Archive for December, 2010

Almost done the Game Design Document for the first game.  I’m going with a nice simple game that I’ve actually done a simple version of in Flash before, so some of the art is already done.  I’ll be adding more to the game, of course…gotta’ make it worth $0.99 haha  You’re the ninja below and you dodge shurikens, explosives, fire-arrows, etc. that come flying at you faster and faster:

A lot of stuff came up while I was writing the GDD.  I’m planning to try outsourcing the programming to India or something because I don’t have an in-house programmer yet, so I want to make sure my GDD is detailed enough to explain all the details and make it fool-proof, but also short enough that someone won’t look at it and go “A 40 page GDD??  I haven’t even read it but this is gonna’ cost ya $10,000 for me to make!” haha  A few people have advised against outsourcing to these big “thousand programmers in India” places, and I’m a bit nervous about it because who knows what you’re gonna’ get.  I figure the safest bet is to use a site like Elance or oDesk and go by the reviews of the programmers (seeing if the jobs they’ve done before are actual iPhone games and not like, a calculator App).

My thinking is as long as the project is small, I can’t lose very much money on it.  If stuff isn’t done right or on time, I’ll just pull the plug before I lose much money.  I think the best way to approach this will be an ultra-super-structured approach, where the game is broken down into chunks with time estimates for each.  Programmers in India can work while I’m sleeping because they’re on the other side of the world, which means I can wake up, check the newest build and a list of art that they need, spend the day doing that and send them a checklist of bugs or tweaks I want them to fix and the art they need, and then go to sleep and wake up to a new build with those changes.  That seems pretty efficient to me.  I think if I approached them with a vague “Make me a puzzle game involving dinosaurs” concept, who knows what I’d get.  But the GDD I’m writing is pretty much the whole game pseudo-coded haha  I just need them to turn it into iPhone usable stuff.

Above was the first version of the main flowchart.  It made sense in my head, from Gameplay if you hit Pause you can choose Options/Give Up?/Resume.  But I realized there’s no real indication that on the Pause menu are those 3 options.  Or that SFX/Music Volume are not sub-pages of Options, they’re actually on the Options screen.  So I did some revamping and got:

This one’s much better.  Any screen with blue options, those are actual selectable options on the screen, and the arrows show where each one leads to.  And in the top-right corner, some of them have red Back arrows or a red Pause button and those screens will have those things.  This flowchart could actually probably be cut & pasted for a few games since everything on it is pretty universal haha  So I think writing my second GDD will go a lot faster/smoother.

That’s it for today!  I’m off to home for the holidays but I’m bringing my laptop so I can get some more work done.  It’s hard to really call it work when it’s fun.  :)  Merry Christmas, all!  Hope Santa doesn’t bring ya coal haha

- Quickdraw

I’m hoping to have cutscenes in my games…possibly not the first one, because I don’t want to get too complicated when I’m just learning the ins and outs of the system, but definately beyond that.  The first game I’m doing involves ninjas, and I want to have some bad-guy soldiers in there…they may only just show up in cutscenes, I’ve started the Game Design Document for it but the plot section is just really rough right now so when I flesh that out I’ll have a better idea of what art I need.

I’m messing around with using 3d to render out lineart for stuff that’s complicated or needs to keep it’s shape in perspective.  So if I had a truck flipping around I would probably just model the rough shape of a truck and render it out and either use that lineart as final if it works for the object, or just use it as a guide to make sure everything is looking solid.  I’m not a fast 3d modeller at ALL, but if I’m going to have a character/object shown from a bunch of weird angles, it might be faster to do it this way:

I’m not doing everything in 3d (had to add the body), and it requires some clean-up (like the neck/jaw), but man does it save time to start from perfectly in-perspective line-art.  For one picture it’s kind of a waste…it’d probably take me less time to map out the perspective by hand and get it all looking right.  But the awesomeness of doing it this way, if I’m going to have a bunch of cutscenes/animations is:

Bam!  SO much time saved.  These are the actual renders, totally usable (there are little glitches like on the top-left one where his lower armor connects to the helmet, but those are a quick fix and probably not even noticable if he’s moving).

