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Bulkhead

Advice for a Lead Artist wanting to go it alone?

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Hi,

 

 

Thanks for stopping by. smile.png

 

Me.

  • Currently a Lead Artist but effectively acting Art Director at a small (25 - 30 employees) indie studio. 
  • 6 years experience (was made a lead 2 - 3 years ago).
  • Credited on 5 console titles and 2 PC titles.
  • Very favourable reviews for the visuals on the releases I was Lead Artist on. 
  • Around £25,000 personal savings.
  • Moved back in with my family who have offered to pay essentials until I get up and running.
  • Won't be taking a salary.
  • Brother is a Junior Designer at another studio who has pledged a certain amount of time he can help me.
  • Have many friends who are accomplished musicians and will make me music in advance of payment.

My coder.

  • Graduates from a good University this summer (Mathematics/Computer Science). 
  • Has done numerous small internships, paid summer work and later a full year placement at the studio I work at.
  • The code team have continually sung his praises and gave him more challenging tasks than some of the Junior Coders.
  • He frequently takes part in Game Jams and produces his own small prototype games.
  • We share a world outlook, development philosophy and generally get on very amicably. 
  • Has offered to work as a sole trader invoicing me for a minimum wage until we can start seeing some revenue.

The plan.

  • Prototype three raw ideas over the summer before I leave work and he finishes University.
  • Spend 6 months refining one of them in to a small Steam Greenlight title.
  • Release the other two for free as a marketing exercise to start getting the new company's name out there.
  • I register a Public Limited Company he registers as a Sole Trader.

Questions.

 

At what point do I need to involve a lawyer and an accountant?

How much will they cost and what do I get from them?

Does anyone see a problem with my planned 6 month arrangement with my coder or anything else?

I wanted to avoid getting finance and make something purely with my own savings but I'm worried there really isn't enough and we'll be left with half a game when we run out of money. I have been involved with a successful Kickstarter before and I learned a lot from the process.

 

I know it's a lot to take in. Thanks again if you made it this far.

 

~Bulkhead.

Edited by Bulkhead

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I'm sure that Tom will be around shortly, but I'd say at the very least you need to be up front with your employer now for what you are doing.  Here in the US most employment contracts state they own anything you do (including off time).  Most employers are pretty nice and will let you work on outside things as long as they know about it and it doesn't compete with any of their projects.

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1. At what point do I need to involve a lawyer
2. and an accountant?
3. How much will they cost and what do I get from them?
4. Does anyone see a problem with my planned 6 month arrangement with my coder or anything else?


1. Before you start actually doing it.
2. Right after you start your business venture.
3. What are "they"? Lawyers and accountants? Ask them.
4. Just what "stupid programmer" said.

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Does anyone see a problem with my planned 6 month arrangement with my coder or anything else?

What is the motivation behind your leaving that lead\direction position at that company? What do you expect to get from your own independent studio in comparison?

You need something as your business identity, a personal statement to the industry that will help guide you through establishing your new business.

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Thanks for your comments guys.

 

My motivations come from a clash of development philosophy with studio management, irreconcilable differences with creative direction and a belief in my ability to offer much more than just art alone. The opportunity to work with the kind of coder I've always looked out for and perhaps just enough savings to pull something off is making it seem like now is the right time for me to do this.

 

I'm going to let my bosses know this week. Would it be bad to do it on a Friday?

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1. My motivations come from a clash of development philosophy with studio management, irreconcilable differences with creative direction and a belief in my ability to offer much more than just art alone. The opportunity to work with the kind of coder I've always looked out for and perhaps just enough savings to pull something off is making it seem like now is the right time for me to do this.
2. I'm going to let my bosses know this week.
3. Would it be bad to do it on a Friday?


2. A better approach is to ask them if they'll permit you to work on your own projects outside of work (after you've first carefully read your employment contract). Or are you giving them notice that you're quitting your job? If so, it's customary to offer two weeks' notice at least.
3. It doesn't matter what day of the week you do it.
1. Do not burn bridges (don't tell your boss any of the things you wrote in the first sentence of #1). Your second sentence sounds much better as a reason for wanting to do this.

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I went through a similar plan a few years ago. As above, don't burn your bridges. I left on good terms with my employer and continue to do occasional contract work with them to this day, which is a nice way to keep food on the table while my business continues to not make money laugh.png

 

I don't know about the bit about releasing two failed prototypes for marketing purposes... It probably won't generate too much interest.

 

As for your initial estimate of 6 months - if that's how long you think it will take, make sure you've got enough funding to cover 12 months instead. Always double your estimates! tongue.png

 

What's the plan with your coder? Is he going to work minimum wage forever, is he also going to be a part-owner of the LLC? You can write him up a contract (or just make a verbal deal if you really trust each other) saying that he'll be assigned N% of the shares once your first game ships, etc...

 

Once you've got income, you'll definitely want an accountant. Once you've got expenses (e.g. invoices from the sole trader), you'd probably want one too, at least to ensure you can get your company taxes done right.

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An accountant can help you diminish your costs (depending where you live). Mine saved me an extra grand last year (and cost me less than 50% of what she netted me).

It's good to have open channels to an accountant and lawyer early on because you can keep these relationships running and they have context. You don't need to hire them fulltime :) (I'm only saying that because other readers around here probably have no idea how to work with lawyers and accountant and this thread will be helpful for those who won't actually ask questions).

 

6 months looks a bit short, for anything. You seem like you've been around long enough, so I'll trust your judgment, but I'll only say this:

Most people in development positions (especially art) see the "production" time of a project and estimate based on that. Managers, on the other hand, know that it takes 20% of the time to do 80% of the work, and 80% of the time to do the remaining 20%.

That doesn't mean you need to be invested fulltime in the project for the last 20% of the projects, but just know there will be delays (steam greenlight, publishing and marketing in general, or just getting the game in a format that works with the opportunities you are given). Trying to cut on this last 20% may end up killing your project's chances altogether. You should plan on 12 months to be safe, you'll probably end up spending it anyway.

 

Another way to look at this is take your current idea (that should fit in 6 months) and reduce it to its core base essence (it's MVP - Minimum Viable Product). Always keep it in a way that it is a shippable game from month 1 if you can. That way, you can adjust scope as finances go down, and you alleviate the risk of not being able to finish the game. You'll only be cutting down features or quality, but it will still be shippable.

 

Good luck!

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