The Ace Files- Creating Your Own IP vs. Working for a Client

GameSalad is proud to introduce the special series,”The Ace Files” courtesy of GameSalad Sous Chef Ace Connell (@mynameisace on the GameSalad forums). In this post, Ace shares his insight on game development for clients versus creating your own original IP.

Welcome to my new series of blog posts that will be covering game design, working with GameSalad, tips, tricks and more. I’ve just finished a working week of 130 hours (yes, you read that correctly… 130 hours work in one week!) creating a game for a client using GameSalad; so naturally during the course of my first entries, I want to cover something that’s fresh in my (admittedly jaded) mind:

Which is the best path for you to take as a developer? Creating your own IP or working for a client?

Red Corner

This first post will look at the benefits of creating your own IP.

There are a few reasons I can think of why people would get in to game design. One would be a gold rush/monetary gain and another, more organic version, would be fueled by a genuine love for games and wanting to make your mark in video game history. Both are valid, but the journey I took was through a pure love of video games.

I’ve always been a creative person. I started getting serious with music from an early age and was always doodling at school instead of doing class work. I don’t sleep much and my mind never switches off from thinking of new ideas, new games, new everything! When it comes to game design, I am in my element – My whole world gets consumed with ideas and my house, my car, everywhere becomes a creative playground in which everything that has been building up in my brain has the potential to become a reality… This is the beauty of creating your own games.

Developing your own video game is entirely your personal creative vision and you don’t have to add in elements to your game that you don’t want or answer to anybody else. If there’s some kind of crazy game mechanic that’s never been done before, there is no reason to not incorporate it. If you look on paper at the works of one of the greatest video game designers of all time, Shigeru Miyamoto; then you will see utter craziness – The user plays as an Italian-American plumber from Brooklyn who’s girlfriend (which happens to be a Princess – when has a Princess ever even looked twice at a plumber?!) got kidnapped by an overgrown, fire breathing turtle and has to save her by eating flowers, dressing up in the remains of a dead tanooki and jumping on the heads of angry mushrooms… Okay, okay, so that might be a one-off crazy idea, or is it? Let’s take a look at another one of his franchises… You are a fox that has not only evolved enough to speak fluent English, but can also pilot a space ship alongside his buddies, who happen to be a toad (who is more annoying than the average reality TV show contestant), a falcon and a hare. The fox and his team are attempting to save his dad – who happens to be human! I could do this all day, but the point is that you have a complete free-reign of whatever you want and these two apparent manic ramblings went on to sell hundreds of millions of units.

It’s not all creative fun though, the monetary aspect of being a full-time game creator has to be taken in to account; as does the marketing, distribution and business side of things. I’ve always been creative first and money driven second, but if your game does incredibly well, you will be rewarded greatly for your work. On the opposite foot, if your game doesn’t do well, then every hour you have put into the game might feel wasted, although there is a HUGE amount you take away from every project – successful or otherwise. The business side of things may put you off too, but some people can’t get enough of the business side of things – It’s like playing Theme Park or RollerCoaster Tycoon to them, but instead of adding rides and attracting punters, they are building up a game library and attracting more players. Other people can’t stand it and would rather stick to the creative side of things, but whatever side of the fence you’re on; marketing, establishing contacts and spending countless hours doing ‘boring’ things are always something to take in to consideration. If you don’t want to do it yourself, find somebody else to do it for you because it can quite easily be the difference between commercial success and failure. The fruits of your own IP ultimately comes down to you and that is both a blessing and a curse.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes time – a lot of time – to create something from scratch and see it through to fruition, but the satisfaction you get when it’s finally complete is one of the best (and scariest) emotions you’ll ever have. You will be working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the creative process and it will immerse itself into every aspect of your life – every thought you have will be about the game and every free hour you have will want to be spent adding in something new. Even the grinding parts where you are sat with GameSalad open adding rule after rule for the level unlock or editing the sizes of countless images all add to the final product and the rewards (not including money) of creating something yourself are endless.

Personally, creating my own intellectual property is the best part of game design – taking a single thought, a blank piece of paper or an empty “My Great Project” file in GameSalad and raising that from conception to adulthood really is like having a parent-child relationship and can be equally as rewarding. There are tough times, fun times, sad times and happy times that all culminate at the hardest part of game design… Finishing the game.

All the love and attention you have given your project comes down to that one point in time that you release your game into the wild. Taking on the parent analogy once again, you have raised the child from being a little baby, up to the point where you let them fend for themselves in the big, bad world. Of course you will be there helping them along with your marketing, updates, etc. but ultimately every ounce of love, knowledge and time that you have devoted to your offspring is now theirs to utilise. Knowing when and how to stop is a complete blog entry in itself and one that I might visit in the coming weeks.

The final product, no matter how small, will always be a part of gaming history and that product started with just a single thought in your mind.

Check back soon for the flip side of the battle between your own IP and working for a client!