Videogames

Tips on getting OMDC’s IDM Fund for a video game project

Disclaimer: These tips are based on my own experience with OMDC. They are not endorsed by OMDC. They may or may not work for all studios.

Shameless plug: try our games at http://powerlevelstudios.com and follow us here for other similar articles!

The idea to write this article comes from a private message we received on Reddit:

“[…]how was the OMDC process if I may ask? We are also from Toronto and thinking of applying this year with a roguelike we are making, and would love to hear about the process from someone who has been throw it if you had a moment =)”

Go To The In-Person Information Sessions

For every new round, there are always a few information sessions you can attend. Kim usually present the program and you have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

Go see her after the presentation. Introduce yourself and your project. Ask relevant questions. Show you care.

When you do talk to her, make sure you sound passionate. For the information session, try to stay on topic too, she’s always busy and there are other people who have questions as well.

Ultimately though, the jury chooses the winners of the grant, but I have a feeling she has some say in it. I could be wrong. It never hurts to make a good impression on the people managing the program!

Go To Local Events

There are plenty of good events to go to in Toronto. Kim attends them frequently. She even goes to local game launch parties. I met her for the first time at Massive Damage’s Halcyon 6 launch party.

If you can see who attends events you want to go to, look for Kim Gibson. I won’t share any photos here for privacy reasons.

Another great reason to go to the local events is for the other developers you meet. Having connections in the industry really helps. You never know when you’ll meet someone to partner with, cross-promote, etc. And also, the jury is composed of people in the industry. Any good impression you make during these meetups can increase your reputation.

If you don’t live in Toronto, drive to some events. Pick the ones you think will have a bigger impact.

Write Freaking Good Documents

This is an obvious one, but I really mean it.

This is a competition. Other studios will write awesome documents. Be interesting. Do not be corporate. If you’re not a good writer, hire one.

When you think it’s good enough, do better. Go from good to great.

Share with people you trust to give you brutally honest feedback. If someone says it’s shit, listen to them. If they say it’s good. Improve until they tell you it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever read.

Aim freaking high. Other studios will.

Only a few select studios get it. Everyone is great. You’re likely competing against studios who have a track record and you don’t.

Make All Your Documents Pretty

To me, this is another obvious one, but I don’t know how pretty other studios make their documents. Our documents look awesome.

Put game art, concept art, design special layouts. Make EVERY page appealing visually. Graphs are nice. Good tables may look appealing too when done right.

If you don’t have an artist helping you with that, you’re screwed. Just being honest here. I found great artists on Upwork.com before I had my team, just to make a good visual representation of the game.

Make sure though that it still looks good when printing. Some members of the jury may print the documents.

Be Impressive

Definitely easier said than done.

When we originally applied for concept definition, we didn’t have a team outside of the two co-founders and had never released a game yet.

We did however have a good track record of working in the industry for other studios and working on projects that were successful.

Here’s what I did to look impressive:

Advisor Network

I sought out a network of advisors for Power Level Studios. People both in and out of the industry. People in games, other businesses, finance, etc. I looked for people with good credentials that I could trust to tell me the truth.

If you don’t know anyone, again go to local events and connect with people. CEOs and other important people do go to them.

Awesome Team Resumes

Make it shine, both visually and professionally. Don’t just print your LinkedIn profile, unless it’s really awesome. For your artists, they need to have someone visually stunning.

Track Record of Founders

Ultimately, investors invest in people. Be awesome. Show you can do great shit. If you haven’t released anything yet, show prototypes of awesome stuff you can do. Show you work great as a team.

Get Featured Somewhere

For our second application, we were lucky enough to have gone through Square Enix Collective and received a very good rating. Do your best to get your project featured somewhere that matters. This mostly applies for Production.

Have A Team In Place, Or Prove You Can Form One

The first time I applied, the team was me, my co-founder and an unnamed artist.

That was one of the negative point of our application. This hurt our credibility a lot. The point of our application for Concept Definition was to come up with a game prototype and define our art style. Yet we didn’t have an artist.

We didn’t hide that though. We did explain how we’d fix that weakness.

If you do have the team in place already, that’s a major plus.

Have A Good Project

As in, not a clone of another game with a different theme.

They want you to show some innovation, but also that you can sell the game and make money. Another Candy Crush clone doesn’t qualify.

Combine ideas from different genres. Combine ideas from awesome games. Design something unique.

If you’re a small studio, be realistic. Present a project that’s not too ambitious and not to easy.

Present your idea to potential gamers. When applying to IDMF, only present ideas that generate VERY positive reactions from the gamers you talked to.

Never Lie / Be Realistic

When I asked for feedback on my first application, a very positive point from the jury was that they saw how honest and realistic I was about everything.

