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 Experiences

When I was starting Elusive Ninja‘s development, I got an E-Mail from a guy who was planning to move to Calgary and looking for a game design job. I didn’t have any money so I couldn’t use him, but instead of just ignoring his E-Mail or telling him “Sorry man, not hiring right now!” I sent him back an E-Mail with a list of Calgary game Developers. I know the scene here pretty good, and I’ve researched that stuff before so I knew where to find websites that list that kind of thing, so I sent them his way and wished him luck. He was super appreciative and it just took a few minutes out of my time to build that little relationship but now there’s someone out there in Calgary who would probably be happy to help me out if I needed it down the road because of how I handled things.

When my testers send me feedback about my game, I make sure to respond to their E-Mails point by point and thank them for helping me out. When people Retweet my Tweets I make sure to Tweet a “thanks to @whoever for the RT!” back their way. If someone’s looking for a gamedev job on Twitter, I’ll RT their Tweet to help their resume get around because I have a lot of gameDevs Following me. I’m still pretty bad at responding to E-Mails in a timely manner, but I DO try to get around to them eventually haha

None of this directly affects the sales of your games, but think of this stuff from a longer-term perspective. As you build a reputation up, you start to carry a little more weight and the projects you make tend to get more attention, both positive and negative. It’s infinitely easier to get through tough times when you have a large support base behind you. Plus most people are pretty cool, and making new friends is fun, so don’t look at it as a matter of “What can this person do for me?” but more “How can I leave a good impression on this person so they feel good about our interaction?”

Keep In Touch

In our Business course we were told that the most important thing at a business event isn’t handing out your business cards, it’s collecting other people’s business cards. Because the reality is that most people have too much of their own stuff going on to bother contacting you until they see you as a friend or someone who’s offering something of value to them. Your Twitter Followers will probably give you a shout here and there because you’re offering the value of your game and it’s development and behind-the-scenes stuff to them. But a Reviewer on some huge game news site who gets hundreds of E-Mails a day? If you don’t make an effort to keep in touch with them, you’re probably not going to hear from them again. So shoot them an E-Mail when your next project is going on, remind them who you are, mention that you appreciated their review of your last game and figured they might want a heads-up about your next one, etc.

Value

Relationships tend to work based on value. Whoever’s going to receive the most value from the interaction is the one that’s going to make an effort to stay in contact with the other person. Once you both have a friendship together, you’re mutually giving eachother value so you both keep in touch, but at the start it’s often very one-sided especially when it comes to entrepreneurs starting out as nobodies.

Bob knows Joe is a Reviewer for a big gaming news site and Bob is an unknown so he tries to get Joe’s attention and tries to keep in touch because Joe reviewing his game would get him a ton of attention and exposure (Bob gets the value). A few years later, Bob runs a top game development company and is putting out it’s next multi-million seller hit game that people line up outside of stores for a chance to buy. Now Joe is trying to get in touch with Bob because being able to get an exclusive feature from him would bring his gaming news site a ton of attention and exposure (Joe gets the value).

Ideally you want to form relationships where both sides give eachother value. Bob scratches Joe’s back, and Joe scratches Bob’s back. So when you’re starting out, try to think “How can I give this person value?” instead of “What value can this person give me?” The differences might be as simple as the way you word your E-Mails, or as huge as doing favors or teaming up for cross-promotions.

Dealing With Critics

You’re going to get 1-Star reviews and harsh criticisms. This is just going to happen, it doesn’t matter how good your game is or how big your reputation is. Somewhere out there are people who aren’t going to like what you’re doing, and the Internet gives them the ability to express that to everyone in the world, including expressing it directly to you.

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

My favorite example from Elusive Ninja is when I put the trailer for it up on GameTrailers. When I got the trailer up on a video site I was like “This is awesome! My trailer is up on one of my favorite news sites!! I’m so happy, I’ve put so much hard work into this, this is the culmination of a lifetime of hopes and dreams and hard work and–” and then a bunch of the first comments are like “Laaaaame.” and “Sucks!” and “Ninjas are so cliche.” and “Yet another iPhone game that’s pretty but has no substance” haha It was a little disheartening to be honest. But at the same time I understand that the Internet in general makes it pretty easy to shoot out gut reactions and using aliases means people tend to be a little harsher than they might be in person, plus on top of it there really ARE a ton of crappy iPhone games out there and people have gotten used to expecting them to not have much more than pretty art so as soon as people see a trailer that has flashes of that it’s like an instant “meh, forget it”.



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