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.

Over the years I’ve put away a little money here and there for the possible future start-up of a game studio.  It’s not a lot, I’ve got about $20,000.  If I needed more, I could tap into a Line of Credit at the bank ($15,000) and max out my credit cards ($5,000 on one, $10,000 on the other) for a theoretical grand total of $50,000.  I’m not opposed to going into debt (if the Cut the Rope devs went $10,000 into debt, I’m pretty sure they’d be cool with that considering they can pay that off a dozen times over), but I’d prefer to avoid it…thus the slow saving up of a bit of money each month toward my start-up $20k.

So what’s it cost me to start up?:

Start up Costs - Bulletproof Outlaws

About $10,000, to start up in luxury, using legit copies of Photoshop, After Effects, Flash, etc., testing devices all the way back to the older iPod Touch, money toward tools/audio, having actual business licenses, etc. The Office Space cost is just 1/3rd of my rent, and I’m throwing in brand new devices instead of cheaper eBay’ed ones. I’m using webspace I already have, but I could set up a free WordPress site and use that for $0 so I didn’t throw it in the list.

Having a desktop and laptop is excessive but I already have a desktop and as an artist this laptop is phenominal:


If you’re an artist, I can’t recommend the Lenovo X200t enough. I wanted to make sure it was powerful enough to run Photoshop, After Effects, etc. decently so I added some RAM from the default 2GB, and I went with the normal pen-touch screen instead of the multi-touch (you can use your fingers and squeeze them together to zoom in, etc. like a Mac) because the multi-touch costs more and really I don’t need that…I just need to be able to draw.

So according to my receipt mine has:

- Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 processor LV (1.86GHz 1066MHz 6MBL2) (no idea what this means, but it’s fast enough)

- 12.1″ WideView SuperBright LED backlit WXGA panel (the screen is great, nice and bright, though I DO find that I have to tweak the Saturation slightly when I’m done painting because the colors sometimes look a little too intense when I bring it up on my desktop)

- 3 GB PC3-8500 DDR3 (2 DIMM) (I don’t even really know what this means.  It runs my programs fast is all I know, haha  there’s no lag between sweeping the pen around and the line appearing, and I routinely have WinAMP, Photoshop, MSN, an Internet Explorer browser, etc. all running at once with no problems)

- 160GB Hard Drive (tons of room, and I’d just get a USB HD if I needed more room)

- X200T 8 Cell Li-Ion Battery (lasts about 4 hours at full brightness, but often I like to dim the screen so I’m not staring at a neon glowing screen whlie I draw…I make the background canvas color darker too, as you can see in the pic above.  Gotta’ protect the ol’ eyesight!)

- no modem (I left it out to keep it light-weight for comfort holding it on my lap or cradled in my arm, and I’m always around Wi-Fi)

- I grabbed a Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX for about $90…to me that’s expensive for a mouse, but holy crap was it worth it. This thing works on ANY surface, so I don’t have to worry about a mouse-pad or reflective table surfaces etc. I can run the thing on my thigh if I’m feeling ultra lazy haha  Plus it’s got a super tiny USB plug, there’s no inch-long USB sticking out of my laptop making me worry it’s going to snap if I try to balance my laptop on my crossed-legs when I’m sitting on the couch…it’s this tiny little nubbin’ that I just leave in the laptop 24/7.

Lenovo was having a sale at the time (I bought it in November 2009, might have been a Christmas sale) so instead of $2,600 this came to $1,800 but I Googled for HOURS looking for coupon/savings sites and found a coupon code (CAEBTSSAVINGS) that saved me an epic $365 for a grand total after adding GST of of $1,500-ish.

It’s got a mouse nubbin instead of a touch-pad which I dig because I hate how much extra room a touch-pad takes up design-wise…I like my portable products portable.  All in all this is a fantastic laptop and as an artist I love it.  I consider it an artistic investment…with an art program on it, there’s no reason this computer wouldn’t be just as functional in 20 years as it is now, in terms of being a portable full-color drawing pad. I actually find myself using this laptop more than my desktop…basically everything I’ve done related to this business (from documentation, to signing papers, to setting up and updating the website, to doing the logo art, etc.) has been done on my laptop.

Okay so say I wanted to do this for cheaper. What could I cut out:

Minimal Start up costs - Bulletproof Outlaws

Just the core testing devices (odds are if it runs on an iPhone it’ll run on an iPod Touch so I don’t need a Touch, but I need an iPad to make sure the game looks good and the UI feels right and such VS the iPhone), and the cheapest Mac laptop. Audio can be done for free (royalty-free music from around the net, doing my own sound effects, etc.).  If I hire programmers in India or wherever, I can get programming for a lot cheaper…logically quality probably suffers, so I don’t think I’d want to make a huge complicated project, but that’s just something to keep in mind when I’m designing my games.  I could just use Paint.NET or The Gimp for art instead of needing Photoshop but I love Photoshop so to me it was worth buying, plus I get After Effects and Premiere for doing video/trailers, and Flash for vector art/animation, etc.  I can work out of Starbucks like 2d Boy or mall food courts like I currently do and not have to pay for office space.

I could do it for even cheaper I’m sure.  When you have no money, $4,000 seems like a lot.  But if you consider that you’ll throw that kind of money at a 55″ HD TV, an X-Box 360, games, etc. on your credit card, at least this has a chance of paying itself off haha It’s just a matter of priorities.

The numbers above are all estimates, but it gives a rough idea of what it costs to start up.  A lot of people still think you need to raise tons of money or go around asking dozens of investors to take a chance on you to get into the game industry.  But seriously, an Apple dev license, a Macbook, and the appropriate business permits and you’re good to go. Hell, if you’re not an artist or programmer, you can just design a game and outsource people to make the whole thing for you.  In the future everyone’ll have their own apps/games on App Stores haha  If I had a teenage kid, I don’t see why I wouldn’t encourage him to develop a game and throw it up there…as long as it involved ninjas and explosions instead of being a fart soundboard haha

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