14 Responses

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  1. kronpiat
    kronpiat January 12, 2015 at 6:17 pm |

    I feel kind of sad for this person, but also feel that he has gotten over it well enough since his studio went under. A few things I learned is that you really cannot just jump head long into making your own studio. I kind of realized this but it never really hit me until he wrote about the burdens and hardships in 1) owning your own studio (finding work, finding people who will invest in you, finding the time to make your own IP’s, etc.) and 2) figuring out the people that should be in this new studio of yours and figuring out who is and is not best suited to the tasks at hand. I think, however, the best advice shared was really the advice about finding work with another studio before heading out on your own. I think this is really smart because I believe that most people, myself included, do not realize the amount of time, energy, and effort that goes into to creating a game– any type of game –until they actually do it. The best way to get experience is, as Drysdale pointed out, by finding a job with another studio. You are able to get valuable experience with relatively little risk toward you and you get paid to boot. I also find that reality of something and the fantasies people conjure up about them are really different. I had to do a job research project in one of my classes in middle school/high school. I really did not know what I wanted to be, but I liked games, so I researched what it would take to be a game designer. The job site we used said that a game designer fresh out of college could expect to make between $20,000 and $40,000 I think. Now, this was over four years ago, probably closer to six years ago. But when Drysdale wrote that there are plenty of people in game design in the Starving Artist category, that reality, and me realizing that $20,000 (now that I am older) is really just peanut shells, really hits home. This is really just one of those reality checks; am I o.k. with living on $20,000 to $40,000 for a few years until I get enough experience to get a job with a higher income in my field? Personally, I think yes, but we really do not know what the future holds until the future becomes the present.

  2. ballard3
    ballard3 January 13, 2015 at 11:18 pm |

    Although I have never been in this situation, I felt I could relate to Dom Drysdale’s story. Having interned at a independent game development studio that was struggling in budgets and investors, I saw some of the real world/ business struggles that are not as glamorous as the game company’s website or vision.Drysdale stressed having a rock star team, not a team of rock stars, and after reading that one more time, it made perfect sense. An individual may be stellar but he is only as strong as the team. The team needs to gel in order to succeed. This can be difficult because, as Drysdale points out, there are a variety of different people working together but hopefully they are all have a strong vision and the ability to listen and understand their team mates.
    It is not a unique story when it comes to independent game development, but it is unfortunate. I think that Drysdale looks back on his experience and has a very clear understanding of what went wrong. The prospects of the indie game world may look bleak and the story may seem sad but I don’t think that was the message the author intended to convey. He encourages developers to chase their dreams, but be prepared. After all, hundreds of thousands of restaurants open each year despite the commonly heard fact that 90% of new restaurants fail within their first year (http://online.csp.edu/blog/business/why-do-90-of-restaurants-fail-in-the-first-year). Just as any real world shock, I think Drysdale found that it takes business knowledge as well as pure, hardcore passion to succeed in the game industry. But first and foremost you have to have a love for creating games.

  3. cottmanp
    cottmanp January 19, 2015 at 4:33 pm |

    Despite the unfortunate series of events that Dom Drysdale faced, I think that this article feels a lot more like a guide than it does a cautionary tale.

    Drysdale’s biggest mistake was clearly trying to jump straight into starting up his own studio, but instead of using it as a story of “this what I did and why it failed,” it’s presented as a gentler warning of: “make sure you establish these things so you don’t fall off track.” The list includes several things that many people, himself included, didn’t know were crucial to a well-functioning studio.

    Many of the advices that Drysdale offers are positive and inspiring, without losing their critical meaning. Despite the fact that his own failure was the result of going with a sudden “gut feeling,” Drysdale encourages readers to trust their gut, since it’s generally an indicator of what you’re truly passionate about, but you do need to do the right research first. Other encouraging tips include having an awesome team that you work well with, and doing what you really love. The article also gives equal value to all of the members of a game development team, from the designers to the tech managers, which creates a mindset that helps to form “a rock star team.”

    One commenter on this article, Josh Fairhurst, notes that game design can really be hit or miss, especially when it comes to mobile games. While Drysdale’s article expresses the few things that are critical to being able to survive as a business, this comment highlights that failure isn’t always attributed to a poor strategy or company. You can tell from the way this article is written that Drysdale is very able to look back and learn from his mistakes, which, in addition to his reformed foundation and strategy for establishing a well-functioning studio, is also a critical element of success.

    As Drysdale himself writes, “good advice usually sounds like good advice when you hear it,” and that’s exactly how this article feels.

