2009 - Independent Games Summit Talk: 'And Yet It Moves: From Student Prototype To Published Indie Game'

  1. 1. And Yet It Moved From Student Prototype To Published Indie Game This lecture will be about what we, at Broken Rules, have learned developing and selling an indie game that started as a student project. It consists mostly of points we want to remember for our next projects and also share with you
  2. 2. • Timeline • Prerequisites • Deals • PR & Promotion • Make Money • Learning by doing - show ayim over time - what i think is necessary to build a good game - how to deal with partners and try to get fair partnership - ways to get the game known - yes, we all need to. how and where - what we did wrong, right and why it still is great to have your own indie studio
  3. 3. And Yet It Moves over time Licensed Nintendo Developer Greenhouse Launch IGF 2007 Gamersgate IGF 2007 Deadline Steam Broken Rules founded Pitching to online distributors Nintendo Contact Impulse Direct2Drive, MacGameStore Deliver2Mac Business Expert (through subsidy) Zoo WiiWare Version Prototype Talk with a 1st Party Support & Update Game Design Course Full Version Part Time Full Version Full Time 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 1.0.2 1.0.5 1.0.1 1.0.4 1.0 1.0.3 1.0.6 NationsOfVideogames WiiLoveIt Subsidy 2nd Payment Subsidy 3rd Payment GeneralGames Subsidy Entry Subsidy 1st Payment Garagegames GamerLimit Bytejacker Lords of Zock PR Mail to everyone Rock, Paper, Shotgun 3:40 quick rundown of the projects development:i know it’s really small, ill be showing more details over the presentation, this is just meant as an overview we started in 2006 at Vienna University of Technology, made a two level protoype there in 5 month goal of prototype was just to graduate NOT to be developed into a full version which was part of igf student showcase 2007,after that we started to develop the full version: 15 month part time, 8 month full time money came from subsidy for creative industry startups partnered with Steam and Greenhouse first for PC/Mac release and later own website, Impulse, Direct2Drive and others were part of IndieCade 2008 where Nintendo saw us -> authorized nintendo developer currently supporting ayim pc/mac release and developing a wiiware version
  4. 4. Prerequisites now most of them are probably obvious but i think it’s also good to repeat obvious things because one tends to forget them these are the points to look at closely before starting to develop full version
  5. 5. solid core game design something else as a coating -> Good game design AND something else something else can be: visual / acoustic style, user generated content, good community, tournaments, etc. we always liked to think that it’s the ability to rotate the world that made people interested in ayim. truth is it was and is more the visual style so And Yet It Moves had solid core mechanic + unique and distinct visual style as a coating
  6. 6. 5 after that what is important I think is that one dares to go for it. Of course one needs a good game concept at hand but if that’s there: dare to do it! And yes, it’s not going to be as easy as working for a bigger company but at the end more (that does not includ money) can come out of it for the daring ones. if one is afraid of risks, going indie is not the right thing to do
  7. 7. You need a great team and work on it together we worked the best when together there will always be communication problems and these are best solved when sittign face-to-face small Teams means decision can be made democratic -> pulls people in. the project becomes everyones darling it also means everyone has to know something about every aspect of game development... we are all game designers at heart and programmers by profession, but we needed to fill more roles
  8. 8. jan visual lead christoph audio lead peter coding lead felix project lead 7 ...but do split responsibilities everyone should have a lead role makes final decicision making easier people like to be responsible for a specific part, makes them more connected to the project
  9. 9. 8:30:we have met at university, which means through coincidence for that our team has worked quite well and we all turned friends (is that a necessity?) under a great playful and inspiring atmosphere. another prerequisites (esp. techuniv) find supervisors who put their barefeet on the table and sit ON the table rather than AT the table over time (after the launch) our team has lost christoph, i think mostly because he didn’t want to go full time right away and didn’t like our strict perfectionism. and he’s still doing audio work for us but i think he didn;t want to have the full weight of resonsibilty for the studio anymore
  10. 10. Use online tools for easier collaboration svn, google docs, blog, im, skype although working at the same physical space works best in my opinion it’s not always possible online tools help for that but also for keeping the process democratic this means everyone on the team has access to everything if he/she wanted to also a good way to document the process
