jueves, 27 de julio de 2017

Hope to see you soon (again)

I started this blog at the beginning of 2013 while finishing my ph.D. stay in Rennes (France). I did it as a self-motivation boost and because I thought it could be useful for myself to keep track of my progress and discoveries. And for some time, the effort it took to maintain the blog was really worth it. However, I must be honest to you and to myself: this blog is kind of abandoned, and I don't think this is going to change in the near future.

This is why I think that the most correct action is to say goodbye. I don't intend to close or delete its contents as it contains information that can be useful either for me or for others. But I won't be writing more posts on this blog, not at least in the short term. In fact, this has already been the case for some time. During the last months, the number of posts has been decreasing and it kind of hurts me having a supposedly active blog without recent posts. I need this closure to move forward.

During the time I've been writing this blog, lots of nice things have happened to me: I finished my ph.D., I published a couple of games on Android and iPhone, I co-founded a video games studio, I got married and I published my first PC game on Steam: Breaking Fast.

Now, I have nice projects ahead and I'll continue writing about game development, but I'll keep the posts in the scope of the concrete games I'll be developing by the time.

Thanks a lot to those of you who have been reading the posts until the very end. I hope that some of the posts gave you insight into game development and helped you in some degree.

Good luck with your projects and hope to see you soon!

martes, 4 de abril de 2017

Breaking Fast at Granada Gaming 2017

Hi! Wow, I've just noticed this is my first post in 2017, being the longest gap between posts since the blog creation. Definitely a bad record to break, although I should try to excuse myself: we're finishing up Breaking Fast and it's being so time-consuming... Anyway, I'll try to catch up over time.

This weekend Granada Gaming has been held in Granada (Spain), a video games event that has been co-located with Ficzone 2017, a huge event about comics, board games, cosplay and anime. The event has exceeded all the expectations and the number of visitors has been huge (although I don't know official figures yet).

Of course, we've attended this event to show, one more time, Breaking Fast. As usual, people have enjoyed the game quite a lot, and groups of people of all ages have played it and replayed it lots of times, pushing the limits of their friendship at times...

The whole Breaking Fast team was together in a event for the first time! 

On Saturday evening, there was a networking event for the indie devs (Devs&Beers) where we could talk to each other in a more relaxed environment with nice food and drinks. We had the chance to meet other devs with whom we'd already shared stand in other events, and it's a very warm feeling when you see that they continue working on their illusions in such a volatile and fragile industry in Spain. Also, we could get to know new people and projects, which is also very welcome. During this networking dinner, interesting debates arose about the state of the industry and how indie devs can overcome the barriers in the search of success.

Also, if you've never heard anything about Granada, you should probably know that it's very well known for its "tapas" (although if you're from abroad, you might think they're typical in Spain in general), mid-size plates that are served for every drink you order. And the quality of the food is up to the expectations of the Mediterranean diet, so yes, it's a good place to eat.

One of the celebrities invited to Granada Gaming was Akira Yamaoka, who is a composer famously known for his work on Silent Hill. As part of the networking program, we developers had a group meeting with him in which we could ask him whatever we wanted to know. One of my questions was about how to commercialize a game like Breaking Fast in Japan once it's localized in this language. He told me that he thought this game could sell well in Japan and advised me to partner with a breakfast food company to gain visibility.

As a final anecdote, there was a girl who attended the event wearing the official t-shirt of Breaking Fast! She had participated in one of the contests we organized in previous events and she had won. And there she was, exhibiting with pride this t-shirt while playing Breaking Fast. This was a really awesome moment for us!

sábado, 31 de diciembre de 2016

Becoming Indie Developer: A 2016 Retrospective

Hi buddies!

I still remember it as if it was yesterday when I started this blog. It was April 2013 and I was doing my Ph.D. stay in Rennes, France. By that time, I was a full-time researcher at the University of Malaga and my main goal was to finish my stay, write my last journal articles and defend my Ph.D. However, for a very long time I had had an itch for making games.

My experience with games development started surprisingly early, when I was around 14 years old. By that time, my grandfather, who knew how much I wanted to learn this stuff, gave me a Darkbasic pack as a birthday present. I still remember how, during high school classes, I would daydream about the amazing games I was about to make. I can perfectly remember thinking to myself about making a Matrix-style game where the main character would avoid bullets bending over himself, just like Neo, and I would naively think that it wouldn't take me long to reach such level of expertise. Of course, reality imposed itself, and there were so many new terms I had no clue about, that it took me a long time to just make a Pong clone (with some additional cool features like moving obstacles).

