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coderblue

Making a Studio

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So recently, my best friend and probably most trusted person to work with came home after a year of *finding* himself. We both studied game design and are both talented in what we do(i wrote the code and he does the art) My question is, any suggestions or advice on how we can *build* our own studio? Or just let our passion for development be our guide?

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This isn't what you want to hear, but you need to know it.


Starting a game development studio is not an easy thing. Most studios fail without ever getting a single game published. Studios who get one or two games published still often fail after a single mistake. As far as businesses go, you would have less risk by starting a neighborhood dry cleaner shop or opening a fast food franchise.

Sure you've got an artist and an engineer who have both "found themselves" and studied game design. That's not enough, not by a long shot.

As an analogy, you've got somebody with experience cooking and another person with experience waiting tables. Even if both people discovered they want start their own cafe and studied a little bit of management, that doesn't mean they are ready to open their own restaurant.


First and foremost, do you have a lot of money? No, seriously, I mean a LOT of money?

Studios need to develop games and then get them published. Developing games will cost between a few tens of thousands (3 month development) for quickie games to many millions (around 3-5M per platform) for a major title.

Once the game is developed, you will need to get it published. You could do it yourself but you likely won't see any sales. By far the easiest way to get a publisher interested (for a new studio) is to have a game already finished, polished, appropriate for their brand, and with you funding their QA and support until revenue flows. You get almost all the money back (minus their expenses and ongoing costs), rather than the loans established companies take against future profits.

Once it is published you will need to advertise. And advertise. And advertise some more.

All of those things take money.

It is an extremely risky business venture and neither banks nor publishers loan money for this kind of startup, especially since you have no industry experience. If you were a group of people with many years of industry experience, with established engineers, artists, and management, then maybe you could get money from banks or studios.

Alternatively ...

If you want develop games but not start a studio, there are many existing projects and teams. Just browse the Help Wanted forum for those. Or you can start your own.

If you develop a game, on your own and on the side, you might make a tiny bit of money. Or you might not. Either way: Great! You have a little experience. Develop a second game. And a third. And a fourth. Polish them, give them to people, and make them better. Eventually you could grow this hobby into a business.

Alternatively ...

If you don't have game experience and you don't have lots of money, and you don't want to do small projects on the side until you get experience and contacts, but you still want to develop games, I suggest you get a job at an existing studio.

After a few years you will have enough industry experience and contacts that you might be able to venture on to founding your own studio. You'll still need money, but you'll be much more likely to be able to get loans or revenue advances.


Good luck on your venture.

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First, do your research, and find a way to get your game out there, a service like Steam may be an option.

Second, develop a game design that follows simple rules, uses simple art, has short single play times, and follows the idea of "One more turn/round/try".

Gather a small team of people that want to get started, see if you can't get startup loans/grants from somewhere. Have everyone save some money, and work at your new startup part time.

Aim for 3-6 month development cycles for your first year to three years. Save as much as you can, and don't try to invest too much time in a single game.


If you are a group of younger people that don't already have your own houses or anything, you may consider moving to smaller cities with lower living costs, and rent a house to share living expenses. Setup a few rooms for development, keep your real living areas clearly different from 'business' areas. This concept does have the risks of everyone starting to hate each other however, and burn out risks. This option can save a huge amount of money, your business deducts the cost of the house as business expense, and you get personal income tax on the cost of a rented room (between $100 and $800 a month, depending on where you live).

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To give better advice more specific to your situation, more information is needed.

How old are you?
Can you explain in detail about your background? (E.g. Education, previous work, years of experience, etc).
What type of games are you planning to make? Timeframe?
Are you planning to hire people or will it just be you two developing the game?

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Quote:
Original post by coderblue
My question is, any suggestions or advice on how we can *build* our own studio?

There are a whole bunch of articles on starting a development studio at http://www.obscure.co.uk/articles-2/. Obviously if you have no proven industry experience then the point about publisher funding won't apply to you but the stuff about legal issues will.

As yaustar said you really need to provide a LOT more info on your situation before we can offer better advice.

Quote:
Or just let our passion for development be our guide?
That would be a really bad idea. Passion is great for getting a game developed by research and planning are what is needed to make a studio. There is a lot to the business side of the industry that you need to learn.

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I always thought building a studio would involve something like the following:

  • One or more programmer

  • One or more artists (or another programmer who can double as an artist)

  • Several PCs - some for work, some for testing

  • An empty room in a basement or home office of sorts

  • Several cases of Mountain Dew

  • One lawyer

  • A business license

  • A fridge to hold the aformentioned Mountain Dew

  • Some decent office lights

  • Some fake office plants

  • Money to live off of until you sell your first game

  • A small server for backups/source code control/web and or ftp server

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I think the best approach would be to start small, probably in the casual or mobile games sectors. In all likelihood, this needs to be a part-time effort on your parts, unless you both have enough savings to support yourselves for 6-12 months or more, and are willing to risk it on a venture that may not pan out.

The little I've read about studios in the casual space is that it generally takes 3-5 titles before it generates enough reliable income to be a viable full-time job -- and that assumes that 1-2 of those titles are popular enough to "anchor" your line-up and bring existing customers to your new products.

The days when a single title could make a studio are all but gone. These days, its about establishing a solid track record of several titles. Even a studio that has produced 2-3 well received titles, maybe even a hit, can be folded by a single bad product.

Passion is great, but make sure you have a solid, sustainable business plan and be open about additional lines of income -- A full-time job, consulting, perhaps porting other studios' products from their platform to one you're more familiar with, perhaps web design. I've heard of more than one indie studio that supplements their income in this way.

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Quote:
Original post by Moe
I always thought building a studio would involve something like the following:

  • One or more programmer

  • One or more artists (or another programmer who can double as an artist)

  • Several PCs - some for work, some for testing

  • An empty room in a basement or home office of sorts

  • Several cases of Mountain Dew

  • One lawyer

  • A business license

  • A fridge to hold the aformentioned Mountain Dew

  • Some decent office lights

  • Some fake office plants

  • Money to live off of until you sell your first game

  • A small server for backups/source code control/web and or ftp server



Yup, just ask the creators of google and they might add a garage:)

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Quote:
Original post by Moe
I always thought building a studio would involve something like the following:

  • [...]

  • Money to live off of until you sell your first game

  • [...]


For most of us this is the sticking point! :)

It might be easy if you live with your parents, or even in (the equivalent of) a college dorm and have virtually no expenses. But when living by you self, in a appartment with bills to pay it amounts to a significant pile of cash. Most of us wont be able to scare up that kind of funds and, as said earlier, banks will probably be reluctant to grant loans to such high-risk ventures.

Does anyone have any good advice on how to get contacts/contracts for small games development? Like, on a freelance basis? Something to generate a little income while the Big One is still in production.

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[quote]Original post by Promethium
Does anyone have any good advice on how to get contacts/contracts for small games development? Like, on a freelance basis?quote]

Answer to question #1: Yes, someone does.

Answer to question #2: FAQ 63 - http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson63.htm

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>> Does anyone have any good advice on how to get
>> contacts/contracts for small games development?
>
> Answer to question #1: Yes, someone does.

Those guys might be able to help you out ... for a fee:

http://gameconsultants.com/
http://www.fogstudios.com/

-cb

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