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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Indie Post-Mortem Shows Developer Problems, Pitfalls 18

Posted by simoniker
from the after-death dept.
Thanks to Game Matters for its weblog post pointing to ex-id programmer Brian Hook's post-mortem on his indie developer, Pyrogon, discussing "a good time to sit back and reflect on what went right and what went wrong." With Pyrogon, particularly known for its Flash-based Web games like Candy Cruncher, "ceasing further development of new titles", some of the trials and tribulations of the independent developer are laid out, with headings including: "Publishers Never Say No, They Just Stop Answering E-Mails", "A Good Demo Is Not Enough -- It Must Be Jaw Dropping", and "Unless You Are Chocolate Covered God, Any Deals Offered Will Suck."
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Indie Post-Mortem Shows Developer Problems, Pitfalls

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2004 @07:59AM (#8971143)
    It's the difference between a pretty girl smiling at you and a naked pretty girl straddling your lap and licking her phone number onto your face.

    Speaking on behalf of all of Slashdot... I don't understand the analogy at all.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think I got the girl part. They're those things that live outside, right? Interesting, but there's that burning thing in the blue roof out there too...and I hear outside is where bears live.
    • > Speaking on behalf of all of Slashdot...
      > I don't understand the analogy at all.

      Perhaps Brian just leads a far more interesting life than the rest of us.

  • It's obvious that Brian Hook is very intelligent, good at analysis, and a good writer. However, it seems he has made a common mistake. It appears to me he didn't give enough attention to the sociology of what he was doing.

    He said, "Our (up until now) successful business plan went from looking perfect -- I mean perfect, with near flawless execution on our part, clear skies ahead, and nothing but open road as far as we could see -- to looking disastrous in the span of about six months total. During that time I also made the decision to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia from San Diego."

    It's very common, I've found, that people mention the really big issue quickly, and then continue talking about things of less importance. This looks to me like one of those times. I find it surprising that he would move to another state while in the middle of trying to establish his company. Why? What were the real sociological and psychological factors that pushed him to move then, when he could have waited?

    Was his wife jealous? Did she fear she would have less control over him if he became successful? I'm guessing something powerful was at work, and that had much more influence than was discussed.

    Certainly his move would have caused his business partner, Rosie, to feel less confident in his commitment. He, arbitrarily, as far as we are told, chose to absent himself from the personal interaction of being physically present.

    Now he alone owns the business. Maybe that is something he wanted.
    • "clear skies ahead, and nothing but open road as far as we could see -- to looking disastrous in the span of about six months total. During that time I also made the decision to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia from San Diego."

      I think this was part of his problem. I live in San Diego and I was just outside, the skies are clear and I didn't see any traffic on the roads. I don't know how the weather/traffic is in Atlanta but it must be worst.
      • "clear skies ahead, and nothing but open road as far as we could see -- to looking disastrous in the span of about six months total. During that time I also made the decision to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia from San Diego."

        I think this was part of his problem. I live in San Diego and I was just outside, the skies are clear and I didn't see any traffic on the roads. I don't know how the weather/traffic is in Atlanta but it must be worst.

        Yes. That's definitely the problem. I live in Atlanta and this mor

    • by Deraj DeZine (726641) on Monday April 26, 2004 @01:39PM (#8974163)
      If you read more of the article, you'd see that he telecommuted most of the time anyway and his games that had been selling well were starting to lose out due to comptetition.

      I don't think his move really changed what was going to happen to that company. They were simply riding a temporary indie/puzzle game boom and they didn't change their focus once the boom was over. I guess the fact that they were creatively drained probably affected things too (preventing them from switching genres easily).
  • by MiceHead (723398) on Monday April 26, 2004 @08:36AM (#8971314) Homepage
    There's a thread about this in the Dexterity indie developer forums [dexterity.com]. Some of these folks are from the industry, (i.e., having left development of commercial titles to work on independent titles) and are familiar with Hook/Pyrogon. Another developer offers a different perspective on Pyrogon's closing, here [asharewarelife.com].
    • Thomas Warfield, the "another developer" mentioned above, notes the distribution of the games through third party portals and the reliance on this as a failure point. He goes on in another post to mention online shareware/software distributors such as Digital River [digitalriver.com], eSellerate [esellerate.net] and SWREG [swreg.org]. I'd be interested in hearing anyone's experiences of these services, especially involved with generating income from smaller games (ie. 1 or 2 person projects). Are there hidden costs that impose a break-even sales limit, a
      • I've used DigiBuy [digibuy.com] (now owned by Digital River) for a number of years, and am happy with them. Services of that type seem to be pretty straightforward -- DigiBuy, RegNow, SWReg, Kagi, etc. all offer comparable packages. There's a setup fee per product (for DigiBuy, this is $10), and a service fee with a per-order minimum, (for DigiBuy, their take is about 14% per order, minimum $3). The only "gotcha!" would be chargeback fees on fraudulent order, but that happens rarely.
  • by gl4ss (559668) on Monday April 26, 2004 @08:41AM (#8971344) Homepage Journal
    that was easily made by almost anyone onto a market that was getting full, with a crew that was focused for something much bigger.. really titles like candy crusher don't really take that many fellas to produce(heck, I'm pretty sure I could clone it on series60, native or j2me, in just a week of 8 hour workdays. heck, I'm not that sure that i'm not going to do it since more or less it's already a clone of a gameboy game and the push for this year at school is already almost gone).

    the final points are good, but they're good for any business(the first 3 at least - DON'T RUN OUT OF OPERATING MONEY IF YOU HAVE EXPENSES), at least some dotcoms could have read those points and not spent the money that would have kept the company running for YEARS in just a few months in something stupid(like new cars, outrageous salaries and shit like that).

    • some dotcoms could have read those points and not spent the money that would have kept the company running for YEARS in just a few months in something stupid(like new cars, outrageous salaries and shit like that).

      I think you misunderstand the intent of some of the dot coms. The founders started them not to make money for investors but rather to make money from investors. The new cars, outrageous salaries, etc... made perfect sense for these guys.

  • by Deraj DeZine (726641) on Monday April 26, 2004 @11:43AM (#8972969)
    particularly known for its Flash-based Web games like Candy Cruncher

    I read an article by the guy that ported Candy Cruncher to Linux and he was using SDL. It is clearly NOT a flash-based web game. Just because it has cute, shiny graphics and it works on multiple platforms does not make it Flash-based or browser-based.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2004 @03:30PM (#8975347)
    All their games are highly derivative of other games that were already on the market. (By companies like GameHouse and PopCap). I don't understand how anyone can expect to be successful in this industry by just churning out clones.

    I was once on a team back in '95 who were developing a 2D PC side-scroller. They kept keeping themselves optimistic by quoting that Epic's "Jazz JackRabbit" sold XX number of copies. That in itself is a big mistake. The whole idea that if you copy a product, you'll attain the same level of success. It just doesn't work that way. You have to have a unique product people want, and you have to market it right, and all the while keeping a conservative reign on your expenses.

  • Doomed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Swanktastic (109747) on Monday April 26, 2004 @06:10PM (#8977273)
    A company without someone who is an expert in marketing and/or sales is doomed to failure. Every sentence in the article reinforces their chief problem-- they were focused only on product development. Good products make for easier sales, they rarely sell themselves.

    The duo seemed to despise doing anything they didn't consider "real work." If that's the case, be a dev/artist for someone else! Don't start your own company and expect to be "doing the thing you love" 8 hours a day, five days a week." I've been an entrepreneur-- you spend 1/3 of your time working on what you want to do and 2/3 of the time working on the things you have to do to make payroll/rent/expenses.

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