这两者间的相似性似乎只有以上这些。这两个领域内的作品制作有很大的不同之处。电影的制作时间显然要短于游戏。先根据电影中的场景需求制定出具体的时间计划和安排。雇 佣团队成员后，制作便可以开始。于是，成员每天拍摄电影中的场景，直到完成整个剧本。当所有场景拍摄完成后，团队的工作就结束了。这个过程有时可以在1个月的时间内完成 。
游戏有较长的制作周期。新的游戏玩法机制会带来编程挑战。玩家可以在游戏环境中停下或四处走动，围着对象旋转360度。在制作过程中，可能产生意料之外的漏洞，更不用提开 发者可能因玩家在关卡导航中使用意料之外的方法，或因游戏玩法元素的不断重复而产生挫败感。最后，游戏的持续时间往往比电影更长，而且需要大量的创意内容，“较短”的 游戏往往也都能向玩家提供6到8小时的游戏体验。
演员于早上5点到达并开始化妆，而多达200号的制作人员在7点到达现场。首个拍摄场景位于闹市区的办公建筑，需要使用复杂的高架镜头。随后，所有工作人员需要迅速打包装备 ，在下午2点时赶到第2个拍摄点。第2个拍摄点会在下午6点关闭，而且剧组需要在太阳落山前完成4个镜头的拍摄，其中有个镜头需要动用50名群众演员。顺便提下，如果主角无法 按时到场，这意味着你需要重新安排整个镜头拍摄顺序，并且希望上帝能够保佑你在当天完成应尽的拍摄工作，无需使用更多的时间和预算。
人们都希望能够在游戏制作中避免这种情况的出现。想想看，有时候时间会成为妨碍“创意”游戏开发的因素。主要的问题在于迭代过程，你无法估算其时间，不是吗？在概念阶 段，你的开发团队对游戏想法充满热情，所以能够快速地完成任务。但是，当你们已经对工作感到疲惫，游戏进入测试阶段，情况又会如何呢？你或许已经想到了。后期你们可能 需要加班加点地润色游戏，因此而出现睡眠不足的情况。睡眠不足才是妨碍创造性的真正障碍。因而，你需要一名熟练的副导演。
电影制作有制作人也有副导演，双方各司其职。游戏团队也需要专注于管理时间的成员。资深管理者会将注意力集中在时间估算上，根据将来可能面对的风险和元素构建计划。游 戏团队的职员总人数总是会很紧张，因而项目管理者往往被视为不必要的成员。但是，如果你希望在45天内拍摄出好电影，而且时间方面不出现偏差，那么就需要雇佣优秀的副导 演。
想象下，如果游戏行业有类似于电影行业的概念审查服务。设计师和概念艺术师会合作并制作提案，随后将其发送给制作公司，后者会让职业游戏读者评估概念、角色、艺术风格 、环境模型和故事的市场生存能力。市场中将充满只专注于概念的创意职业者，而只有最棒的游戏想法能够生存下来。这样，不仅能使行业多样化且出现更多精妙的游戏，而且游 戏制作一开始就有了完整和成熟的概念。
拥有概念后，你就需要细心地考虑它是否能够在市场中有良好的表现。你的终端用户是否会认为这款游戏很有趣？他们是否会受美术设计吸引而想去了解更多游戏中的内容？他们 是否会将游戏推荐给自己的好友？如果你用一句话向他人描述你的想法，你是否有自信将其解释清楚，还是会因为胆怯而无法解释清楚？如果你对自己出售想法有足够的自信，之 后才能在概念中投入精力以及更多的资源和时间，并进入下个制作阶段。不要在概念创作方面过于匆忙，它是你成功的基础。
当电影剧组成员听到“淘金时间”这个词时，不是战栗就是开怀大笑。这个术语指当工作日的工作时间达到16个小时后，剧组成员的日薪资飞涨。尽管每个剧组成员都是各自签订 合同，但许多合同都有涉及到工作时间超出时的特别条款。当工作时间超出10、12或14个小时时，每小时薪资便会迅速上涨。如果工作时间超过16个小时，那么剧组成员领取的是 工作时间介于16和20小时的薪水，不管超出的时间是1分钟还是4小时。
剧组可能会因工作时间超出而疲惫不堪，但是知道他们能够获得更高的薪水，有时反而会激发更高的创作热情和氛围。当然，制作人和导演并没有像其他剧组成员那样热情高涨， 因为他们的制作成本在飞速增加。在每天的拍摄中，制作人需要为时间超出负责，他们尽全力来避免发生这种情况。如果剧组的工作时间过长，受惩罚的是制作人，这就会激励他 们尽全力来有效管理剧组的工作时间。
但是，有件事情是明确的。在电影行业中，剧组成员额外付出的经历能够得到公开的补偿。如果电影的拍摄时间超出预期，需要承担责任的是制作人和管理层，团队成员并不会因 意料之外的事件发生而受到惩罚。这是否会激发制作人不惜一切代价来避免剧组长时间工作？或许能够取得这方面的效果。剧组是否喜欢这种做法，并因此而更加努力地工作？这 也是有可能的。敏锐的制作人会考虑到工作时间超出的情况，并针对此制定相应的计划。当发生这种情况时，他们就能够获得超时成本，即便在困难时刻也能够保持剧组愉快地工 作。
优秀的电影制作人知道，整部电影的制作时间中有一半用于后期制作。音频、音效、节奏和片头都会影响到观众对产品的反应。电影行业中的后期制作还包括画外音工作、颜色修 正、特效以及胶片或数字形式的制作，确保最终在屏幕上呈现出完美的图像。后期制作阶段的长短各不相同，有些电影很快便可以完成，而有些电影花费一年甚至更长的时间来润 色。
但是，我见过的多数游戏开发时间计划并没有在项目末期划出正式的“后期制作”阶段。音频、动画、光照、标题和特效往往被直接穿插在常规制作过程中。虽然有些元素能够很 容易地融入早期的制作过程中，但有些元素需要等到内容最终确定后方能执行。结果，音频和其他团队成员就会陷入上述困难时刻。游戏开发者或许可以考虑在项目制作末期划出 额外的后期制作时间，确保整个团队能够意识到这些关键元素。
在游戏制作过程中，团队往往会使用游戏设计文件，但是通常情况下，内容创作过程严密性不足。各部门主管可能会遵从设计文件来工作，但是也会根据自己的想法更改内容和故 事创作方向。游戏设计师可能会拥有游戏设计文件，但是因为产品中通常包含数量众多的游戏玩法，所以很难保持文件的更新。游戏设计的变更和进展很快，设计文件很快就会变 得过时。设计师不断地重复设计游戏，每小时每分钟都能够取得进展。对于大型游戏来说，可能有10或20个设计师同时修改关卡。
那么，我是否提倡的是游戏团队向所有团队成员分发设计文件打印件呢？正是如此。尽管将文件打印出来似乎是过时的做法，而且浪费纸张，但是如果只通过邮件，很容易会被人 忽视，团队成员有时根本不会阅读数字化的设计文件更新内容，尤其在更新每天都有而且还有大量漏洞等待修正的时候。分发实体“游戏开发手册”或许是个值得尝试的有趣方法 。
在电影行业中，或许也存在演员大腕、有钱的制作人或令人尊敬的优秀摄影师使用他们的力量来控制拍摄过程。但是，电影导演的职责是如此清晰，所有电影剧组成员的行为永远 都不会对其产生影响。或许剧组中会有权威或闻名于世的成员，但整个剧组都会听从导演的命令。这减少了剧组政治现象，让制作得以流畅地进展下去。电影剧组都清楚，单个人 把控全局比由200个人来决定创意愿景要容易得多。所以，游戏制作团队或许也应当意识到这一点。
我曾经阅读过Roger Corman所著书籍《How I made a hundred movies in hollywood and never lost a dime》，对其中的内容依然印象深刻。书名清楚地指出，他可以从每款制 作的电影中盈利，无论预算多么低或者质量多么差。在这篇博文中，我将分析如何将他这些最佳的技术应用于独立游戏开发，这样开发者也就可以从每款游戏中盈利！
