Pre-production and prototyping is the single most important part when developing an indie game!

New co-working space I am working from πŸ™‚

I am still working on games guys and I want to give you a little life sign with this post today. My last post is already half a year ago many things changed in that time, but some are still the same.

The Corona pandemic hit me quite hard. Yeah, I am working from home and normally I would not have any problem with it, but most of my business money was spent. So, I needed to work as a freelancer to earn some money. Unfortunately most of the companies I worked previously weren’t looking for any freelancer. In the end I had to live from social benefits and I still do.

Nevertheless in the mean time I got some motivation back and I came up with some new game ideas. Currently I am doing a lot of prototyping and testing these ideas. In the past with my first two games Timbertales and FlatFatCat I have made big mistakes in this stage of development. I always started with the game design document and afterwards I started with the development (production phase). After a while I noticed that these games weren’t as fun as I expected, but I invested already so much that I kept the development going.

Even now I often update the steam store page etc. without any luck

What was the biggest mistake in the past?

I skipped the pre-production completely. Instead of testing out the core gameplay and verifying if the gameplay is fun at all I started with the production of the game without defining the game enough. Today, I think that is why I couldn’t ever bring Timbertales to a quality I wanted to have. The gameplay lacked innovation and fun from the beginning. The technology I used was quite good and I had also well written code. The graphics are simple but supporting the game. Thats all fine and I am very proud I could even release some games with decent content.

I always tried to sell those games and I didn’t get the numbers I was looking for. The game isn’t fun, innovativ or good enough and I spent too much time caring about these games, because I already invested too much time into them. Today I have a very different opinion and it took me quite a while to see things clear. Of course I was emotional bound to these games and I wanted to have success.

Why is pre-production and prototyping so important?

There are several benefits from prototyping before you go into production. First of all you can verify if your game idea is actually fun. Ideas tend to be awesome in our minds and we always want to create them as quickly as possible, if you have a high claim on quality for example you will spend months of development before you can even test your first scene. This can become very dramatic if you realise that your game idea isn’t fun at all or don’t work as you expected. This is why you should prototype first and bring your game idea as soon as possible to a playable version.

Another problem I encountered with both my games was the scope of the games. In the end of production I started to add features because I thought the game wasn’t good enough. I missed the opportunity to define the scope of the game before I started with production. That was a big problem because it raised a lot of questions during the development. I had to think on the fly about solutions and I came up with a lot of features, which were never planned.

When I am talking about pre-production think about film makers most of their work is pre-production. Before they can go into production the story board needs to be completed. All actors needs to be casted and all location needs to be defined. Then they can start with actual production (recording) of the scenes. In game development this is quite similar before we go into the production (development) we should define our story, core gameplay, levels and scope of the game and this is done by prototyping some basic levels for evaluation.

Afterwards in production you can start to claim a high quality in assets or levels, because everything else was defined in pre-production and isn’t a thing to think about anymore. You now know what you have to do and this should be the goal of the pre-production phase. A long time game development was quite complex for me and this was because I did everything on the fly while production, but if you have a very good pre-production the production becomes very easy and you just have to finish your game πŸ™‚

The downsides and throwbacks of pre-production and prototyping phase

You need to be very honest to yourself. If you start prototyping and you realise that your game idea doesn’t work – Drop it! It is very hard to drop projects. As you can see with Timbertales and FlatFatCat I am not able to this even after so much time I earned nothing from those games. As a developer you are emotional bound to your games and it is very hard to drop things, but the if you can do this it will save you a lot of time and money!

For example if I would have started Timbertales with a simple prototype I would have realised soon that there is something missing in the gameplay there is no fun or innovation. I would have spend a month or two in development and I would need to drop that work which would be hard, but it is so much better than developing the game for a year and earn nothing like I did.

Another downside of prototyping: You can’t plan this process. It is kind of creative work. Some days you don’t have the energy for that, but in prototype phase you need to be creative and test innovativ and fun ideas. In this stage of development you can’t just finish things you have to play around and explore. Also it is very hard to define when pre-production is really finished.

