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Making Minimum Wage Making Experimental Games

by Omey Salvi on 11/19/18 12:15:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

 

Hi, I’m Omey Salvi.

This is an introduction to myself, my business model and the first game in the Divine Tragedy series.

Who are you?

I’m a developer from India. I’ve been making games since 2012. I finished my master's degree from the University of Utah’s EAE(Entertainment Arts and Engineering) program for game development. I’ve made a couple of small games. My longest game was one that I worked on for 6 months, part-time. I wanted to tackle a more substantial project but in bite-sized chunks. I went indie at the start of September 2018.

What is your business model?

I had an idea for a series of experimental games in different genres with different gameplay, all tied together by a common theme and narrative. It was very ambitious for a solo indie developer. The final product was going to be the collection of these games. I couldn’t finish and release the entire project without any money and I had no clout in the game industry to get a kickstarter or patreon. So I decided I was going to make the games one by one, with each game funding the next.

The project is, at its core, an experimental business model. It is meant for solo developers who want to make games but still support themselves during the development time. This is for people who have no fame for a kickstarter or patreon. This is also for people who have many “small” ideas but don’t know how to or don’t have the time to flesh it out with more mechanics to make it worth a standard indie 10$ price tag. The idea is to replace the paradigm of spending a couple of years to make a game with 4-5 hours of content and a 10-15 dollar price tag. Instead, I’m going to make 12 short games (maybe more) under a single name - The Divine Tragedy project.

Here are the basics of the business model:

  1. Every game is a short repeatable loop that can be enjoyed as an isolated experience

Every game is essentially a fun polished(but not too polished) prototype. The equivalent of the loop of a simple mobile game but with the expectations of gameplay that you would find on a pc. Imagine your favorite level from a video game - what new interesting mechanic did it have? Take that mechanic and make it the game. Make it so appealing that people will flesh out a small amount of money to play it RIGHT NOW.

  1. A common narrative or theme between the games

This is something to keep the players coming back. One hit game can boost the sales of other games in the series. Since they are only loosely connected narratively, players won’t want to hold off playing game 3 until they’ve played game 1 and 2. There should be at least some narrative combining the games so that you have the option of bundling the games together as a package in the future.

  1. 2-4 month development time

Make something that can be finished in 3 months for your team size. Don’t obsess on making it perfect. Respect the deadline and push the game out FAST. See if it works. If it works, continue working on it or don’t if you have more interesting ideas. It’s like Early Access on Steroids.

  1. 2-4$ price point. Breakeven is US minimum wage per team member.

Yes, I agree that at this price point you are going against AAA games that go on sale - but those games are not creative and outlandish enough. The point is to make games that are impulse buys - you look at a screenshot or trailer or you hear the pitch and you have to have it right now. You need a distinct visual style or amazing gameplay idea or a strong meta hook. Don’t forget that among all of this is the possibility that one of the games you make, may go viral and blow up - that will take care of a lot of months of dev time.

In conclusion of this section, To find something successful you have to prototype and throw as many darts at the board as you can. Something will stick and help you establish yourself. Instead of spending years and many thousand dollars on an iteration of a popular genre of games - come up with something unique and put it out there. Find a design solution to monetize it.

If anybody is trying or has tried this business model, please reach out and let me know. I’ll update everyone after the release of my game whether I made my target.

What is the Divine Tragedy project?

The Divine Tragedy is the process of the corruption of the soul. It is my contemporary take on the Divine Comedy. The Divine Comedy is about repentance and repudiation of sin. It has a happy ending. A tragedy is the opposite. It is a downward spiral.

 

Russian Roulette is the prologue to the series. It has perma-permadeath. You can only play the game for free once. After you use up your one life, the state of the game changes for you and you can no longer play. The leaderboard is a graveyard in the game. All the players who die will receive a gravestone in the game. The game has a persistent world and the gravestones will keep on accumulating as more and more people play the game and die. The higher your score before you die, the closer your grave to the center of the game world.

The game explores the finality of death and what it means to have lived a life. What impact does one leave on the world? Is the point just having a good time while you are here?

You can find the game here. It releases in 10 days: https://store.steampowered.com/app/951180/Russian_Roulette/

You can follow me on twitter here: https://twitter.com/OmeySalvi

Thank you for your time.


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