Corman的电影通常都会被人们打上B电影、题材电影和开拓性的标签。他知晓如何创造和开拓合适的电影题材，比如《自行车》、《护士》、《笼中的妇人》、《埃德加·爱伦·坡 》等。有些人可能会认为这是种消极做法，但他自己显然不这么想。这些次题材通常都被认为具有开拓性，因为它们会引起人们的注意。当你在决定是要创造另一个科幻游戏还是 遵循Edmund Mcmillen和Adult Swim的游戏设计之路时，以上做法值得考虑。消极的深刻印象依然是种深刻印象！
Corman总是能够盈利的重要原因之一是，他知道如何使得产品预算与预期的ROI（游戏邦注：即投资回报）相符。他并非总是尝试制作能够盈利5亿美元的电影，然后在制作中投入2 亿美元，再花1亿美元来做广告。他知道电影只能获得X美元的收入，所以他会花比X少得多的资金来制作和营销，从而实现盈利。调查你的“竞争对手”的真实收入（游戏邦注：不 要一开始就以《愤怒的小鸟》之类的游戏为竞争对手），然后树立花较少的资金制成游戏的标。个人推荐可以通过Game Jam活动来学习如何在时间和金钱有限的情况下制得产品 ！这里，我还推荐从其他低预算媒介中寻找降低成本的方法，但是请记住，时间本身也是金钱！
Corman用来推广电影的某种更具创新性的技巧便是使用影院来作为广告平台以赋予其电影合法性，不幸的是这种方法无法简单地复制到游戏行业中。他可以在这部分上控制成本的 做法是，只为自己的电影制作两份海报（游戏邦注：海报的制作费用昂贵，所以他只制作两份，一份用于展示，另一份备用），然后在各影院中巡回展示他的电影，每个影院的时 间只有1到2周。这个想法的重点在于，在这个电影直接转变成DVD方式的时代里，影院播放电影便存在合法性问题，某种决定电影是否值得观看的状况。他还意识到，多数人在影片 发布的前两周内前往观看电影，所以在影院中花更长的时间来做推广并非利用海报来盈利的绝妙方法。
那么，这种方法如何能被独立游戏开发者所使用呢？不要将金钱花在广告上，应该将时间花在于持续时间较短但获得极大关注度的区域推广游戏，比如Game Jams、节日、比赛、展 会、平台特别推荐（游戏邦注：比如iOS推荐的每周游戏以及Steam免费促销等）、捆绑销售、慈善动员和竞标赛（游戏邦注：比如DOTA2等）和Kongregate成就比赛等。巡回数周时 间，在可能的情况下尽量展示游戏。
以下将提供某些如何让这种方式在经济上产生作用的注意点。你的游戏只有在新鲜且获得关注之时才能获得大量收入，随后盈利便会迅速下滑，然后趋于稳定（游戏邦注：捆绑销 售可以挽救这个局面，下文将具体阐述）。为什么这种情况算好呢？此时你应当为游戏制定计划，不是专注于尝试将游戏以服务的方式进行出售，而是开始着手制作下款游戏。《 愤怒的小鸟》是Rovio的第52款游戏，他们不断努力直到开发出轰动市场的作品，没有将全部的精力和资金都投入到某款游戏中。你应当专注于迅速、低成本且可盈利地制作游戏， 随着你通过每款游戏学到新的东西，游戏质量自然会逐渐提升，你的公司和名声会随着每款游戏的发布而逐渐成长。Robert Rodriguez的首个电影巨作《El Mariachi》事实上只是 为他制作更大的电影提供资金。他也能够在自己制作的每款电影上获利！
Corman较不为人知的盈利技巧是低价购买外国影片，然后将其重新编辑便配上新的对话，制作某种混合型电影或者新电影。这种方法的前期投入相对较低，而且所需的工作量和员 工也较少，从而产生巨额盈利。如果做法正确的话，可以转化成盈利项目的小型独立游戏和实验多达上千个。我不建议将流行游戏克隆到其他游戏平台上并从中获得盈利的做法， 但是可以寻找那些被低估或者尚未完成的游戏，要么将其完全买断，要么与开发者合作，使得游戏成为受大众喜欢的作品。如果你想要些灵感的话，可以看看Ludum Dare游戏比赛 的入围作品，它们都是开源且未被完成或润色的游戏想法，这些想法已经获得些许反馈、曝光度和游戏时间，但是也仅此而已。如果你想要得到更具实验性的想法，不妨看看 Experimental Gameplay Project上的开放性想法和概念，将它们进一步发展。一旦你的识别能力达到某种程度，你或许可以成为发行人或者某些能够为游戏的发布提供帮助的人。
首先要澄清的是，我所说的业余人才是指那些目前没有职业依靠自己的才能来赚取金钱的有才华的人。Corman闻名的原因之一是能够帮助优秀的学徒进军好莱坞。或许你曾经听说 过Jack Nicholson、Martin Scorsese和Ron Howard等人，他们都曾从师于Corman并做出自己的巨作。他在识别人才方面独具慧眼，让这些人能够有机会真正将自己的作品展示在观 众面前，而这是他们自己的努力无法轻易实现的。这些导演中，有些刚开始是替Corman编辑电影预告片，直到后者给予他们导演电影的机会。Jack Nicholson刚开始一直都是编剧 ，直到Corman某天决定让其在某部电影中展现才华。
在这里，我给独立游戏开发者们的建议是，寻找那些渴望获得展现自己实力的有才华的人。预先告知他们项目的盈利会很少，但他们依然会辛勤工作。其中的价值在于，你会完成 并发布游戏，而且会有各种各样的人群玩游戏。许多独立项目从未实现这种目标，但是你的遭遇将有所不同，因为你掌握了这篇博文中所提供的技巧，专注于赚取盈利以制作下款 绝妙游戏。刚刚毕业的游戏学校毕业生是可以寻找到此类人才的宝库！
灵感来源：The Corman Film School；Game Career Guide论坛
Corman之所以能够保证电影获利的部分原因在于，他不仅让降低电影的最初预算，而且还与其他公司合作来预售自己的电影。通常情况下他会将自己的电影预售给经销商以获取盈 利，因而只要他能保证电影预算不超支，就无需担心电影的盈利可能性。有些时候，他会利用电影脚本与感兴趣的工作室或电影资助人合作，预先让后者来为尽可能多的制作成本 买单。这种做法与书籍撰写者类似，他们也会让发行商来承担成本。在你的知名度相对较低且你的盈利能力未得到验证时，实现上述目标可能很难。那么为何不选择将产品预售给 顾客而不是中间商呢？知道有人愿意付费购买你的产品是再好不过的事情。这种模型的两种形式已经取得了显著的成效，那就是Kickstarter和出售预定版本。
Kickstarter和预售1.0筹款系统的概念相似，你提供可玩内容（游戏邦注：如原型和测试版）或以媒体（游戏邦注：如预告片和设计文件）的形式提供游戏概况，然后让人们花些 许金钱资助游戏以换取正式版本游戏以及某些额外的利益。Kickstarter的不同之处在于，它通常还未是个可玩的游戏，不同的付费等级对应不同的奖励，如果筹款目标没有达到就 不会失去金钱。原型销售的不同之处在于，提供不断更新的可玩游戏、可以对项目开发产生影响的能力，无论筹款目标的达成情况如何，金钱交易是实时进行的。每种方法都有好 处和弊端，所以你应当根据游戏目前的进展状况（游戏邦注：你能够给顾客提供哪些东西，你是否认为自己能够达成筹款目标）选择合适的方法。你可以在项目早期（游戏邦注： 游戏还未能可玩的阶段）尝试使用Kickstarter，如果无法实现筹款目标，就应当专注于构建原型，然后尽快将其出售。应当注意的是，这些做法与病毒性有所联系，所以应当利用 所掌握的所有营销技巧！以下是某些较为成功的范例。