My first game is gonna’ take place in a Japanese village of sorts, and I need a shot of a cityscape…I could attempt to do it all by hand, background by background, or I could render a couple different building model designs, cut and paste them around and create a rough city, then go in and render it from various angles and have a bunch of different levels taking place around the village in no time!  DC Comics uses the crap out of Google SketchUp for this.  They’ve modelled their major buildings (Daily Planet building, Justice League headquarters, etc.) so their artists can throw them in quickly and easily.  Sure traditional art purists might say “Well you should do it the traditional way because that’s creating art, this is just cheating!” but for my first few games the art will pretty much be a one-man operation.  Any time I can save doing art means I can focus on other parts of the game or cram more art in so I say “Whatever works!” haha

- Quickdraw

Shooting for efficiency!

I figure since I’m pretty much a one-man operation at the moment it’s a good idea to streamline what I can. If I was just an artist my task-list would be simple: draw a pirate, make him slash his sword, etc. Unfortunately, because I’m in charge of “everything” that means mixed into the standard art task list I’m going to have extra tasks: create a press kit, write press release, create and upload gameplay trailer, etc.

So two of the first things I’m going to do in this vein are creating a template Game Design Document and a marketing to-do checklist that I can cut & paste as a starting point when I begin a new game. The marketing checklist will be easy…for the most part that doesn’t change: write a press release announcing the game, create a trailer, send out promo codes, etc. Pretty much every game can follow the same plan…the checklist is basically to remind me “oh ya, we’re halfway thru dev, time to make a behind-the-scenes featurette!”

The GDD, however, will be harder to template. When I worked in the industry our GDDs were designed to be pitches for landing projects so they were bloated with an overkill of “speaking to a child” information. “What is this game’s target market?”, “Why will it appeal to that market?”, “How is this game different from similar games?”, etc. Useful info if you’re a publisher considering a project pitch but a waste of time for a small developer working on independent intellectual properties…you wouldn’t guess it from the length of my posts but I cant stand inefficiency haha

Another aspect to consider is that I will probably end up hiring programmers in India or somewhere (any Cocos2D proggers out there looking for work? haha) so my GDD will have to be extra-specific to avoid language barriers. The more I can specify, the less risk of confusion and tweaking down the road. I figure I’ll even be writing parts of the GDD in pseudo-code for stuff I’ve got worked out in my head like “parrot flies to pirate’s X-position and when within 10 pixels of it the parrot plays it’s LandingOnShoulder animation”. It’s more work than just “the parrot follows the pirate and lands on his shoulder” but it should result in less tweaking. I’m pretty notorious with programmers I’ve worked with for saying stuff like “can you move the textbox 2 pixels to the left?” haha

Goals for the end of the month are to have the first game’s GDD finished and templates for a bunch of stuff (press releases and directory structures and such) so that I’m good to go January 3rd. I’m also going to need to set up some SVN stuff. So much work just to start making games haha

- Quickdraw

Over the years I’ve put away a little money here and there for the possible future start-up of a game studio.  It’s not a lot, I’ve got about $20,000.  If I needed more, I could tap into a Line of Credit at the bank ($15,000) and max out my credit cards ($5,000 on one, $10,000 on the other) for a theoretical grand total of $50,000.  I’m not opposed to going into debt (if the Cut the Rope devs went $10,000 into debt, I’m pretty sure they’d be cool with that considering they can pay that off a dozen times over), but I’d prefer to avoid it…thus the slow saving up of a bit of money each month toward my start-up $20k.

So what’s it cost me to start up?:

About $10,000, to start up in luxury, using legit copies of Photoshop, After Effects, Flash, etc., testing devices all the way back to the older iPod Touch, money toward tools/audio, having actual business licenses, etc.  The Office Space cost is just 1/3rd of my rent, and I’m throwing in brand new devices instead of cheaper eBay’ed ones.  I’m using webspace I already have, but I could set up a free WordPress site and use that for $0 so I didn’t throw it in the list.

Having a desktop and laptop is excessive but I already have a desktop and as an artist this laptop is phenominal:

If you’re an artist, I can’t recommend the Lenovo X200t enough.  I wanted to make sure it was powerful enough to run Photoshop, After Effects, etc. decently so I added some RAM from the default 2GB, and I went with the normal pen-touch screen instead of the multi-touch (you can use your fingers and squeeze them together to zoom in, etc. like a Mac) because the multi-touch costs more and really I don’t need that…I just need to be able to draw.

