SODWA Update #2
Twelve rev-share members is too much for a developer’s first indie game. I know that now, and I should have known that then. But at the time, if someone was interested in contributing to the project, I felt obligated to let them join. This post is when I can finally get more into the concrete steps I took to get SODWA off the ground, including every victory and every humiliating defeat. And there were a lot of humiliating defeats…
I wish I still had all of the original posts I made trying to recruit team members. I’m going to be trying to recall most of these events from memory. At the time, I didn’t know how to program, and I didn’t know anything about game development, or game art, or really anything one might need when leading a game development studio. I was going in blind, with nothing but my confidence in this game idea I had put together.
I remember making posts on the Gamemaker forums, the old Unity Collaboration forums, gamedev.net, polygon, deviantart, and basically any other website where I might reach potential programmers and artists. I have no idea how it happened, but before long I ended up with a team of around 12 members, including programmers, concept artists, 3d modelers, and composers. My main concept artist and 3d modeler were a husband and wife pair, and they ended up making some pretty amazing pieces for me.
Of course, as with any rev-share project, members would drop out without warning. One day someone would just stop responding to emails, and that would be that. I honestly don’t know how we managed to make as much progress as we did.
The initial concept for SODWA was that it would have fully-customizable characters, including their abilities and visuals. Kind of like how you can choose your primary and secondary jobs and abilities in Final Fantasy Tactics, you could customize your characters’ attributes and abilities in SODWA. You could also assemble the character visually from a large selection of pieces. The final result would be a static figurine of your character that would be used as a game piece. Gameplay would emulate the tabletop feel of Heroclix or DND. Of course, now I realize how ludicrously out of scope that idea was for our development team, but the idea seemed to resonate with people. We’ve sense stripped all of the customization elements in favor of designing our own characters for players to use.
When it comes to character customization, it doesn’t really get any better than Hero Machine. I wasn’t sure how, but I thought maybe I could collaborate with the creator of Hero Machine to help work out the character customization for SODWA. I reached out to the owner, a delightful man named Jeff Hebert, and we started talking about ways we could work together. We ultimately decided that his Flash-based architecture couldn’t really benefit SODWA, but he did have a community of character customization enthusiasts who he thought would be really into the project. So that’s when I decided to put together a “Design Your Own SODWA Character” contest. The 9 winners would be used for our main promo artwork. Luckily, I still have the PDF of the contest details I posted on the Hero Machine forums. You can view that here.
I put together a very rough mockup of what the final promo piece would look like, and then went about trying to line up an artist who could complete it. I ended up contacting a very talented artist by the name of Livio Ramondelli. I didn’t know this at the time, but he was the primary artist for the Transformers: Autocracy line of comics books. He agreed to take on the job, so I finalized everything and officially announced the contest.
The Hero Machine contest was a massive success. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe we received over 800 submissions. Every spare moment of my free time was spent pouring over characters and trying to pick the nine that would work best together in our promo piece. You can actually view all of the submissions and my announcements during this time at www.facebook.com/SODWA.game. There are some pretty insane designs on there. If anything, the SODWA Facebook page is a testament to the power and flexibility of Hero Machine. In the end, I decided on the following nine winners:
I then assembled the winners into the following rough mock-up and sent it off to Livio:
It wasn’t long before Livio started sending back drafts. Even some of his very first drafts really nailed the overall design:
And before I knew it, I had my first major piece of promo artwork for SODWA!
Not only was Livio absolutely crushing it, but our own husband and wife team of concept artist and 3d modeler were hard at work turning the Hero Machine pieces into full-on high quality concept art.
All in all, this was a major milestone for the project and an enormous morale boost for the team. It garnered over 100 likes for our Facebook page and really helped get our project out there. However, the high wouldn’t last long, as a few major disasters were just around the corner. But I’ll wait to get into all that until our next update. As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time!