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IGDA Bits & Pieces: Finding Funding



‘When it’s cold outside, am I hear in vain?’ The first of IGDA Sydney’s new events coined: “Bits & Pieces” took place on a chilly 9th of August 2011 at The Arthouse Hotel’s attic bar to the crowd of approximately 100 local game developers, if the numbers for a floating petition (aimed at keeping the NSW Government’s Digital Media Initiative in place with the change of government) are a good indicator. Despite a chill and the sound of Town Hall jackhammers beyond the door, inside was cozy and warm. Whether it was the suave padded walls and smooth bourbon or simply the energy and sociability of the crowd in attendence which provided the warmth, it’s hard to distinguish.

A crowd filed in, up three flights of stairs, through the night which was kicked off by the enthusiastic Epona Schweer encouraging people towards the first portion of the event: playtesting of local games in development. A collection of laptops on coffee tables lined the borders of a good portion of the available space in the bar whilst a couple of iPads were also passed around whilst local developers watched like hawks from over the player’s shoulder hoping for any and all feedback on their incomplete creations. There’s nothing quite like having developers that aren’t of your team play your game, because unlike the glancing paper thin comments of the public and even gamers, fellow local independent developers offer an insight typically more suited to the current development stage. Rather than saying “It plays well, but I’m pretty sure Nolan North isn’t voice acting that guy”, developers will highlight the problems, question your next step and ultimately try break your game in ways you struggle to after staring at it for so long.

What might be considered the main event, that is the actual speeches regarding Funding Finding, kicked off in two segments between 8 – 9pm. After securing Mana Bar’s Guy ‘Yug‘ Blomberg as a fashionably late party crasher, Epona passed to Paul Gray from Bubblegum Interactive whose game Little Space Heroes has reached Beta, but more relatively: they had secured funding. Paul opened with the comment that he liked to think of things in threes, and that the three most important things for a developer are the game, the team and the money, and by missing any of the above the game might fall through. Paul went through tales of numerous failed attempts at securing funding before a lucky break at a Sydney Angels meeting was eventually followed up by grants from Screen Australia and the NSW Digital Media Initiative. For these pitches for funding to be successful, Paul highlighted the need to sell more than just the game idea itself to the investors, but also market data, a working prototype with some level of polish and clear strong goals for the future development which you are seeking equity funding for.

Following on was Paul Nunes, from Puny Human Games, to discuss the benefits of Kickstarter, but not before hilariously landing the night’s prize (just as he was coming up to speak): an epic rendered poster of Super Meat Boy. Paul opened with his group’s experience with Kickstarter as a Crowd Funding Model, citing though that it required a person (or potentially at least a bank account) in the United States whilst referencing Pozible as another crowd funding initiative for Australian developers. What Paul found most lead towards the success of his group in securing funding via Kickstarter was a combination of pre-existing interest (generated by Puny Human Games in online communities such as Reddit) and the need to sell your passion for developing the game over the polish it may have thus far.

After a small break allowing people to grab another round of drinks and discuss what they had just heard, the speeches reconvened with Aidan Millott from Halfbrick discussing how Halfbrick had risen into it’s own self sufficiency as a studio. He referenced developing for Chrome as a great start as, even though there was not much of a market to develop for, the act of simply having created something taught the studio an invaluble number of lessons. From there he told the tale of Halfbrick’s movement into self sufficiency as two teams worked on contracted projects for publishers whilst another team developed their own IP. Prompted by a question, Aidan spoke of how, though publishers own the IP to the games developed for them, the tools and engine were still owned by Halfbrick, as stipulated in their contract, and the publishers had rights to use what was provided for the game.

The final speaker of the night was Alexander Ocias who was to speak about how Flash Games can potentially net you a potential income. But instead, he began by disagreeing with some of the comments made in previous speeches about finding the fun and gameplay in your game, but instead you should focus on why you are making the game, citing the importance of why you are working towards the end product as the primary concern for your development. Regarding flash games, Alexander noted the potential earning power of the Flash Game Licence as a place to allow people to bid on your game. However the issue being of course that the way a flash game is sold is via one 50×50 pixel icon and a short game description, requiring a lot of specific attention rather than just a screenshot and some technical words on hand. Alexander also highlighted the importance of preparing email follow ups and press-backs with any attempts to sell your game.

Epona Schweer signed off the night with thanks for everyone’s attendance, and all in all it was a great event with developers leaving that much more aware of their funding options, and all the more excited having playtested others work. The next IGDA Sydney Bits & Pieces is penciled in for October 18th with an, as of yet, undecided theme which you can vote for over at IGDA Sydney’s facebook page. Hoping for more debate and crowd participation next time might see a panel and a larger venue, both great signs of the things to come from the local energy. Everyone who attended is a little wiser and better for attending.

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