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sdMike77

Startup advise

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Hello, I'm a Microsoft .NET developer and I've always wanted to get into gaming, but never really had the time to learn it. Now that I am self-employed, I'm tossing the idea around because I have some freedom in my time. So, I have the company structure complete because I use it for my current day to day business as an ERP consultant. I've also started the process to getting development rights with Playstation which includes an SDK and a debugging system. The process is really long, but it seems to be slowly moving forward. The idea is to start with a small game that can break-even or make a little profit, and then grow from there. 

 

So I've been doing some research and found that building a game obviously can't be done with just one developer, at least a 3D game. So I'm wondering if anyone has been in my position where they need developers to get their project going with little to no budget. Obviously I would be willing to give equity in the company, but as I have also read, many developers don't go for that anymore. So, has anyone on here had to raise money? And what did you have to do? 

 

I would like to expand in the future to other platforms, but now would like to concentrate on one just to get going. I don't really have time to learn all about gaming development, (although I may be able to help out on easy stuff), so I would like to find people to drive the coding and creativeness, while I do the not so fun stuff, like project manage, marketing, legal, etc. I have an MBA, so that stuff is not foreign to me. I usually work remote from home, so I'm not against remote work, but I don't know if that would be possible if they need to use the PS system to debug. 

 

I may be in over my head, I just don't know and any advise would be greatly appreciated. 

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1. I'm wondering if anyone has been in my position where they need developers to get their project going with little to no budget.

2. Obviously I would be willing to give equity in the company,

3. but as I have also read, many developers don't go for that anymore.

4. I don't really have time to learn all about gaming development,

5. (although I may be able to help out on easy stuff), so I would like to find people to drive the coding and creativeness, while I do the not so fun stuff, like project manage, marketing, legal, etc. I have an MBA, so that stuff is not foreign to me.

6. I'm not against remote work, but I don't know if that would be possible if they need to use the PS system to debug.

 

1. Only about 10 people a week. 

2. God no, don't give away equity so quickly. 

3. Well, yeah. That too.  People prefer payment for services rendered, rather than promises that the promiser may not be able to keep.

4. Make the time. You don't have to learn to program games, but you do have to learn about the game industry.

5. If you don't take the time to learn all about the game industry and build contacts, you won't be able to find people.

6. Every programmer on the team needs to have a devkit. 

Edited by Tom Sloper
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So I've been doing some research and found that building a game obviously can't be done with just one developer, at least a 3D game.
That depends on the game, and the skill of the developers. Many one-programmer games have been made, using procedural or non-photorealistic graphics, so that the need for an artist is reduced.

A recent example would be Antichamber, made almost entirely by Alexander Bruce, and a composer and sound-designer who I assume were contractors.

 

So I'm wondering if anyone has been in my position where they need developers to get their project going with little to no budget. Obviously I would be willing to give equity in the company, but as I have also read, many developers don't go for that anymore. So, has anyone on here had to raise money? And what did you have to do? 
You're looking for someone in the same position as you -- who wants to start their own games company with no money, and is looking for partners. You can probably find a few people like that in the classifieds section here. However, to be equity partners in the business, you need to trust each other and have faith in each others skills and talents, which is hard with internet randoms... You'd probably want to draw up a detailed shares schedule, where small portions of equity are handed over at agreed upon milestones, when agreed upon work items have been completed.

That requires you to do a whole bunch of project planning up front though, and then to also spend a bunch on lawyers to sort out those contracts...

 

Personally, I found an artist in the same position as me, with the same ambition while working in the industry. We'd both worked together in the past so we had a good idea of each others skills, and got on well as friends over pizza, beer or whiskey in the past too. In that situation, it was pretty simple for us to agree to being equal partners based on trust.

Due to us both having worked for a bunch of different large studios, we've also got the network in place to be able to contact a lot of different professional devs that we trust who might be willing to work for either equity or cash contracts. Without any contacts, everyone is a stranger, which makes things a lot harder...

 

On the other hand, if you want to raise money, you can draw up a detailed business plan (including a production schedule, required staff, potential team-member resumes if possible, development costs, a market/competitor analysis, ROI estimates, etc) and take it to venture capitalists, who'll buy up equity in exchange for large sums of cash. This is very involved though -- you'll be booking flights all over the country to make the same pitch over and over to different investors, often walking away empty handed, which is expensive. You also need all the legalities worked out, so there's lawyers expenses to begin with too. Then once you've got the money, you'll be required to have monthly board meetings, write up lots of detailed reports explaining how you're on track to make that huge profit, field random calls from worried shareholders and reassure them that their money is safe, etc, etc...

