Sep 18th, 2013
It’s feels weird to think back about how we started out. We’re almost professional now, with a few games under our belts, more on the way and our own kitchen. But it’s funny to remember all the stuff we used to do. (Maybe only for us.)
For instance, when we were making Joe Danger we wrote a column for Edge about our experiences as a tiny, new, indie developer. Actually, we sort of cringe to read the articles now, it’s a bit like reading our diaries when we were teenagers. But it’s all part of our history, so we thought we’d publish them here again every week :)
Sean Murray I’m not sure how I got here. Its 6am on a Sunday morning, August 2008 and one of my best friends, David, has just fallen asleep on my shoulder. Stansted Airport is slowly waking up around us as the sun rises and I’m feeling pretty low.
On the way here a truck pulled into us on the motorway. I like to think hardened gaming muscles saved us, but as the truck lurched out in slow motion and Dave adjusted his sleeping position on the back seat, one thought was clear in my mind – the upside of a fiery pile-up on the M25, at least we wouldn’t have had to go to Leipzig.
Three hours ago we were all still working on the build, leaving just enough time for a quick playthrough before jumping in the car. The game crashes five different ways in as many minutes, but it’s too late – time’s up and we need to pack up and go. Ryan and Grant look a bit shellshocked as we leave, wishing us luck.
Neither of us has been to a trade show before and we have no idea what to expect. We certainly don’t know how to pitch a game at one (or if that actually, really happens anymore). We try to run through it on the plane – “maybe you say this”, “then I could say that”, but it just doesn’t sound like us, and it’s making us both more nervous.
Our hotel room looks more like an orphanage dorm, but Dave is finally able to crash out and I start coding on my little laptop (Christ. I wish I brought a mouse). At some point during the night David suddenly wakes up, pushes me aside and works a miracle on the build, and finally we can head out to grab some food.
The decision to come here was completely last minute, but lately we had a building need just to show our project to people we don’t already know. We’re not really sure what we are looking for, whether we want to sign up with a platform holder or maybe find a publisher, or even if any of them will be interested. All we know is that we’ve spent three intense months in a tiny room and we need to see what’s going on outside.
9am the next morning at the Leipzig Centre we have the first of five meetings over the next three days. Dave sets up the laptop in a quiet corridor and I fetch our first publisher. The three of us crouch round the screen – this can’t be how it’s supposed to be done. Mr. Publisher has had no sleep and is fading fast as we fumble over ourselves getting out some basic introductions.
Then the game boots. Suddenly we remember what this is all about – and it’s easy. I stop for a second and realise we’re both on our feet shouting, joking and giddily cutting each other off (to the annoyance of everyone trying to get past). We’ve lived and breathed the game for months. Despite our nerves, talking about and playing it is actually really enjoyable. We give him the controller reluctantly, but he loves it, totally oblivious to the bugs and glitches we are so painfully aware of and there’s nothing he can ask we haven’t already thought about.
Then things get serious, he phones his boss to join us and our fifteen minute meet and greet, turns into two hours. Suddenly we’re being asked all the questions we don’t have answers for – will we sell the IP, what is the budget for five platforms, what royalty terms are acceptable… We hand over a build and videos and arrange to meet again.
Our heads are spinning as we leave, but we’re buzzing. Cut to spontaneous high fives and Space Channel 5 style strutting. After that it gets blurry. Our five meetings turn into ten, then over twenty. We meet investors, publishers, agents and other developers. I meet two former employers, one wishes us luck, the other the opposite. We get cocky and ambush people at their booths. We blag a meeting with the VP of the world’s biggest publisher – who falls asleep during our introduction (we leave it a few minutes before banging the desk). We get kicked out of the Sony party (to be fair, we weren’t really invited) and survive a lock-in at a very German pub. We make a lot of excited, shouty calls back home (always first pretending something terrible has happened) and we learn a lot, about the business, about our game and about independent development.
Nearly a year later, our game has progressed hugely and we still haven’t announced or decided a final route to market. What happened in between has been the most stressful, fun and intense year of our lives – and now we get a chance from Edge to write about it. How cool.
In that time we’ve built our own engine, bought dev kits, signed contracts, lost deals, had huge fights, bigger celebrations, met the press, travelled the globe, pitched to publishers and made a game we’ve always wanted to. We’ve all been making games since we were kids, but I realise now we’ve never known much about how the industry really works. I think we’ve probably done everything the hard way – but hopefully someone might learn from one of our hundreds of mistakes.