Will my next game be more successful than the other?

I really hope so! The approach overall feels much better. I spend a lot of time into testing and prototyping which really makes me feel like an indie game developer. I already know that my next game will offer so much more fun and the core gameplay loop is so much better.

Sometimes it is very hard if your ideas won’t work on the first day or some gameplay elements just don’t look good or feel good. It is also a problem that I always want to polish things a lot, but keep in mind if your gameplay is really fun then it will be fun with unpolished assets as well!

I hope I could give you a little insight today on my new approach to making games. If you interested in following the development progress make sure to subscribe to our newsletter on my website or join my Discord

Restarting my Dev-Blog with new domain and focus!

Hey everyone!

New year means new motivation leads to new actions! I thought about reactivating my old dev blog and make it attendant to my YouTube Tutorial videos.

I have a lot of fun teaching you guys stuff in Godot I learned or I experienced and this is why I want to focus on that on this blog. For me learning works best when I try to teach other the stuff I learn.

One very cool thing is I was able to restore all old blog posts from 2016 and 2017 I have written. So you are able to browse through them and the page isn’t as empty as it would be without!

What can you expect in this blog in the future? I will keep you informed about topics I am currently working on and learning. Also I will try to give more insights and more detailed informations about my Tutorials on YouTube.

I hope you like it the next few days I will spent time to bring the page up and style it a little bit more. Also I have to restore the images of my old posts, but nevertheless I am already pretty proud about having wordpress on my server with https working πŸ˜€

Kickstarter failed!? What to do if your game don’t get crowdfunded

Hey everyone,

as soon as I started my current project Tera Lo Mania I had three primary goals:

  1. Build up a community
  2. Create a playable tech demo
  3. Start a Kickstarter campaign

Build up a community

I learned a lot from my first three games and what you need as an Indie game developer is feedback as soon as your project starts. To achieve this you need to build up a community, which is interested in your project. So far so good, but how to we do this? I thought it was pretty easy by sharing my development progress being consistent in creating content and I started a video log diary on  YouTube to create a community …

Create a playable tech demo

I already knew at the beginning of my project, that I will need additional budget to finish the project. So, the idea was born to create a Kickstarter campaign to gather the missing budget as soon as possible. The clue – I wanted to have an early downloadable version of my game, which showcases that I can achieve the game and I could use some scenes in a trailer. I achieved that and thought everything is going fine …

Start a Kickstarter campaign

The time has come from September 2018 till mid of March 2019 I was able to finish a tech demo and build up a community for the game. At least I thought so. That said the Kickstarter Campaign has gone live! And it still is …


So I achieved my goals and the Kickstarter Campaign looks just horrible …. by today we have 11% funded and already 5 days gone. Even with the minimum funding reach by the end of it, it is not that what I expected and as you all know the first days should be the strongest to get the Campaign going. The goal is calculated with the very very very minimum and I will have to pay on top to get the game working and release it.

What is the problem? What did I miss?

I had the demo and my Video Logs, I thought I build up a community and created lots of marketing hype by sending out thousands of emails. Lets investigate: 

Follower numbers

The community I build up wasn’t that big I expected

As you can see in the numbers. Yeah, I was able to gain follower on every platform, but in total the community is still very small and not very meaningful. There was already the first indication that my game isn’t that attractive to people, otherwise the numbers should have raised higher.

Problem: I hadn’t any comparison and was too busy spending time on developing the tech demo (which nobody wanted).

By the way speaking of the tech demo, when I was releasing a first playable version I just had round about 15 Downloads and nearly no feedback at all. Slowly I got some bites of feedback and it told me, that those who downloaded the game didn’t even know what to do, because they didn’t played the original game. The tech demo was of course so early that there wasn’t polishing possible to explain how the game actually works.

Problem: I ignored the fact, that the playable version wasn’t intuitive enough and not well received by my small community.