  11. 11. 9: Once you have a prototype use festivals/competitions to test how good your idea/prototype is igf, igf student showcase, indiecade tigsource competitions if it fails at one fo them it doesn’t necessary mean it’s bad but if it’s passes chances are very high that it’s actually good and worth the time and effort to make a real product out of it
  12. 12. And Yet It Moves over time IGF 2007 Deadline IGF 2007 Prototype Game Design Course Full Vers 2006 2007 10 we build our team through the game design course and tested it through the devel. of the prototype only after being part of igf 2007 we started to think about making a full version and being at gdc 2007 was so motivating that we started building the full version
  13. 13. Deals the decision is made: the game concept is good enough and the team starts working on it. now is the time to start lookign for distribution partners
  14. 14. Be serious it is a lot of responsibility think about founding a company, it makes signing contracts alot easier and makes you look and feel more professional you will have to take financial risks. having a company also deminishes the chances of a personal financial disaster, trust your partners
  15. 15. Don’ loose your charm/fun the big ones want fresh air, innovation, unique views on the industry and talent don’t hide it and be yourself
  16. 16. 14 Go international, digital distribution means no more limits especially true for non americans once you have a prototype and some press, write to distributors online distributors are more and more focused on indie games and have indie sections but don’t wait for starting to work on your game until there is a contract, do these things in parallel because vene if you don’t find a prtner as a last resort there’s always self publishing via ones own website talk to distributors directly, we had the feeling that they like if they are approached by developers, rather than a publisher
  17. 17. approximate units sold we started with Steam and shortly after that Greenhouse (and our own site) we only actively asked for at steam and greenhouse. the others approached us after we launched on these two services Steam has most attention, but Greenhouse has a good foothold in indie market despite their obvious DRM later on: impulse, D2D, MacGameStore, GamersGate, Deliver2Mac, etc.
  18. 18. 16: Go Multiplatform More platforms means a wider audience but remember as a small team one can’t really do everything so pick the ones that are easy to develop for and that fit your game best Pick a few out of PC, Mac, Consoles, Handhelds, Flash, etc. also a lot of people will ask you to bring your game to platform x...don’t feel bad that you can’t please all of them Plan for a simultaneous launch, we didn’t -> :(
  19. 19. 18 Consoles: PSN, XBLA, WiiWare they are all interestd in indie games Write them once you have a prototype that has potential for a console If you already have a PC publisher that only means your game is good Don’t worry about exclusivity (PC vs. consoles) we directly contacted one of them but nothing came of it nintendo contacted us themselves after seeing us at indiecade -> we are going to wiiware all have pros and cons. think abut what you need (power, control, a certain market) if you can, go for more than one but remeber that everything on console costs way more: devkit, engine, etc. don’t be too idiologist and forget your personal preferences...still hard for me :)
  20. 20. points to look out for in a contract example contract that kind of shows a common denominator of a fair deal meant for a simple online distribution deal
  21. 21. • Royality Rate in the developers favor • of net receipts = ( revenues • – costs of returns, refunds, fraud, charge-backs • – sale processing fees • – applicable sales taxes ) 21: that means > 50 for you up to 70 we foudn royality rates to be fair and consistent throughout but still: watch out what the source of your royalitie rates are from (lets call it the net receipts)
  22. 22. • at least quarterly payment, reports monthly • NONexclusive • duration: 1 - 3 years • fair termination you should also have audit rights, although usually these are quite risky because exepnsive if no fraud has been found -> you’ll have to trust your partner check that most of the stuff is nonexclusive especially IP, but also game, marketing material, etc., except of course if you want exclusivity duration usually has an automatic renewal process termination should be possible for both parties und equal circumstances (look for the word MUTUAL)
  23. 23. Licensed Nintendo Developer Greenhouse Launch Gamersgate Steam Broken Rules founded Pitching to online distributors Nintendo Contact Impulse Direct2Drive, MacGameStore Deliver2Mac Business Expert (through subsidy) Zoo WiiWare Version Talk with a 1st Party Support & Update Time Full Version Full Time 2008 2009 24 green vertical lines are the moments when we contacted distributors and signed with them Subsidy 2nd Payment sirlinger: feb 2008, pitching may 2008, steam: mid july Subsidy 3rd Payment note that we signed a lot after the launch Subsidy 1st Payment green horizontal line is a period we talked with a first party
  24. 24. PR & Promotion i’m not a marketing guy so this is not traditional marketing still even as an indie you need to work on your public image people don’t expect AAA marketing stuff but they do want you to be honest and sharing
