Advice on industry's working, anyone?

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Round6 101 Jan 27, 2011 at 11:33

Hi everyone.
I’m Dave. I’m a art director and CG supervisor in a large 3D animation and VFX studio.
I’ve been trying to push the studio towards the gaming world. Doing pre-rendered 3D, the obvious direction for us would be game trailers and cinematics (which are also often outsourced).
But secretly, making games and having the studio take part in creating the visuals and art for games is a lot more interesting to me.
Last year I finished, in collaboration with the studio, a fictional game cinematic.

The full cinematic:
http://www.vimeo.com/9488572

These are some screens:

http://round6.net/Round6/resources/ss06.jpg

http://round6.net/Round6/resources/ss08.jpg

http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2010/204/a/4/R6_Shot_10_Frame_128_by_Slight_Shift.jpg

In order for the cinematic to make any sense, I had to come up with a solid idea for a game. Largely, the concept is a mix of American football and an FPS. But as time went by I found that I add more and more ideas to this fictional game, and by the end of the Cinematic there was already a pretty robust idea which I really feel could make a great game. And apparently I’m not the only one.
The Cinematic itself was very well received - most of the comments being along the lines of “When can I play this?!!!1”.
In GameTrailers.com it got a 9.7 score and almost 100 comments. In Vimeo it has been watched almost 130,000 times. We’ve gotten e-mails asking if this game is in production and people offering their help in creating it.

So here is the crux of this post:
I want to push this project forward. I want to make this game. I’m very serious, and my studio is well established and can fund the initial pushes.

WHAT DO I DO IN ORDER TO TAKE THIS TO THE NEXT STEP?

Here’s my general rough understanding, as I am not from this industry: I need a game designer, with the game design doc I find a publisher, and either me or the publisher finds a development studio to work with.
Where am I wrong, what are all the missing details, what do you guys recommend?

Thanks a lot.
I would really appreciate any input.

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EJD 101 Jan 27, 2011 at 16:39

I’m thinking your next step is rather trivial and can apply to any industry, not just games. You’ll need to put together a business plan to include start up costs, personnel requirements, potential ROI, etc. and present it to the higher-ups.

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Reedbeta 167 Jan 27, 2011 at 18:07

Usually the game designer would already be part of the studio, not an extra party brought on board for a specific project, AFAIK. It seems to me like you’d want to start reaching out to publishers, as you’ll need to partner with one of them anyway, and they’ll be able to network you with games industry talent as well as provide funding if you reach a deal with them. It’s not clear to me whether it would be better to seek an existing studio to make the project or build a new one from scratch.

BTW, your screenshot links are broken.

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alphadog 101 Jan 27, 2011 at 21:56

Wow! When can I play this?!!!1 :)

On the trailer: Actually, it’s an awesome trailer. The main character’s movements are a little jerky at times, but the quality is definitely there. Sound was weaker than the visuals. And it would do very well for selling the game. I really got a feel for the fear and intensity of it all.

I don’t often disagree with Reedbeta, but I am lightly going to. :) Publishers are interested in demos. Not to say your great production may not win one over, but. However, initiating discussion with a publisher is definitely one of your possible steps.

Another avenue would be to pitch it to a studio. That can be very, very difficult, because most studios are afraid to see something they may already be working on and exposing themsleves to a lawsuit. Legal is the dominant issue.

Fundamentally, your best bet is to build an indie dev team. Pitching a game is a time-consuming thing. If you already have a team and business in a parallel industry, great assets, and more importantly some cashflow, you have a headstart (and control) most indies don’t. You should be able to find talent and generate a kicking demo.

PS: Another avenue is to make more content (and different ones, like comics, etc) and create a bigger fanbase for your IP. The fanbase will carry you into places your otherwise may not get into. It is admittedly slower, but it does capitalize on your strengths.

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Dest123 101 Jan 28, 2011 at 01:19

I think your general rough understanding is fairly correct. Big publishers will be able to recommend a tech house, that they trust, to work with you. Getting a game to that stage is fairly difficult though. If you guys haven’t had experience building game ready art or using industry standard engines, they’ll see it as a much larger risk.

You could try just emailing publishers to ask them what you should do next/what your chances are. If they like the video, it’s in their best interest to help you to the next stage where they can properly evaluate if they should fund you or not. It might be worth while to buy a ticket to GDC(if you haven’t already) and see if you can schedule a quick meeting with a publisher there. I’m not really sure who you contact to schedule publisher meetings, but I know that happens a ton at GDC.

GDC will be super informative anyways, even if you just want to get into general game dev art outsourcing. If you talk to enough people they will point you to people who have gone through the same things as your studio.

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Sol_HSA 119 Jan 28, 2011 at 07:36

I watched the trailer and yes, it’s great, very atmospheric, but.. as a game, I don’t know. Sort of a capture the flag game?

One way to get the game moving would be to find some unreal engine modding team. You can create art assets, they can put the game together.

