It was the summer of 2016 that I started my game dev journey. While walking in the campus of my university, I saw an ad for a game design position. Having studied game design for 5 years at that time and also nearing graduation, I decided it was a good time to also enter the world of game development and start my career. I called and soon I had an interview with the founder of an indie game studio. In the interview I understood that as a small newborn indie studio, they didn’t have much resources or a game designer, so I fit in as a co-founder. So it was me as the game designer and my partner as the programmer. We also had a couple of interns from the computer department that would come and leave often. Our studio was also about to start a new project and I pitched in a couple of different games, most of them simple. What got chosen in the end was my idea for a card game, possibly the second most ambitious of the proposed ideas.
The idea was for a rather unique and innovative card game in the genre of CCGs like Hearthstone and Yu-gi-oh. At first I began designing the game with paper prototypes while also writing design documents that were as quickly understandable for technical people as possible. The initial plan for the game was to get a clean demo version and launch a Kickstarter campaign by the next summer (2017). I scheduled a budget and also wrote a business plan and pitch deck which we spent a couple of months using (and sometimes adjusting) to pitch to investors.
These pitches didn’t go all that well, since we didn’t really have much to show. We would bring decks of paper cards to show the game and investors aren’t usually very game-savvy. Some time later we had a digital prototype running, after around 3 months of work. This first prototype was also pretty unimpressive. It had no art, it was buggy, and it had no polish or nice touches whatsoever. With some more work, we achieved a more functional version of the game with placeholder art I got from the internet that would also act as reference material for our artists who were sketching concept art for the game.
Still, despite this improved and palatable prototype, the most interested publisher declined our offer, citing too hopeful numbers in our business plan and a too competitive environment for card games which they deemed us hopeless to compete in.
By winter of 2016 we were running out of funds and my partner was uncomfortable working without money. Desperate to keep the project together, I convinced an investor who was a friend and business partner of my father to invest in our project. The amount we asked for was a rather small $30,000, not much for a rich investor but a lot for a game project in Iran where wages are around $300-1000 per month. Since he wanted to help rather than take a serious business venture, the deal was extremely favorable to us as I’ve learned now. We gave a 44% share of our future company, while really all our assets was some code and design documents. As part of the deal, we’d also be taking monthly wages of around $500, which is a pretty good amount considering the job market over here.
Nonetheless, we were funded and now we could continue, which we did very well! At around March 2017 though there was an internal debate on what path we should take the project. I was in favor of the original plan to get on Kickstarter. I proposed that we build the game with only one of the 4 planned factions complete for a demo at Kickstarter. My partner was unsure of our success chances on Kickstarter, which he considered too risky of a step. He also feared that our company would collapse should we fail at the crowdfunding site. He instead felt that the local market has potential and that we should release the game locally on the mobile market and with its revenue go for a global launch. I found this very unappealing and dangerous. For one, the local market just doesn’t understand strategy card games, there is no culture of CCGs like there is in the west and even worse, the mobile market is a mostly casual market. Second, our game would suffer, both in its mechanics and quality, and in its schedule to deliver on time for Kickstarter.
The debate went on for around a month, and by the end, my partner threatened to leave. I compromised on the promise that we’ll only do a “mini-release” in the local market to test the game and get feedback, and that we’ll go for Kickstarter with a short delay.
For close to a year since then we worked on the game. It got released, and after around 4 months of flailing in the market, despite getting featured and having close to 20,000 active installs, it failed miserably. We ran out of our investor’s cash and we’ve practically closed down. I offered to work on what I considered the original and main project, but my partner doesn’t work without cash.
Now, my journey continues. I’ve started the project anew from scratch, and I’m doing this alone. I made mistakes and I’ve got to own up to them. I shouldn’t have compromised on the game’s vision. Now I am now doing what I have passion for. I’m making a game as a total indie that I can be proud of and can hopefully guide to success. Stay with me for the rest of the journey.
This post has been a recap of the last year. In my next post I’ll be writing a postmortem on Amazia, my game that failed for many reasons that indie developers should be aware of.