Games Game August 2010
Each month, industry veteran Tom Sloper provides career guidance to game biz wannabes, newbies, and junior professionals with the goal of helping them break into the industry, and stay in. Submit a question to Tom for developer-oriented advice in this column (IGDA members only).
Got Design, Now What? (August 2010)
First thing you have to do before spending any money is to make a business plan. Normally we think of business plans as a document used to obtain funding. That's not necessarily what I'm proposing in your case--especially if you're going to self-fund. I suggest, though, that if you organize your thinking, in a business plan, you'll accomplish a lot of important things.
In your business plan, make sure you specify the business reason. That is to say, your overall goal in making the game. You didn't say, so I have to make guesses. Are you making the game in order to sell copies and make a profit? Or are you making the game just because it's an idea you have to see through, and if so, what will you do with it after you've made it? Or are you doing this as a portfolio piece to leverage a job in the industry? One of Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" is "begin with the end in mind." By knowing your overall goal, you can prioritize your action plan.
If your overall goal is to make a profit, how are you going to do that with just one game? One game idea is not a business plan. So if you have just one game idea, where are you going to get more ideas?
What's the platform? I assume your game will be a PC game or will work in a browser, since the mainstream consoles are not particularly open to amateurs or novices. You need to research your target platform and the currently favored business models. In other words, as I said to Travis in my June 2010 column, "Read, read, read." His question was a little similar to yours, so I recommend you read it, and the September 2008 column. The March 2003 column is starting to sound a little outdated in the current climate, but you could check that out too. Click "Archives" above to access those.
Lastly, to answer the two questions you actually asked: how to budget and where to look for people. First, determine what you can afford. Determine your budget and timeline. You can look at the latest Salary Survey figures at gdmag.com for the current amounts people in the industry get paid. That's not what you're going to pay, though, unless you hire people full-time. Contractors cost more (because they have to pay for their own insurance, for one thing), and people in other countries cost less. According to a Beriah study, you can save up to 80% if you hire Asian developers, 23% if you hire Europeans. But those savings can be seriously eaten into by other costs: learning curves, change requests, communication difficulties. I wrote about how to create budgets in FAQ 62 on my website. And I suggest that you network a lot, starting with your local IGDA chapter. If there isn't one, start one. If there is one but it's not active, become an activist and get it rebooted. And let the development people decide what engine to use.
Please note that there is no guarantee that Tom will be able to respond to all the questions he receives. It is up to his discretion which questions he uses for this column. For further advice and resources, check out the IGDA's discussion forums, the Breaking In web site and the Students & Newbies Outreach section.
Tom Sloper's game biz career began over twenty years ago at Western Technologies, where he designed LCD games and the Vectrex games "Spike" and "Bedlam". There followed stints at Sega Enterprises, Rudell Design, Atari Corporation, and Activision. In 12 years at Activision, Tom produced 36 unique game titles (plus innumerable ports and localizations), designed four games, and won five awards. Tom worked for several months in Activision's Japan operation, in Tokyo. He is perhaps best known for designing, managing and producing Activision's "Shanghai" line. He is currently consulting, writing, speaking, teaching, and developing original games. Find out more at Sloperama.
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