  25. 25. biggest, most effective and cheapest tool: Use festivals to reach out to people journalists can’t deal with everything that gets announced -> they like to trust festivals for pre-selecting the mass of releases if you are part of one of them, you will get more attention ( and if you got money or are close enough, you can go there and network with people and get motivated:) ) igf: media was suddnely interested in And Yet It Moves Indiecade: nintendo saw our game there
  26. 26. 27 Don’t be all anal about your work, tell the people what you do Start early with telling the public good time is if you have a vertical slice that looks & feels like the final game make and publicize videos
  27. 27. Use online communities and spread the word Have a blog, twitter, email contact with fans etc. these are blogs of other successful indie develoeprs: we still don’t have one -> baaad:( why don’t we have one, because it’s lot of work to maintain and keep interesting (twitter is cheaper/easier), schedule it
  28. 28. Demo Conversion Rate: 1.5% Also think carefully about what to put in demo and in trailer: on one side you need hooks that pull people in on the other if you show too much people will be disappointed same for demo...try to show advanced stuff as well, not only the first few tutorial levels
  29. 29. competitions: not many users who play them, roughly 5 unique users, BUT links from the other developers blogs bring new users: yeah! still i’m actually not sure how much the online leaderboards where of help for ayim: hard to develop, not that many use it. note to self have to make metrics :)
  30. 30. steam indie bundle 31 picture of tale of tales The Path sales spike. the graph shows units sold, not profit go for special deals and bundles. especially on steam many people are waiting for bundles! wheter this is good or not remains for a talk on its own :) you get bonus users that buy bundles for other games than your own
  31. 31. Support & Update Full Version Full Time 08 2009 201 1.0.2 1.0.5 1.0.1 1.0.4 1.0 1.0.3 1.0.6 NationsOfVideogames WiiLoveIt GeneralGames Garagegames GamerLimit Bytejacker Lords of Zock PR Mail to everyone Rock, Paper, Shotgun 33: Plan your release date watch out for conferences, other games (we originally had same release date like braid pc and change it because of that Contact the Press prior to release date plan ahead, talking to the media takes a lot of time write to everyone you know or trust first (exclusivity) then mass mail to everyone else on the planet who writes about games we didn’t talk to anyone before the launch -> few people knew the game -> had to build interest AFTER the launch -> BAD
  32. 32. Make Money :) Although I believe in Purrhos statement: “When making the game is more important than selling it, then you know you're actually creating an indie game. Which is one of the reasons why indies are such horrible business people” it is something all indies need to think about as well, because otherwise we soon wont be able to develop more games.
  33. 33. Get Professional Help! Get a business expert Trust him/her Dont be afraid to go mass market use non standard distribution channels white labels we are trying to go more for the casual market now as well
  34. 34. 60 000 € 7500 € if you are in europe: check out state fundings, subsidies, etc. don’t know about the US we received a subsidy for the creative industry that supports startups and innovative projects, called impulse: 60.000 € and a subsidy that paid half the payment for an expert: 7500 € for martin sirlinger
  35. 35. 20.000 € payment / 7400 manhours 2.7 € / hour 37 we got a subsidy which fulfilled most of our money needs and during the development of ayim we have paid eah one of us roughly 5000 euros of actual payment how did we live? off our parents and the republic of austria (study funds): remember we were still students
  36. 36. Business Expert (through subsidy) Talk with a 1st Party Suppor Full Version Part Time Full Version Full Time 2008 2009 Subsidy 2nd Payment Subsidy 3rd Payment Subsidy Entry Subsidy 1st Payment we didn’t pay monthly but twice when we got money from the subsidy paid November 2007 & May 2009 most of that payment went straight back into the company (~limited) now used for current pay
  37. 37. 1000 € / month = ~ 600 € / month into our pocket We haven’t though that much about money during the development... but after founding a company we have realized how much money actual is necessary to pay a decent living to each one of us we have stopped studying and went full time so the company needs to support our living: that is our pay for now.... without the starting money, that is only through sales, we could not even afford to pay us these sums other costs: office: 300 euros, tax-expert: ~2500/year
  38. 38. sales per distributor 7% 13% 16% 64% Steam Ayim Site Greenhouse Others 41
  39. 39. price drop that hurts! let’s look at steam unit sales from april - august april 02 - may 22: 14.99$ may 22 - now: 9.99$ did the price drop help...we don’t know but it definitly got us a user spike it did drop very soon again and we even had some 0 sales day, which hurts!