  4. steillm
    steillm January 19, 2015 at 4:58 pm |

    I felt Drysdale hit the nail on the head with the idea you need a rockstar team, as opposed to a team of rockstars. In my computer science classes we have had a few group projects and the groups that had one or two of the strongest programmers actually struggled more than groups who were as strong of programmers. Once ego comes into play, and teams are worrying more about whose idea gets implemented as opposed to the best idea being implemented, things go awry quickly. I wish Drysdale would have gone into more detail on what it was like starting a company with friends. He does mention once they got funding, they had to cut half the team, and also mentions how when you found a company, you have to look out for you employees like they are part of your family. However, he never discusses working relations with friends. In my personal experience I’ve had group projects with friends and it can put a strain on your friendship when you disagree on a certain idea. And these were only school projects, our money and livelihood were not on the line when making these decisions. Drysdale advice that experience is key when founding your own studio is the most important piece of advice in the article in my opinion. I think people who really enjoy video games, and possess the knowledge to go out and make them feel like it is something they can handle. But until you have gone through the challenges of creating a game, it probably isn’t best to jump right into founding your own studio. You have to screw up a lot of times before you get good at something, that’s how we learn. So maybe before you decide to found your own studio, make some small games on the side and figure out what you are good at, and what where you need improvement. Then build a team which picks up where you are lacking.

  5. EddieMas
    EddieMas January 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm |

    It seems that this article is all about how the blogger, a former indie game designer, experienced the hardships in the game making. Dom Drysdale was personally exposed to the financial and economic problems of the business. His team survived for about a year only and only made three games before they crashed. In today’s economy, not every business is going to survive. Due to fierce competition and financial issues, every independent game-making business has to find a way to survive. Thanks to Dom Drysdale, he shows any beginning game-maker, including myself, how to have a better start in the business. I believe that one important thing that Dom points out is every business needs a team. As something I learned from this blogger and former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, we need to find and work with a team. Each member of the team will bring their own creativity. According to the article and video called Twelve Things I Learned from Steve Jobs (http://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/12-pivotal-business-lessons-steve-jobs-taught-guy-kawasaki.html), Point number nine: a person should make a team that will have A+ people. This point and its relationship to this blogger’s advice of team shows that how people in teams should work together and understand each other in order to get maximum output. However with an A+ team, a business still needs to figure out the financial problem: the issues with starting and maintaining the business. Dom Drysdale does suggest to make sure that every bill is paid off and to be ahead of costs. The Steve Job article makes a point that the business needs to jump on the next curve as well.

  6. David White
    David White January 19, 2015 at 6:24 pm |

    This article is about the lesson a game designer learned as he reflected on why his game studio falied. Although my ambition may be to get my first game out at this point, it’s caused me to reflect on things too!

    It was hard to respond to this article. Mostly because I may be heading towards a similar situation based on what fate has in store. Not gonna lie, reading this article was enlightening and frightening , even with the game design classes I’ve taken and the experience I have. There’s obviously a possibility of failure and a possibility of success. Either way, there are a lot of things I could learn from this article about what to do when starting out. But this article helped me think about things
    First: Start out really small and do what you want to do when you’re starting out. The team at Gearbox tried to make what was easy and popular with their game and they got lost in the dust. It won’t gaurantee anything, but your bound to learn more doing what you like and remember what you learn.
    Second: make sure that if you work on a team, know the limits of your team’s skills and when need help on. Again: the team at Gearbox looks talented and versatile given the links the author gave that showed off the programmer’s and artist’s skills, but as he said, they weren’t all equally focused on the project. I know it’s a lot to ask of a first time studio, but maybe getting a senior designer to manage the team’s interest would help? Even better, would be to take an internship at a small company, if possible, just to get a taste of what game development is like. Plus, you can make great connections in internships that can help you later.
    Lastly: Know why you want to make games. Kinda bouncing off of number one, but I agree with the author. Everyone in game development has to know that not all parts of game development are lovely. Many parts are daunting, frustrating or confusing, even from a student’s perspective. I haven’t really gone beyond the reasoning “I want to make games because I’ve been playing them all my life” and “I want to give it a shot as a person in my position that I’m in”.
    Again, failing is a possibility but I gotta take that first step, because as this video highlights so many dreaming developers don’t get to! http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=z06QR-tz1_o

    And hey, if I don’t, I will have developed a game and help people that are in my position now.