灵感来源：《Zombies, run》；Kickstarter页面；《Minecraft》的销售；《Frozen Synapse》预订页面；RTS游戏《Achron》
Corman经常会挑战自己如何快速地制成电影，这既出于盈利原因，也是种个人发展想法。他还将这种心态传达给自己的编剧Charles Griffith，有时会在晚上给后者打电话，概述 剧本想法并让其在第二天早晨提交首个剧本草稿！他的最快创作记录是2天！这样做降低了成本，保持了内容的创造性并且能够不断让他学习和制作出新东西。重点在于，他从不发 布自认为很烂的电影，他只是保持对制作的较低期望而已。再次，我还要推荐Game Jams，因为这能够让你学习如何实现上述目标。在48个小时内构想并完成游戏，这的确会给人极 大的满足感。要成功实现这个目标，你需要学习如何专注于你的游戏并将其精制润色。你必须削去大量游戏特征，但是剩下来的应当变得更好。一旦你掌握了如何迅速工作的技巧 ，就会更加容易地根据上述第4个建议快速地改造game jam中的游戏想法。
许多独立开发者和游戏工作室（游戏邦注：如3D Realms）将成长和经济上的成功视为在游戏中花更长时间的机会，但是制作时间的长短并不总是等同于游戏的润色程度或盈利，所 以不要落入这个陷阱，逐渐缩短每款游戏的制作时间。
灵感来源：在两天内快速制成游戏；Global Game Jam；Game Jams
Corman之所以能够在两天的时间内迅速制成影片，最大的原因之一是结合优秀的前期预制作和重新使用场景和道具。当制作次题材影片时，这种方法特别有效，比如他之前制作的 多部《埃德加·爱伦·坡》电影。以重新使用资产的方法来设计游戏应该要比电影制作要简单，因为游戏的基础通常都是大量的成分以及这些成分互动的规则。重新使用资产、角 色和场景可以带来两个令人惊异的好处：节省成本和时间；构建世界和IP。在构建粉丝群体和营销时，构建世界和IP可以体现出极大的价值。那么，为何不使用相同的世界或角色 来以不同的方法制作多款游戏呢？马里奥、索尼克和古惑狼之类的游戏看起来似乎与游戏初作并没有直接的联系，但是我敢担保其中某些确实有重新使用的资产。当然，行业中也 有明显使用初代游戏来制作系列游戏的做法，但是与AAA级游戏相比这似乎并不适合此题材开拓性游戏，因而最好是使用你已经获得的资产来开拓新的游戏机制。
许多人可能都看过或者至少听说过Corman的经典作品《Death Race 2000》，但是你可曾知晓电影里的汽车音效来源于其F1竞速电影（游戏邦注：而这个音效是在他去观看比赛时录 制下来的）？Troma的Lloyd Kaufman曾经在他的电影中加入汽车碰撞场景，考虑到这个特技的制作成本昂贵，他寻找方法将这个场景插入到自己的其他电影中，以减少制作成本！ 如果你在某些东西上花钱，那么不要在制作一款游戏之后就将其抛弃！
Corman为B电影的原创含义辩护，他解释为何称不上冒犯，它只是代表着双功能展示中的第二个功能，就像是音乐中的B面那样。B面歌曲和电影的混乱在于，它们通常会显得更加危 险，但是有时是更加有趣的发布，尽管营销并不是那么简单，但仍然有潜在的盈利性。将B面与更具有营销型的产品绑定使得公司可以缓和低盈利的风险。提供捆绑销售不仅能够增 加顾客的价值感，还有可能使得B面同样获得成功帮助带动销售。
Steam在提供和推广各种类别的独立游戏捆绑方面做得很不错，不仅有助于个体游戏的推广，还能够因所提供的价值而增加销售量。如果没有通过这种方式，部分独立游戏玩家可能 根本就不会接触到游戏。这还产生了某种绝妙的方法，使用那些较老的流行游戏来促进销售量。你会看到，Steam的捆绑销售中，发行商会提供某些已经过时的游戏，这些游戏本身 可能已经不再独立出售，但是玩家或许对这些游戏有些怀念，他们想要玩这些之前在流行时玩过的游戏。另一个绝佳的例证是Humble Indie Bundle，刚好今天提供了特别的Frozen Synapse Bundle。
你无需等待其他人对游戏进行捆绑，你可以创造出自己的游戏集或特别推广包（游戏邦注：尤其是如果开发者遵循第8个建议开发出一系列单IP游戏）。在这个方向上更进一步，使 用捆绑销售来为下款游戏筹集资金或Kickstarter（游戏邦注：正如建议6中所说的那样）。如果J.K. Rowling发表如下声明：“我需要足够的资金来编写《哈利波特》系列小说的 最后两部，有个特别推广活动，如果你以这个特别折扣价购买前5部小说的合集，那么你将会免费获得最后两部小说！”，想象下该系列小说的销售量会取得怎样的进步。
灵感来源：Valve Orange Box；MacHeist
Corman理解以下观点：如果你不出售电影的话就无法获得盈利，如果你无法获得盈利的话就无法制作出更多的电影！所有之前的建议中都含有能够让你在预算内快速完成游戏并获 得盈利的想法，希望这些目标能够尽快实现。他会在预制作计划中投入大量的精力，利用受到的约束条件来工作，这两种工作方式都促进了电影制作的完成。他专注于使用每部电 影的盈利来资助下部电影的制作，这能够确保他在对其他电影想法感到兴奋时依然有充足的理由完成手头正在制作的影片。
如果你是个独立开发者，这或许意味着你需要通过制作游戏来维持生计，那么如果你不出售自己的作品，就无法实现这个目标。正如Joker在《The Dark Knight》中所说的那样： “如果你在某些方面尤为擅长，那么就应该在这方面获得报酬。”这便是业余人士和职业人士之间的差别，职业人士首先要求得到金钱，然后再实现自己的承诺。如果完成某款游 戏已不可能，或者游戏完全无法带来乐趣，或者从设计的角度来看是完全无法挽救的，那么你就必须将你投入的资产和时间运用到某些能够出售的内容中。你可以重新使用代码、 艺术、音效甚至某些设计，但是可能不能完全使用这些东西。将这种重生视为新的挑战，使用抛弃原有游戏后剩余的预算和时间来开发出新游戏，这样你仍然可以获得盈利。你可 以做到这一点，不要放弃！
灵感来源：Derek Yu——《完成游戏》；Chris Hecker——《请完成你的游戏》
我强烈推荐你自己阅读这本书籍，因为这对成为优秀的导演和制作人不无裨益。如果你觉得低预算电影制作技术很有趣并希望学到更多内容以将其运用到游戏制作中，我还推荐 Robert Rodriguez所著《Rebel without and crew》和所有Lloyd Kaufman撰写的有关电影制作的书籍。
The Top 10 Things The Game Industry Can Learn from Film Production
Over the years I have mused on the differences and similarities between producing games and films. Both have large, creative crews working towards successful delivery of a visually entertaining product.
