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Don't be a businessman if you aren't willing to invest


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#1 onpon4   Members   -  Reputation: 287

Posted 16 November 2011 - 02:37 AM

This is something that annoys me to no end when dealing with beginners, and I was once in this same beginners camp, so in hopes that some of these beginners come across this post and adjust their strategy, I'm going to write about it here.

The problem is, many beginners have no money and can't do everything for their games (e.g. graphics, programming, music, sounds). As a result, they take a very funny approach: they try to offer a deal of "help me now and you'll get a percentage of the profits later".

Since I was in this camp before, I'll explain my mindset back then: my thought was, hey, if you get paid normally, you only get paid once, but if you join me with this, you'll keep getting money forever! It's a great deal! So I don't have to invest tons of money and there's a profit in the end! Unfortunately, it's just not that simple.

Just about ALL of these projects fail. Most of them are big projects (e.g. RPGs, MMORPGs), often with the creator thinking it's somehow unique, when it's really just as much of a rehash as every other game that gets released to the market. Eventually, the creator, unable to find help with what he has difficulty doing, just cancels or simply abandons the project. So it makes perfect sense that people rarely take up these offers, and when they do, it's either because they too are beginners, or because they have some other reason for maybe wanting to participate.

I think the core problem is that these beginners have too much of a tendency to try to act as businessmen. News flash: if you want to work like a business, you'd better be willing to put your money where your mouth is. Invest. Otherwise, you shouldn't act like a businessman, but like a learner and a hobbyist. Try to find other learners and hobbyists, maybe form a team, and make some freeware games just for fun. Even better, make your game open source. Use this as a learning and experience building opportunity. Don't try to make serious money with your first games. Also, keep in mind that game development isn't even close to the best way to make money. If money is all you care about, this isn't for you.

And most importantly, stop worrying about people "stealing" your "idea". I think this is why most of these people try to use the "business"-like approach that fails so miserably. I don't care how amazing your idea is in your mind, chances are, it's either already been done or it's just not good in practice. Let me put it into perspective: my totally awesome idea was a green fire-breathing dragon (as the protagonist) fighting against rock-throwing peasants, archers, and knights (as the enemies) in a quest to defeat an evil wizard. If that doesn't sound like a revolutionary, unheard-of, awesome idea to you, you should seriously question why yours should be any more special than mine.
Onpon's Shelf: https://onpon4.github.io

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#2 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 28614

Posted 16 November 2011 - 02:51 AM

News flash: if you want to work like a business, you'd better be willing to put your money where your mouth is. Invest. Otherwise, you shouldn't act like a businessman, but like a learner and a hobbyist. Try to find other learners and hobbyists, maybe form a team, and make some freeware games just for fun. Even better, make your game open source. Use this as a learning and experience building opportunity. Don't try to make serious money with your first games. Also, keep in mind that game development isn't even close to the best way to make money. If money is all you care about, this isn't for you.

QFT. Running a business is hard and expensive! If you try and do anything, but have no respect for how much of a challenge that it is, then you're shooting yourself in the foot.


The valuable time of a video game developer is worth $80,000 p/a on average. This works out to $38.50 per hour (payment before tax).

Now, let's say you've got 5 people who've agreed to work for you for free for a year. By the end of that year, they've each personally invested $80,000 into your project (by way of offering work without pay). That means that despite no money changing hands, you've effectively been given a total of $400,000 worth of investment money (at a rate of $192.5 per day) and already spent it all!

In order to break even, your game needs to make back that $400,000 owed, plus extra to cover your actual expenses.

Are you really experienced enough to run a business that is required to deal with turnover in the range of half-a-million dollars? And that's just a simple 5-man 1-year game...


If you don't want to be a businessman, then make your hobby games for free, and use that experience to get a job working for/with a real businessman.

#3 dpadam450   Members   -  Reputation: 863

Posted 16 November 2011 - 03:09 AM

Everything you say is true but:

These ideas/posts/ads are from young kids. These projects fail because they are kids. The people that found companies with a few people (typically industry veterans), you don't exactly hear them posting online. Some are self-funded and some have investments. They usually have industry contacts to get their pitches out. So kids will be kids. Kids have dreams. Kids are naive. They have nothing to offer so the best thing is "we will offer profits upon ship".

Learning from these failures is important as well. Nobody will succeed in 1 go. If you haven't failed, then you won't be able to adjust and re-evaluate a project that starts to get some turbulence.

