I wanted to share my experience releasing my first tool on the Unity Asset Store. For the past few years I’ve been working late nights and long hours on games. Recently I realized that some of the things I was making in my games could be shared with others as a tools. And I’m starting to fall in love with tool development.
You can check out the Mesh Tracer Tool I made here:
It allows you to add effects on top of any 3D model inside Unity.
Why developing tools is awesome:
Quicker Development Cycles: This is a big one. We’ve all had experiences slaving away on an awesome game, only to leave it unfinished or released but never hitting the spotlight. Typically tools have a much smaller scope than games and can be finished in about a month. This means more stuff being released on the market, more chances to get noticed, and a good sense of accomplishment once you “finish” a project.
Less Crowded: There are less game developers then there are game players. But that also means less competition! Also developers are much more likely to purchase a tool if they like it and think it will help. Game players are flooded with new awesome games every day, and only purchase a game if it’s in the top 1% of their “must play list”.
More Income: The highest selling tools on the Unity Asset Store are all over $35! That means your sales numbers can be a lot smaller for a project to be considered financially successful.
Ex: Let’s say you spent about 100 hours making an awesome tool. Let’s also say you want to earn a decent wage for you work, at least $20/hr. That means we need to earn $2,000 for that 100 hours of work. The Unity Asset Store takes 30% of each sale, meaning if we sell our tool for $35, we get $24.50 per sale. So to meet our goal of $2000 we need to sell 82 copies. Granted it will take a while for the money to roll in. Assuming you can make 10 sales a month, then after 8 months you’ve been paid for your work. But the nice thing is that you’ll keep getting paid! Meaning anything after those 8 months that rolls in is magical passive income! woohoo! Now this might not be enough to live off of at first, but if you keep releasing tools, you’ll keep getting more and more each month. After a year, who knows you might be able to quit your day job. Or at least switch to part time ;)
More Tools In Your Toolbox: You get to keep the tools you make! This might sound silly at first, but as a game developer you should always be creating content that can be used in other projects! As you make tools for yourself and for the public, it will make game development that much easier in the future because you’ll have awesome tools at your disposal. The tools you make will probably give you some new game ideas as well.
I created the Mesh Tracer Tool to make a effects like these for my current project Stellar:
[Lightning Orb, used as a projectile in my game]
And the tool eventually turned into this!
[Tree surrounded by a sphere. Emitting particles at each vertex]
[Night club demo scene.]
The Challenges of Tool Development:
Releasing your stuff to the public: Releasing a tool to the public means it needs to be in tip top shape. Code needs to be well commented, assets need to be scaled and packaged nicely, everything needs to be organized and well documented. But these are actually just good practices in general. Releasing something to the public makes you do all the nit-picky stuff that you know is good practice but might glaze over if it’s a project only seen by you. In the end this makes you a better developer and increases the quality of the things you’re making.
Support: You can’t just release a tool and be done with it. You have to commit to upgrading the tool when new versions of the engine you use come out. You have to respond to comments in a timely and polite manner. As most engineers/developers say, work doesn’t stop once you deliver the project. However I see this as a positive thing as well. Supporting your products gets you engaged with the community. If done right this can get you life-long fans and expand your customer base.
If you’re a game developer then I urge you to give it a shot! Release a couple tools and see how you like it. Take something you’ve made in the past, or something you could use in your current game project and ask: “can this be used other places?”. If so then it might just have the potential to become an awesome tool.
If you like my stuff and want to find out more, check out Dog Eat Dog Games on Facebook or Twitter. We love engaging with other developers to please feel free to contact us in any form.