When I worked on movie sets, I drove around the city to a different location each day. Once there, I was greeted by a troupe of 200 creative people on the movie set all trying to achieve one vision.
When I worked on games, I was again greeted by 200 creative people all trying to achieve one vision, but instead of using a physical set to stage their dramatic scenes requiring me to cross town, the environments and sets were all contained at the office on their computer screens.
Despite their different work environments, both mediums aim to entertain, creating tension and excitement, making people laugh, cry, or tremble in fear at the edge of their seats.
From there, the similarities seem to end. Producing works in these two fields is drastically different. Films have significantly shorter production periods than games. A detailed schedule is created based on the scenes required in a screenplay. The cast and crew are hired, production begins, and each day they film specific scenes until the entire script is complete. When all scenes have been filmed, the crew is done. This can all be done in as short as a month.
Games have long production periods. New gameplay mechanics present engineering challenges. Players have the ability to stop and walk around in environments, rotating 360 degrees around objects. Unexpected bugs may arise late in production, not to mention the possibility that players will navigate levels in unexpected ways or become frustrated with gameplay elements requires ongoing iteration as testing happens. And finally, games are generally much longer than films, and require a hefty amount of creative content, with “short” games providing a six to eight hour game experience.
Despite these differences, I believe there are techniques from the film industry that can be applied to game production. Film production teams deliver fast because they have to, with location, crew, and cast restrictions tied to a very precise clock. As the market tightens and consumers expect more features from games, we need to find ways to make games faster and cheaper. One place to look is to the well-oiled machine of film production.
Lesson #1: Never Shoot a Movie without an Assistant Director
The cast arrives at 5am for make-up, while the production crew of 200 people gets there at 7. First up is a scene in a downtown office building, which includes a complicated crane shot. A second unit is shooting up the street to fill in the gaps so the whole crew can pack up and be at a second location by 2pm. The second location closes by 6pm — no ifs, ands, or buts — and they have to get four shots before the sun goes down, one including 50 extras in the scene. Oh, and by the way, your key actor is late, meaning you have to rearrange your entire shot list and pray to God you get everything complete without having to add another day to the schedule — and budget.
Holy jigsaw puzzle of time management! If you thought your teams were hard to manage, imagine the pressure on the shoulders of a film’s Assistant Director. “ADs,” as they are known on set, are unionized through the Director’s Guild of America.
They are highly skilled in judging all the various elements that will go into a shot and determining how much time it will take. On a film set where money is literally being spent as each minute on the clock ticks by, they keep things running smoothly towards completing each shot on the list.
I’ve worked on small films without an AD, and the inevitable result is that you find yourself still trying to “get that last shot” at 2am in an apartment in the Bronx, eventually falling asleep with your face plastered onto a piece of pizza. It’s not pretty.
People tend to avoid the clock in games. Thinking about time estimates hampers the “cool” and “creative” game dev lifestyle. It’s all about iteration, and you can’t put a time estimate on that, can you? That’s all well and fun during concept phase when your devs are passionate, but when you’re exhausted and pushing to Beta… Yup — you got it. You’re stuck with another brutal, middle of the night sleeping pizza face incident. Sleep deprivation — that is the real obstacle to creativity. What you need is a skilled AD.
What? “I don’t need that! My producer does that.” Well, yes and no. Some producers are amazing at time management, and others not so much. Producers often also have other elements on their mind: big picture concept, correspondence with marketing, milestone reports, a whole lot of other things that draw their attention away from the nitty-gritty, day to day of making sure elements are “in the can.”
Movie sets have both a producer and AD, each managing different responsibilities. What game teams need is a dedicated resource to manage time. A qualified, experienced resource that can eyeball time estimates and build a schedule based on the risks and elements in front of them. Headcount is always tight on game teams, and project managers dedicated to scheduling could be seen as unnecessary overhead. But if you want to shoot a movie in 45 days with no overages and
to have a beautiful film in the can, in the movie business, you hire a good AD.
Lesson #2: Films have a Lengthy Script Development Process
If you went to a film studio and asked them to fully fund a movie production crew to explore concepts for a new movie, you would get laughed out of the room. Yet that is exactly what happens in many game studios.
Often there is no other choice. In studios with only one or two small game teams, concepts for games are created as a group effort by the development team. Although outside writers are sometimes brought in to help form the story, the seed of the concept usually comes from a passionate team with a great idea.
In contrast, the concept for a film generally has a lengthy development process before the production ever has anyone on payroll. The concept, characters, setting, and story are all laid out in advance in a 110 to 120 page screenplay. Screenplays are put through a rigorous vetting process known in Hollywood as script development.
Here’s how script development works. A screenwriter toils away at their keyboard and creates a screenplay, which can take anywhere from two months to seven years. When finished, the screenwriter wipes the sweat from their brow and sends the script to their agent, who in turn sends the script out for professional script coverage.
Hollywood has a legion of professional readers that evaluate scripts for a living. These readers create a four-page report that summarizes the genre, time period, characters, plot, and location. They also rate the script on a pass/fail scale on various different creative elements. They often provide an overall feedback section with their professional opinion of whether a script will fly or bomb at the box office.
This aids executives in evaluating the viability of a concept in the marketplace. Once the agent feels the script is ready to shop around town, they send it to various executives and script development departments that would be a good match.
Let’s stop here for a moment. I’d like to note that already, films have a huge leg up on games at this point. You start with thousands of amazing creative ideas that screenwriters have probably put a few years of thought into. Only the best survive and get sent to production houses, not to mention that agents are specifically sending creative ideas to houses they think would be a good fit.
So what happens next? The production house buys the movie and it gets made, right? Not quite yet…
If a production house likes a script, they buy it, but this is no guarantee that it will get made. Often scripts go into “development” to improve the script even further. When a director or actor is attached, they may also have revisions. Again, only the best survive. Some production houses have drawers and drawers of purchased screenplays on deck to be made “someday”. Some are never made.
Finally, if the timing, screenplay, and attachments are right, the screenplay will be greenlit for production. Only then is a full crew hired so creative talent can bring the concept to life. Execution is everything. Even good scripts can turn into bad movies with the wrong cast or crew.
But the rate of failure has been greatly reduced by the forethought that went into creating the backbone of the movie during the script development process. Executives have had their say about income margins, marketing has discussed the viability of the concept, and now the movie can finally be cast, shot, edited, and released.
What Lessons Can Game Developers Learn from This?
