Re: [stella] How to break into the game business

Subject: Re: [stella] How to break into the game business
From: Mike Mika <mikem@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 09:42:18 -0700

Hello! My name is Mike Mika. I am the Creative Director for Digital Eclipse Software, Inc. I just had to butt after Glenn's remarks. He is so on target with this, it is scary. I can give you an example from myself, then as a company. First, I have been making games for many years, starting on Commodore 64, then Amiga, Jaguar, then PC, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, etc... I am a homegrown homebrew game maker. It wasn't until the Game Boy Color that I finally got a real cash return on my work. I started with a homebrew game called Yars Revenge. Simple, simple, simple. I then reworked it a bit, polished it, and contacted Telegames to see if they were interested in publishing it. They were. I also started on another game for Titus Software, on spec (In other words, on my dime). This was a little bigger. A platform game with a cute character that hops around and collects stuff, etc. That didn't get published, but I now had two Game Boy games under my belt. They were far less than the kind of games I always started on Jaguar, Amiga, etc, but they were within the scope of my abilities, and I knew when to cut my losses, and finish polishing the game. Because of those two games, I then got the gig from Digital Eclipse, doing NFL Blitz (Sorry!), KLAX, TARZAN, LITTLE NICKY, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and numerous other projects that I contributed to. I kept working my way up. Now... Digital Eclipse. Some of you may know us. We started with emulation (PC, Mac, PSX, etc), then moved to Game Boy (Ports, then original design for established IPs), and now we are moving into Game Cube, PS2 and XBox, with original concepts that are all our own, with the support of several major publishers. It was the long hard road, but it pays off. There is still room for starting small. Also, be open. Do not make allegiances. Work with any and every publisher (You learn from the variety!). Do not try to make your epic game first. YOU WILL FAIL. Learn as you go. If you are just now making the attempt to get your first game published, don't expect your first hit (Realistically) until 3 games later. By then, you may have some stride, but even that is optimistic. Some of us get lucky, and strike it sooner. That would be about 4 years of professional work before you make a mark. I had been making games since I was 8 years old. It took me 12 years to figure out the formula. Listen to Glenn, listen to me. Start small. The best you can do to begin with is find a publisher who wants to port games from one console or arcade game to another. This will get your feet wet and you don't have to design a thing at first, which is good. No matter how smart or good your design is, put it away for a while. When you come back to it, you will have an objective opinion of it and you will have matured a bit more, understanding the business side of things. This is good.

Business side.. That's 300 e-mails worth of talking. But, it is important you understand it if you want to make hits. We can get criticized for games we release, but if they were focus tested well and you do just enough, it becomes a hit. Tarzan for Game Boy Color has sold over 1.2 million units, yet I can read e-mails complaining that it is nothing more than Pac-Man meets Pitfall... EXACTLY. What's wrong with that? Do not flush your ideals down the crapper, just be ready to take the long road to understanding, and one day you'll figure out how to find the compromise and succeed. This is also a business. You have to make concessions in order to survive, that is, if you want to live off of making games, be ready to work with a marketing division and their insane ideas, and be ready to listen to them. The minute you make enemies with them, you're in trouble. You have to learn hwo to get them to understand what you want to do, etc.. Ah well, I could go into details forever! If any of you have any questions, e-mail me. I've had the privilege to work with a lot of companies, like Atari, Midway, Hasbro, Ubi Soft, Capcom, Nintendo, Activision, 3DO, EA, Universal Interactive, etc.

Listen to Glenn!


At 01:55 PM 4/14/01 -0700, you wrote:
Check out this link:

I've been trying to explain to people for some time why writing 2600 games makes sense today, and I think this article helps to show why.

Although it isn't saying you should write your game for a classic platform, it does say to write classic styled games. I wish it pointed out the need to try something original, as the world doesn't need yet another breakout or Tetris clone, but there is a difference between developing game programming rather than game design skills, I guess.

I have a friend of mine who would like to be a game programmer but he wants to write an Everquest clone and I keep telling him "try something minimalistic that one person can pull off" and he just can't accept that. He likes the big budget immersive games but it's not viable for an individual to pull off.

For anyone who wants to finish a game themselves, they've got to stick to classic style minimalistic game worlds. When you're done with the game, I think you're probably going to get a better reception of the game is on a classic platform rather than the PC. The expectations are so different...


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