So according to my receipt mine has:

- Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 processor LV (1.86GHz 1066MHz 6MBL2) (no idea what this means, but it’s fast enough)

- 12.1″ WideView SuperBright LED backlit WXGA panel (the screen is great, nice and bright, though I DO find that I have to tweak the Saturation slightly when I’m done painting because the colors sometimes look a little too intense when I bring it up on my desktop)

- 3 GB PC3-8500 DDR3 (2 DIMM) (I don’t even really know what this means.  It runs my programs fast is all I know, haha  there’s no lag between sweeping the pen around and the line appearing, and I routinely have WinAMP, Photoshop, MSN, an Internet Explorer browser, etc. all running at once with no problems)

- 160GB Hard Drive (tons of room, and I’d just get a USB HD if I needed more room)

- X200T 8 Cell Li-Ion Battery (lasts about 4 hours at full brightness, but often I like to dim the screen so I’m not staring at a neon glowing screen whlie I draw…I make the background canvas color darker too, as you can see in the pic above.  Gotta’ protect the ol’ eyesight!)

- no modem (I left it out to keep it light-weight for comfort holding it on my lap or cradled in my arm, and I’m always around Wi-Fi)

- I grabbed a Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX for about $90…to me that’s expensive for a mouse, but holy crap was it worth it.  This thing works on ANY surface, so I don’t have to worry about a mouse-pad or reflective table surfaces etc.  I can run the thing on my thigh if I’m feeling ultra lazy haha  Plus it’s got a super tiny USB plug, there’s no inch-long USB sticking out of my laptop making me worry it’s going to snap if I try to balance my laptop on my crossed-legs when I’m sitting on the couch…it’s this tiny little nubbin’ that I just leave in the laptop 24/7.

Lenovo was having a sale at the time (I bought it in November 2009, might have been a Christmas sale) so instead of $2,600 this came to $1,800 but I Googled for HOURS looking for coupon/savings sites and found a coupon code (CAEBTSSAVINGS) that saved me an epic $365 for a grand total after adding GST of of $1,500-ish.

It’s got a mouse nubbin instead of a touch-pad which I dig because I hate how much extra room a touch-pad takes up design-wise…I like my portable products portable.  All in all this is a fantastic laptop and as an artist I love it.  I consider it an artistic investment…with an art program on it, there’s no reason this computer wouldn’t be just as functional in 20 years as it is now, in terms of being a portable full-color drawing pad.  I actually find myself using this laptop more than my desktop…basically everything I’ve done related to this business (from documentation, to signing papers, to setting up and updating the website, to doing the logo art, etc.) has been done on my laptop.

Okay so say I wanted to do this for cheaper.  What could I cut out:

Just the core testing devices (odds are if it runs on an iPhone it’ll run on an iPod Touch so I don’t need a Touch, but I need an iPad to make sure the game looks good and the UI feels right and such VS the iPhone), and the cheapest Mac laptop.  Audio can be done for free (royalty-free music from around the net, doing my own sound effects, etc.).  If I hire programmers in India or wherever, I can get programming for a lot cheaper…logically quality probably suffers, so I don’t think I’d want to make a huge complicated project, but that’s just something to keep in mind when I’m designing my games.  I could just use Paint.NET or The Gimp for art instead of needing Photoshop but I love Photoshop so to me it was worth buying, plus I get After Effects and Premiere for doing video/trailers, and Flash for vector art/animation, etc.  I can work out of Starbucks like 2d Boy or mall food courts like I currently do and not have to pay for office space.

I could do it for even cheaper I’m sure.  When you have no money, $4,000 seems like a lot.  But if you consider that you’ll throw that kind of money at a 55″ HD TV, an X-Box 360, games, etc. on your credit card, at least this has a chance of paying itself off haha  It’s just a matter of priorities.

The numbers above are all estimates, but it gives a rough idea of what it costs to start up.  A lot of people still think you need to raise tons of money or go around asking dozens of investors to take a chance on you to get into the game industry.  But seriously, an Apple dev license, a Macbook, and the appropriate business permits and you’re good to go.  Hell, if you’re not an artist or programmer, you can just design a game and outsource people to make the whole thing for you.  In the future everyone’ll have their own apps/games on App Stores haha  If I had a teenage kid, I don’t see why I wouldn’t encourage him to develop a game and throw it up there…as long as it involved ninjas and explosions instead of being a fart soundboard haha

- Quickdraw

Bulletproof Outlaws…and here…we…GO!

