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.

Check The Reviews

Other users can review the services they use, so give those reviews a glance to make sure the person offering the service is legit.

Other Services

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

Just glancing through the main pages of Fiverr.com and UpHype.com here are some examples of cheap services that might be useable:

- “I will design a killer amazing ANIMATED banner for $5”

- “I will draw a cute chibi style portrait of you for $5”

- “I will create this amazing iPad video opening/intro for $5”

- “I will create a voice over up to 10 minutes for $8”

- “I will design a logo for you for $8”

These aren’t things you couldn’t do on your own, but they’re super cheap quick little services. Take a trailer for your game and add a sweet voiceover, stylish little intro, etc. and now you’ve got something that looks a little more pro than if you were just doing it on your own. This is all just stuff that you should keep in mind is out there and available.

The Slippery Ethical Slope

There’s definitely a question of ethics that pops up here. In theory, you could just buy a bunch of fake Fans, a bunch of fake Twitter Followers, a bunch of fake 5-star reviews, etc. which as long as people didn’t realize they were fake, it’d make your game or studio look more popular and important than when you have 0 Fans, 5 Twitter Followers, a couple 3-star reviews, etc.

I’m not here to judge how you decide to use these services, that’s your own decision. For me, I bought a handful of Facebook Fans to get the slick /elusiveninja/ URL, but all my Twitter Followers and Facebook friends and blog commenters and reviews and such are real. This isn’t a moral high-horse thing, it’s more because I want to be able to judge my success accurately…if I gain 50 legit Twitter Followers one week, that tells me that something happened to promote my Twitter account so I can Google and find out if I have a new review up or got a mention somewhere and thank whoever was responsible. But if I had 50,000 fake Twitter Followers I wouldn’t be able to really tell down the road “I’m doing better than I was before!” because I’d have no idea how many of those actually gave a crap about what I’m doing.

This topic is going to come up more in the Reviews section of this article because it was pretty mindblowing to find out how prevalent this kind of thing actually IS these days and not many people talk about it.

Forum Threads

I put up threads in a handful of forums around the net, mainly iPhone game related. Touch Arcade, The Game Forum, Cocos2D, MacRumors, iPhone Dev SDK, and 4 Color Rebellion. I’ve found that either the forum is dead and the thread sits there pretty much on page 1 with no responses because there isn’t enough traffic to the forum for it to really get pushed down or responded to, or if the board is popular, the thread flies off the first page in 10 minutes because there’s so many threads.

Dead forums aren’t the worst thing, if anyone happens to stumble across them, there’s my thread right near the top…but a thread that can stay on, say, Touch Arcade’s main thread page for a few days, is going to get way more exposure. If you sign up, try participating in other threads too, especially on the community type forums, instead of just spamming your own game and vanishing. Some communities frown upon that drive-by-advertising and might ban you.

Bumping

Some threads will gain a solid foothold and stick around for a day or two but that doesn’t seem to be in the thread-starter’s control…once you’ve replied to all the responses in your thread, there’s not much you can do to bump your thread up without it looking like a blatant “BUMP!” post that just gets people annoyed at you. I tend to let the thread fall off the front page of threads, THEN respond to the posts in it, instead of responding as soon as they appear, to maximize how long it’s on the front page. And of course if you update the game, you want to post in your thread and bump it up with the news. I think posting when you get a review is fine too, like “Hey, check it out, IGN just gave my game 10/10, here’s the link!”

Self-Promote In Your Profiles

Make a profile ahead of time. Throw together a couple sentences for a bio, a signature, etc. Because different forums use different formatting (some allow square-bracket tags, some allow full out HTML, some only allow text, some allow only 100 characters for a profile, etc.), I just wrote a complete one in a text file, then cut and paste it tweaking it’s formatting to match the different types I was running into. This sped things up a bit and now if I found a new forum, I could start an account and just cut & paste from this text file with little hassle.

Also make sure your signatures have a link to your game and to your website. Your posts will sit around forever since this is the Internet, so you want links in your sigs so that when someone stumbles on your post a few months from now they’ll be able to click right to your game.

Blogging

I’m a big fan of blogging, especially about game development. There are a few benefits to this:

1) I have a record of my game’s development to look back on someday when I’m an old man.

2) It keeps me accountable for my game’s development…if I slack off and don’t work, I feel guilty that I haven’t updated in a while and my blog readers hassle me wanting updates so I’m forced to get back on track.

3) It helps create a fan-base of followers, who are invested in my game’s success. As people follow along with the game’s development, they start to feel emotionally invested in it, especially if you ask for feedback and run polls on design decisions, etc. These are the fans who will probably help you market your game on their Twitter accounts, defend your game if Reviewers give it crap, rally you up with pep talks if you get depressed during development, etc. The Behemoth is my favorite example of a company that has an epic fan-base…they really only have like 3 games out, but they’re so good to their fans (with shout-outs, contests, merchandise, etc.) that whatever game they put out next will have tens of thousands of people lined up to buy it on Day 1 just to support them. How much better a position are they in than the company with a dozen games out and just 50 Twitter Followers?

4) As a game Developer, I just like to help other game Developers out. That’s why I spend a crapload of time writing stuff like this article. I read other people’s development blogs and often I’ll learn things that I would have had to discover the hard way on my own, and in the end save some time. If I can return the favor for some other Developer through my blogging, that’s awesome to me!

5) Occasionally you’ll write posts that happen to tap into the general public psyche and get linked around the net by people on Twitter, sites like Digg, etc. which will get you a bunch of extra attention and often a few new Followers.



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