Welcome, to the final instalment of a three part series. This blog will focus on a first hand look from two talented, passionate game developers from polar opposite backgrounds in the community, joining together to create a business, and video game of their dreams. In the final instalment of this blog, you will learn about the inception of the business dream, Catch Light Interactive and the first game to be launched by the company, Project: New Light City. (If you missed it, you can read Building a Dream - Part Two here.)
Part Three : The Birth of Catch Light Interactive, LLC.
The easiest part of owning a business is starting one. Especially with all of the online tools at your disposal. We did a little research and found a helpful registered agent, settled on a name for the company, and paid the fees. (There are always fees!) Eight days later, Catch Light Interactive, LLC was officially in business!
Since we are a two-person operation and our game, Project: New Light City, is an ambitious project, we decided to work on a demo of our concept first. The idea was to use this demo to show both potential artists and developers, as well as interested investors, that we were serious about bringing the game to the market.
We live in two different countries, have never met in person, and communicate entirely over our Discord server. Oh, and we have a combined 28 months of experience in the video game developer industry.
What could possibly go wrong?
Project: New Light City is a story heavy action-adventure game, with a lot of neat (we think!) game mechanics and stunning (we also think!) visuals, music, and sound effects. Pretty ambitious for two people. We knew that if we were going to publish the game anytime soon, we were going to need some help. The way we figured, the best way to show talented people you are serious about a project is to show them your work firsthand. A working demo not only gave us valuable experience, but it also provided some “street-cred” and set a standard for our potential recruits to build upon.
Over the course of five months and utilizing the skills we learned through gamedev.tv, we were able to produce a working prototype of our dream project. We even managed to contract out professional voice actors, sound effect specialists, a composer, and one alarmingly talented 2D artist, each of who agreed to lend the project their talents based solely on the promise they saw from our work in progress.
So a big plus one for deciding to build a demo, huh?
On the art side, Paul ran into a few problems very early on. Learning opportunities, as he calls them. It is very important that the studio produces quality games with optimization in mind and, much to his surprise, there’s a lot more to it than simply setting a polygon budget.
With a few online crash courses, he became familiar with the developer tools in Unreal Engine, solving mysteries such as draw calls, GPU response times, texture atlases, and combining texture maps to increase performance. There was also the matter of properly modeling modular designs for each level, and creating reusable assets to save on package size.
It took him one month to design the first level. Using Blender and Substance Painter, he built the first incarnation of a penthouse office suite, the main environment for the demo. And then...he trashed the whole level, took what he had learned from the experience, and built it all over again.
On his side, Jorgen had to not only learn C++ - a formidable task in itself – but also how to use UE4’s excellent Visual Scripting tools in order to create the functionality required to tell the story we wanted to tell, and in the way we wanted to tell it. Jorgen also had to learn source control and resolve the inevitable conflicts which arise when multiple people are working on the same level in a given project.
Learning opportunities, indeed!
We set a deadline, and then watched it fly by. Then another. And another. Turns out there’s a lot to this game development thing, huh? But each challenge (and failure) only strengthened our resolve to work harder, to produce a result. By the time the next deadline came, we had our working demo!
And not a moment too soon, either, as the last deadline had to be met if we were going to be able to submit our work to a competition both of us were really excited about. When it was over, we celebrated our achievement by agreeing to take a few days off. Perhaps become reacquainted with life beyond our keyboards and monitors.
We made it about 24 hours before we were both chomping at the bit to get back to work.
The game development business is like any other business. It starts with an idea. But, as the saying goes, ideas are a dime a dozen. It takes a solid, well thought out plan and a consistent, persistent work ethic to turn that idea into something truly remarkable. Game development is not easy, and there are no guarantees for a fledgling business like ours to penetrate such a highly competitive market. It’s an evolutionary process, with each attempt – successful or otherwise – serving as another brick in the foundation of our education as game developers.
Our love of game development and the working partnership we've created is what keeps us going.
As of today we’ve already taken the next steps, with Project: New Light City under production and featured on the Steam Store. Yet we are far from finished; there are teasers and trailers to produce, script drafts to edit, code to debug, and game mechanics to polish. Plus solving (endless!) problems that seem to creep up on a daily basis. We’ve created a demo, sure, but the reality is we're still a long way from a fully developed, release version of our game, so there’s plenty of work ahead.
Then there is the business end of game development, something which takes up more and more of our time. Financials, operating policies, projections, negotiations, marketing, recruiting, and community engagement. Someone once told us that being a game developer is 60% business and 40% of actual game development. Turns out those might be conservative numbers. We have contracts to write, KPIs to track, pitch decks to create, investor packages to build, inquiries to respond to, and endless applications for grants, bank accounts, and competitions.
Rome, as they say, was not built in a day. Without defining objectives and creating the business plan we established early on, our game would remain where it began: as a loosely sketched dream fading away in some neglected folder on a hard drive.
Game development is a lot of work on numerous fronts. Thing is, we’re having a ball doing it all! Isn’t that the point of doing what we do – out of a love for making video games? It is for us. And we hope the results of our efforts will show as much.
We’ve still got our work cut out for us, and only time will tell whether Catch Light Interactive will succeed or not. One thing is certain - without a well-thought out plan in place, we would not have made it this far. If there’s one thing we can say about our experience so far, the old adages to “surround yourself with good people”, and “plan your work, work your plan” have proven invaluable in our pursuit to put our dream game on the market.
Catch Light Interactive, LLC was founded by Jorgen Tandberg and Paul Kardos. They recently finished a demo of their interactive thriller, Project 4: New Light City. For more information and breaking news about the game and Catch Light Interactive, LLC, please visit: www.catchlightinteractive.com or follow them on Twitter, Discord, Instagram, YouTube, or your favorite social media platform.