#4 mdwh   Members   -  Reputation: 841

Posted 16 November 2011 - 07:57 AM

I agree that making significant (compared with a programming job) money independently from games with a small group is very difficult. OTOH, given that such people who are willing to try exist, I'm not sure that offering "% of the profits" is necessarily a bad thing. The bigger problem is when the person offering it has no skills other than "ideas" - they basically want someone to write their game, either for nothing, or in the unlikely event of it making money, they get a cut of the profits simply for the "idea". But if a programmer was looking for a graphics artist, and said there's no money, but they'll share anything it might make, I don't think that's a problem (although it may be true that they have unreasonable expectations of the likelihood of it making money).

Personally I prefer to do free/open source in my spare time. But I can see there's a middle ground where people make some useful extra income, even if it isn't enough to replace their day job.

Also note the point about these posts coming from kids - to a teenager, a few thousand or even a few hundred is much more significant to an adult with a full time job. I made a few hundred pounds from a shareware application whilst at University - if I'd worked out the hourly rate, it would've been awful, and it wouldn't have made a full time job. But it was something I was doing for fun anyway, and it was nice to have the extra beer money :) - and it's still a fair amount compared with the hourly rate that teenagers can typically earn.
http://erebusrpg.sourceforge.net/ - Erebus, Open Source RPG for Windows/Linux/Android
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mark.harman/conquests.html - Conquests, Open Source Civ-like Game for Windows/Linux

#5 dpadam450   Members   -  Reputation: 863

Posted 16 November 2011 - 05:05 PM

the person offering it has no skills other than "ideas"


Pretty much. I have and others that specifically our help wanted forum is flooded with so much junk. I would love to after 4 years post on there to find some legit people who know some skills, but it is a worthless cause. There might be smart people that read the post, but those people are usually working in software full-time and don't have enough dedication to join. My alternative was to basically learn every skill/discipline so I didn't need to rely on others. Even good skilled people are usually not going to be all that dedicated, so relying on them is an upfront risk.

#6 Krohm   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3017

Posted 17 November 2011 - 03:01 AM

if you want to work like a business, you'd better be willing to put your money where your mouth is. Invest. Otherwise, you shouldn't act like a businessman, but like a learner and a hobbyist.

This recalls me a thing. I'm dumping it here mostly to vent...

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by one of my past clients. He was very excited to attend to the "newest and biggest software fair" where "innovative, efficient solutions would be offered for investment". What a marketing BS delight. He sent me the "accurate design documents" (ha-ha) for five of those "solutions". The cheapest asked for a 35k budget while the most expensive was around 55k. Of course, my first question was about the budget itself: 35k is indeed a big number for an average individual but... if he teams up and finds someone willing to invest time and effort first - before looking for liquidity - that can be done. After all, if you have a working prototype, you have a much better chance of getting your money (say 2%) isn't it?
Who is going to invest X money in your project when you don't want to? That's nonsense.

But wait here was the incredible "innovative and efficient solution" for all the products.
MOVE (some content) (target)
In particular, here is an "accurate" description (w/o marketing BS) of two of those 5 projects (when not explicitly noted, those are iPhone only).
MOVE (this link I like, with this comment) to (my facebook account) // but with 1 single click!
COPY (this message) to (my employee's facebook account) // also works on android!
I don't know much about facebook integration. Sure as hell it must be a bit of pain in (likely worst choice) C/C++ but WTF... 35k?
Excuse me if I haven't read the other documents. I must admit however that those designs were extremely elaborated: they were about 40 pages on average... sure their university helped in writing those proposals. Way to go dudes.

In short, I have to disagree. Those proposals you read there are probably also posted by older people... who clearly have no idea what they are talking about!

#7 Zeraan   Members   -  Reputation: 317

Posted 17 November 2011 - 12:42 PM

Heh I remember those days when I was a kid, with big dreams and no money. My artwork depended on nice people who took some free time to create them. As a result, the artwork don't match because they're from different sources, and I can't complain because they're doing it for free.

Recently, I decided that if I want to actually market a game, I'll need to develop the game, have professional artwork, and polish it off. This mean biting the bullet and paying for an artist. The game is still in progress, but it's amazing on how a little investment can improve your game:

Previous - My programmer art:
Posted Image


After paying an artist for pixel art:
Posted Image


#8 mdwh   Members   -  Reputation: 841

Posted 18 November 2011 - 08:01 AM

"Programmer art" is bad, but I don't think that relying on free artists/material necessarily makes it terrible, just because it's from difference people, you just have to take some care in the selection or managment. After all, in the commercial world, games typically have large numbers of artists. Certainly whilst your paid for artist is better than your programmer art, there are plenty of open source games where the graphics are at least as good, if not much better ;)


http://erebusrpg.sourceforge.net/ - Erebus, Open Source RPG for Windows/Linux/Android
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mark.harman/conquests.html - Conquests, Open Source Civ-like Game for Windows/Linux