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Round6 101 Jan 30, 2011 at 17:39

Hey everyone. Thank you very much for all the replies. I’ll go by order:

EJD: Yup, that is exactly what I’m trying to figure out how to apporach :)

Reedbeta - The thing is that I have nothing real to go to any publishing company with, and am not sure what I need to have in order to get any real attention from them.

Alphadog - What do you think I should have (within reasonable margins) before I approach a publisher?
When you say studio, you mean game developers?
I’m considering your advice on trying to raise a demo in parallel to other studio work. I know many studios who want to jump to the next level of game development do this.

Dest123 - GDC is a very good idea. And I appreciate the idea of simply contacting publishing companies directly and asking them.

Sol HSA - The game idea is different in some key elements from the trailer. Like I said, much of it was developed and thought of after the trailer’s storyboard was well over and changing the story or assets would have been impossible. So it’s not entirely representative.

Thanks again for your suggestions and opinions.

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alphadog 101 Jan 31, 2011 at 19:27

@Round6

What do you think I should have (within reasonable margins) before I approach a publisher?

Well, you’ve got the first part: being able to present a well-rounded, rich and (relatively) original, professional idea. What isn’t evident from your case so far is have you thought your ideas out further into some level of detail? Is this a sport? Why the mask? The football isn’t just a football. Why? Who were those robots? Why do they exist? Expect to be challenged such that each answer is used by the panel to generate another drill down question. Now, at some point, you don’t know; that’s fine. Publishers don’t want a weak vision.

You should preferably have an interactive prototype (a.k.a. demo), but barring the inability to find a bunch of devs to make it happen, you realistically could approach a publisher with your video (and presumably other assets) and a good GDD, with emphasis on the differentiators of your game against others, but not as an expose on technological prowess.

Apart from that, be prepared to step through the user experience. Who’s your target market? (No, it’s not “the consumer”.) What are your own ideas for attracting players? What are ideas for retaining them? For getting them to recommend it to friends? The publisher can help, but a publisher wants to see your own thought-process more than anything else.

Also, remember publishers are investors, not gamers, so you’ll need to be able to make a case for how the numbers will look. How much art? What will it cost? How much code? What will it cost? What’s the administrative overhead? What’s the timeline on the spend? Where are the dips in funding that have to be covered? Divide your game into broad functionality pieces and be able to talk budget-wise about each of them. The answer to “How much money do you need?” is not “As much as you can give me.” ;) Likewise, think ahead about some of the common “contract terms” like exclusivity or right to sequel on the IP.
@Round6

When you say studio, you mean game developers?

Yes. But, it’s probably the trickiest of the three possible avenues. Also, there’s a potential conflict between the studio’s art teams and the fact that you’ll be setting the art direction.
@Round6

I’m considering your advice on trying to raise a demo in parallel to other studio work. I know many studios who want to jump to the next level of game development do this.

Note that self-publishing is getting better and better. Usually, the best things you get out of a publisher is access to funding, a deep marketing network and “creative” feedback (usually centered around what sells, although big studios are getting more and more “looking inward”). Since you seem to potentially have experience in the first two, and creative feedback is likely not an issue given your milieu, you should strongly consider self-publishing.

However, you should not expect the success of Modern Warfare 2… :) But, it may be more rewarding and fun (in a keep-you-awake-at-night-kinda-challenge way).

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Round6 101 Feb 01, 2011 at 14:49

Hey Alphadog. Thanks a lot for all the help.
I think I’m starting to get a clearer understanding of the whole publishing/developing relationship.
Self publishing would definitely be my first choice - but I don’t think my studio is interested in actual development. What can try doing is finding an indie developer or small team low on art production resources, and simply join forces. However, this will definitely require game design adjustments and letting in a new creative partner. Which I’m more than fine with if this partner is a game lover :)

If I opt to go to GDC, is there anything specific you think I should aim for/try looking for there?

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Luz_Reyes 101 Feb 01, 2011 at 22:46

Do out your business plan IN DETAIL. actually DO the math wherever required. Lay it out in layman’s terms, put it on paper. The devil will almost always be in the details, and this is the best way of rooting him out.

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alphadog 101 Feb 02, 2011 at 13:38

@Round6

If I opt to go to GDC, is there anything specific you think I should aim for/try looking for there?

Networking is dating. If you go to the bar with “hunting” in mind, chances are you end up with the one-night stand. If you go to have fun, talk with as many people as you can, look to learn and relax, then sometimes a real relationship drops into your lap. But, until that happens, move around, get exposure, elicit conversations and skim the halls. Don’t hang by one guy because he’s going into details about his game. And, don’t forget to pick up cards and contacts.

Also, like my mother used to say, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.

Go prepared with your assets, a GDD, business cards, and the financial forecast. Don’t bust it out at the drop of a hat, but be prepared to get into it if needed.

Be aware of top-level issues and “stats” in the industry. Who are the names? What are the big titles? Who produces what?

And, lastly, when it’s all done, follow up at a minimum with the people that matter and/or that gave you something worthwhile.

Good luck.