Blog post meta blog post.

The Dormouse Games website is looking a lot more professional these days.  The blog aspect is basically going to be my domain.  We’re going to be posting information specifically about the games we’re making the and thought process that will go into them.

This blog is going to stay active.  The tone here will more personal, rather than business related.  Talking about events I go to, talks I like, etc.  But there might be some crossover.  So if you enjoy the stuff I post here, follow the blog at Dormouse Games as well!  Just in case.  Wouldn’t want to miss anything, right?

For the company website I rewrote some concepts and ideas about Paper Prototyping because we used it recently.  You may see some revisions and changes in thinking.  This represents the things that I am learning through the process of starting company and applying all the lovely theory.

3 great GDC Vault talks.

Or why I am a Luke Muscat fanboy.

The more I learn about Half Brick’s Luke Muscat, the more I like.  The company made some really great games.  Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joy Ride in case you’ve been living under a rock.  They were super friendly at Pax East 2012, their booth was directly across from The Tap Lab, where I spent most of that Pax.  Instead of this just being a blog post of flattery, lets get to the part about why you should care.

Luke gives some amazing talks at GDC.  Although we can’t afford the ticket price to go, the GDC Vault has been kind enough to post them for us.  They are great Post Mortem style presentations on what went well with Fruit Ninja and Jet Pack.  They are well worth the time to watch.

Another really great GDC Vault topic is the discussion of ‘intro levels‘ (Tutorial shall never be used here!) by PopCap Games George Fan.  We’ve already discussed why I don’t like the word ‘marketing‘ when getting the word out about games.  But I also don’t like tutorials thanks to George Fan.  George, Steam Scouts: On Track is a better game because of your GDC talk.

Steam Scouts Beta!

Dormouse Games has a functional Steam Scouts beta!  We’ll have a closed beta, followed by an open beta, coming up in the near future.  That means it’s time for the business guy to look to the future.  I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how we’re going to get the word out about the game.

As a gamer, I don’t like ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ pointed at me because its weak-sauce when compared to what I really enjoy; a good game, with a good story, in a compelling setting.  So the challenge of coming up with marketing material is on the one hand kind of silly as you’ve just invested time and effort into creating an entire world.  But on the other hand, marketing and ‘the brand’ is super critical to grow the game beyond the scope of who knows about it right now.

We want to tackle ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ at Dormouse Games by going that extra step beyond marketing to world building. At the moment we’re looking into the idea of awarding players achievement badges, and merit badges for the completion of Steam Scouts: On Track.  We’re going to skip the ‘swag’ and the flyers, and instead create actual merit badges for rewards in and out of the game.

I have this mental image from Pax East 2012 in my head.  The Tap Lab on one side of the isle, with buttons and stickers and flyers.  And Half Brick on the other side of the isle with fruit for sale.  Little plush fruit sliced in half, that stuck together with Velcro   Even Dave got a fruit at the Half Brick booth.  Which was more effective?  We want to give a token that people really identify with, but also something they earned.  With a game about merit badges the solution seems rather obvious.

Does that idea strike you as something compelling?  Or are we wasting our time?  What do you think?  Would a sash full of badges appeal to you?  This idea appeals to me, but then I was a scout as a kid.

New Office

Today Dormouse Games moves into Intrepid Labs.  We have an office!  Intrepid Labs is a fantastic co-working space which houses some of our closest friends and mentors in the game design world.  The Tap Lab has been there for a while, and suggested we look into getting a desk there.  Owlchemy Labs moved in recently.  Some ex Zynga Boston folks (who I haven’t met yet) are there.  And a few other companies are starting soon as well.

We’re also releasing our first game…  Well it’s like our first 1/2 game.  Check out Impasse: The Impossible Platformer.  Basically little more then a tech demo, testing HTML5 functionality, with a couple very simple sharing systems Eric built from scratch.  It’s my first game design up on the web.  Eric did the development.  The concept took about 10 minutes to come up with.  The Game Design Document 2 hours to write, and it took Eric about three weeks to put together while he was doing other stuff (founding a company).

