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.

I figure since I’m pretty much a one-man operation at the moment it’s a good idea to streamline what I can. If I was just an artist my task-list would be simple: draw a pirate, make him slash his sword, etc. Unfortunately, because I’m in charge of “everything” that means mixed into the standard art task list I’m going to have extra tasks: create a press kit, write press release, create and upload gameplay trailer, etc.

So two of the first things I’m going to do in this vein are creating a template Game Design Document and a marketing to-do checklist that I can cut & paste as a starting point when I begin a new game. The marketing checklist will be easy…for the most part that doesn’t change: write a press release announcing the game, create a trailer, send out promo codes, etc. Pretty much every game can follow the same plan…the checklist is basically to remind me “oh ya, we’re halfway thru dev, time to make a behind-the-scenes featurette!”

The GDD, however, will be harder to template. When I worked in the industry our GDDs were designed to be pitches for landing projects so they were bloated with an overkill of “speaking to a child” information. “What is this game’s target market?”, “Why will it appeal to that market?”, “How is this game different from similar games?”, etc. Useful info if you’re a publisher considering a project pitch but a waste of time for a small developer working on independent intellectual properties…you wouldn’t guess it from the length of my posts but I cant stand inefficiency haha

Another aspect to consider is that I will probably end up hiring programmers in India or somewhere (any Cocos2D proggers out there looking for work? haha) so my GDD will have to be extra-specific to avoid language barriers. The more I can specify, the less risk of confusion and tweaking down the road. I figure I’ll even be writing parts of the GDD in pseudo-code for stuff I’ve got worked out in my head like “parrot flies to pirate’s X-position and when within 10 pixels of it the parrot plays it’s LandingOnShoulder animation”. It’s more work than just “the parrot follows the pirate and lands on his shoulder” but it should result in less tweaking. I’m pretty notorious with programmers I’ve worked with for saying stuff like “can you move the textbox 2 pixels to the left?” haha

Goals for the end of the month are to have the first game’s GDD finished and templates for a bunch of stuff (press releases and directory structures and such) so that I’m good to go January 3rd. I’m also going to need to set up some SVN stuff. So much work just to start making games haha

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