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.

So I told myself not to stress it too much because even the newest Mario or Metal Gear Solid trailer will have people saying “Looks dumb!”

Then a friend and I were at E3 wandering around the booths and we went into one and I was like “pfft. Sucks.” and then realized there’s probably some dude who set that booth up the night before and stood in front of it, admiring his work, proudly looking over the culmination of his life’s ambitions building a videogame company from scratch and managing to take it all the way to E3 making multi-million dollar games…and then I come along and I’m like “Laaaaame.” and that poor guy is in the back crying that nobody appreciates all his hard work. :)

The lesson here is just to not let criticism get to you. Build a thick skin and don’t take criticism of your games as a personal attack.

Kill ‘Em With Kindness

I talked about this back in Article III – Game Related & Maintenance, but I want to stress it again because it’s important. When you’re getting a lot of criticism it can be hard to keep your cool. Try stepping back from the computer and waiting a few hours or a day before responding to anything negative so that you have a chance to cool down a little. Nothing is worse than reacting really badly to someone’s negative comments. It lets them know they’re getting to you which some trolling types feed off, it makes other people think you’re insecure, it keeps you in a foul mood in your personal life, and it extends the back and forth dialogue until you come off like those people who’s 30-page argument with “cooldude69” has morphed into a debate about the political policies of 3rd world countries in the YouTube comments section of a “dog pooping on a baby” video.

Also remember that you don’t have to respond to EVERYONE. If someone is clearly being negative or trying to goad you into an argument, or just seems adamant in their position that you did something wrong in your game, simply stop responding, gloss over their comment in your response, or respectfully agree to disagree. There’s nothing wrong with an “I don’t know what to tell you man, if you don’t like how my game is looking, that’s okay, don’t buy it! :)” It’s a lot better than perpetuating the negativity.

Decision Making

I covered this in Article II – Traditional Marketing, but just as a refresher: Make sure you have Business Reasons for the decisions you make. It’s okay to make wrong decisions, everyone does at some point. But if you had solid, well thought-out reasons for why you made your decision, you won’t beat yourself up about it nearly as much as if you just wing your decision making haphazardly.

Trust Yourself

Once you’ve made a decision, let it go. What’s done is done. You did your research, you know the pros and cons, and you’ve picked which way you’re going. Don’t stress it, second-guessing yourself all night and worrying about the outcome, there’s nothing you can do until you see how it all pans out. Maybe it works out good, maybe it works out bad, but trust that if it works out bad, you’ll be able to recover. There are very few situations that are truly impossible to pull yourself out of. Each decision you make and each crisis you survive builds your confidence and these decisions get easier over time.

Everyone Knows Best

You’re going to run into a lot of people who give you unsolicited advice on how your game should be designed, how it should look, how you should run your business, who you should hire, how much you should spend on what. Often these are close friends and family members and they honestly have the best of intentions and are trying to help you by offering up their wisdom from their own experiences.

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

But the main rule about this that was drilled into us in our Business Class is to ask yourself “Is this person at LEAST as successful at what I’m doing as I want to be?” If they’re not, then take their advice with a grain of salt and think for yourself “Does this make sense to me and jive with my experiences?” It sounds a little cold, but part of being an Indie Developer is learning to weed out what is and isn’t useful information. Your dad might be an amazing tool salesman, but that doesn’t mean he knows anything about the game industry or running a business. Your best friend might make hobby game projects in his spare time, but that doesn’t mean he knows anything about publishing and marketing a game. On the flip side, if a game Developer like Hideo Kojima gives you some advice, listen to it. This doesn’t mean other people never have good advice, just learn to sort the good from the uninformed.

Even if you have no intention of following the person’s advice, be polite and thank them for their input, then just go ahead and do what you believe is right. :) This comes back to having Business Reasons for your decisions. It’s a LOT easier to avoid second-guessing yourself and to weed out well-intentioned but inexperienced advice when you’ve done the research, calculated the numbers, etc. and you KNOW the reasons you have for choosing Decision A are more solid than the “I just don’t think that’ll work, dude” your friend who hasn’t developed games before is basing Decision B on. He might turn out to be right and you’ll have to hear “See? I told you!” but it’s easier to laugh about that when you know you made the optimal decision at the time regardless of the outcome.

I am, of course, aware of the irony of writing this section in that Elusive Ninja hasn’t really been successful, so you could just write off this entire series of Marketing Articles since I’m not “at least as successful at what you’re doing as you want to be” haha But while my game isn’t a success, I DO have experience taking a game from start to finish, publishing it, trying different avenues of marketing, etc., and I worked in the game industry at an actual gameDev company for 5 years before I started Bulletproof Outlaws, so while I might not have a lot of success (yet!), I DO have experience. ;)



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