#9 Zeraan   Members   -  Reputation: 317

Posted 18 November 2011 - 11:50 AM

"Programmer art" is bad, but I don't think that relying on free artists/material necessarily makes it terrible, just because it's from difference people, you just have to take some care in the selection or managment. After all, in the commercial world, games typically have large numbers of artists. Certainly whilst your paid for artist is better than your programmer art, there are plenty of open source games where the graphics are at least as good, if not much better ;)



The problem is that I want pixel artwork, not pre-rendered artwork. Each race in my game have 30 ships, 6 styles for each of the 5 sizes, all drawn by hand, as well as portraits. This is a very tedious process for an artist, and I wasn't able to find any artist who would do it for free. My goal is to capture the retro-4X feel of Master of Orion. For example, one race's portrait here: http://i18.photobuck...paceHamster.png
Another race:
http://i18.photobuck...eroPortrait.png


In order to get that kind of art, I have to offer payments, and I was fortunate to find a fan of MoO 1 who are willing to give me a discount because he loves that kind of work.

I'm sure that you can find free artwork, but none matches what I wanted. One advantage of paying an artist is that you can tell him to tweak/re-do parts of his work. A free artist most likely would go "But I like how it looks" or "It's free, be glad you got something!"

The whole point of this is, if you don't have friends with talents, it's unlikely that you can find the help you want online without paying them for their work upfront.

#10 zedz   Members   -  Reputation: 291

Posted 18 November 2011 - 03:24 PM

programmer art doesnt have to be bad
Ive done all the models/gfx on 80% of the following programs (as well as all programming)My link
What ppl need to do is make smart decisions of what games they want to make vs what they can make
eg
I brought a mac a couple of weeks ago & started programming an IOS engine this week (learning obj-c etc :( ) Im aiming to have my first game finished by next weekend. Ive thought of the idea last night, finish off the engine this weekend. And start the game monday

how? because all the models are gonna be is a few balloons and blocks i.e. Im making something simple that one person can throw together in a week

#11 worldalpha   Members   -  Reputation: 177

Posted 18 November 2011 - 10:46 PM

Creating a commercially successful game, means the developer needs a variety of skills, of which business sense would be just one part.
I am currently working on a social strategy MMORTS WorldAlpha.
More details can be found here: http://www.worldalpha.com
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Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/worldalpha
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/worldalphagame

#12 mdwh   Members   -  Reputation: 841

Posted 21 November 2011 - 07:34 AM

The problem is that I want pixel artwork, not pre-rendered artwork. Each race in my game have 30 ships, 6 styles for each of the 5 sizes, all drawn by hand, as well as portraits. This is a very tedious process for an artist, and I wasn't able to find any artist who would do it for free. My goal is to capture the retro-4X feel of Master of Orion.

Yes in practice you are obviously going to get more people if you offer money.

I'm just saying that (a) there exist people who do decent work (including pixel work) for free, as seen by the many decent looking open source games; and (b) having more than one person shouldn't be a problem - or at least, you'd face the problem with multiple paid artists too.

I guess another issue is probably to do with whether one wants to market it - if you're planning to make money from it, people are unlikely to help you for free; people who enjoy working for free are probably more likely to work with free/open licences I suspect.
http://erebusrpg.sourceforge.net/ - Erebus, Open Source RPG for Windows/Linux/Android
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mark.harman/conquests.html - Conquests, Open Source Civ-like Game for Windows/Linux

#13 Zeraan   Members   -  Reputation: 317

Posted 21 November 2011 - 10:00 AM


The problem is that I want pixel artwork, not pre-rendered artwork. Each race in my game have 30 ships, 6 styles for each of the 5 sizes, all drawn by hand, as well as portraits. This is a very tedious process for an artist, and I wasn't able to find any artist who would do it for free. My goal is to capture the retro-4X feel of Master of Orion.

Yes in practice you are obviously going to get more people if you offer money.

I'm just saying that (a) there exist people who do decent work (including pixel work) for free, as seen by the many decent looking open source games; and (b) having more than one person shouldn't be a problem - or at least, you'd face the problem with multiple paid artists too.

I guess another issue is probably to do with whether one wants to market it - if you're planning to make money from it, people are unlikely to help you for free; people who enjoy working for free are probably more likely to work with free/open licences I suspect.


Yeah, there are people who are willing to do decent work for free. However, I was unable to find those people :) I suspect that after I finish my game, there will be people who will add new races (it's easily moddable) for free. My whole point was that I had to pay first before I can expect (hopefully) to see any income from this game.




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