Hello, my name is Austin Farmer here for Summit Interactive. I'm writing this article mainly to be as transparent as possible concering our upcomming game and the steps we're taking to ensure it's as good as possible. But, I'm also writing this for other developers facing similar challenges, in the hopes that it might help them in some way. I'd like to address some of the challenges we've faced and give you some insight on how you might deal with them. Anyways let's get started.
Recruiting The Team
This year, I started work on my 4th flash game. The concept was a reimagining of the pc classic The Oregon Trail, with a post apocalyptic setting similar to the Fallout series. I developed a basic prototype that was working pretty well. There was only one problem, I'm a terrible artist. So then I thought, I need get a team together. All of my previous games had just been worked on by me, accept for music and sound effects. Therefore they all suffered from the same major flaw (among others), the art was terrible. But, if I had a couple of artists and someone to help me program, then I could make a better game than I ever have before.
While I was working on the previously mentioned untitled game, I didn't think that it would be easy to recruit a whole team to work on a mere flash game nowadays, and if I was going to go through the trouble of recruiting a team, I wanted to go bigger than I had ever gone before. So I decided to make the game with the Unity engine. I had been toying with unity ever since I was in college, so I was pretty confident in my skills with it. I thought about the kind of game I wanted to make, and decided on an arcade style racer. I had been thinking about it for a while, and I already had some code that could be repurposed pretty easily. I also wanted something that would serve as a solid foundation for our studio, that could reach a wide audience. That's when Overdrive was born.
So I put up a post on the unity forums looking for team members. I naively thought that it would be super easy to recruit the team. Turns out, it wasn't as easy as I thought. There are hundreds of projects looking for talent nowadays. If you're a great artist or programmer, you pretty much have your choice of projects to work on. If you're trying to recruit members to your team, you'd better have a good pitch. But, luckily I did get a couple responses and managed to bring the team together. I would have to work outside of my comfort zone, and wear a lot of different hats, but we had enough people to get the ball rolling.
Developing The Prototype
This is was a relatively straight forward process. I have been making games for a while now, so by this time I'd like to think I'm pretty good at it. Regardless, there's always speed bumps and unforseen road blocks. For example, Unity doesn't really have a method for making tunnels in the terrain. Therefore, all of our tunnels have to be an above ground mesh that blends with the terrain.
I developed a pathfinding system similar to what you'd see in a lot of unity racing games, with a couple of extra features created for our game. Mainly I had to find a way to make the AI notice a shortcut and switch paths appropriately, as well as avoid terrain that was too steep for it to drive on. I then had to develop a way to track what place each racer is in. This was one of the first roadblocks we came across. There are a lot of unity racing game tutorials out there, but most of them don't mention this part. If the Kickstarter is successfull, I plan on releasing a series of tutorials on these very subjects, to aid future developers with similar problems.
After consulting the head artist, we decided on a cartoony style similar to borderlands. Not only would this allow for easier and quicker modeling, as well as compliment the arcade style physics we had planned. At the moment our in game art is very rough, but we plan on replacing most of it once the with the funds from the Kickstarter.
Getting The Word Out
So, we had enough people to make the game, and we were working on a prototype, but how were we going to let people know about it? At this point we have no budget, therefore we have no marketing budget. Luckily I'd had enough experience from my previous games to know a little about what to do, and what not to do. We of course started a website for the studio, as well as a facebook page and twitter account. We also posted about our project in multiple online forums. But, I knew one thing, that by itself wasn't going to be enough. So, I sat down, did some research, and brainstormed some ideas. It wasn't easy, but I did come up with a couple that I thought might be helpful.
We started a program to reach out to anyone with a blog, Youtube channel, or podcast. The idea was for us to promote them and vice versa, while forming partnerships that could be used for later projects as well as this one. We put up posts looking for partners, got a few responses and made a few connections. We're also planning on giving out free copies of the game to all of our partners as well as let's players, so they can cover it free of cost.
We also got very active in the Twitter community. After a couple of days, it was clear that twitter was going to be our best friend from a marketing perspective. There, not only can you advertise your product almost daily, but it's also a great place to network, and establish the partnerships mentioned earlier. Even though our followers are relatively few now, their numbers can only grow over time, and with each project that passes Twitter will become a more valuable tool.
Finally, we held contests to win free copies of the game, and plan to hold more in the future. While the response from these has been somewhat underwhelming, I believe that to be do to our momentarily small fanbase, and not a problem with the practice itself.
This brings us to the present. We should be releasing the demo shortly, with the Kickstarter following close behind. We're working as hard as we can to bring you the best game possible. We love it and we hope you'll love it too.
If you would like to recieve a copy of the demo, or would like to join our partners program please email me at [email protected] or you can contact us via Twitter at @Summit_Main. Want to find out more about the game? Check out our website at summitinteractive.weebly.com. Anyways, I'd like to thank all of our fans for their continued support, and all of you for reading this article. Hopefully you found this article helpful, or at least interesting. If not I'd still be interested in hearing your comments and criticisms. We look forward to hearing from you!