Category: Games Business

So You’ve Made a Game! Now What?

March 20, 2017 | By | Add a Comment

Sometimes I’ll get a hare up my ass and a sudden urge to write something. This happened a couple of days ago, and I ended up putting a blog post about marketing and publishing on Gamasutra. The blog got featured, so that was pretty cool!

Check it out here..

So You’ve Made a Game! Now What?

Advice For People Wanting To Make Games

July 15, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the games business?

I get asked this question a lot.  My first thought is, don’t bother. But that’s just my evil, English sense of humor talking. I recently did an interview where this question was asked again. This pretty much boils down everything I think about the subject ..

I’m a programmer and have always been a programmer, but I’ve worn many different hats over the years. There are a number of really important things you need, in order to succeed in the games business. First and foremost, you need to be good at something, be it programming, design, art, whatever. Obvious right?  You’d be surprised. You need to be smart and be able to problem solve and talk intelligently to other people. You need to be flexible and adaptive and be able to turn your hand to things outside your skill set or comfort zone. You need to be resilient and able to cope with stress and long work hours. But most of all, you really, genuinely have to love making games, and really want to do it. In fact, I’d say, unless you live and breath making games, and carry around a notebook where you sketch design or art ideas, or write programs, while on the bus or sitting waiting for your latte, don’t bother.

There’s a BIG difference between playing games and making games.  People often get that mixed up. Playing games is fun, and if it’s a well made game, you don’t see the complexity or pain that went into making it.  Making games is also fun, but it’s not all fun. It’s hard and there’s a ton of BS you have to deal with and there’s a massive amount of really tedious stuff to do, especially towards the end.  It’s not glamorous at all, despite what you see in the indie dev documentaries, and a lot of people don’t realize that or understand that until they give it a go.  That’s why most people who try and make a game, never finish one, or eventually make something that’s kind of crap.  You have to have a genuine—and I hate to use this word, but it’s appropriate—passion, to make a game from start to finish.  It’s the only thing that will get you through the process when things look bleak or get too difficult.

Beyond that, if you’re looking at this as a career, then start with a computer science degree.  It will give you a solid, academic foundation to build on.  Then go to vocational school, or college that has a games program, and learn the basics.  Experience what it’s like to build something from start to finish in a team.  Make friends and network.  Get involved with the local game dev community.  This all ties back into my first point about living and breathing game dev.  It really is a lifestyle.

Finally, be good at something. The games industry is a meritocracy.  You have to be good to succeed (unless you’re a manager  I kid, I kid), and if you’re not good, it will be apparent very quickly.  Specialization adds value.  As a coder, if you’re a 3D guru, a math whiz, an AI savant, or a physics genius, you’ll always be in demand.  Don’t get me wrong, good, solid gameplay programmers are equally important, but there’s more competition for those roles.  As an artist, you better be good.  No other discipline wears it’s skill on its arm than art.  If you can’t draw or code, most likely you want to be a designer. You better be a damn good designer if you want to succeed, because it’s highly competitive, and the game dev schools spit out hundreds of designers each year. If you want an edge as a designer, understand the other disciplines, and learn how to talk to programmers and artists.  Learn to code or script.  Be good at communicating your ideas verbally, and through drawings. Good, technical designers are worth their weight in gold.  If you can’t do anything, but you’re good at communication, organization and making other people do you bidding, become a producer or manager.  Do a business management course and learn about project structure.

Words of Advice: Working in America

March 26, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

I get hit up quite often by students or other young adults, for advice on getting into the games industry. I was asked today, by a student in the UK, about working in America. I thought I’d share the soul crushing advice I gave him ..

Working in America can be tricky, particularly for someone fairly new to the business. It costs a lot of $$ for a company to sponsor someone and bring them out to work. Typically, a company will only consider doing this for someone really experienced or really good, or both.

Having drive is good, because you’ll need it to realize your dream of working in America. You need to approach this methodically, and start by building your resume. Unless you get really lucky, you’ll have to put time into your craft. You need to get some titles under your belt, and start building a reputation. It’ll be a slog and you’ll need resolve.

You could also try working for an American company who has offices in the UK. If you’re good, an opportunity may arise where the company will sponsor you to work in America.

There may be another route too, but it would involve some financial outlay, and becoming a student in America. You could choose to study art and technology at a college out here, and see what opportunities come out of that. Los Angeles has some fantastic schools here, for example “Art Center”, or “LA Film School”, and many graduates end up working for companies like Disney.

At the end of the day, there are no short cuts. The business is a meritocracy, so if you’re good, you’ll probably do pretty well. It just takes time to build a career and have opportunities open up to you.

A Rambling Rant About Games and The Games Industry

March 25, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

Developers

Developers

Is the game industry about to change radically? There are a lot of pundits that seem to think it is. I spent a long time making mainstream games on consoles, and the only people making any real money were the publishers, the company owners, and sometimes the IP owners. That is, if the game made money, of course. I don’t really know that many people who got rich from making mainstream games. A few here and there, and they were all owners of companies or the IP owners.

Now, most AAA titles and mainstream games have to be a sure bet, and rely on proven franchises, or designer celebrity. Publishers are careful with their money, they’re nervous, and will avoid any risk. Meanwhile, development costs spiral upwards, as teams get bigger and the next iteration of “Franchise X”, has to do more and more to keep distracted players engaged. As things get leaner, Publishers squeeze developers, cutting margins, cutting costs, and simply treating dev studios as a throwaway resource.

Developers, often frustrated by creative and financial limitations placed on them by publishers, are turning to alternate funding models for projects. We see Kickstarter, crowdfunding 100s of games and development projects. To date, Kickstarter has funded over $100M in game projects. That is an astounding figure, especially when you consider, that most of that money came from players. Those sorts of figures represent serious money, and huge potential. Publisher should be paying close attention, for sure. Kickstarter is proving that it’s possible to fund and create games that people want to play. Perversely, of course, that could also end up stifling creativity.

It’s never been easier for people to make games. Cheap tools, technologies, and knowledge, are so readily available now, that developers are able to concentrate on the idea and the game, rather than the tools and tech needed to build it. Anyone who is motivated, can get some friends together and make a game. The independent, back-bedroom dev team has always existed, but there seems to be a resurgence or renaissance happening right now. So many people I know and respect, are walking away from mainstream game development, and pitching their hats into the Indie Games ring. And they always give me the same basic reasons for doing it, they are tired with the grind , inflexibility and lack of creativity and control they have in their day jobs.

So, we’re back to where we began. It’s a long cycle that I’ve seen before. We have AAA and big box games becoming harder and harder to make profitable. Publishers are cutting costs, and limiting their investment to “sure things”. They are squeezing development companies or internal studios to meet profitability targets, and they are nothing more than line items on a P&L sheet. All this madness fuels a deep dissatisfaction among developers, developers who are creative and passionate about what they’re making. It gives incentive to this new generation of unhappy, disenfranchised developers, to go do their own thing, and change the World!