Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

Welcome to the Bulletproof Outlaws. If you came here from yarrninja or BulletproofOutlaws blog then you may have been following my progress as I complete a business course and start my game studio up from scratch. Here you will find the development process for my games, behind the scenes snippets, explanations of my marketing attempts, etc.

I'll update regularly here and I will be publishing the cold hard numbers both in profits and expenses, good or bad, so that other people considering breaking into the game industry can get an idea of what to expect.

This month I’ll be fleshing out Game Design Documents for a handful of game ideas. I’m going to be starting with really small projects, with 3 week development times. I believe the best way to succeed in the iPhone game market is to pump out a bunch of small, polished, “simple but fun” games instead of putting all my eggs in one “magnum opus” basket. Once we’re financially stable, we’ll increase development times and game complexity.  That said, the first order of business is to flesh out a few short simple game ideas this month.

Here’s how my creative process goes right now:

1) As I’m walking around going through my day, I look at stuff from a game design perspective. Riding the bus in the morning I think “man, riding the bus at rush hour sucks, I can’t even sit, we’re all crammed in here like a can of sardines and the bus driver is STILL trying to stuff new passenger in! hmm…I wonder if that would make a decent game…say you’re a bus driver and you have to cram people in and decide how many to take at new stops and the people are different sizes and stuff…I dunno, bus driving isn’t very exciting. Maybe you’re a robot stuffing parts and gears into a machine to get your ship working so you can fly away before the planet hostiles get you?  There might be something with that concept at the least, having to fit and rotate various sized/shaped objects into a pre-defined space quickly. Oh wait, that’s Tetris actually. Crap, back to the drawing board!”

2) Whip out my iPhone if I’m out and about or laying in bed and open Evernote and jot some notes down into my “Game Ideas” note. I use Evernote because it’s free, it has a mobile version that’s quick to load up, and it stores everything “in the clouds” where any system I log into Evernote on, I can grab my notes. So I can be drifting off to sleep or sitting on the pooper and jot down “- dinosaurs wearing top-hats and flying helicopters. 2d side view. Helicopter controls like swimming in Mario 1. Rockets can be upgraded. Something involving lasers as powerup or boss??” and in the morning hop on my desktop or go downtown to my “office” and flip open my laptop and I can access that note with no fuss. I can tweak it a bit and the changes happen on all my platforms. Way more convenient than carrying around a notepad and if I ever lost all my CPUs somehow, the data would still be safely stored in the clouds.

3) Every few weeks I go through this list and create a new Page for each game idea in a private Google Site. At this point I’m just throwing the jot note blurb in. I use Gogle Sites because it’s free and in the future I’ll need to link the information to whoever my employees end up being so this is nice and convenient. Ideally down the road I’d like to have an internal site like that where everyone in the company can post up little game ideas and we can all add comments and ideas and flesh some of them out into do-able games we can actually make.

4) These game ideas are divided into categories of development time. I have a ton of ideas that would be great but would take 3 or 4 months to make to their full potential. Right now I need simple game ideas I can do in 2 or 3 weeks so as much as I may love those bigger ideas, they’re gonna have to sit on the shelf until I’m in the 3 or 4 month dev time range and I’ll have to get thinking on some smaller games to stay on track. Someday I’ll get around to those games, I’m in no hurry…I feel it’s important to stick to a plan even if emotionally I may be eager to work on a bigger project.

5) Over time as ideas come to me or as I sit down and doodle concept art, I’ll flesh out these jot note ideas out into larger and more detailed descriptions… designing the game mechanics, character ideas, marketing ideas, etc.

6) The first few days of each project will be dedicated to taking the fleshed out ideas and formatting them into an official Game Design Document along with concept art and such. This will be an organized document (I’ll probably create a template to use) that I can hand to the programmers and anyone else on the project so we all know what we’re working on and the final vision is clear. At the start I’m probably going to be working over the Internet with low cost programmers, so the more detailed the GDD is the less confusion there will be during development.

I plan to start actual development in early January, so December is going to be dedicated to writing up the first couple GDDs so I can hit the ground running next month!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy our games! This next few months will be exiting…I’m finally going to live out a childhood dream haha Stay tuned!

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