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.

Watch Your Finances

You can’t do anything without some kind of money. You don’t need a LOT of it, but realistically you’re going to have to be able to pay your rent and buy groceries each month at a bare minimum. It’s really easy to ignore your money situation, because when you know it’s not going well you just kind of hope that if you don’t look at your bank account then you’re not really in trouble. But much like accepting that you’re going to make wrong decisions at times, you have to accept that there will probably be points where your finances are low or in the red.

When you know exactly where you stand for money, you can gauge how many projects you can bomb before you’re screwed. You can tell whether you should choose a large project or a small project next, you can decide to scale back game ideas or hire extra help to cram in extra features, you can tell if maybe it’s time to get a part-time job or do some freelance work to help pay the bills or if it’s time to shut things down and go back to a “normal” career.

If other people depend on you (a Significant Other, children, etc.) then this is especially important. You should know and discuss with them “What’s the give up point? How much money am I willing to lose on this before I stop? How much am I willing to go into debt for this, and if I can’t turn it around what’s my plan for paying off that debt?” There’s actually a really awesome Canadian show you can watch full episodes of online called “Till Debt Do Us Part”. I can’t recommend the show enough, it takes really hard-hitting looks at people who’ve gotten themselves into debt and teaches them and the viewers the skills needed to pull yourself out of seemingly hopeless financial situations. Learning to budget properly is a lot better option than having to give up!

Even then though, “giving up” doesn’t necessarily mean never achieving your dream. It just might mean taking a few years to do something else to pull yourself out of a hole before you try again.

For me, I’ve just turned 30 and I don’t have anyone who relies on me for money, and my monthly expenses are pretty low ($600 rent per month, $200 for groceries, $200 for fun stuff like drinking and wing-nights). I don’t have any debt so I’m also willing to go into some debt to pursue this. My cutoff is somewhere around $10,000 in debt before I give up. Through artist friends and general connections I’m making during all of this, if I’m financially tight I can find enough freelance work as an artist to make sure I can pay my monthly living expenses. I’ve got some experience as a bartender and the money in that is great, so I could take that up for a year or two to pay off my debt. And if I want to stick to videogames, there are enough start-ups out there these days and I’m able to re-locate easily enough that I’m sure I could find work to pay off my debt even if it doesn’t pay amazingly or isn’t as fun to work on as working on my own games.

The point is that I’ve planned for the worst-case scenarios and I can pursue my next few games with no concerns or guilt about money lingering over my head stressing me out. I can comfortably invest some money in an expensive Touch Arcade ad because I know exactly what my financial situation is at, and I can tell when to pull money out of certain marketing ventures because they’re draining too much of my funds. It’s important to have this awareness so you can think long-term. I don’t have a ton of money, I’m just really strategic with where I spend it.

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

Of course if your first game sells millions, feel free to ignore all that and just swim around in a vault full of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck. ;)



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