Imagine a world where games had concept coverage services similar to films. Designers and concept artists could pair together and create proposals to send to production houses, which would in turn get professional game readers to evaluate the market viability of the concept, characters, artwork style, environment mockups, and story. The market would be flooded with creative professionals focusing only on concepts, and only the best game ideas would survive. Not only would this create more diverse and fascinating games, but they would have complete and cohesive concepts from the start, before any production budget is spent.
Perhaps I’m dreaming. A game concepting process similar to that of movies doesn’t seem likely given the way the industry currently operates. Game teams pride themselves on their creative abilities, and part of the reason they get so passionate about their work is often because the concepts are their own. When game teams are passionate, that is when great games are made, an equation any good producer knows not to meddle with.
Despite this, there are lessons to be learned from film’s extensive script development process. It reminds us that pre-production is by far and away the most important phase of a project. Evaluate and test your concepts at every single phase. Take initiative and create your own concept package before committing and spending time and resources. Your concept package could include key gameplay elements, a back-of-the-box one paragraph write up, a killer name, and artwork concepts for the characters and environment.
Hand it to someone you trust, and get their honest feedback. If you have a budget, put your package through playtesting and usability, with a sample build of gameplay if you have one. There are also market research firms you can hire to test your game concept in the marketplace. All these steps can be done by game companies large and small.
Lesson #3: Story Equals Concept
I hear a lot of talk at game conferences about the ongoing battle of story versus gameplay. In one camp, story is irrelevant because games are about good gameplay. In the opposing view, story is what the modern gamer craves and requires in a new landscape of high-quality console entertainment.
In my humble opinion, this entire argument is flawed. People are missing is that 90 percent of story is concept. Let me say that again. NINETY percent of story IS concept. By “concept” I mean the main character, core conflict, main gameplay elements, main enemies, setting and time period, and environments that make up the premise for your game. Every game has concept, regardless of how much “story” is there. Have you played a hit game lately without an
environment? How about one without a one-line description or “hook” that made you want to buy it?
As every good Hollywood screenwriter knows, always, always, always think of the big picture when creating your concept. This is the number one key to making it successfully through the brutal trials and tribulations of script development. If you can’t pitch your screenplay in one line to the head executive of insert-your-favorite studio in the elevator, you’re dead in the water.
Once you have your concept, you need to carefully consider if it will do well in the marketplace. Will my end consumer think this game is fun? Will they be intrigued by the artwork or premise and want to learn more? Will they tell all their friends about it? If you pitch your one-line idea to 10 random people, do you feel confident as you explain it, or do you find yourself “shying away” from the concept or “explaining it away”? Once you feel confident you can sell the idea, only then is it time to commit to the concept, invest more resources and time, and move on to the next step in the process. Don’t rush concept creation; it is the foundation of your house.
Lesson #4: Goldentime (film) versus Crunch (games)
When a film crew member hears the words “Golden Time” they will either shudder or smile. The term refers to the large salary jump crew members earn when hitting the 16th hour of work on a given day. While each crew member has their own contract, many have a clause specifying terms for what happens when working overtime. They may get bumped after 10, 12 or 14 hours of work to increasingly higher hourly rates. At 16 hours, many crew contracts hit paydirt,
receiving an entire day’s salary for hours 16 through 20, regardless if they work 1 minute or 4 hours.
Crews may be exhausted, but knowing they are getting paid bank perks up the set and sometimes even creates a creative and festive atmosphere. Of course, the producer and director aren’t feeling festive, as their production costs skyrocket with each passing hour. At the end of the day, the producers are responsible for overages, and they do everything in their power to avoid them. If a crew goes over, it is the producer that is punished, incentivizing them to do everything they can to effectively manage the work hours of their crew.
In games, compensation isn’t quite so cut and dry. If bugs crop up or features aren’t turning out as planned, team members can find themselves working “crunch”, the industry’s pet name for unpaid overtime.
Some teams work small, planned spells of crunch as a way to reach the end of a sprint or boost the quality of their products. Other teams find themselves working unplanned crunch, scrambling to fix bugs or drive up game quality.
Game developers are usually salary and not unionized, so these late hours are compensated only by the hope of a big hit game and profit sharing or a bonus at the end of the year.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide which system is better or worse. Crunch is loved by some, hated by others. Film golden time has a similar split. Crunch can drive up quality, or demoralize a team. Golden time can help you get that last shot, but exhaustion may set in for the rest of the week. These are hot- button topics that most professionals in both industries have their own thoughts about.
One thing is clear, however. In the film industry, crew members are mandatorily and openly compensated for their extra effort. If a film goes into overages, it falls squarely on the shoulders of the producer and management, instead of punishing team members for unexpected events. Does this incentivize producers to avoid long hours at all costs? You bet. Does the crew appreciate this and work harder for it? Probably. A savvy producer can assume there will be a
certain amount of overages and plan for them. When the time comes, they can reach into that overage budget, maintaining a happy crew even in a difficult crunch period.
Lesson #5: Post-Production is Half the Film
Have you ever watched an action movie on mute? Try popping in Transformers or Spider-Man and turning off the sound. Scenes that usually make your heart pound become emotionally flat. Disinterest sets in as your mind wanders to checking your email or planning your lunch. To create engaging, gripping sequences, sound is an absolute must.
Good film producers know that post-production is literally half the film. Audio, sound effects, pace of editing, and title sequences can make or break how an audience reacts to your product. Post-production in the film world also includes voiceover work, color correction, special effects, and working with film stocks or digital delivery formats to ensure a crisp image on the final screen. Post-production period lengths vary, with some films getting things edited quickly while others can take up to a year or more to perfect.
Game producers also give extra attention and focus to sound and other techniques that fit into the post-production schedule in Hollywood. In a medium requiring moment-to-moment tension and excitement, game developers are keenly aware of the value that post techniques have on their audience.
However, most game schedules that I have seen don’t seem to have an official “post-production” period set out at the end of the project. Audio, cinematics, lighting, titles, and special effects are often expected to come online throughout regular production. While many elements can easily come online early, some need to wait for final content before implementation. What results is a crunch period right before major milestones for audio and other team members. Game developers may want to consider laying out extra time at the end of their projects to ensure these key elements can be fully realized.
Lesson #6: Everyone Gets a Script and Script Page Changes Every Single Day
When a film crew member walks on set in the morning, one of the first things they receive are neatly printed script changes. They take these pink, yellow, blue or other colored pages and place them in their binder with the rest of their script pages. The new pages contain added lines, cut scenes, or location changes. Every crew member has a script fully printed out, and they add these new pages into their script. They always know exactly what is being shot for
the day and what needs to be done.
In game production, teams often use game design documents, but in general the process of creating content often less top-down and more organic. Leads of various departments may be working off hit lists, and also creating content and story as they go along. The game designer probably has a game design document, but with sheer volume of gameplay usually contained in a product, this is difficult to keep up to date. Things move fast in game design and GDDs get out of date quickly. Designers iterate on the game constantly, making improvements by the hour and minute. On larger games, you may have 10 or 20 designers all making changes on their levels simultaneously.
Am I advocating that game teams adopt printed script bibles for all team members? Maybe. While printing out pages seems archaic and a waste of paper, it’s funny how easy it is to dismiss emails or avoid reading digital GDD updates, especially when changes are rolling in every day and you have a bug list a mile long. Having a physical “game bible” may be an interesting experiment to try.
Or, perhaps the game itself is the script bible. The best way to stay up to date on what changes are rolling in from the team is to actually play the game. Try running through one level each morning with your team to see what changes are in, as well as to discuss upcoming tasks that will be coming online in the next few weeks.
