Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why no invest? The fear, the debt, and the point of making games.

Now this is one of the blog which will not make sense when I read it again, I will just type and type according to what comes to my mind!

Few days ago I have read many things in Facebook page that houses many elite Thai game developers. That make me realize a string of many things, about me, my game and explains many things about my situation.

The first question to think about is why are we (game devs) making games?

In the group I mentioned there are many people who make games for living. They found company, they invest and they mainly hope for revenue return.

Now the most cliche thing to counter would be, what did you use to make games if you cannot earn money? Are you making games for free? No, that's not what I meant, but there are still more people who making money is essential, but not the main concern.

Coming to Japan, I learned about doujinshi activity. Be it music or games, everyone did hope that they can get money, but mainly their motive is so that they made it. They can finish a thing they can call their own accomplishment.

Coming back to Thai game developer group, there are also people who strives to improve the situation in Thailand. Their goal include "going to the world stage" and many more ambitious things.

This is also not my own point of making games, since I don't like the idea of "Thailand" or "The World". I like to think about players instead.

Finally it came to the point that I ask myself. It's clear that I want my games to be able to feed me. But the most important point is "I want to have cool games that I can call my own."

I am obsessed with owning creations since long time ago. In elementary school I create crappy manga spanning roughly 8 books. Complete with characters, worlds, enemies (copied from many games I played). The satisfaction of owning creation is great. I want to add more and more cool things to it. I keep a folder of crappy drawings in my high school. Seeing that folder filled up with more pictures is satisfying.

Fast forward to my games now. I made a company (actually a kind of group) with "Let's make something happen!" motto named Exceed7 Experiments. I will not make a game that will pollute Exceed7's portfolio. There has to be only cool games that I can brag about to anyone else despite how low the sales it has.

Now, you might think every other company also think like this but no, company that has to earn revenue will have to make uncool but sane decision. Many companies made obvious clone of match 3s or masterpiece fusion "match 3 X puzzle" (that is Candy Crush Saga). These company include Disney which Free Fall game obviously stole King's Candy Crush Saga ingenious winning solution. That's uncool. But it can generate revenue, and profile, and players for your company.

That's not going to happen in Exceed7 Experiments. I refuse to have match 3 clone in my profile. I want only cool games that I would really like to have as my own. (I think if those company workers loves match 3 puzzles then it's great, but I doubt it.)

How will that affect my game making decisions?

When company needs money, solutions differ based on CEO's personality and goals I guess. That results in seeking investment so we can hire more? Or make this clone or that clone so we can go ahead further? Or maybe we reskin our own games to another variants? (King did many -saga, also Rovio's Angry Birds) If company invest in more workers, better game will come out and there is a hope for success. It's basically investment.

I think at this point I am quite different and it is interesting to blog to myself. Let's begin the chain of thinking.

I did want to have many friends making games with me, but I did not hire any. Why? Because salary money is HUGE. Of course typically that problem will be solved with investment. But I did not seek any investment. Why? Because that come back to strike my own ultimate goal. With money loaned, I have the burden to pay it back. And it will hurt my cool games.

To see why this drastically affect my game (including Duel Otters), if I loaned money I would have to find the way to get it back. The current Duel Otters cannot do that.

But today I am happy with Duel Otters. The 1 time video ads it has earn me money and I am really really happy with it. If I have loans, it wouldn't be enough. But because I don't have loans it feels like the money just came out of thin air. We don't even have office. That make us happier.

And the game is cool. Currently Duel Otters is close to my ideal state. It contains only meaty 2-player things completed with some 1-player experience.

If we did try to make game "the investment way", we might be richer? Poorer? But supposed that the result is the same as now plus some loan burdens... it would be a nightmare.

What are we living for? Happiness? For many that make game as an investment they can use the money they got for their own happiness. For me I want the happiness of owning the game I want, plus some money it can make, and the fun of making it also. I think it is very balanced now, and I am afraid of that balance being destroyed if I were to go "full company" in the future (offices, workforces, etc)

Also I think you need to shoot for your happiness right now, along with everything. The life is running out. I cannot afford to wait.

If I cannot make enough money for living, the answer is I have to get a day job, part time job , not try to invest more in games and such that might destroy the coolness of my game.

Hmm.. thinking more about it, the main point might be the fear. I feared that my game that I want cannot pay the debt that it will incur. But with me alone, with no office, with my day job, maybe it is now possible to make such game that I want.

Duel Otters for example, is possible exactly because we 4 devs are not paid any salary, no office, and each one still having day job. The game has the design I want, but has no ability to monetize enough for some situation.

It's amazing when thinking this way. With complete company, I think the game will be a failure despite how cool it is. The game itself does not have much money making mechanics, but it can be a reality ("It happen", according to my team's motto) because we cut out something else. With ads, the game can be free which is what exactly I want (I want as many as possible to experience it easily, and that is free) and the ads can only appear 1 time thanks again to the team size and the no office we have.

The next game I am making is basically me alone, because I am afraid to hire. I'm afraid of not paying off, afraid of conflict. And I personally think when time comes that I can hire I will know it, when it is safer than now. Right now I can see the possibility of that game selling, but not enough if I hire someone. And how the hell can I pay off the debt? The life after that would be a day job with more stress to pay the debt.

Wouldn't it be better if I can be more happy about the sales no matter how low it is? Earning money can be delegated to day job where it doesn't connect with my dream/end-game (life) goal. It would be sad, if the dream that is supposed to be fun would be crumbled down together with some stupid but important things.. like money.

Doing day job would slow down my dream, but slow is not a problem because it is meaningless (it is a relative value). In life you cannot get just about anything anyway, so I will get the most the slow me can get before I die (of old age hopefully). Going fast, you don't even know how fast is enough.

The game already paid off everything we spent as of now because literally nothing has been spent. Of course we spent time, but looking back it's much better than debt. We now feel like we get bonus money every now and then in addition to our normal day job. That's a great feeling isn't it? I think this is happiness. (There is a saying in Thai that no debt is the utmost happiness, I pretty much agreed with this since I can feel the freedom right now)

It comes down to time-money-quality trade off. I refuse to invest, but used more time to gain the quality I want. But what's missing in time-money-quality? It's revenue!

And revenue is tied to money if you loaned it. I can have quality games without revenue because I used time instead of money. At the same time quality games is the ultimate goal of me (I want to have it) , I think that's fine way of making games.

Some says that time is precious and if you can use money to gain more time you should do it, but I am willing to use the time because I can gain much more happiness of not having debt and makes the game close to the ideal state without regards for revenue that it can earn. That's why time is precious to me.

If you are thinking all of these doesn't make sense then you are not alone. Me included. But hey, it's a blog not news website! (At least it is still about investment in the end)

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