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.

Trailer

You need a trailer these days. Everyone wants to see a game in action. Keep in mind though, that you don’t want to show too much in your trailer. Better that your trailer is too short and has people curious about your game, than too long and has people bored of your game. I’ve seen a lot of trailers where people just record themselves playing their game for 5 – 10 minutes when the game is a puzzle game or simple action game. If your game’s concept is simple, keep your trailer to 30 – 60 seconds or people will watch your trailer and learn how the game plays and what to expect, and see most of the power-ups or special features, and really there’s nothing left for them to bother buying the game to discover.

Try to get the trailer going as soon as you have nearly-finished visuals going. You want to be building up hype before the game is actually Launched, and a trailer with some cool gameplay footage can help do that, and might get you some feedback that you can use to tweak the game before it Launches.

Do-It-Yourself Trailer

Unfortunately, I was surprised to find that Apple doesn’t really provide tools for making trailers easily. You’d think there’d just be a “record the device when it’s plugged in” button but nope! It looks like the only way to really collect game footage is to run the game in the simulator and record the desktop with some kind of desktop recording program. This isn’t bad for iPhone games that don’t use crazy controls or phone features, but the iPad simulator is horribly slow and I can’t imagine recording footage off it.

I decided to go with SimCap, which is built specifically for recording from the Simulator (ie – you don’t have to crop the final footage or anything). The main benefit to using SimCap however, is that it combines with SoundFlower to record the audio. Basically SoundFlower re-routes your Mac’s audio into SimCap so it gets recorded along with the video. It’s a little cumbersome and I don’t entirely understand the mechanics myself, but all I know is the tutorial was super easy to follow, it was super quick to set up, and it worked flawlessly so I highly recommend it.

I used After Effects to arrange my trailer, but you can use iMovie, Adobe Premier, or Windows Movie Maker, etc. Google around and find a program you dig that you can afford or that’s free. Snip out chunks of exciting game footage, throw some transitions in, some text overlays describing the game’s features, add some catchy music in the background if you weren’t able to record the game’s audio as you played, upload the whole thing to YouTube and you’re good to go.

Outsourced Trailers

A lot of people on freelance sites like oDesk and Elance offer trailer-editing services. You’re probably looking at dropping anywhere from $80 – $300 to have someone else make your trailer, but if you’re not artistically inclined or don’t want to dive into the wonderful world of video editing yourself, it might be worth saving yourself a bunch of time and hassle. A few people on microjob sites like UpHype and Fiverr offer trailer-editing services but I’d be pretty skeptical about what kind of quality you’re going to get for $5 – $10 so don’t set your expectations too high there haha

Press Kit

This is something a lot of Indies don’t think to make. When a Reviewer wants to write about your game, they often want to include some screenshots, or some game art to spruce up their article, or their website has a specific design template it follows for reviews and it specifically needs a title screen shot, a piece of art, and a gameplay shot, etc. On top of all that, honestly from what I’ve seen so far, a lot of reviews and articles are just cut & pasted text out of your game’s description…but hey, no complaints, exposure is exposure! The key thing to understand is that a lot of Reviewers have a ton of stuff on their plates on any given day, especially Reviewers that cover iPhone news because there are so many new Developers with new games contacting them every day…so you want to make it as easy as possible for them to review your game.

What’s in it?

My Elusive Ninja Press Kit is probably a little excessive in places, but I figure better to have too much than too little. It contains:

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\BPO_Logos\

This contains various versions/sizes of the Bulletproof Outlaws logo. Some are horizontal, some are vertical, some are black and white, some are full color, some are PNGs with transparent backgrounds. Main thing is just to have a variety of stuff so people can use whatever fits best on their layout.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Game_Art\

This has various art from the actual game. Since I did the original art large to fit big iPad screens, this was easy to throw together…I just grabbed some sprites of the ninja and throwing-stars and junk and the title logo and threw them in here. If I had concept art, character designs, etc. from the game, I’d put those in here too.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Icons\

When you submit your final game to the App Store you have a handful of icons for it, from tiny 57×57 ones to large 512×512 ones…so I just threw those in here.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Press Release\

Elusive Ninja only has one Press Release so far, but if I make some more (for updates or cross-promotions) I’ll add them to this.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Screenshots_Fancy\

These are the fancy App Store versions of my screenshots, with borders and marketing blurbs on them. These are great for the App Store because they look good and catch the eye, but you should keep in mind that Reviewers might not want to use them, or might not be able to use them, because if they have marketing blurbs on them and they’re in a review it may look like the Reviewers are the ones that said “Epic Ninja Action!” and such…so understandably they’d probably rather have raw screenshots they can use and stamp their website’s logos on and such.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Screenshots_Raw\

So with that in mind, these are raw screenshots. There’s only 5 fancy ones, but a solid 20 random raw ones. I figure it’s good to have a variety so that reviews won’t all use the same screenshots. It’s a pain to grab screenshots from a game so in the vein of making reviewing your game as easy as possible for the Reviewers, grab a bunch of screenshots in advance.

The other benefit to including these is that YOU can choose which screenshots are in this Press Kit, so you can make sure that all 20 shots are cool looking scenes from the game instead of someone else just randomly capturing the screen and ending up using a screenshot where your main character is obstructed or there’s some graphical glitch.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\AppStoreWriteup.TXT

For this I just grabbed the App Store description I wrote. I saved it out in a few different versions: .TXT, .DOC, and .ODT (OpenOffice) because I figure some sites allow bolding, italics, etc. and some just use raw text only.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Factsheet.PDF

This is a big .PDF file (took a while to fiddle with the compression settings to get it down to around 2 megs instead of a ridiculous 20 megs or a super compressed ugly 400k .PDF), saved out with selectable text so a person can just click-drag on it and cut & paste the text off it or click the links. I pretty much copied the layout of League of Evil and a couple other Factsheets in terms of what info to throw on there. I honestly couldn’t say if this was worth the effort in terms of if anyone actually looks at or uses this, but since it’s using in-game art and screenshots it didn’t take very long to throw together and it makes things feel more professional to me so I’m glad I made it.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Factsheet.PNG

This is just a shrunk down version of the Factsheet in-case someone wanted to post it on their site. I threw a bit of random stuff into the Press Kit that I have no idea if someone would use, because it’s my first one and I’d rather err on the side of too much stuff than too little.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\ElusiveNinja_PressKit.ZIP


This is a .ZIP of all the above stuff for convenience. I tried to keep it around 10 megs max. I figure if you know you’re downloading a Press Kit, you’re not going to be mind-blown by it being large but no one wants to download like a 50 meg kit unless it’s for like, Halo. Instead of attaching this kit to E-Mails I just made a customized bit.ly link to link directly to it (bit.ly/elusiveninja_presskit goes to the directory of raw files and bit.ly/elusiveninja_press links to the .ZIP file directly). I was worried that people might not trust bit.ly links so much (especially the ones with randomly generated URLs) so I tended to include both links just to be like “Here’s the raw files and here’s a conveniently zipped up version!”



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