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.

To start Bulletproof Outlaws I took a very compact but in-depth business course to get a handle on the business side of things. We’re near the end of the course and currently have one class a week and a business coaching session. I dig these because I always come out pumped to get to work, haha

Today’s class covered setting goals and how most of us are terrible at it.  We’re never really taught how to set a proper goal. We make really vague goals that we can’t measure… like take New Years.  “I’m going to lose weight this year.”  Well how much is that?  If you lose 1lbs, is that succeeding?  How are you going to lose that weight? Are you going to lose it in a month, or can you just do it in December and still count it? “I’m going to make a game company.” What kind of game company? How many games are you going to put out? What kind of games? When will you put out the first game? Our business coach keeps stressing: A vague un-specific goal isn’t a goal, it’s a wish.

Bulletproof Outlaws - Goal Notes

There are probably a ton of sites that cover this in more detail around the net, but the jist is to set specific measurable goals, with a time-frame, and review those goals as you go. If your goal is to be able to run 10km 3 months from now, and you only run 8km, you didn’t achieve your goal.  If you ran 10+km, you did. If you didn’t make it, you re-evaluate your goal and your plan to achieve it and tweak it so that next month you can do it.

This can be pretty daunting until you break it down into smaller milestone goals. The trick is to work backwards from your ultimate goal, instead of the working aimlessly forward. So take running again… "If I want to be able to run 10km 3 months from now, what do I have to do 2 months from now? I have to be running 8km. What do I have to do 1 month from now? I have to be running like 4km. What do I have to do a week from now? I have to have run consistently daily. What do I have to do daily to achieve that? I have to get off the couch. What do I have to do to get off the couch daily? I have to set my Tivo to record the shows I want to watch for later."  Now you have a set of tiny milestones you can follow that will clearly lead to your goal.

Every week in my coaching session I write a list of goals for the next week and my coach holds me accountable asking if I’ve completed them or why I didn’t complete them. I’m finding this is a great tool for productivity. This week’s goals, in order of priority, are:

- Distribute a Press Release about BPO (that’s what I talked about yesterday, I want to write a quick Press Release just announcing this blog so people can follow along with my progress from the beginning)

- Summarize Game1′s Game Design Doc and come up with a name for the game (I hate naming things haha)

- Contact programmers for cost estimates

- Prepare game resources for programmer (export the art I have to different screen sizes and arrange the animations so they’re ready to go)

So let’s take one of those goals. Distributing a Press Release. What do I have to do to get from here to there? Well, I need to get it out to people. How am I gonna’ do that?  I don’t have the time/resources to do it myself, so I’m going to hire someone. How am I gonna’ hire them? Well I have to Google for some Press Release services and find the right price and a place that sounds like it’ll target the right market. Once I have that? I need a Press Release for that service to distribute. How do I get a Press Release? I can hire someone to write one or just write one myself. I like writing, so I’ll write it myself. How am I gonna’ do that?  Well I have to Google HOW to write a Press Release and look at other people’s similar-themed Press Releases. What am I gonna’ do with that information? I need to run OpenOffice and jot down notes from other people’s Press Releases so I can go back thru and fill in the blanks. BAM! DONE!

So I started with a vague “Distribute a Press Release” goal that seems like a huge goal and I wouldn’t know where to even begin… I’d end up running OpenOffice and just winging it frustratingly not knowing what I’m really doing.  Instead, now I have a list of milestones:

- Google how to write a Press Release and look at samples

- Jot down notes in OpenOffice to go back and fill in the blanks

- Google Press Release services and compare their prices/distribution promises

- Submit Press Release to the chosen service

Now it looks nice and simple! I can say within 1 day I’ll have achieved the first 2 milestone. Within 2 days I’ll have achieved the 3rd milestone. And on the 4th day I’ll achieve the 4th milestone. That fits within my week-long timeframe, and it’s a measurable goal. If on the 4th day I’m still on milestone 2, then I didn’t manage my time/tasks right and need to re-evaluate my process for the future so that next time I’ll succeed!

That’s it for today!  I dug today’s class. I have a ton of creativity, but my organizational and planning skills are pretty weak sauce so things like this help me develop a little self-discipline.

In closing, think about this: Most people’s goal in life is just to survive until they die. Depressing, hey?  haha

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