I have had quite a lot of fun to create my video log diary and showcase my development status. Nevertheless I was always a bit shocked by looking at the video statistics after releasing a new video log. Nearly nobody watched it and the watch durations were really really short.

Problem: I didn’t see the signs of unattractive content at all.

What can I do now, after realising the problems with the crowdfunding?

If you get a little bit of distance to your game, which I got after 5 days of running Kickstarter and thinking about the situation, you start to realise, that I was too hyped for my own game and I didn’t noticed that there wasn’t a big interest from the community for my project at all. Now, I know that this campaign is as good as done and it won’t develop very well anymore. The daily views are sinking with every day, I wasn’t able to impress the press or YouTuber or Blogger to create a hype. So, I guess the campaign will slowly but surely end without gaining very much interest anymore and funding.

What are my options at this point? I already spend a lot of time and money into this project, but acknowledging that there is so little interest it won’t pay off to finish it with paying even more time and money. I still didn’t lost all hope and I will of course continue to try make the most out of the last 25 remaining days to keep this project alive, but I know I have to look forward and find a way for me and the company how to deal with this or giving up the dream of being an indie game developer after 4 projects without any real success …

The struggle is real – My life as an indie developer right now

Hey fellow readers,

I am not sure how to start this article and which topics I should point out at all. So, I try to not cry or blame anything too much πŸ˜€ First let me start with something I am really looking forward to: I will be Dad in just about three more months … man time is running so damn fast right now.

Self doubts about my actions

That said of course I slowly get some doubts about my lifestyle, since my indie business is not very worthy at all from a financial viewpoint. Also the time spend on working is so much. I am not really sure about the near future when I take look at this.
I was really able to get some things going and I have the feeling that the business is doing better from year to year, but at what cost and effort?

At the beginning of the year, I got much motivation and I tried to get as hyped as possible for my current project. I also told a lot about this in my latest video logs:

Scary business numbers

Unfortunately, my reality is: The analysis of my business numbers shows that the growing process is more than laborious. With every video log I create on YouTube, I manage to get one or two more followers, what is awesome don’t get me wrong, but with this kind of growth I will have to create another 600 videos to get some kind of valuable reach. Of course I would do this and I love everyone who is willing to follow and support me. Thanks to you guys!

Nevertheless, also kind of regular posts on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook didn’t managed to build up a community the last two years. It feels like marching on a spot. Of course I have to admit that I am nowhere near a professional marketer or social media manager. So, the low follower count and engagement isn’t too surprising! I hoped the content would engage more, but there are so many talented indies out there that I sometimes think why should someone be interested in content I release?

But there is light at the end of the tunnel

With the start of this year a friend of mine helps me out in this specific topic and spread the word through our social media channels, maybe this changes the engagement. I hope I will be able to pay him one day for his efforts … 

Seriously the indie business is a really hard business and you have to be very dedicated to it, I knew that before I started and I don’t want to miss the time I spend to develop my games and build up the numbers at all. The only thing I wish for myself in this year is to be more financial independent, since non of my indie efforts became very worthy yet.

The only parts, where I am able to actually earn some money is to work as a freelancer for companies in complete different branches or selling my programming skill elsewhere. This makes me very sad, because I invest so much time and money into my indie business. Sometimes when I am in a bad mood like today – I just ask myself if it is worth all the effort? 

I guess I can only answer this to myself and as long as I enjoy what I am doing it can’t be wrong. At least for now I won’t quit anything and I hope I can make my dreams still happen πŸ™‚

New game project scheduled – Some informations

Hey everyone,

after working a whole while as freelancer, round about 7 months now, the time has come to go back to game development and start another project. Luckily, I wasn’t idling in the meantime and finished all the planning stuff already. Today I would love to share some first insights and upcoming changes compared to the last projects.