The key take-away here is determining whether your team members are always up to date. Being in the loop will make for a more cohesive vision, with team members that stay on track and contribute to that vision.
Lesson #7: Great and Plentiful Food Motivates
It’s amazing how much food can motivate employees, especially good food. Not only does it make employees feel like they are being taken care of, reducing their stress and increasing goodwill, but it also draws people together for conversation. When employees eat together, they begin sharing information, sparking new ideas, or remembering to take action on particular tasks.
Film crews have this one all figured out. Movie sets are fully catered, often with an on-site food truck cooking meals to order. All meals and snacks are free to crew members, with catering showing as a regular line item in any standard production budget.
With crews working around the clock, often at remote locations, having food on set is a must. Lunchtime is at the same time for all crew members, and after lunch is served, crew members promptly go back to work.
Understandably, game production doesn’t work in the same way. Developers are not on set. They are in the same office every day, and can bring food from home or go out to lunch at nearby eateries. In general, food for developers is looked at as a luxury or special occasion, and not as a mandatory part of what is provided to employees.
Game producers often provide food during crunch periods or at the end of a milestone. Some companies have food cafeterias set up as a way to offer convenience and community. This may be as close as the game industry will get to the luxurious meals provided to the creative talent on film crews. I’d like to challenge that, and say that if you want to generate happy creatives in your own game production office, food is a key tool in your toolbox.
When you start thinking of your developers as a team of creative resources instead of as a legion of office workers, this starts to make more sense. Creativity flows more naturally when stress is reduced. Having food on-site means one less thing to worry about during the day, gives developers a clear lunchtime to take a break, encourages community and makes them feel taken care of.
There is one caveat with food, however, that can actually end up making your teams less productive in the long run. Providing unhealthy snacks, soda, coffee, pizza, and heavy foods is not going to help your cause. In the long run these drag energy down, providing quick fixes but later resulting in an energy slump. Some of these foods can even lead to weight gain and health problems if consumed long-term.
Try to focus on providing high-protein foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes, and stay away from sugar or caffeine-loaded products.
Lesson #8: Have One Clear Creative Director
Film directors have absolute power on set. The film director assembles a crew of creative leads that greatly influences the film’s final product including a cinematographer, production designer, and casting director. But if there is a question on set, the director always has final say. They are the primary vision holder, harnessing the creativity of many into a final, cohesive product.
Game designers play a similar role with their teams, but there are things that can interfere with their ability to fully be in control. Game crews often pride themselves on their team approach, and the culture tends to lean towards a more collaborative mentality when it comes to the game vision. Another obstacle to having one clear director is that game designers often find themselves playing dual roles and writing the dialogue, designing levels, and doing other tasks that interfere with their ability to walk the floor and provide creative leadership.
If the game designer isn’t leading the creative vision, who is? Some companies have engineering, art, or other department leads in positions that wield more power than others. Upper management could be holding the reins, or a marketing division could be making demands.
A publisher may have an acting producer with an invested interest in the final product, and actively push their design ideas onto the team. Many companies take a team creative control approach, sometimes creating great products with an open-door culture, but other times allowing for unclear roles and negative feelings when creative ideas aren’t used. Each company has unique politics, history, and teams that form the power structure for creative control.
In the filmmaking world, there may be an actor with clout, a producer with money, or a revered cinematographer that use their power to control things on set. Yet the role of director is so clearly laid out and respected that the film crew’s daily production pipeline is not usually affected. There may be squabbling at the top, but the crew takes their orders from the director. This reduces team member politics and streamlines the production pipeline. Film crews have figured out that it is much easier to coordinate a creative vision made by 200 people if there is one person to answer to. In time, game production teams may figure this out as well.
Everyone has heard the horror stories of prima donna film directors demanding full control on their movies, and I’m not suggesting that game designers swing to this extreme side of the pendulum of control-crazy leadership.
That said, I think everyone on game teams can learn something from the clear hierarchy laid out consistently on film sets time and again. Establish roles on the team and make sure your team is aware of these roles. Producers and directors should walk the floor twice a day and be open to answering any questions that team members have, keeping an eye out for creative elements that may be off track. Free up your day for office hours and remove yourself from tasks that
can be done by others.
And that brings us to…
Lesson #9: Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Stop micromanaging and hand some of your work to others! What would happen on a film set if the director spent all their time making script page changes on their computer and photocopying them for the crew? They wouldn’t have had time to rehearse their actors, answer questions about the creative direction for set construction, or approve camera angles from the cinematographer. The director on a film does just that — directs — ensuring everyone is on the same
Game producers should encourage their leads to delegate as much as possible. Create clear role definitions and stick to those. Check in often about where people are spending most of their time, and troubleshoot ways to get tasks off their plate that prevent them from higher priorities. Above all, always keep deadlines and priorities in mind. If your milestone requires X, Y, and Z, let other items go.
Lesson #10: You Can’t Fix the Story in the Cutting Room
In film production, there is a time when the movie reaches a point of no return. Unless your budget has deep pockets to allow for massive reshoots, what you shoot is what you get. If the original screenplay and concept were flawed, there is no great way to fix them.
If you watch films closely, you can see editing tricks employed to try and fix story issues. A constant soundtrack over scenes may try to mask emotional flatness. Quick editing and bold, large titles may try to add intrigue to scenes that would be otherwise tedious to watch. Scenes can be constructed from outtakes, and lines added in voiceover.
Things can definitely be doctored during editing, but there is only so much an editor can do to fix a broken movie.
Games are unique because developers can change content through the entire length of production. Scenes aren’t locked in stone, animations can be changed, and environments can be reworked. Missions can even be reordered. On one hand, this means that game content can be improved through the very end of a production schedule. On the other hand, this could give a game team a free pass to procrastinate story decisions that should come early in production, or to make changes mid-stream that throw the project off schedule.
Abandoning ideas that aren’t working is key to success. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is what you want to avoid. Stick to your original vision, and you’ll turn out the product you first set out to make. If you do this and stay on track, you will get it out the door quickly and have time to spare to make another new, improved project that you know will be “so much better than this one”.
Avoid letting your team’s perfectionist side take over, and focus on shipping the game that is in front of you, putting everything you have into making it as good as it can be. This can be difficult for game developers, who trend toward perfectionist tendencies. Feature creep has a way of lengthening schedules, which in some cases could be likened to a film editor trying to mask a scene that isn’t working wth loud music.
Sometimes new game features really can make the difference in shipping an excellent game, and mid-story changes are what end up making a product shine. The trick is to find a happy trade-off between running with what you’ve got versus allowing directional changes that may hike up quality.
How do we utilize these ideas to make higher quality games faster, cheaper? Let’s review!
Develop solid game concepts before production crews are brought in
Vet concepts in a similar way to the film script development process
Hire a skilled time management specialist
Keep crews productive by planning and paying for overtime and providing meals
Ensure team members are consistently in the loop for game changes and vision
Define team roles and have one clear creative director
Delegate tasks off leadership to allow them to focus on moving the rest of the team forward
Balance improvements and high quality with sticking to the original product vision
Make sure post-production time is planned in your budget
Use post-production to its fullest capacity, acknowledging that it is half the game
Now, what about the list of fascinating tidbits that film producers could learn from game devs? We’ll save that for another article.
