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.

I played an awesome game today called Pro Zombie Soccer by Chillingo. It’s got some hardcore polish to it, I think visually it’s amazing.  I’d love to put out games of that quality.  A friend and I compared how long we played it for, and both of us moved on after maybe 15 minutes of playing.  It’s not the game’s fault, I think it’s new features and levels and plot are well-distributed… you get to see all 3 of your special attacks really early on, and there’s cutscenes with a really cool story every few levels. But I swear, playing iPhone games has given me gamer ADD or something.  I never sit and play for an hour+ on my iPhone.  It makes me wonder if this next generation of gamers will have a shorter attention span than the first few generations.  When I was a kid, I’d crash at a friend’s house playing some epic 80 hour RPG all week long.  But all we had were big long games…The Dig-Dug, Pacman, etc. days were short-length games, but I was born just a little too late for those.  My childhood was more Super Mario, Final Fantasy, Castlevania, etc.  If you bought a console game for $30+ and it didn’t have a jillion levels and hours to it, it’d feel like a ripoff. And you made it an event, sitting down in front of the TV, having snacks nearby, calling friends over to play too or watch…

But now we can buy a game for $1 and play them when we’re taking a poo, or waiting for someone to get ready to go out, or riding the bus.  It’s a quick ADD kind of mentality the game industry is heading toward on some platforms.

If you’re making a game where the gameplay is based on “go as long as you can until the game gets too fast/chaotic for you to survive”, I think the optimal play-time is around 90 seconds. I’ve played some where you can survive for like 5 minutes before it starts to get difficult.  That’s a lot of time to invest just to get to the point where it’s challenging.  Same time, if the game is so hard you die every 10 seconds, it’s just going to be frustrating.  90 seconds is just long enough that you feel like you got somewhere, but short enough that you’re not bored of the game and if there’s an instant “Retry?” button (as there SHOULD be), you’re likely to tap it and try again, determined to show the game who’s boss.

If your game has 3 logos, a title screen, tutorial, continue screen, choose your save slot screen, configure some options, etc. that’s like a minute just to get to the gameplay.  When you’re sitting down at a console, that’s not a big deal, you munch on some Doritos or shoot someone a text on your phone.  But when you’re hoping to get some quick playtime in, you want the game to start up as quick as possible.

My first game is one of those “go as long as you can” games, so I’m going to try to balance it so that the average person lasts somewhere between 70 and 100 seconds, and have an instant “Retry?” button… I’ll probably even let the player skip the logos and stuff.  I want them to be able to get into the gameplay quick as possible.

On a semi-related note, if your gameplay is a simple concept, don’t put up a 5 minute trailer. Just show some brief clips, keep it to like 30 seconds max.  I can’t count the number of games I’ve looked up the trailer for, only to watch some guy playing the game for like 8 minutes straight, and it’s like well shit, I don’t need to download your game now, I know everything about it!

hmm, maybe I’ll do a whole post on trailer-making tips sometime haha I’ve got a lot of ideas ’cause I love watching them.

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