Welcome to the Bulletproof Outlaws website. If you came here from yarrninja then you may have been following my progress as I complete a business course and start this game studio up from scratch. This site will contain development blogs for our games, behind the scenes snippets, explanations of my marketing attempts, etc.

This site will be updated regularly and I will be publishing the cold hard numbers both in profits and expenses, good or bad, so that other people considering breaking into the game industry can get an idea of what to expect.

This month I’ll be fleshing out Game Design Documents for a handful of game ideas. I’m going to be starting with really small projects, with 3 week development times. I believe the best way to succeed in the iPhone game market is to pump out a bunch of small, polished, “simple but fun” games instead of putting all my eggs in one “magnum opus” basket. Once we’re financially stable, we’ll increase development times and game complexity.  That said, the first order of business is to flesh out a few short simple game ideas this month.

Here’s how my creative process goes right now:

1) As I’m walking around going through my day, I look at stuff from a game design perspective. Riding the bus in the morning I think “man, riding the bus at rush hour sucks, I can’t even sit, we’re all crammed in here like a can of sardines and the bus driver is STILL trying to stuff new passenger in! hmm…I wonder if that would make a decent game…say you’re a bus driver and you have to cram people in and decide how many to take at new stops and the people are different sizes and stuff…I dunno, bus driving isn’t very exciting. Maybe you’re a robot stuffing parts and gears into a machine to get your ship working so you can fly away before the planet hostiles get you?  There might be something with that concept at the least, having to fit and rotate various sized/shaped objects into a pre-defined space quickly. Oh wait, that’s Tetris actually. Crap, back to the drawing board!”

2) Whip out my iPhone if I’m out and about or laying in bed and open Evernote and jot some notes down into my “Game Ideas” note. I use Evernote because it’s free, it has a mobile version that’s quick to load up, and it stores everything “in the clouds” where any system I log into Evernote on, I can grab my notes. So I can be drifting off to sleep or sitting on the pooper and jot down “- dinosaurs wearing top-hats and flying helicopters. 2d side view. Helicopter controls like swimming in Mario 1. Rockets can be upgraded. Something involving lasers as powerup or boss??” and in the morning hop on my desktop or go downtown to my “office” and flip open my laptop and I can access that note with no fuss. I can tweak it a bit and the changes happen on all my platforms. Way more convenient than carrying around a notepad and if I ever lost all my CPUs somehow, the data would still be safely stored in the clouds.

3) Every few weeks I go through this list and create a new Page for each game idea in a private Google Site. At this point I’m just throwing the jot note blurb in. I use Gogle Sites because it’s free and in the future I’ll need to link the information to whoever my employees end up being so this is nice and convenient. Ideally down the road I’d like to have an internal site like that where everyone in the company can post up little game ideas and we can all add comments and ideas and flesh some of them out into do-able games we can actually make.

4) These game ideas are divided into categories of development time. I have a ton of ideas that would be great but would take 3 or 4 months to make to their full potential. Right now I need simple game ideas I can do in 2 or 3 weeks so as much as I may love those bigger ideas, they’re gonna have to sit on the shelf until I’m in the 3 or 4 month dev time range and I’ll have to get thinking on some smaller games to stay on track. Someday I’ll get around to those games, I’m in no hurry…I feel it’s important to stick to a plan even if emotionally I may be eager to work on a bigger project.

5) Over time as ideas come to me or as I sit down and doodle concept art, I’ll flesh out these jot note ideas out into larger and more detailed descriptions…designing the game mechanics, character ideas, marketing ideas, etc.

6) The first few days of each project will be dedicated to taking the fleshed out ideas and formatting them into an official Game Design Document along with concept art and such. This will be an organized document (I’ll probably create a template to use) that I can hand to the programmers and anyone else on the project so we all know what we’re working on and the final vision is clear. At the start I’m probably going to be working over the Internet with cheap programmers in India or something, so the more detailed the GDD is the less confusion there will be during development.

I plan to start actual development in early January, so December is going to be dedicated to finishing this website up and writing up the first couple GDDs so I can hit the ground running next month!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the site and our games! This next few months will be exiting…I’m finally going to live out a childhood dream haha

Stay tuned!

- Quickdraw

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