I want to polish Impasse, but the company needs to get down to work.  Some better art at some point would be great.  But for a quick and dirty first hit, I think it came out pretty well.  Please take a moment to play the game.  The game plays in about 4 minutes or less, so if you don’t like it at the very least it wont take up much of your time.  😉

Extra special big Thanks! to Dave Bisceliga for playing photographer.

Artist(s) wanted

Happy Holidays everyone,

As announced at December Boston Post Mortem, Dormouse Games is starting up this coming year.  We have angel funding and the paper work gets signed in January.  To get a jump on building the business we need artists portfolios and resumes.  2d, or 3d artists (who want to output to 2d) for platformer, puzzle games and possibly card games down the line.  We’re willing to look at talented first timers, or experienced folks looking for a start-up indie company.

We have contract work available, with the potential to become full time.  Two games need art and a company logo.  So send us resumes if you are interested, or connect us with worthy folks who want a shot at breaking in.

Eric and Jeremy
Dormouse Games

Angel Investors or Inspiration is where you find it.

Eric Fritz came to me with a problem.  He has been working with two angel investors for a year attempting to create a profitable game.  He made a game for them.  They kept saying metrics, he kept saying fun.  The focus on metrics, and attempting to repeat Zynga’s success, didn’t go as well as they would have liked. That company has been wound down, but they offered to give my friend funds to start his own company.  This is how we founded Dormouse Games.

But Eric hates business, one reason why he was emphasizing fun being on an equal level as metrics.  There are many things which he does not enjoy doing; forging corporate culture, thinking about the corporate culture, how to grow a company, money management, networking with the games industry.  He loves creating fun games.  So he approached me to help him start a company.

I agreed to act as an adviser  to take none of the start-up funds out of the company, but to handle those things which he does not handle.  In return we decided on an appropriate amount of ownership (small), I would be a co-founder.  I met with the Angel Investors.  They put a deal on the table.  And the stress began.

For him this is where having a business partner, like me, who cares and enjoys the ‘un fun’ parts of running a business, is valuable.  The lawyers said the deal was completely unacceptable, and recommended Eric offer the investor’s common stock.  My advice was to ignore that, Angel Investors are not going to accept shares of common stock as that represents no controlling aspect of the company, and therefore more risk.

From the investors point of view we are a super risky bet so the offer on the table was for a very large percentage of the company.  I took Eric and the offer to my friend, mentor, and sometimes client (I’ve done QA and game mechanics contracting work for Tap City and Tiny Tycoon) Dave Biscelgia.  Having acquired multiple rounds of funding for his own company The Tap Lab, he was a wealth of great experience and suggestions.  We learned of a convertible note, the current industry standard for angel rounds of investing.

The investors felt, however, that as we are an extremely risky team (and they are correct we are completely unproven) the deal had to stand.  They also stated that they were our only option for funding because we’re so risky and because our plan involves a lot of learning on our part.  Our counter offers were turned down.  And we realized that they were completely correct.

So we decided to become a proven team.  We did accept the terms as offered, and used them to found Dormouse Games.  To prove ourselves we came up with a small, quick, short game.  Just for the experiance.  We learned what we needed to and moved on to our next project.

Indies and the Law

Or timeliest PA Report ever!

Not three hours after meeting with angel investors (woot!) to discuss an ongoing investment deal, Penny Arcade posted the most amazing article.  (actually they posted it before the meeting, I discovered it via twitter a couple hours after).  The article is a crash course on video game law.  Although not everything in it is specifically applicable to every situation, it is fantastic and helpful in the most common areas of legal trouble for indies.

The advice tracks fairly well to the ‘stages of game design‘.  There’s something for the pre company pretotyping/prototyping stages.  There’s advice for company formation, and intellectual property post company formation…  There’s a lot of great information in there, go read it.   Then mine is for great twitter accounts to follow:

Ben Kuchera
New Media Rights (nonprofit)
Shaun Spalding