Aspiring game devs, take note: having a crappy, yet completed game in your portfolio is better than having an unfinished one that that you’re constantly trying to improve.
“Some of my students preferred to get a zero on their game assignment rather than hand in a completed game,” said Matt Coombe of Get Set Games (Mega Jump) at Gamercamp panel last weekend.
The third annual all-things-games festival — appropriately dubbed “level 3” — took place in Toronto last weekend, and was filled with game industry and game enthusiasts alike. Coombe participated in one of the last panels of the three-day fest. Also on the Sticking The Landing—Strategies On Shepherding The Next Big Project with Coombe was by Untold Entertainment’s Ryan Henson Creighton (Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure), Julian Spillane of Silicon Knights (X-Men Destiny) and moderated by Inner Space co-host Ajay Fry.
“The best thing you can do is to release something and get feedback on it,” reiterated Coombe. “Get it out there and stop trying to make the best game ever. It’s a good learning opportunity.”
On the subject of deadlines, Spillane and Creighton expressed differing opinions. Spillane feels that once deadlines are set, you should be “incredibly vigilant” while Creighton took a different approach.
“You are your own worst boss,” he said. “Get your mom or your buddy to set a deadline for you,” as reporting to someone else can help motivate your work.
Spillane added that if you’re working for a bigger company, not hitting milestone deadlines can mean being penalized — at a hefty cost, so practicing meeting your goals can be beneficial for your career in the long run.
As for starting up your own company, Spillane — who founded Frozen North Studio before moving to Silicon Knights — said it requires “some level of insanity,” noting that there’s plenty of opportunities for new talent.
It goes without saying that start-ups come with challenges — Coombe said it depends on your risk-tolerance, but it can be done. Get Set Games was born out of the basement and the team members all held down full-time jobs while doing what they loved in their spare time. Sound familiar?
Even with all the risks involved, “that should never be a reason not to do it and not make games,” said Coombe firmly.
Persistence and passion paid off in Get Set’s case: Mega Jump recently surpassed 18 million downloads since its launch a year and a half ago, and the side-scrolling follow-up, Mega Run (“It took us a long time to come up with that name,” joked Coombe) is slated for a Q1 2012 release.
While a game like Mega Jump appeals to more of a mass audience, Creighton is working on word puzzle Spellirium. His target audience? “Anyone who will pay $5 for this game,” he said.
Tailoring the game to “word nerds,” he’s putting the game at a higher price point to gun for a more specific, niche crowd rather than free or $0.99 for a broader audience.
And for those who aren’t looking to start their own companies, but work for existing ones, Spillane advises: “Attitude is better than aptitude — but there is a balance.”