I didn’t hide any weaknesses. I showed them how I’d overcome them. With precision. Always.

My numbers were backed by data I’ve analyzed. When I had to estimate things, I explained my reasoning.

Never put numbers you can’t “prove”.

Meet All Deadlines

If you were realistic to start with, that could be a non-issue. If you send your application before the program deadline, that won’t go unnoticed.

If you do get the grant, respect your milestones. If you can’t meet your milestones, don’t lie about it.

Limit Deferrals As Much As Possible

You are allowed to defer payment for work done on your project. For a small studio with limited funds, it’s hard to avoid that. But make sure you limit it to the bare minimum.

Invest your own money. Ask friends and family to invest as well. This shows how serious you are about the project.

If 50% of the budget comes from OMDC, provide 30% yourself. The more the better.

Apply For Concept Definition Instead Of Production

If you have no credentials yet, apply for Concept Definition. If you have an ongoing project currently, apply for a new project. You can’t have started the project beforehand, so it has to be a new one.

Concept Definition is less competitive, and less risky for everyone. Plus, you receive money to build prototypes, how awesome is that! You get paid to make a better design of your game.

Once you receive the grant for Concept Definition and deliver successfully, it’s much easier for them to give you more money when you’re ready for Production.

Business And Marketing Plan Is The Most Important Document For Production

In one of the information session, Kim said that was the most important document.

I took that seriously. I spent a shit-ton amount of time polishing that one. Again, make the text and the visuals awesome.

For Projections, Do Worst Case, Normal Case and Best Case Scenarios

This shows you’ve done research and are as realistic as you can be. No one can fully predict what’s going to happen. Prove that even if you reach the worst case scenario, you still benefit from the project.

Research your competitors, pretend you’re going to perform worse than your worse competitor. Put your numbers in the worst case scenario.

For normal case, pretend you’re going to do exactly like your worse competitor.

For best case, pretend you’re going to be doing a little better than your worse competitor.

Conclusion

I hope this was useful.

I’ll update if I come up with other tips.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or tips of your own.

First published here: https://medium.com/power-level-studios/tips-on-getting-omdcs-idm-fund-for-a-video-game-project-fd6e660eaa2d

Devlog #4: MASSIVE Prototype 2.0 Update

Download Prototype 2.0 here: http://powerlevelstudios.com

In the middle of grant applications this month, we managed to squeeze some time to put up an incredibly big update, which we call Prototype 2.0. It deserves the 2.0 versioning! Here’s a summary of what you can expect:

Vault-ful of improvements for you, reapers of souls: much improved exploration, arm yourself with unique legendary loot and soul gear, and reap new exciting monsters’ soul!

Warning

This is very much still a prototype. It has LOTS of bugs. Probably even more than before.

Changes

Here’s a full list of changes:

Vault

  • Walk in any direction (works great with a PS4 Joystick)

  • No more room switching (it was frustrating)

  • Dash! (R1 on PS4 controller, or “1” on keyboard) (dodge monsters more strategically)

  • Can now also go upstairs (combined with the feature below, it makes it much easier to farm souls you’re looking for)

  • Floors are not random anymore (combined with the feature above, it makes it much easier to farm souls you’re looking for)

  • You can now jump to any floor you want (combined with the feature above, it makes it much easier to farm souls you’re looking for)

  • Improved monster movement AI (makes exploring the vault more eventful and exciting)

  • One new, nicer layout (but still could be much better with more time)

Combat:

  • Basic support for Debuffs (no visual cues yet) (poison damage each turn, slow target for x turns).

  • Monsters now drop treasure (makes winning combat more interesting)

C 1.png
Description of the loot after combat

Description of the loot after combat

Loot:

  • 10 legendary loot (there were zero before) (changes how you play the game)

  • More better trading recipes (trade level 100 souls to obtain guaranteed legendary loot)

Some epic loot you can get for trading max level soul gems.

Some epic loot you can get for trading max level soul gems.

  • Lots of new Soul Gear (game changing combinations of souls on multi-slotted loot)

Very powerful fire based Soul Gear, you need to farm the Flame Bee, Burning Drake (boss) and Stabby Squirrel.

Very powerful fire based Soul Gear, you need to farm the Flame Bee, Burning Drake (boss) and Stabby Squirrel.

3 new monsters:

  • Octoblader (Bladed spider throwing speed-altering spider webs. (debuff))

Volcadillo  (Armadillo with a volcano on its back. Catapults meteors for AOE damage)

Volcadillo (Armadillo with a volcano on its back. Catapults meteors for AOE damage)

  • Volcadillo (Armadillo with a volcano on its back. Catapults meteors for AOE damage)

VOLC.png
  • Cursed Snake (Spits poisonous saliva, dealing DoT. Acts as “turret” in the vault)

SN.png

Other:

  • Game balance tweaks (still a lot more to do here)

  • New Game Icon (chosen by the community)

SW.png
  • You don’t lose your levels anymore (we want to dissociate Soul Reaper from Roguelikes)

  • You can reset your stat points.