Project introduction

So let us start with some basic informations about the new project. As real time strategy fan, I will stick to strategy games and how could it be different – The new project will be another strategy title, which is more or less real time. It will be a remake of one of my first strategy games I have ever played and enjoyed a lot πŸ™‚
I will not spoiler the title yet. The header image provides you a first hint. The second hint: The game will be “more or less” real time strategy. Would love to read your guesses in the comments. So please leave your comment! πŸ™‚ 

As you can see in the header image, it will be my first 3D title with a low poly art style. The game will be focused on PC / Steam first, but it will be possible to distribute it later on every platform.

Technical insights

Lets get into a bit more details on the technical site. My last projects were written in libGDX with Java as main language. Nevertheless, for this new project I decided to achieve it with Godot, an open source game engine. The main language I will use for the code is the in-build GD Script, which is fairly similar to Python in general.

The decision is based on the following reasons: 

  •  I want to learn something new
  •  I want to use a game engine instead of a framework
  • Stable software for future projects
  • Godot provides a good usability for 3D
  • Godot  offers great performance
  • Godot is open source 

After hours of comparisons between UnrealUnity and Godot β€“ I came to the conclusion to use Godot

Team

There is a big change team structure wise this time – I will work with a bigger team than ever before! TimbertalesFlatFatCat and Space Unicorns were developed and distributed by myself with a lot of help from my girl friend for all the art stuff needed.
This time I hired an 3D artist for all the models, animations and vfx, who is fully dedicated to the project. This helps me to completely focus on the game code. We hopefully gain a much higher quality with this change in both art and code.

Project schedule

The game itself is planned to be done within 6 months. This includes development, alpha / beta and a first release candidate. The first prototype / demo should be out very soon after start, to have more early feedback and start a kickstarter campaign to gather more budget if needed. The official start for the project is scheduled for mid of September this year. So round about 6-7 weeks from now on!  

Thanks for reading, I hope you looking forward to this game project. Of course there will follow a lot of artwork, dev blogs etc. by the time. If you want to be in first place and also be involved in the development / testing etc. don’t miss to become a Patreon and get any peace of information much earlier πŸ™‚ I would also love to read your comments.

Create a Game with Godot – First lessons learned

I would love to share my first steps and first learnings with Godot 3 with you guys πŸ™‚

Export Blender Models as .dae files

As one of my first tasks I tried to export models from Blender to Godot. For my first approach I used .obj files and imported them into Godot without any problems so far. After a while I realised, that my artist also created some materials, which weren’t included in the import.
I figured out that Godot advices to use .dae files, which includes the materials correctly. So we exported the files as .dae. Surprisingly every model was imported as a Scene in Godot, which first confused me, but it is the right workflow. I will explain it within the next chapter.

Use Scene instancing

Having each Model as a scene has one big advantage: We can instantiate them. In UE or Unity this is called a “Prefab” as far as I know. In Godot we can use a Scene as a prefab, this is why .dae files represent a scene. It is a good practice to have everything as a scene and then in your game scene instantiate all the other scenes just like that:

Game (Scene)
  Human (Instanciated Scene)
  Landscape (Instanciated Scene)

You can read more about that here: http://docs.godotengine.org/en/3.0/getting_started/step_by_step/instancing.html

Use Unity Tutorials, if you can’t find any for Godot

Actually there are more tutorials available for Unity than for Godot, but nevertheless just watch the Unity ones. Most likely it is really easy to transfer the knowledge from Unity to Godot, since most options have the same names or working in kind of the same way.

GD Script is not Python

Even if they look quite similar GD Script is not Python, it is just inspired by Python. Why is it worth to know that? I was confused, because I encountered some ‘What the fuck’ moments when writing GD Script for the first time, since I have a strong Python background. So you should definitly check out the GD Script syntax first to get an overview. 

You can read more about GD Script here:
http://docs.godotengine.org/en/3.0/getting_started/scripting/gdscript/gdscript_basics.html

Next steps, next big idea

I decided to start a Vlog (it will not replace the Blog) on YouTube within my project (Remastering MegaLoMania). I will record the first introduction video within the next days, so make sure to follow me on my social media channels to get informed.
In the Vlog I would like to share all learnings and progress I made day by day.

Thanks for reading!