10 Things Corman Taught Me About Indie Game Development
It’s been a while since I read Roger Corman’s book “How I made a hundred movies in hollywood and never lost a dime.” but I remember its lessons vividly. His book title is pretty literal as he made profit on every film he made, no matter how low budget or schlocky. In this post I’d like to share how some of his best techniques can be applied to indie game production so you too can never lose a dime!
1) Exploit genres
Corman’s films were often labeled as B-movies, Genre films and Exploitation. He was a master of creating and exploiting niche film genres such as Bikes, Nurses, Women in cages, Edgar Allen Poe, etc. Some would see this as a negative, but his bottom line sure didn’t. These subgenre’s were generally considered exploitation because they exploited shock value for attention, something worth considering when deciding between creating yet another fantasy game or going the Edmund Mcmillen and Adult Swim games routes. Negative press is still press!
Exploiting a newly popular subgenre or niche gives you the benefit of being a big fish in a small pond rather than trying to get normal mainstream attention in the already crowded world of games journalism. Wacky, weird or shocking will get people talking and playing! Unfortunately this “technique” also leads to tons of me-too games whenever a genre shows mainstream success, ie. Zombies, Bird games, etc. Come up with your own or pick something underutilized!
Some inspiration: Wikipedia page of exploitation genre’s in film; Exploitation classics
2) Aim for low profit, and even lower budget
A good part of the reason Corman always made profit is he knew how to scale his production budget to match his expected ROI (return on investment). He didn’ t try and make 500 million a movie while spending 200 million just to make it and another 100 million on advertising, he knew he’d only make X, so he spend much less than X and boom, profit! Find out how much your “competition” realistically makes (hint, don’t consider Angry Birds your competition) and then aim to spend much, much less than that. I recommend doing some Game Jams to really learn how to scale your production down in terms of time and money! The other lessons here offer some great tricks on ways to keep costs down but look for many more and never stop stealing hacks and techniques from other low budget mediums like film but remember, time is money too!
Some inspiration: The frugal auteur
3) Market yourself as legit, cheaply
One of the more innovative tricks Corman used to promote his films that unfortunately can’t easily be repeated now was using theatres as an advertising platform to legitimize his films. The way he did this cheaply was to only make two prints of his film (prints were really expensive so he made 1 for show and 1 in case the first got damaged), then tour around showing his film in theatres for only a week or two at each theatre. What’s important about this idea is that in this day and age of direct to dvd movies there is a legitimacy associated with actually being shown in theatres, a certain status as a film possibly worth seeing. He also realized that people mostly see films during the first 2 weeks of release and wasting his time promoting it at a theatre for longer than that wasn’t a good way to make profit from his print.
How does this apply to you, the indie game developer? Rather than spend your money on advertising, spend your time promoting your game in short run, high attention areas like Game Jams, Festivals, Competitions, Conferences, Platform specific featurings (iOS featured games of the week, Steam free weekends/promotional sales etc), Bundle sales, Charity drives, Tournaments (DOTA2 anyone?), Kongregate achievement competitions, and more. Tour around for a
couple weeks and get facetime and game press whenever possible.
Here’s the key to understanding how to make this work financially. You will only make profit for a short time when your game is new and attention is on it, the profits will drop off quickly and be barely a trickle after that (bundles can help later, see below). Why is this good? Plan for it and instead of focusing on trying to sell your games as a service (which is a good alternative biz model but not within the scope of this post) just start working on the next game. Angry Birds was the 52nd game for Rovio, they waited till they had a HUGE hit before putting their eggs in one basket. Focus on making games quickly, low budget and profitable and your quality will naturally improve as you learn new things with each game and your company/name fame (or infamy if you follow lesson 1) will grow with each release. Robert Rodriguez’s first big hit film El Mariachi was actually made to just be part of a 3 part direct to video b-movie series just to help him fund doing bigger and bigger films. He makes profit on every film he makes too!
Some inspiration: Indie student game competitions; PAX (Penny Arcade Expo); Indiecade; Humble indie bundle
4) Exploit undervalued content
One of Corman’s lesser known money making tricks was to buy foreign films cheap then re-edit them and dub new dialog to make a sort of remix or new film. This lead to great profits with relatively low upfront cost and much less work and crew required. There are thousands of small indie games and experiments that could be transformed into a profit if done well. This could be done poorly (Ninja Fishing vs Radical Fishing and Minecraft vs Fortresscraft) or smartly (Muffin Knight vs Super Crate Box). I don’t want to suggest blatently cloning another popular game for another platform and shamelessly raking in profits (Gameloft) but rather finding underappreciated or unfinished games and either buying them outright or working with the developer to make them into a quick buck for everyone involved. Want a great head start on this? Check out Ludum Dare game jam competition entries, they are open source, unfinished/unpolished
game ideas that have already gotten some feedback, exposure and playtime without an expectation of anything more. Heck I’ve even put together a list of which games use which kind of programming language/engine/tool to make it easier for you to find one you can easily take the ball and run with. If you want to go a bit more experimental than check out the Experimental Gameplay Project for some radical ideas and people open to taking their concepts further. Once
you reach a certain level of recognition you can even potentially act as a publisher or someone who can help port games (the way Halfbrick has been doing for indie’s lately).
5) Employ hungry amateur talent
First to be clear, when I say amateur talent I mean it in the sense of talented people not currently using that talent at a paid professional level. One of the things Corman is famous for is helping apprentice great talent into hollywood. Perhaps you’ve heard of Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, James Cameron, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, David Carradine, or Robert De Niro? All of them got their big breaks working through and learning from Corman. He was great at recognizing hungry talent and giving them a chance to work on something that would actually be seen by an audience, something they couldn’t easily do on their own. Many of those directors started off editing trailers for Corman till he gave them a chance to direct one of his films. Jack Nicholson started off as a screenwriter till Corman decided to throw him in one of his movies.
What I’m suggesting for Indie game developers is that you find talented people out there who are hungry for a chance to be involved and show off their stuff. Be upfront with them about how little profit and pay there will be and that you will work them HARD but what will make it worth there while is that you WILL finish and release the game and that it will be PLAYED by a good variety of people. Many indie projects never accomplish those things but you will be different because you’re armed with the tricks of this post and a focus on making profit to make the next great thing. Recently graduated game school graduates are a great source of talent looking to build a portfolio!
Some inspiration: “The Corman Film School”; Game Career Guide forums
6) Pre-sell your product
Part of the reason Corman was able to guarentee that he was able to make profit was not just keeping his initial budget low, it was also partnering up with other companies and pre-selling his films. Often he would pre-sell his film to a distributor for a profit and then as long as he kept the film on budget he didn’t even have to worry about the films profit possibilities during film or release. Other times he would get a script or at least treatment written and then partner up with an interested studio or film financer to cover as much of the production cost as possible up front. This works similar to how book authors will get advances from publishers to cover the cost of sitting at a typewriter for ages. This can be a difficult thing to do when you’re relatively unknown and your ability to make profit is untested so rather than focus on selling to middlemen, why not pre-sell your product to customers? There’s nothing better than knowing the demand for your product is there in the form of cold hard cash. This model is already gaining significant ground in two forms: Kickstarter and selling alphas/betas/preorders.