The Bad

  • We broke the lava in the vault. It may be fixed in the next major version.

  • Debuffs from the Octoblader and Volcadillo are NOT shown on the screen currently.

What’s next?

Prototype 3.0! 3.0 will mostly be about improved combat.

Here’s what to expect:

  • Unreap feature! Summon monsters to fight by your side!

  • 3 new unique monsters. Feline Clawer, Burning Worm and Shield Turtle.

  • Combat buffs. More armor for x turns, more resistance for x turns.

  • AOE actions. — shape, | shape and + shape (line, column and cross)

  • Much improved combat UI.

  • Much improved flow and stability of combat.

  • More better maps.

  • More legendary loot

  • More Soul Gear

  • More Trade Recipes

  • Ongoing game balancing.

What do you think?

Play the prototype 2.0 and let us know what you think. We’re leaving prototype 1.0 up for download as well so you can compare. We think 2.0 is a major step in the right direction. Do you agree or disagree?

First published here: https://medium.com/power-level-studios/devlog-4-massive-prototype-2-0-update-2e421081e532

How our first game project accidentally reached 3 million players

During a recent interview with Gaming Reinvented (https://gamingreinvented.com/), I opened up on the “success” of our “first” title: Rogue Sharks Arcade, which has been played by over 3 millions players around the world.

I thought this may be an interesting story for other developers, so I’m sharing it here.

Here’s the question and the answer as a preview:

Rogue Sharks Arcade seemed to be your first game, and it was pretty damn successful. Did you imagine it’d have 3 million+ players?

 

Haha, this one’s a good story I think. Rogue Sharks Arcade was some kind of “accident”, both the game itself and its “success”.

I started working on Soul Reaper back in September 2013 and came to the realization that the game was way too ambitious for a first game. I would need money to hire artists and more, but didn’t have the money. So I thought making a simple mobile game, similar to the classic gravity-based helicopter web game, would be my way out. For some reason, Sharks was the first theme that came to mind. I thought Rogue Sharks would take one month to build. I had limited Unity experience back then, but that’s not why it took much longer. It took about a year to build. The game just wasn’t fun enough by my standards, so I re-did it a few times with different mechanics. I released Rogue Sharks Arcade two months in, since the game had enough content to be a full-game loop.

Classic gravity-based helicopter game.

Classic gravity-based helicopter game.

I released it on the web on Kongregate and was hoping to get feedback so I could improve it for mobile after. Money was not the target here. About 200 people played it on Kongregate and had a score of 3/5, confirming my assumptions: it’s not a very good game.

But here’s the interesting part: how did I get from 200 players to 3M+? The short answer: it was stolen and put on MANY other websites around the world. You see, I was too dumb to protect it, and I didn’t even put my company logo or the game title in the game, so people just rebranded it and claimed it as their own. It got featured on lots of Chinese, Turkish and Russian websites. There was no English text in the whole game. Everything was icon-based, so it was accessible in any language.

CH.png

BUT, because of that incident, I got exactly what I wanted: feedback. With 200 players, I got close to no feedback, with 3M+, there were plenty of players to give feedback. I had to track websites down and translate feedback back to English, but still, there was lots of feedback. But that’s not all, I was tracking everything in the game using Game Analytics. I knew exactly how people were playing, so I knew how to improve the game for mobile.

JU.png

But then at that point I was travelling around the world with my wife for about a year, so I didn’t have much time to make the mobile version. But I did it anyway. I stopped Chiang Mai, Thailand, to work on it for one full month and finished it. So Rogue Sharks for mobile exists, and is a much better game than Rogue Sharks Arcade on the web. I never released it though, because it’s still bad in my opinion. We were in 2016 then and there’s millions of games in the App Stores. A lot of them are great and have a much bigger budget than we had at the time. Unless I found a good partner to release the game, I figured there was no point releasing a game no one would discover and play. Plus, we’re Power Level Studios, we want to make great RPGs, not game genres we know nothing about.

RO.png

So yeah, the game was “successful” for what we tried to achieve, but definitely no commercial success. And yeah 3M+ was definitely not expected!

Conclusion

Getting your game stolen is not necessarily all bad. We got the feedback we needed to make a better version of the game for mobile, which would not have been possible otherwise.

Is it a valid marketing strategy? Well maybe. If you’re a little smarter than I was and add ways to track actual players’ contact info, it may be one of the best ways to get discovered.

First published here:  https://medium.com/power-level-studios/how-our-first-game-project-accidentally-reached-3-million-players-3d16b55f349a