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.

My Own Rollercoaster

When I started my Bulletproof Outlaws devBlog out, I was working on marketing it a bit trying to get some exposure to build up a handful of Followers for Elusive Ninja. At one point I got linked on Hackernews and I got like 5,000 hits in an hour. I remember freaking out (in a good way) and being so excited and picturing that being my big break and how it was all going to be so easy from there. I even panicked and called my web provider to see what the prices were to upgrade my site to handle that much traffic. …one day later, I was back to the usual 20 – 40 hits a day.

I spent a day running around like a chicken with its head cut off haha If that same thing were to happen again today, my first response would be “Awesome, that’s a ton of hits…let’s see how long it lasts before I get too excited.” It’s a lot less emotionally draining to keep a cool head about this stuff.

When I put out Elusive Ninja, I had decent sales the first couple days and then it dropped down from there. Instead of panicking I looked at it like “Okay, this sucks, but why isn’t it selling? Hmmm, looking into it it looks like people like it, it just doesn’t have any exposure so no one knows it exists. Alright, so this is basically a marketing challenge: How can I get more exposure for my game?” Again, it’s a lot less emotionally draining this way.

I still haven’t turned things around, but I plan to start my next game and will try cross-promoting Elusive Ninja when I Launch the new game, and I have some Touch Arcade advertising coming up, so I’m still not panicking yet. I’m going to stick to my plan and trust that I’ll either be able to turn things around in the future, or I’ll learn enough lessons from this game that I’ll be more capable of turning my next games into successes.

Some people will say this is just delusional confidence and stubborn optimism, but I think you need a little of both of those things to succeed as an Indie Developer of ANYTHING, whether it’s games, music, film-making, writing, etc.

Daily Reports

A lot of times I wish I could get up to the minute stats on my sales from the App Store and think “if I could see them that frequently I could capitalize on sales spikes better!” and that kind of thing. Realistically though, all it’d do is have me checking my stats 24/7 waiting for the numbers to go up and beating myself up when they don’t. I like the AppFigures service because it E-Mails me my stats every morning, so I know when I’m thinking about it in the middle of the afternoon that I might as well cut that thread off in my mind entirely because there’s literally nothing I can do about it until I get the next day’s sales E-Mails. When I started my Bulletproof Outlaws blog I was checking the hits every few hours on my iPhone. Now I check once a week at the most and it’s a lot less nerve-wracking.

Dealing With People

Your ego and attachment to your sales will also often affect how you interact with other people. Whether it’s how you describe how your game is doing to your friends at a party, or how you respond to a bad review. If your game isn’t doing well and it’s got you questioning yourself, you start getting annoyed at your friends for asking you about your business and you react a lot more hostile to criticism. When you can separate your self-worth from your sales, you can handle these things in a more positive manner and sometimes find a silver lining in that dark cloud.

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

It’s hard, everyone slips up with it, but it’s important to work on this because, especially in this day and age where we’re all so connected via the Internet and everyone is Tweeting and friends with eachother on Facebook, the things you say and do stick around forever. In small-team Indie Development especially, people tend to talk about the names behind projects rather than just the projects themselves.

Notch, Jonathan Blow, Adam Atomic, Edmund McMillen…odds are if you’re in the Indie scene you know the games these guys are famous for making. Indie Devs tend not to be giant faceless corporations, so you want to try to handle your personal interactions with other Developers, the Press, critics, friends and family, etc. in positive, productive ways. This doesn’t mean you have to censor your thoughts or your views, it just means that you should try to remember to present them in a way that doesn’t make everyone think you’re a dillhole. :)

Building Relationships

Everyone knows it’s important to build relationships with the Press, but don’t forget about building them with your fans, and even your worst critics. Chat with people on your Twitter, check out the websites of people who are following you, reply when people ask you questions (even hard-hitting questions), build E-Mail lists of people to remember to keep in touch with.



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