Kickstarter and Pre-v1.0 fundraising systems both work off a similar concept, you provide a pitch in the form of media (mockups, trailer, design docs, etc) and/or playable content (prototype, demo, alpha/beta version, etc) and then get people to pony up to help fund the game in exchange for a copy of the game and some additional bonuses. Kickstarter differs in that its usually not a playable game yet, there are different payment levels with different kinds of bonuses, and money isn’t withdrawn unless the funding goal is hit. Prototype/Alpha/Beta sales differ in providing a constantly updating playable game, an ability to help influence the development of the project, and money transactions (and something to play!) are instant regardless of any funding goals. There are tradeoffs and benefits to each method so pick the one most appropriate to where your game is at now, what you can provide customers, and whether you think you can reach a funding goal. You can always try Kickstarter while at the early stages (non-playable) and if it fails to reach a funding goal focus on building your prototype and then sell as soon as you can. Keep in mind these depend on virality so take advantage of any marketing tricks you can! See below for some successful examples.
Some inspiration: Zombies, run!; Kickstarter page; Minecraft sales; Frozen Synapse pre-order page; Achron RTS
7) Work fast
Corman often challenged himself to see how fast he could make films both for profit reasons and just as a personal development idea. He pushed the same mentality on his pet screenwriter, Charles Griffith, sometimes calling him in the evening, outlining a script idea and asking to get a first draft script by morning, and getting it! His quickest production was a whole 2 days, 2 days! This kept costs down, keep things creatively exciting and kept him learning and making new things. The important thing is that he didn’t release films he thought were garbage, he just kept his production expectations low and scaled accordingly. This again is where I’ll recommend Game Jams as the ultimate boot camp in learning how to do this. There’s nothing as exhilirating and satisfying as conceiving and finishing a game in 48 hours. In order to successfully pull it off though you need to learn how to focus your game and polish a pearl not a bowling ball. You will have to cut out lots of features but what’s left will be that much better for it. Once you’ve got the hang of doing this it will be that much easier to follow the suggestions of lesson #4 and play off game jam games for quick turnaround.
Many indie’s and game studios see growth and financial success as an opportunity to spend longer on their games (ie 3D Realms) but length doesn’t always equate to polish or profit so don’t fall into this trap, make each game quicker than the last (see the next lesson for how).
Some inspiration: Little shop of horrors shot in 2 days; Global Game Jam; Game Jams
8 ） Reuse assets
One of the biggest reasons Corman was able to film movies in sometimes as short as two days was good pre-production combined with reusing sets and props. This works especially well when working within a subgenre such as when he did multiple Edgar Allen Poe films. There was even one of his films where he realized he had a spare day or two before one of his Poe sets was going to be dismantled and had a script written that night to take advantage of that small window to produce one more film. Games are designed in a way that reusing assets should be even easier than in films as they are often based around lots of components and the rules for how those components interact. Reusing your assets, characters and settings can have two amazing benefits: cost/time savings, world/ip building. There’s tremendous value in building up a world/ip when it comes to building a fan base and marketing so why not make multiple games that take different approaches to the same world or characters? Heck look at all the things they’ve done with Mario, Sonic and Crash Bandicoot that have nothing to do with their debut games but I’m sure some of them reused assets (probably sound more than art but I digress). There’s also of course the obvious move of making sequels but that may not work as well for subgenre exploitation games as it does for AAA tentpole games, so better to explore new mechanics with the assets you’ve got.Many of you reading this have probably seen or at least heard of the Corman classic Death Race 2000, but did you know that the car sounds were reused from his F1 racing film (which itself used real race footage he recorded cheaply by going to the races)? Lloyd Kaufman of Troma once put a car crash scene in one of his films and considered it kind of an expensive stunt so he mitigated the cost by finding some way to include that scene in as many of his other films as possible! If you spend money on something, don’t throw it away after 1 game! I’d also recommend studying what has worked/not worked for Telltale with their episodic games as a great learning opportunity for asset reuse (sadly they probably don’t reuse as much as they could).
Some inspiration: Troma recycling; Cheapass Games reuses board game components
9) Exploit Bundles
Corman defends the original meaning of the term B-movie by explaining why it wasn’t originally an insult, it simply meant the second feature of a double feature showing (like drive-ins still do), similar to the term B-side in music. The upside of B-side songs and movies is they are usually the riskier but sometimes more interesting releases, the ones not as easily marketed but still potentially profitable. Having a B-side bundled with a more marketable product allows a company to mitigate the risk of lower profits by providing a bundle with not only an increased value perception for the customer but also the possibility that the B-side could also be successful and help drive sales further.
Steam has been great at providing and promoting bundles for indie games of various categories to not only help promote the individual games but also to increase sales due to the value provided. There are quite a few Indie games gamers might not have otherwise played had they not be part of a bundle and profits that might never have been gained. This also provides a great way to get a short boost of income using your old, unpopular games to boost the bundle value. You see this with Steam’s bundles from publishers providing back catalogue games that probably wouldn’t sell on their own anymore but that gamers might have some nostalgia for or want to play because they missed it when it was popular. Another great example is the Humble Indie Bundle which coincidentally is today offering a special Frozen Synapse Bundle (two things I’ve mentioned earlier as great examples).
You don’t have to wait for someone else to create a bundle, create your own “greatest hits” catalogs or special promotional bundles (especially if you create a great series of single ip games by following lesson #8). Go one step further and use the bundle sale as a fundraiser or kickstarter for your next game (as in lesson #6). Imagine the sales that could have happened if J.K. Rowling had put up a page saying “I need funding for the final two Harry Potter books as they are a two-parter, as a special promotion if you buy the first 5 Harry Potter books as a bundle at this special discount price you will get the next two books free!”.
Some inspiration: Valve Orange Box; MacHeist
10) Always finish or recycle
Corman understood you can’t make a profit on your films if you don’t sell them, and if you can’t make profit you can’t make more! All of the previous lessons include ideas that will commit you to a promise of finishing your game, fast, within budget and make profit, hopefully as early as possible. He put a lot of focus on good pre-production planning and working with constraints instead of against them, both of which go a long way towards making that finish possible. His focus on using the profit from each movie to fund the next one made sure that if he was excited about other film ideas he still had a great reason to finish the current one first.If you’re an Indie developer that probably means you want to make a living making games and you can’t do that without selling what you do. As the Joker in The Dark Knight said, “if you’re good at something you should get paid for it”. That’s the difference between an amateur and a professional, a
professional asks for money and comes through with their promises. If finishing a game really becomes impossible or the game is just absolutely not working and looks unsaveable from a design perspective then you absolutely must recycle the assets and time you’ve spent into something that WILL sell. Chances are you can reuse code, art and sound and maybe even some design, but probably not all of it (maybe in a future game though). Treat this rebirth as a bonus
challenge to develop the new game using the remaining time you had budgeted for the game you are scrapping so that you absolutely still hit budget and make profit. You can do it so don’t wuss out!
Some inspiration: Derek Yu – Finishing a game; Chris Hecker – Please finish your game
I highly recommend reading the book yourself as it’s a great read about a great Director/Producer. If you find low budget film making technqiues and hacks interesting and want to learn more to apply to your game production I also recommend Robert Rodriguez’s “Rebel without and crew” and any of Lloyd Kaufman ’s (of Troma fame) books on filmmaking (he even has a dvd version now).
Cheeky plug: If you liked this post check out the most recent episode of the Game Developers Radio show I co-host, “Exploring Design”, on the topic of gimmicks in games.
Hope this helps at least provoke some thought for the indie’s out there struggling to make a living!