  7. brown169
    brown169 January 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm |

    The author of this article brings up a lot of good points as to why his studio failed and cleverly breaks it up into four big segments. The first segment, ‘What Happened’ briefly describes well, what happened with his studio from its inception to its end. He then goes on to write two big questions in the Existential Questions segment, the first being ‘Why are YOU making games?’ He states that if you want to get rich quick and easy then game design is not for you and that most designers fall under the Starving artists category. It figures that after watching one too many E3 expos that someone could get the misconception that all video game designers are rich and famous. However; these are only the lucky few so I looked online to see the started salary of a game designer and it was roughly $31,824, which isn’t extremely much (source). If you don’t have a passion for games, pass on being a game designer, which was the author’s next point. After this he goes on to a segment called ‘Prerequisites to Success’ which lists the things and people a starting out game studio will need for any chance of success. One of his main points is that you don’t need a team of rock stars, you need a rock star team. A rock star team is a team that collaborates well and helps each other creatively to create and end product. I agree with the author that this is crucial to game design. If you get stuck in a rut designer your game and no one really boosts each other up creatively or otherwise you are going to be in that rut for a while. As always, time is money and being stuck in a rut can prolong development and send the game and the studio to the chopping block. Ensuring that you have a team that works creatively together will definitely help you avoid this situation. Last but not least the author talks about how to begin a studio in a segment called ‘First Steps’. Here he states what a beginner studio should do, namely work mainly on contract work and work on your IP on the side. I think this is a smart strategy because it will allow the studio to make revenue and remain open while continuos work gets done on the studio’s game, even if at a slow place. In the end, the author makes some great points that are sure to help out new studios springing up soon.

    Source : http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Video_Game_Designer/Salary

  8. amulhisen
    amulhisen January 21, 2015 at 1:55 am |

    This article didn’t have anything too groundbreaking on the topic, but one part that stood out to me was what kind of games you are making. There are so many games out there now, how could you make something new and unique?

    The author mentioned that inspiration for two of their games came by modeling successful preexisting games. It is not a bad idea, but like they mention, everyone else will try the same thing making it hard to stand out.

    This made me think about aspiring artists (no matter what medium) having the option to “make their break” with a cult hit. Many want to try to be successful right away and they do this by creating mainstream or mimicking already popular games. But this usually doesn’t work, and trying to break into a particular niche may be another option.

    This leads to an article about Minecraft—probably not considered a cult hit now—but was definitely something unheard of on its release. It became popular because people couldn’t stop talking about it—what to do, what not to do—options in this game are basically limitless and the fact that the game experience was something that had not been seen before that led to success. This is of course a huge success story, but I think for designers it is worth taking the risk if you have a unique idea.

    http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/07/features/changing-the-game/viewall

    I also agree with the bit about networking. From personal experience, I have learned so much from people in many different instances whether it be at class, DMA club, Wordcamp, or from a friend/acquaintance.

    The phrase networking can sometimes seem intimidating, but you can be networking without even realizing it. The author describes it as, “interesting friends” that know more about certain topics than you do and can introduce you to resources that can further help too.

  9. kestersp
    kestersp January 21, 2015 at 6:17 am |

    As someone is has thought and been approached about doing just this, starting a development studio sounds like such an exciting and awesome thing, which of course it is. But the horror stories and failures that are left behind after a studio goes under makes doing that a much more terrifying endeavor. Startups in general, regardless of what they are, are risky, and can always fail. Having done independent contract work myself, I can fully understand and support the notion that you need money first before breaking out your own IP, even just from a business standpoint. Obviously you have to pay your bills.

    The emphasis on the team intrigues me though. I’ve always felt that development teams were close, personally, to each other, especially the smaller companies, and this applies more than many other endeavors. I guess the aspect of trying to completely create a world in the confines of a small building will facilitate that, but the way he says it is intriguing. Everyone has to work well with each other, communicate to other parts of the team and their own section. While this should be a ‘duh’ statement, so many times this is not the case, and maybe on certain projects it doesn’t matter, maybe a sports game or a cutesy mobile game that rips off thousands of other games. But on the truly great works, the games that are full of passion and emotion, regardless of genre, that team must feel the same way about their work that they do working with each other. Overkill Software is a development company out of Stockholm, with their big IP being the PAYDAY games. They have always strived too, in their words, “create a game people want to play”. They have not spent a dime on advertising, and never will. Yet their sales have only increased three times over the year PAYDAY 2 has been released. They release DLC on the regular, a great deal of it free of charge. What DLC they do sell is for, at most, five dollars, and is a healthy serving of contents, with everything from new weapons to characters, to entirely new missions. The best part? They don’t even announce the DLC until three days before release with a website page or and incredibly well done live-action trailer which are great in their own right. Barely any wait. No hype required or needed. They know that their fans will buy it without this. Why? Because the fans know it will be good. Because they make a game that they are passionate about, and that passion comes through in their work. The game is spectacular, incredibly fun. It’s the third largest game on Steam, only behind Team Fortress and Counterstrike. I personally have as of this writing 127 hours of game time in it. And Overkill does all this with 50 people.

