If you are interested in the process of making and selling games, have I got the blog for you!
Hi folks- I’m really sorry I’ve been so silent lately. I really appreciate all the patience the fans of Pocketwatch have had and I’m happy all of you have so much faith in me and my work. Anyways, I feel like I owe readers and fans of the Venture Games an explanation for why its been so long since I updated the world on Dinosauria!
When I started Pocketwatch Games, Dinosauria was the game I really wanted to make. But I didn’t feel that I was prepared to make my “masterpiece” and I didn’t feel the technology was ready to handle the types of scenes I wanted to create. Venture Africa did pretty well financially, which allowed me to hire someone full-time to help out on Venture Arctic. Arctic didn’t do as well and sadly, I had to let him go. After a while struggling to try and get sales of Arctic up, I had to take on some contract work. I helped out on a website called Green.com, which was a virtual world for kids that never quite got off the ground. After working for someone else, though, it reminded me why I was in business for myself. So I started working on Dinosauria part-time in about September of 2008 and I was full time on it in January 2009.
The guys I got to help me out worked feverishly for the next six months. And while the art was looking fantastic, and the research end of things had uncovered lots of great source material (thanks largely to you guys), the one area where I just wasn’t happy was the game design itself. I didn’t feel the game was fun.
If you know anything about game development, probably the most important rule is this: don’t enter full production on a game until you know that it’s FUN. You really can’t progress until you’ve tried out all the variations of your ideas and you have the ones that work. Well, I spent January through July building things, then wiping the slate clean, building another prototype and then starting over. I once again started to run out of steam. I’ve now been working by myself (with remote contractors) for five years, and I was having a hard time making this game into the masterpiece I wanted it to be.
It could be that I was putting too much pressure on myself: some of the advice I got was to just accept that the game isn’t my dream game and just “get it over with”, but I wasn’t comfortable with that. So I decided to take a break from working on it and work on a couple of small concepts I had rolling around in the back of my head. The point was to try to get my design juices flowing again so that I could come back to Dinosauria with fresh eyes.
So I designed some board game concepts that I thought perhaps I could sell alongside the games. (the Venture Africa game is actually a lot of fun, I’d love to get it published at some point). Then I came back to Dinosauria. And I once again found myself in the same position. No matter what I did, the game just didn’t seem fun.
So I took another break. I made a little web game about bowerbirds and neural networks. And I came back to Dinosauria hoping that I was refreshed. Same situation. The mental and emotional stress this cycle was putting me under probably contributed to my “writer’s block”.
So I decided, ok, I’ll take another break, but this time I’ll make something that I consider an “easy” game design, very much different from the Venture Games. I started working on a 2D co-op stealth game, kind of like Gauntlet crossed with Hitman.
Now I should say that my intention for the Pocketwatch Games “brand” has always been fun, enriching experiences that anyone could play with their kids. I think games like Venture Africa and Arctic and Dinosauria have the potential to change the world for the better. That said, I like to play games. I like games like Call of Duty and Hitman and silly, bloody fun like God of War.
So this little stealth game was called Monaco. It was a game I had been thinking about for a long time, actually. The company I worked for before I started Pocketwatch Games even pitched the idea to Microsoft Game Studios in 2003. So I figured I could just work on it a little bit until I got recharged to go back to Dinosauria.
The irony is, after 9 months of struggling to find the “fun” in Dinosauria, I found it after one week of working on Monaco. The darn thing was really fun after ONE WEEK. I figured, well if this is fun, then I should continue working on it. Another week went by and I was making huge progress.
I quickly began to get stars in my eyes. I was developing the game for XNA (the platform you can use to self publish on the 360). It looked to me like I could probably get the thing done in another 3 weeks or so and be selling the game on the Xbox, which would give me another source of revenue. Yay!
But each week that went by, the game got better and better. I began to think that maybe Monaco had more legs than just a regular old Xbox Indie Games release. It has now been about 10 weeks and the game is fantastic. It’s completely in a different style from anything I’ve done before, which is both scary and refreshing. I can’t wait for everyone to play it.
Luckily, you can at least see Monaco. I just finished up the trailer tonight:
So the question remains: what’s up with Dinosauria? The animal and plant models are all done, the core animations for all the dinosaurs are finishing up this week, and I hope to return to my “white whale” of a game in the beginning of 2010. I still plan to make Dinosauria the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m hoping that the distance I’ve gained from it will allow me to look at it with fresh eyes. And the feeling of success from making something truly FUN with Monaco will power me through to the same kind of success in the dinosaur world.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.