June.. The month where sh*t went down and tough conversations took place... But I'll start it from the beginning.
Prison Prism is OUT THERE! Yes, you heard. Now it's our first version, I'd actually call it a beta version, it's rough around the edges. However, we've published a game. That's pretty cool.
We questioned whether we should be releasing whilst it's still rough ‘n’ ready, but we felt it was the best decision to go ahead with it. This was for a few reasons, primary reason (I'll be real with you guys) is that a lot of funding applications, particularly government backed schemes require a published game to your studio's name. So essentially, Prison Prism acts as the tick for that box. That's not to trash talk Prison Prism - it's actually a very clever game, brainchild of our programmer Harry - however, it was a huge driver to get it released PDQ.
The release all went smoothly, publishing on Android is fairly straight forward, so any Indies or Solos wanting to publish on the store - honestly don't be daunted by it. Just be prepared to pay that outrageous fee of $25 (yes that is sarcasm, you'll know why when you're looking to self-publish via other means..).
Early June we took part in the Indie Prize, which is part of a Casual Connect conference in London. The conference was great, a 3-day industry event which focused on PC and Mobile games. If I'm honest, it was more geared towards mobile games - lucky we had a mobile game to show at the pitches!
Winning a slot for the Indie Prize, meant we got two free passes, free accommodation, a free booth and free parties (most importantly, yeh?) to the conference. Shout out to those at Epic Games sponsoring our tickets too, as well as the free dinner at Zizi. Damn that was great Calzone. Honestly though, I can't stress enough how major this is for an Indie team bootstrapping. My God. Had we purchased just the passes to Casual Connect it would have set us back £500, £250 per ticket each - and that's for the early birds.
Any devs out there, please apply to these competitions. It saves you big bucks.
We had a few publisher pitches at Casual Connect, none were fruitful and one was particularly brutal. To be honest, I think the team needed to hear it. I quote "No publisher will publish you", his reasons were understandable though - our company is too young, we're asking for a lot of money, the risk is too big for the publisher etc etc. I think all of us at Antler actually needed to hear that, because we were having conversations after conversations with publishers, getting nowhere.
So, we got together, had frank conversations. It was either pack it in now, or get something released - whatever that may be. We were done with game demos, absolutely done, never to be touched again. We decided to stay on, but now work on Project Grove, for the release. There’s a few Government funding applications to go through too, which is promising. However, we’re not asking for the full £250k. Instead, we’re breaking up the game into three chapters: I, II & III, each chapter has approximately 6-10hrs of play.
We decided to take this approach as:
· Cuts down dev-time
· When applying for other grants/funding - less dev time equals less money needed to get the game out there. Now we’re only asking for £60k
· Dacrima is naturally broken up into three 'Zones', with the narrative spaced evenly throughout – working perfectly
· Game play time just in our demo was already way over what we anticipated, meaning gamers are still getting value for money for each episode
We also made the decision to only apply to Grants, Gov't backed initiatives, Angel Investors and Crowd funding. We got too many bruises from Publishers and we could recognise it was a heavyweight vs a featherweight fight.
After this revelation, we all went on holiday for a bit and reconvened for the end of June, where the real planning started.