Since the founding of our little business we're pursued by a stigma. Probably everybody knows this problem: A failed project, which follows you every game design discussion and questions all of the great ideas you have.
Those of you attentively following our news on this blog and Facebook may know the project called “Grumpy Jump”. Friedrich made a game called “1930” for Mini Ludum Dare #23 and we decided to make a full game out of it for iPhone/iPad.
After the first post you have never heard anything about the “Grumpy-what?” again, haven't you?
The calculation is easy. You “just” take a working game concept made for a contest and complete it by filling it with more and better levels. Zing, instant success! Especially with a cross-platform engine like Unity3D. Also, the idea behind “1930” was very simple so it should take two months at most to transform it into “Grumpy Jump”.
We are always very accurate and planned this game with a design document, added some more features, more themes, story and some sense of humor. We have a concept - the work can start!
Late in the process, we unfortunately recognized that this wasn't the game we loved to make ...
How could this happen? On the one hand there is the project you might think the platform's users are looking for – and on the other hand there is the game you'd love to develop. Of course we are free, independent, passionate – we do what we want! But there is also the wish to actually make a living from game development. And in favor of this goal an analysis of the platform is needed.
The iPhone looks like a great choice for indies:
- Everybody can join, after paying that little fee of €79/$99.
- You can develop for every category from finance till gaming.
- The platform is very widespread (particularly in the U.S.), but of course totally popular in Europe, too.
- If you plan well a small team can create a nice app that corresponds to the price customers pay.
- The iPhone is a great console for innovative gaming because of the touch screen, accelerometer, camera and GPS.
These were my arguments for the iPhone. Some of them turned out to be true, others I recognized to be just my vision but not reality. So let's think about the people having an iPhone. The main users love it for style, usability and all the new functions a smartphone presents.
As a mobile platform you can assume that people ...
- … don't have the leisure to intensively deal with your game. Playing happens in little breaks while being in the bus, to pass the time or just doodle around.
- … are also new to gaming and the confrontation with complex concepts over-strain their time/ attention span/ grasp.
- … mostly prefer mainstream graphics, which means cute, colorful and friendly graphics
- … have a high quality pretension.
All that in mind we decided to concentrate on the target group. We never wanted to be mainstream, and if you take a look at our old projects you understand what I mean. We love to try unconventional games with reduced colors and strange characters. But those projects were prototypes only: We planned what we wanted, because we just needed to show the ideas of style, gameplay and characterdesign (e.g. for university courses).
“Grumpy Jump” was the first game we wanted to finalize for selling. But Grumpy wasn't even fun to play at all. What happened?
It went like every project you neglect. With no motivation and no passion it gets harder every day to constantly work on it. In the end, the game should have needed less than two months to create but still wasn't finished by any means! That the stuff you have to do in order to found a company takes away time from producing games didn't help either.
Then there was the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge we wanted to take part in: “Just one little week interrupting our real project! After this week we will go on developing our mainstream, colorful, funny product!”. But in this week we thankfully recognized (or better: rediscovered) which kind of projects we love to do. How games have to be (considering time, team and abilities). That it's not right to bend yourself just to please a target group you don't even really know. And so we decided – with a heavy heart – to stop developing a game we worked on for about two months.
It's very hard to stop a project, especially your first commercial one, and admit a failure. But to finish something, come hell or high water, is stupid, too. Now every project gets compared to “Grumpy Jump”: Do we love the game and its mechanics? Is it fun?!
My advices (they seem obvious, but when concentrating on development you might forget about them, just like us):
- Play the game as much as you can.
- Use agile project management and only implement new stuff when the old/current features are working.
- Never do a gameplay or style you don't like, everybody will feel that it's not your passion.