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.

Bulletproof Outlaws - Game 1 - A Diary of a video game studio!

I’m pretty sure there’s only like 5 people checking my site right now, because I haven’t started my big marketing push yet. But how am I supposed to know if my marketing does anything if I’m not keeping track of page hits? So I signed up for Google Analytics like all the cool kids do. Back in the Goals post I wrote that goals should be “specific measurable goals, with a time-frame, and [you should] review those goals as you go.” If I invest a bunch of money in a method of marketing but my site traffic doesn’t go up by a specific amount that I think it should, then I can look at the numbers and say “Logically, I know I should stop spending money in that method” and stop it, tweak it, or try a different method(s).

Bulletproof Outlaws - Site Analytics

Our business coach told us one of the fastest ways new companies tank is by blowing their budget on ineffective marketing. I’m told that a lot of advertising services will do some pretty sneaky stuff. Like if you don’t get any business out of the ads you place with them the first month, they go “You have to give it a couple months to really kick in, trust me, Kid, who’s the advertising executive here?” and take a puff of their evil cigar and twirl their evil moustache and an inexperienced businessman goes “oh, okay, I guess that makes sense…” and pays for another month of ineffective advertising.

Today has been focused on marketing. I finished the Press Release and had some people look it over and I’m pretty happy with how it came out.  I haven’t seen one with as long a quote in the middle before, but I figure I don’t have a lot of facts to be quoting at this point and I want Bulletproof Outlaws to be pretty personable instead of just being a corporation of some sort… so I felt it was important to describe a bit of my philosophy behind all this.  Attached to the bottom of this post is the Press Release I sent out.

As I’ve stressed before, I think it’s important to market your company and your games, and that most indie devs don’t do it.  One of the biggest excuses is that it costs money and they’re working for free. That’s understandable, we all have limited money. But if you invest that money into the right marketing, and that marketing gains you a bunch of sales, you’re going to make up that money you invested.

Today consisted of the last bit of filling out forms (Apple has some marketing agreements so you can use their “this App is in the App Store” icons and junk), which is super boring.  I’m an artist first and foremost, and I want to spend my time actually making the game… all the business stuff on the side is a little daunting.  But it turns out a lot of business stuff is “fill out all these forms once and then don’t worry about this for a year”. So once I get it all over with, it’s smooth sailing.  The sad part is I think that initial overwhelming workload of forms and paying business licenses and registering trademarks and stuff is the thing that scares people off from starting their own company. I know it was a deterrent for myself and the primary reason I signed up for a business course.

Today I did an interview with Brodie Beta (aka @iPhonegirl). You can read it at The Next Web (I have no idea who the picture in the article is of btw, haha).  She seems like a cool chick, check her stuff out at Brodie Beta!

Our business coaches told us that one of the ironic things that can kill a new company is too MUCH success. That could be something like your game catching on unexpectedly awesome and bam, you don’t have the server setup to handle all the traffic your site gets and you can’t fill the distribution demand.  Our business coach explained another example… say you build custom furniture, and it’s just you hand-crafting artistic furniture designs.  Awesome, but what happens if some huge restaurant chain says “Great, we’ll pay you a million dollars to make us 500 of those chairs!”  Do you have a plan for if that happens?

I’m a huge fan of randomness in games. I’d love to play an RPG where the battle scenes choose randomly between 3 – 5 different songs (not just changing the song for boss battles, but for standard repetitive battles).  And I love when characters have a handful of random sound effects… It’s 2011, games are huge compared to the old days, there’s no excuse for having one “HYAHH!!!” shout for your main character for all his attacks. It takes like 2 seconds to record another sound clip.  Have your game randomly choose from a list of sounds.

Bulletproof Outlaws Diary