Breaking radio silence

You may have noticed that we haven’t posted anything for the last couple of weeks. Naughty us. Seriously, we’re bad humans – we need to do much better, and we’re putting plans in place to make sure we don’t drop off the world like that again. At least we picked an appropriate time of year to disappear and be reborn, I suppose.

What happened? To be honest, a little bit of a company implosion, which was followed by a series of reassessments of where we’re at and what our plans are for the immediate and long-term future. All of this is stuff we should have been communicating to you as it happened (in line with our goal of development transparency), but as some of it involved re-evaluation that sharing process itself, this created a bit of a catch 22.

So, this post is a brief attempt to fill you in on what has been happening, and to give some indication about the paths we’ll be treading from here on out.

The first thing that happened was that we ran out of money. More precisely – money that we were expecting to receive failed to materialise. This basically come down to a reliance on funding from external sources. One source was a contract job that we decided to drop, because we didn’t feel it was taking us in the direction we wanted to go. The other component was the continuing delay of some grant money that we’re still hoping will come through, but which just isn’t here yet.

I would love to say more about both of these, but there are third parties involved, and the latter hasn’t been signed off on yet. Transparency is a difficult philosophy to maintain when you’re working on other people’s terms.

Lack of funds isn’t going to kill us – we are in the enviable position of not having to pay rent for our office, and most of us are managing to survive off day jobs that we work just a couple of days a week. But we still have expenses, and we do need some money to start coming in.

Compounding the above problem were delays in the production of the planned Flatland sequel, mostly associated with developing back-end tech for the episodic model we were pursuing.

So we called a halt to our work and had lots of discussions about where we should be focusing our efforts. Some of this discussion happened live on Episode 36 of the Game Engine Podcast. Quite a few ideas came from all the talk, a few of which I’ll mention.

Firstly, we realised that we already have a solid product in Flatland: Fallen Angle, and that there is plenty more we could do with it in terms of revenue-raising and marketing, especially if we were to add a bit of polish. We also re-visited the idea of building a Flash version of the game (as Unity can now export to Flash). For now, we’re definitely upgrading the game, and Flash remains a possibility.

What can we do with a re-vamped Fallen Angle? For starters, We already have a couple of online portals willing to distribute it, and it will likely do a lot better in a more polished state. We can enter it in development competitions, which in turn can act as externally-imposed deadlines. And most importantly, we can use it to get many more people interested in our company and the our future plans for the Flatland universe. We’re considering a Kickstarter-style campaign at some point, and Fallen Angle will serve as a demonstration to convince people that we’re worth backing.

We’ve been forced to the realisation that it’s always good to have a variety of money-making plans operating in parallel. Another avenue we’re pursuing is the idea of making and selling tools on the Unity Asset Store. These tools would be packages of code that we will need to build for our own development anyway, but which we also believe other devs will find useful. We’ve been hearing quite a few stories of developers living off tools sales while they make their games, and we feel that kind of business model could work well for us.

The other thing we examined in some detail was our approach to marketing and customer engagement, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Suffice to say that the daily video blogs are dead, text blog posts will begin appearing with a lot more frequency, and we have a number of new ideas up our sleeves to try out in the very near future.

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