A Team of One: Advice from JuxtaWorlds’ Founder


/>

A Team of One

(A story of and advice for a gamemaker)
by Branden Snowberger

/>

As a child, I daydreamed about going on adventures, and visiting different worlds. This led me to spend my early high school years playing games, from tabletop

to computer games. I began spending my spare time designing tabletop and pen-and-paper Role Playing Games (RPG). Eventually I even began writing a text-based RPG

using computer BASIC on a TSR-80 computer that I borrowed from a friend. With my time as the only resource at my disposal, I taught myself how to use computer Basic from

the instruction manual that came with the computer.

I have always wanted to develop video games but everyone I spoke to either said it could not be

done or that it was more work than it is worth. After high school I spent several years as a cook, cooking just happens to be my other passion, but I still found a part of

me wanting to create games rather than playing them in my off hours.

I finally decided to take my first step toward game creation and started

working with game editors, the ones that usually come with games like Unreal Tournament and Never Winter Nights. I began by customizing and creating my own maps but this did

little to fulfill that need to create that was growing inside me. In the process, however, I found that I had a natural ability in working with actual game development

toolsets like 3d Game Studio and Torque. It wasn’t until I began to use the advanced features that I found I needed to stretch myself. I gave up cooking and got a job as

a media handler, working for a company that was subcontracted by Hewlett Packard. It was about this time that I started playing Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games. My

initial interest was in Ultima Online followed by Everquest. The desire to make an MMO, however, did not start until Star Wars Galaxies was added to Sony Online

Entertainment Station Pass. This was the ultimate trigger that fired my desire to create an MMO that incorporated all of the features I and my friends enjoyed.

Even though it feels like yesterday, it has been almost six years since I first began talking about making an MMO. An MMO I eventually named

JuxtaWorlds. I realized I either needed to put up and do something or shut up and get on with life. I chose to get serious about game development and about two years ago I

began working in earnest. This was in spite of the fact that everything I heard or read, said that it was not possible for a single individual to design, develop, publish

and launch an MMO without serious financing and/or the collaboration of a well-qualified team.

During these two years I have learned a tremendous

amount about the entire spectrum of designing, and development. I have learned which programs to use to create my game. I have learned to work with others in the

professional field. I learned to think as a business owner rather than just a game player. Changing the way I think and act helped me to learn how to deal with doubt, how

to deal with a lack of self-confidence, and how to schedule my time. Most importantly, I learned how to change “I can’t” to “I will”.


/>

Here are some tips, thought processes, and experiences that future game developers and game players might find insightful.

/>

The Original Concept: There were so many ideas to choose from. Fantasy, science fiction, cartoon, I liked them all. My thinking was “why not create a

game that encompasses all of the themes my friends and I enjoyed playing.” I was irritated with the need to pay for a subscription to each of the different games we played,

yet only being able to play one game at a time. It was expensive. I needed to develop a game that would best take advantage of the development software I had available.

With JuxtaWorlds, I settled on a game that has the nostalgic flavor of Everquest but allows the players the opportunity to experience multiple themes in a single

game.

Finding An Engine: I needed a game engine whose level of complexity was just within my existing skill-set so I could accomplish my

goal. Yet it needed to maintain an acceptable level of complexity but remain open enough so more features could be incorporated in the future as my skill-set and my budget

grew.

Avoiding Negative Attitudes: I grew up in a world where I was taught that anything is possible. However there are always those who

do not believe this and try to bring you down to their level simply to prove it isn’t possible. Learning the difference between constructive feedback and negative feedback

is crucial. I learned to use their comments and/or feedback, good or bad, to fuel my motivation.

When to Outsource: It is important to

learn when to purchase items or resources to save time and when to save time and money by making or creating them yourself. Sometimes I needed a model that I knew is beyond

my skill level and the most efficient approach was to pay to have it done. Other times I followed this approach but I was given a quote for work that was much higher than I

was willing to pay. In these instances I taught myself using the resources available on the net to build the models or tweak the sound, or change the texture to the way I

wanted. Ultimately I saved money and I learned a new skill but it took time.

Time Management: It is vital to know when a desired result is

something worth working on for several hours or when the result is good enough and you should stop working on it and move on. Think like a business owner. Allocate a

specific amount of time to work on each aspect of your game and strive to stay within your targets.

A Quality Website: You need a quality

website. A standard template is not going to cut it. I found out the hard way that investment in a good template is worth it in the long run. Make sure it is what you

want and it is something you can work with. Some templates are very hard to work with while others are easy to work with and customize. When making your choice, I you cannot

test the template as demo or install a demo, do not waste your time.

Pricing Is Important: I spent about a month going through the pros and

cons of the different pricing options and ultimately settled on a price I felt was a fair value to me and a good value for my customers. The game has a single player

function. The players may choose to play in single player mode or play online. This option adds extra value for those not wanting to play in online mode. Because of the

ability to put more themed worlds into the game in the future, the game has potential to be ever evolving and never-ending. Finding a price point that would support the

game, yet reach my goal of creating a fun, ever-changing, yet affordable game, was a challenge.

My biggest miscalculation, or rather learning

experience, was not being prepared for marketing. It has required a monetary, time, and knowledge investment that I simply was not ready for. My game was launched on

December 20, 2009. This was late in the holiday season, since most had already made their Christmas purchases.

Do not forget about friends and

family. I would still have finished my game either way, because my determination was quite strong, but having my family support was a huge blessing. Having

an outside viewpoint literally helped keep me and the project in perspective.

Lastly, don’t let the big

boys intimidate you. You wouldn’t know it now, but a many of them started out the same way working in their living rooms and/or garages. You need to toot

your own horn at times. After all you are making a video game and it is something most folks only dream of or talk about doing.

Branden

Snowberger

www.BrandNGames.com
bsnowberger@brandngames.com

About MMO Games