How indie devs pick their next project – Announcing The Humanity Hypothesis
The Humanity Hypothesis is my next game to be released in 2017 and before going further I suggest you start following the blog of Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green which is my partner in this project: http://psychochild.org/ He’ll have a lot to say about this project and might challenge what you probably assume from seeing the teaser we released.
Dealing with reality
After the release of March of the Living, I spent a LOT of time analyzing what it meant to me as a now full-time indie dev. The game did okay but didn’t exactly made me rich. I started to calculate to which point in time the money I made would take me and I concluded that it would be around the end of Winter 2017.
This might seem really nice (and yeah it is) but there’s another side to being able to sit on my ass all day long working on whatever new project I might have. I need to be able to fund it. To give you an idea, a project like MotL would cost me about $20,000 to make assuming I do pretty much everything myself with the help of a few contractors for art, music, trailer, etc. It shouldn’t be that much money if I’m able to last until Winter 2017 with the money MotL made right? Well, not exactly.
When you release a game you know how much money you make at release but you have no idea how well it will keep performing for the rest of the year. In other words, I didn’t have $20,000 to take out of my pockets yet as the money don’t all come in at once. You get $2,000 there, then $3,000, then maybe only $500 and so on. During this time you have to pay for living expenses so it can be hard to really grasp how much money you can spend on your next game (unless you made so much money that you already can pay for all living expenses for the year of course…).
Spending $20,000 on my next game would also mean that I then can’t last until the end of Winter 2017 so I’d risk not being able to finish the game before it’s too late.
Pitching projects to publisher
This was my first reflex. It worked for March of the Living so it should work for whatever other bright idea I might have right? Not exactly. Getting a good idea at the right time that will interest the right people is not easy. Sometimes you just don’t have that much of a good idea to start with. Sometimes the idea might be good but it leaves cold the person you’re pitching it to (for whatever reason, not everyone enjoy the same things). Sometimes these people you need to fund your game are simply too busy working on other projects at that time.
I have worked of a few ideas that way and only the concept of a game like The Humanity Hypothesis got any traction. There was one big problem with such project though…
Splitting profits too many ways
This is something a lot of indie teams don’t seem to consider. You can find quite a few postmortems about games that did quite well (often way better than MotL) but ended up not making that much money for each person involved in the project because there are too many people. It’s true that some projects requires having more people involve but then if the game needs to be a hit to be profitable… Bottom line is that I still make more money with a modest success than some team members having released a quite successful game.
The requirement for me to work on a game like The Humanity Hypothesis was that Brian needed to be involved to work on the writing and narrative design. I don’t have such skill and Brian showed how gifted he is when he designed and wrote the DLC for MotL. So going with a publisher here would mean to split profits 3 ways. Just so you know, if it would have been the case for MotL then I wouldn’t be talking about a new game as a full-time indie dev right now…
Of course I’m just assuming this next game might only do as well as MotL but that’s how I think. Maybe it will be a huge success but if you’ve been reading this blog for some time you should know that I don’t approach things this way. I’m not the kind of guy who will go all in to hope to hit the jackpot. I just want to make a living to be able to make games full-time as long as possible. It’s hard enough as it is.
Because of that, I dropped the idea of going with a publisher. Well, at least I dropped the idea based on the specific deal that was available. Maybe another deal might have changed my mind but it wasn’t a possibility here. Can I fund this project? In fact yes. It do requires to be resourceful and making some tough decisions but I’m used to this. My nine years of experience working on games taught me so.
But what is The Humanity Hypothesis exactly?
For now I’ll say that it’s in 3D, first person view and unusual. Want to learn more? Why don’t you check the Greenlight page on Steam. Yeah, I have released 3 games there and still have to go through this useless process that approved 350 games this very week… Basically everything is approved but you just don’t know when it will happen…