 


I usually work remote from home, so I'm not against remote work, but I don't know if that would be possible if they need to use the PS system to debug.
If you set up a VPN, so remote workers can 'dial in' to your home office, they'll be able to connect to the dev-kit... though you and them would want to have very fast/reliable Internet connections. They might also occasionally require you to physically push the power button on the dev-kit for them. wink.png


Every programmer on the team needs to have a devkit. 
If you don't also have a PC version of your game, this is true.

However, generally you make your game work on both PC and on the console. Most of the time, you can develop locally using only the PC version of the game, and occasionally test your work on the dev-kit. Often I've had to work with 1 dev-kit shared between 2 or 3 people, which is ok as long as your game also runs on PC.


I don't really have time to learn all about gaming development, (although I may be able to help out on easy stuff), so I would like to find people to drive the coding and creativeness, while I do the not so fun stuff, like project manage, marketing, legal, etc. I have an MBA, so that stuff is not foreign to me.
You've got to make this a good value proposition for any collaborators.

You don't have money, so you can't pay people... That means you pretty much have to pay in equity, which makes your staff your partners. If someone is a coding pro who can utilize a PS dev-kit to make a game, they're deserving of a very large salary (by joining your start-up, they're foregoing a huge amount of money that they could be earning with a job elsewhere). On a large-team, project management is a full-time job, as is legal and general studio management, but on a small team, not so much.

If you're only working part-time, and have a less rare skill-set (to be frank: lots of people have MBA's, but less have MBA's and games industry experience -- an industry veteran business manager is rare, but a generic business manager is a commodity), then your other staff probably deserve to hold more equity in the company than you do... and if they feel that way, they probably won't sign up, because it's not good value. You need to demonstrate that your skills are equally important to theirs -- that you can schedule their work well, that you can get your Sony/PS contracts, that you can deliver valid equity agreements, etc, etc.

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That depends on the game, and the skill of the developers. Many one-programmer games have been made, using procedural or non-photorealistic graphics, so that the need for an artist is reduced.
A recent example would be Antichamber, made almost entirely by Alexander Bruce, and a composer and sound-designer who I assume were contractors.

 

I searched for that game and I can tell that is out of my skill set range now. Is that game using any custom code? I've noticed that in some or most engines that movement is already predefined and you just create the graphics. Forgive my ignorance. 

 


Without any contacts, everyone is a stranger, which makes things a lot harder..

 

So would you recommend doing the programming yourself and find partners along the way as you meet people in the industry? I'm just a little intimidated by everything that is needed to learn to get a game produced. What engine would you recommend? I was looking at UDK, but wasn't sure. 

 


If you don't also have a PC version of your game, this is true.
However, generally you make your game work on both PC and on the console. Most of the time, you can develop locally using only the PC version of the game, and occasionally test your work on the dev-kit. Often I've had to work with 1 dev-kit shared between 2 or 3 people, which is ok as long as your game also runs on PC.

 

I guess this goes to the engine question; what engine would you need to get a game to work on a PC and a playstation console? Is there one that would let you compile to the system you wanted to run on? 

 


You need to demonstrate that your skills are equally important to theirs -- that you can schedule their work well, that you can get your Sony/PS contracts, that you can deliver valid equity agreements, etc, etc

 

Scheduling is not something I have thought a lot about. The contracts and equity agreements though would be easier because I have given those some thought. I'm wondering maybe I should start out with a game that is not on a schedule or planned to market and just work on it to get the idea of what is needed to make one. One thing though, and that is I really want to avoid VC and work with as little budget as possible to allow more scheduling freedom and keep the stress level down as much as possible for any involved. I'm not in a hurry to make a lot of money, I just want to get the process of creating a game correct and hopefully build a company people would want to work for. 

 


Make the time. You don't have to learn to program games, but you do have to learn about the game industry.

 

Tom, how would I go about this? Or where would I begin? 

 

 

Thanks guys, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. 

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Make the time. You don't have to learn to program games, but you do have to learn about the game industry.

Tom, how would I go about this? Or where would I begin?

Subscribe to Gamasutra and GamesIndustry.biz. Go to networking events (local first, then spread your networking farther, to national and continental events). Be a good listener. http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson54.htm
Also read http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson29.htm
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