  40. 40. to be part of the steam indie best seller list: roughly > 30 / day to get into top ten (we once made rank 4 with 70 / day)
  41. 41. piracy
  42. 42. i like to call it bootlegging as it’s the better fitting word
  43. 43. ~93% 45:the truth is of course it’s just your average nice and friendly computer user we have roughly 93 % calculated using data from submitted highscores and actual sales so yes it it is a problem but there’s not much you can do about it but don’t think every cracked copy is a lost sale -> not that easy (people in china are playing it)
  44. 44. DRM no drm and the likes, it only gets cracked anyway only way to deal with bootlegging: make it comfortable and easy for the people who do BUY it we have a system where every sold copy has a unique URL and we know how often that sold copy got downloaded -> if it happened too often we disable the URL of our versions, only greenhouse has a noticeable and annoying drm and it was the first version that was cracked and still circulates on the net
  45. 45. also watch out for regional price differences... users don’t like to be treated differently... although we still do it, but we are gong to change this
  46. 46. 49: generally i don’t think you can make a living of one game only try to have several projects running and shorten release cycles at least on a few of them as an example: red lynx has an interesting and good model for that: some people working on contract work, some on their own games (their darlings), and a few on supporting web games and iPhone/mobile games -> 3 pillars of support and if you believe introversion (which you always should)releasing new games will also help selling your older ones our financial hope currently lies on the wiiware project, although it will take some more time until we see money of it and we have heard some demotivating stories. good thing is we are a small company -> low costs after that we will try to work on more smaller games -> quite the time challenge
  47. 47. Learning by doing now that you heard the hard financial truth, a little bit more uplifting stories
  48. 48. – • contacted press too late • too short • priced wrong • demo & trailer showed too little yes ayim was not the most hyped indie game and not the big sales hit, i think this is way the truth is of course that we were learning by doing and most of our mistakes where marketing/sales wise Good Press but only AFTER the launch Press missed story/narrative, some said it was too short, other it was too frustrating probably too expensive at the start also automated update process not planned from the start ->updates took too long so as you have seen before, financially it was not that big of a success
  49. 49. design the games you want build a trackrecord but also: if it’s your own studio there is lots of work to be done that has nothing to do with game design we haven’t really done game design for over half a year now, well except the control scheme for wii version
  50. 50. meet great people for business, sharing knowledge, at conferences, etc. from idols, mentors, colleagues to the next promising student protoypes: lucid dreams with walkabout
  51. 51. talk to press and peers and you (conference :) becasue you have something to be proud of
  52. 52. And Yet It Moves over time Licensed Nintendo Developer Greenhouse Launch IGF 2007 Gamersgate IGF 2007 Deadline Steam Broken Rules founded Pitching to online distributors Nintendo Contact Impulse Direct2Drive, MacGameStore Deliver2Mac Business Expert (through subsidy) Zoo WiiWare Version Prototype Talk with a 1st Party Support & Update Game Design Course Full Version Part Time Full Version Full Time 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 1.0.2 1.0.5 1.0.1 1.0.4 1.0 1.0.3 1.0.6 NationsOfVideogames WiiLoveIt Subsidy 2nd Payment Subsidy 3rd Payment GeneralGames Subsidy Entry Subsidy 1st Payment Garagegames GamerLimit Bytejacker Lords of Zock PR Mail to everyone Rock, Paper, Shotgun rough ride was and still is risky
  53. 53. ules founded ect2Drive, MacGameStore liver2Mac Zoo iWare Version Update 2010 1.0.5 4 3 1.0.6 NationsOfVideogames iiLoveIt eralGames egames imit cker Zock , Shotgun the future still looks exciting

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