By that time and until finishing high school I made some very simple games, and when I started the Computer Science degree at the University, the demanding subjects drifted me away from my dream. Yet I still read about games programming and with the new knowledge acquired I could understand more and more about how a videogame is built from the ground-up. Life circumstances (which were really driven by luck and momentum, as they usually are) geared me to start working in the Computer Science department, where I would take a 4 years Ph.D. grant after finishing the degree. Over this period, I overlapped my Ph.D. with the creation of small video games: in 2014, I released Chubby Buddy on iOS, and in 2015, Limball on iOS and Android (both of them together with Manuela).

All that time was a great experience and I don't regret any of the choices I made, but the truth is that the moment of making games for real never seemed to come. And this is where, during the Ph.D. stay, I made my decision: I would finish my Ph.D., but right after doing so, I would quit research and become full-time game developer. And creating this blog was the first step towards convincing myself of walking down this risky and uncertain path...

And here I am now, after one year, I can really claim that I have become an indie game developer, doing justice to the name of the blog. I wish I could add that it's been a profitable decision, but I cannot claim that, not at least for now. I'm currently finishing Breaking Fast, which I've been developing (together with Manuela, as usual, but also with Oliver and David) for almost a year and which we've financed with the savings accumulated over the aforementioned years of working in the research area. During this time, I've observed some things I want to mention now.

Cool things or things that I think we've done alright

One of the typical problems of unexperienced game developers is delaying the marketing actions to the release date. I think I can clearly claim that we haven't made such mistake. From the very first moment we had a playable version of the game, we attended game events to show it and receive feedback from players. In our case, our first event was PAX East (not bad to be the first one, uh?), and from that event, which took place in April, we have attended more than 10 events over the year. As for marketing in social networks, we have populated our accounts with new contents nearly every day since we started. Believe us: all of this (events and social networks) is a huge amount of work. We estimate that around 50-60% of the time has been devoted to these activities, leaving the 40-50% remaining time to the actual development of the game. The conclusion we draw is the following: if you have the resources, hire someone to manage all this stuff (especially, your social networks).

Another thing we did alright was to establish and adhere to a work routine. This is especially important when you work from home, as we do. We would set weekly goals and monitor whether we fulfill those goals. The only setback is that sometimes we finished working too late, precisely because the border between our personal and professional lives became fuzzy as a consequence of working from home.


Now I want to mention some things that have been difficult for us. First, and as I mentioned before, PR and marketing are really time-consuming activities, especially because we had to learn on the go lots of stuff: how to write press releases, how to find our target audience, how to connect emotionally with such audience, etc.

Our initial plans was to keep this blog and our Youtube profile updated with fresh contents but it hasn't been possible. Maintaining a development blog is a tough work, especially if you're interested in writing about technical details of the development, which requires beforehand planning. In the end, I've basically written some posts about the events we have attended, but that is not what the blog was meant for initially. Something similar has happened to our Youtube profile: creating and editing videos is a harder activity than we had anticipated.

Things to improve

We have identified some things that we should improve either in the next year or in future projects. First, we intend to choose events with more criteria in the future. Attending so many events as we have this year has been a great experience in many aspects, but they require money and time (preparing the material, booking the flights and hotel, etc). In relation to this, we also failed to make some time predictions correctly because we didn't factor in the time of these events appropriately. This is the reason why we first scheduled the release of Breaking Fast in the end of 2016, but we've had to put it off by the beginning of Spring 2017...

Also, although from the very beginning we had built a contact list, we didn't use it until very recently, which has been a wasted opportunity to engage with our potential customers sooner. Sending newsletters is an important activity that we should have started much earlier.

Although we can state that we are more or less well-known in Spain, with several articles in different specialized media, we fail to be known outside Spain. And this is a real problem because most of our sales are expected to be made abroad, especially in USA and Russia. Therefore, one of the goals for the beginning of the year is to contact these international media in order to raise a wide awareness of Breaking Fast.

Finally, I leave you with a video summary of our 2016:

Thanks for being there and reading these posts. We really wish you a happy 2017: the year of Breaking Fast! :D