    So when the author writes about needing passion in their work and their team, this rings with me. So many projects either die or just turn out mediocre because it was pushed out because no one really cared. Seeing a studio that does care, about the game and the players, show such success just proves to me that the author was right.

  10. hunleys
    hunleys January 21, 2015 at 11:11 am |

    Honestly I like this article a lot because I play a lot of video games and always wanted to make my own. I feel that this is a great guide to avoid mistakes and create a solid game development studio.

    The article touches on many things that most people over look such as knowing what type of game you want to make and having someone who knows about that genre. Another thing that stood out in the article was networking. Most people think that networking is complicated when in reality its just about making friends with people who are interested in the same thing as you.

    The video was also very good because it is true. As a person who creates music I went through that phase when it wasn’t that good. Then I took 2 years to hone my skills and now I feel like I am ready to take the big leap.

  11. paintyourwindows
    paintyourwindows January 21, 2015 at 3:06 pm |

    Coming from a background of playing a lot of video games in my past, I, as well as others have thought of creating video games, and starting your own indie game company. Making money and living a life playing and making video games. But things that many people don’t think about is what it takes to have a video game company.

    I loved the fact that this article was written by someone who has failed at their own dream of making a video game company. An interesting fact that they brought up is that you need a stellar team. Video games can’t be brought to life without a team all fully immersed in creating the same projecct. From Artists, to programers, all the way to video game designers, (who the author of this article never had) all have to have the same dream, all have to be able to work together very well, and all have to know what they are doing. If you don’t have that, you can’t succeed.

    I have read an article a lot like this one. http://indiegames.com/2013/11/opinion_what_not_to_do_when_st.html

    Where in the article they give 12 tips and ideas on what not to do when you want to start a video game company. The ones that stick out to me are 2 and 3. Where most people starting an indie game company want to make a very complex and great videogame. But you really cant start off on something so complex. You need experience, and you need a workflow that you can’t get by overworking yourself in order to get something huge done. That being said you also can’t take a small idea and stretch it to make it complex. At that point you begin to stretch an idea too thin and it becomes a bad one.

    There are so many ideas and thoughts that you need to think of when you start a company and especially when you start a video game company. But like both of these articles touched on, sometimes people get too involved in their dreams that they don’t do everything they need to reach it

  12. sander29
    sander29 January 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm |

    Reading this article has spoke many measures. I don’t play a lot of video games due to time, but when I do play games it is usually on my phone. I suppose it takes a lot of time, effort and hard work to actually create a game. Making sure everything is correct and that all links for the game work.

    Overall the article was inspiring and made me look at my projects a bit more seriously. I actually am capable to be more well rounded in the DMA world. Great article.

  13. willi146
    willi146 February 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm |

    Although this article does seem a bit sad, I think it carries a strong message for anyone, not just game developers, who’s struggling with their work. By writing this article Drysdale shows that is it alright to admit to your own faults and to use them as a lesson to do better in the future.

    Also, I like the quote he mentions “You need a rock star team, not a team of rock stars.” There can be a number of talented people on your team or in your group working on a project, but all that talent is wasted if the team cannot come together and work as a unit.

    All in all, it was a well structured article and I respect Drysdale for writing it because children these days need to know that it is alright to fail at things, but not use it as an excuse to give up.

  14. sander29
    sander29 February 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm |

    I’ve never been in this type of situation or really interested in developing games. But if I was to develop a game this article has gave me tons of tips on how to handle a situation and make it a better one. I definitely see why in class we have a lot of group work when it comes to designing things because what ever measure we take in this career we will always have to work in teams and be able to balance and manage things so they won’t get out of hand.

    Sometimes failing at something can help you learn a valuable lesson and can help you teach others, such as Drysdale mentioned in the article to get out and network and before taking the risk of developing your own game company to work for one first. There’s always a task being the founder of the company including trying to find revenue for you and your workers.

    If Drysdale had someone write an article for him before he went straight into the game industry he would have suffered less casualties. I like the fact he took the time out to warn people that are interested in being a gamer and starting their own is to be patient and that it takes a while to actually get a successful game going. The best warning is if your project is failing and your bank account is empty its game over. No one should ever have to live in a shelter or go on assistance because they invested all of their money into a game system.

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