It’s a few months into the formation of Golden Moose Studios, and with the start of the new year approaching, now seems as good a time as ever to begin the IndieDev Diary section of our blog!
What Have We Been Doing at Golden Moose Studios?
Manne and I started the studio at the end of summer 2016. This involved many different components:
Paperwork related to company formation.
This was no simple task. A lot of my indie developer friends spoke previously about 50% or more of their time consumed with non-game development type work.
I assumed a large portion of time would be spent on business-related tasks, but I didn’t realize to what extent my time would be consumed with straight up paperwork, lawyer discussions, etc.!
- Registration with the state of California
- Registration with the city
- Registration for a fictitious name so we could do business as Golden Moose Studios (rather than as Golden Moose Studios, LLC – our full, legal name)
- Registering with California’s Employment Development Department so we could legally pay employees over $100
- Misc. paperwork related to employees and company structure/ownership
- Deciding how to handle NDAs and transfer of ownership documents so that when we hired externally, both the contractor and our company were legally protected (DoContract.com works well for this)
- Sorting out bank paperwork and figuring out if it was possible to get Manne on the company’s bank account, given that he isn’t a US citizen (This required discussion with our lawyer, the bank, and the government.)
- Switching e-mail servers, which meant some of our initial e-mails were lost to the great abyss
- It goes on and on. Let’s just say, I’m glad this part of starting the company is over! All of this is important to do, but it definitely took away from development time.
Social media channels and our website.
Fairly straightforward. There’s more on the website we’d like to fix and other elements we’d like to add, but it works.
Deciding what to include in our game’s prototype and creating a roadmap and budget to get there.
While we know what we want to incorporate in the final game, it took a while to nail down exactly what we wanted to show in the prototype.
I redid the outline for our prototype more than once. Initially, I created a standard design document, with a walkthrough of key events, places, and game design, and looking back, the final outline hasn’t deviated much from our initial ideas for the prototype.
There came a point however, where I realized I was only hinting at the emotional elements we wanted to incorporate. I hadn’t delved deep enough yet to demonstrate the heart of the game.
I started over, this time focusing on the emotional core and pushing different elements to support this (effects, camera angles, etc.).
Assembling our core team.
This involved writing jobs posts and submitting them across social media (Reddit, art-specific pages, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, other sites/groups specific to game development).
It is time consuming to go through the entire interview process – reviewing applications and portfolios, scheduling and holding interviews, and sorting through additional details.
Other misc. activities
Manne also set up a file sharing repository for our game and worked on a backup script, just in case the game exploded into a million pieces (all right, games don’t actually explode in that sense…but if files became corrupt or something else happened, we would still have a working version of the game).
We also oversaw logo creation and ordered business cards and company shirts with our new logo. We already received requests from some of you who want to order your own shirts with our logo!
(Once we find a good merchandise company for this, we’ll be sure to add some merchandise to our site. If you have any recommendations, let us know!)
Working out the story.
Since our game is story-focused, we needed to develop a solid narrative foundation for the direction our game is heading.
We reached out to a former Pixar story writer (Toy Story, Finding Nemo). With his help, we are developing our vision for the story and characters. It has been both enlightening and interesting to work with someone who has such a strong narrative background in movies!
Meeting with experienced game designers.
So far, we met with a few veteran game designers from both the AAA and indie space to talk through our vision for our game and discuss business/marketing strategy. The advice we received was invaluable, and it confirmed we are indeed onto something with our concept!
When you’re in the indie space, it’s easy to work entirely in a bubble without receiving any external feedback until you’re ready to announce your game to the world. While we didn’t need to take this extra step in meeting with other developers, it was a good step to take early on and helped identify the direction we wanted to take with our prototype.
On a side note, if you know of any veteran game designers who might be interested in serving as a mentor/consultant on a story-driven game, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org! We are looking for someone to work with in the long term.
Starting on game development!
This included systems programming, level design, and creating prefabs for game assets we will use throughout the game. (Prefabs are essentially building blocks we premake in the Unity game engine and can place anywhere in the world. An example of this would be a 3D object with a material and an attached C# script to provide functionality, such as changing the object’s size when the player gets close.)
Why does it take so long to develop a prototype?
Well, we aren’t treating this as a standard, just-prove-it-works prototype. We are using this “pre-production” time to sort out issues we would otherwise need to work out down the road (physics, etc.), as well as showing our vision for the game.
We are creating a more robust movement system instead of generic movement that can be finished in less than a day. This means that the prototype will more closely show potential investors how the final game will look, rather than leaving features to their imaginations (and running the risk of these features turning out differently than they might expect) or simply demonstrating our vision for the game, while not taking the time to explore main mechanics (which could leave potential investors wondering whether we could actually pull off the mechanics we have in mind).
What Has Been Done to Date?
- Initial concept art for the characters and world. We wish we could share some of these with you, but we’ll have to wait until later on, when we announce the game!
- Characters & story work and iteration – We worked closely with a former Pixar story writer (prior works include Toy Story, Finding Nemo, etc.) to further develop our characters, the world/lore, and overall story for our game.
- Some 3D models.
- A first pass at different animation sets.
- A first pass at unique music.
- Programming & design iteration – Game development requires a lot of rework!
What is Next?
Our goal is to have a playable prototype later in 2017 to show potential investors. We are using our own funds to create the prototype (and pay freelancers!).
We still have plenty of work to do before we’re at a point where the prototype reflects our vision for the final game.
After the start of the new year, we will work with an environment artist to dig deeper into the artstyle for the game and reflect it within the prototype. This means taking a grey-boxed level and adding 3D objects, lighting, shaders, etc. to make the game come to life artistically.
Leave a comment below if you have any specific questions or comments! We would love to hear from you!