Tag Archives: Guest Author

How to Make It in the Game Business –  Getting Your Company Off the Ground

Heather Brown, 5 November 2014

Continuing our series of articles about the game business, our intrepid entrepreneurial duo gives the lowdown on bootstrapping your way through a new company launch

“You don’t go into game design to make money.”

One of our happy minions at Origins

One of our happy minions at Origins

How many times have I heard that?  Well, let’s just say that if I had a dollar for every time, I wouldn’t need to make any money from games.  There is some truth to it.  If all you do is design your game and throw it out to the masses without a plan—you won’t make much.  And if your goal is to share your creation with the world for the fun of it, that’s perfectly okay.

My name is Heather Brown and I’m one of the owners of Proving Ground Games.  We’re a small design and publication firm based in Ohio.  We have a vision to grow though!  Right now our staff consists of the owners and an intern, as well as a small army of volunteers who are in it for the swag.

The Basics

You probably don’t have an MBA—we sure don’t.  So, you’ll want to educate yourself on business practices and Intellectual Property law.  I learned a ton from the IP seminar they have every year at Origins.  I’m not an expert, but I know what’s patentable, what’s copyrightable, and how to do it.

There are federal and state resources that are available as you plan your business.  In Ohio, we have access to the Ohio 1st Stop Business Connection.  It has resources, information, and advice on starting a business, writing a business plan, securing funding, and you can apply for the necessary licenses online.  Your state likely has a similar website.  You can check the US Small Business Administration website to see what is available in your state, and for even more information.

How to Make It In The Game Business – Navigating Steam’s Greenlight

This month we’re kicking off a new series of articles about “How to Make It In The Game Business”. And since we obviously don’t have a clue (because we haven’t been able to quit our day jobs yet and devote full time to GH) we’re bringing in some outside help!

Every Wednesday in October, look for a column from someone with practical experience in the game industry to drop in and offer some advice, encouragement, and wisdom about the road they’ve traveled in the game business.  After October, we’ll shift to a monthly column, but we wanted to open with a bang.

And for that awesome opening column, we’ve brought along not one, but two game developers to tell you all about their journey through Steam’s Greenlight program to shepherd their titles to publication.  So please welcome James from Evil Twin (in blue ink), whose Victory at Sea naval wargame is out there now, and also welcome back Steve from Yorkshire Rifles (in green ink), whose Airship Dragoon got a lot of coverage from GrogHeads earlier this summer.  Both describe their path to Greenlight success.

When we were given the task of taking Tabletop war game Victory At Sea into the digital realm, our first concern was how long if, ever it would take to get onto Steam.

Traditionally, developers hoping to get their game featured on this hugely popular platform are invited to sign up for Valve’s Greenlight system, where they can submit promotional videos, images and other game information for potential customers to see. The Steam community can then view and rate those that they’d like to see more of, with Steam eventually releasing the games that receive the most votes. Whilst democratic this is by no means a speedy process, with most games enduring a wait of anywhere between 2 days and 2 years for their game to reach players.

I am “Steve_Yorkshire”, also known as my developing/old modding/trade name “YorkshireRifles” (which is a play on words of “Eton Rifles”, a 1979 song by The Jam). I am a lone indie developer (sometimes known as a “One Man Army” in certain circles of indie development) and I created an old fashioned, uber-hardcore, turn-based squad tactics and global strategy game called “Airship Dragoon”, that has much more in common with titles from the 1980s and early 1990s than contemporary tactics games. It’s a niche strategy game, densely complicated, with enormous campaigns, lengthy battles, and is pretty much the antithesis of modern fast-paced gaming. And it’s available on Steam after getting through Greenlight.

Greenlight is reported to work with a simple algorithm; gain votes from the public members of Steam to get into the top 100 with a modifier depending on commercial popularity of the genre. Whilst this algorithm is not available for public scrutiny it would seem logical that “Action” is more popular than “Strategy”, and thus strategy games would gain a positive modifier due to there being less of them.

In fact from our chats with other developers we have been told that going through the Steam Greenlight process can require patience as well as the ability to hold your nerve when the popularity slows down.

We had received funding from Creative England’s Games Lab SW fund to help make the game we wanted, turning Victory At Sea into a large scale WW2 Naval strategy with RTS and sandbox elements. Our main concern with all the effort we had put in was, would anyone have access to play it through the stores we wanted?