4. Too Many Hats
Quite often it can be difficult and time-consuming to handle being an owner of the company, a manager, and a key team member all at the same time. Sometimes there's really just too much to do and it seems like everything is high priority.
When working on Splosion Man, we found ourselves losing a lot of time from the game's actual development to figuring out the marketing, designing and producing pitch materials for future projects, deciding company strategies, managing employees, dealing with press and fan emails, balancing our budget, managing outsourcing, and countless other things.
It's a strange balance because all of these things need to get done; however, if the game itself isn't progressing then many of these things don't really matter.
We were able to make up for the amount of things we had to do by putting in more and more time. However, that is not a long term solution so we're planning to shift some responsibilities and add new employees where needed to ensure that those who are key team members can really focus their energy on making the game rather than spend their time on a variety of other tasks.
5. Bad Outsource Experience
In order to create all of the art assets our games require, we looked to some very talented outsource companies and freelance individuals to help us. With only two internal artists at the time of production on Splosion Man, there was no way we could create everything we wanted internally.
Outsourcing has worked great for us on our titles, and partners like Nikitova, LLC and Virtuos art studios continue to help us on our games. However, on Splosion Man we ended up needing more outsourcing than we originally intended. Since our current outsource partners were busy creating assets for us, we turned to some other unproven studios that ended up not working out and ultimately created more work for our artists.
Very early on during The Maw, we researched a number of outsource companies, had meetings, and ran art tests so we could determine their quality level. This helped us to determine who would be good partners that we could trust to hand off important character models over to. Fortunately for us, we had planned this time into our production schedule and it turned out to be great for us.
On Splosion Man, though, we overlooked the need to research new outsourcing companies. Instead, we were forced to rush into some outsourcing partnerships that ended up not producing usable results, which generated additional work internally. We made this clear to the new outsourcers we were working with, but no amount of explanation got across this fact to them. In the end it was a waste of time and money.
In the future, when we have down time (if there is such a thing), we will continue to find new outsourcing talent at our own pace, so we know who to turn to once our current partners are busy creating other assets for us. This was a big wakeup call that I hope we won't run into again, and can leave a bad taste in someone's mouth if they have never worked with good outsourcing companies before.
We're quite happy with how Splosion Man turned out. It's a fun and addicting game that people seem to really enjoy. It has helped our company grow and helped us realize ways that we can make Twisted Pixel and our games better.
The recognition we've received from Splosion Man and The Maw has given us many opportunities for upcoming projects, and we will continue to apply the knowledge and wisdom that we've gained along the way to every new game that we create.
Developer: Twisted Pixel Games
Publisher: Twisted Pixel Games
Number of developers: 10 internal + outsourcing
Length of development: 6 months
Release date: July 22, 2009
Platforms: Xbox LIVE Arcade
Development software used: Visual Studio, Photoshop, 3ds Max
Pounds of meat consumed: Countless