IamA CEO of a small indie game company called Icebreaker Games. We have published two early access games on steam. "Zombie Golf" and "The Valley". A third game should be published by the end of the year called Mutant Labs. We are always looking for new projects or exciting ideas. We would love to branch out and create games for mobile and VR as well. I'm sure there are many inspiring game developers out there but I have been wondering what are the roadblocks keeping them from creating something or seeking education/experience in the industry. Locally in our area, there isn't many options available. Which lead me to create Icebreaker Games. Let me hear your stories and of course AMA.

Comments: 116 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

_NotMitetechno_32 karma

Why do your games look like mediocre asset flips?

jblair269-2 karma

While we are only a small indie company, these products are far from finished and represent only a small portion of what we are working on as a company. Our much larger project isn't set to be released until around summer 2020.

NachoDawg18 karma

So it's a dream of mine to start making games, and I'm sure I'll lie on my deathbed thinking of never doing that as one of my biggest regrets.

How did you start? Where did the inspiration to begin come from? How did you turn it into a career?

jblair26918 karma

I truly felt the same way but my start was almost embarrassing. Due to a knee injury I was unable to move around very well for a few months so I decided there wasn't a more perfect time to start making my own game. For whatever reason at the time, I decided to use "GameSalad" to create a 2d game similar to the original Fallout 1&2. After I recovered I moved on but really enjoyed working on it. Took me a few years to get back into game making and that's when I found "Unity". For the record that first game I made was horrible but was the stepping stone I needed.

iszathi15 karma

To be honest both game look pretty damn terrible, the valley specially (zombies + golf sounds easier to sell), do you even make money for this kind of games?

jblair2691 karma

I appreciate your honesty and feedback. While we are only a small indie company, the published projects are no where near completion. We also understand that we can't please everyone. Every gamer is different and looks for different things in a game. But we are especially excited for the potential of Zombie Golf which has grown traction in Japan.

damanisjon10 karma

Hi mate, I run a small development team in the UK, out of interest, if you had to start again what pitfalls would you avoid and what would you do differently this time around? Thanks man

jblair2692 karma

I think the biggest potential pitfall is always marketing. You can spend thousands and get so little in return. But if I could start again I would love to perfect the art of crowdfunding. If I could only take what I know now and go back but I'm sure everyone says that lol.

damanisjon2 karma

That's super interesting and helpful man. Agreed marketing is like putting your money on a horse... You don't have that much money and you can only pick one horse. Is tough to put your money on the thing that will bring you the greatest amount of value. Crowdsourcing is great, however you have to appeal to the people and you have to manage expectations well. Good luck mate.

jblair2692 karma

Thanks man, you too.

VESTINGboot5 karma

First the most important question, resident evil or dead space?

jblair2699 karma

This is a very difficult question for me but I think I will have to say Dead Space. While I enjoyed the early Resident Evil creations I have enjoyed every Dead Space title. So Dead Space gets the slight advantage.

VESTINGboot5 karma

That was the right answer...now what do you and your company hope to accomplish in the world of gaming?

jblair26911 karma

Another difficult question. I think for the company, we would love to have that one game that is successful and defines us but as a CEO I am more focused on creating a company with a great environment that helps inspiring developers with amazing ideas get into the industry.

VESTINGboot2 karma

Interesting...so what games have you seen that just made you say "thats amazing or i wish I came up with that concept"?

jblair2692 karma

I'm a huge fan of survival games so games like 7 days to die, Green Hell, Scum, to name a few. All have some amazing concepts that as a game developer I truly admire and appreciate.

GimePizzaOrGimeDeath4 karma

You hiring anyone in finance? I'm looking for a new career.

jblair2691 karma

We are not currently hiring but thanks for your interest.

GimePizzaOrGimeDeath2 karma

Never hurts to ask. Cheers

jblair2691 karma

This is true. Good luck.

thehammersuit3 karma

If you have a significant interest in making a game but your skills are writing and world building. How do you start? I’ve tried to pick up programming and I can’t seem to grasp it but I have created multiple scripts, world bibles and game concepts. Just can’t seem to figure out a way to actually get these games made. Any advice?

jblair2693 karma

Also look into Playmaker for Unity. It uses visual coding/state machines to do the same thing a regular script would do. Plus there are many tutorials online. If that doesn't seem to fit you, try the Unreal Engine. I like the look and feel of Unity but I have met many who prefer Unreal. Basically try out a few options and find something that fits your needs.

5HAGL1CK3 karma

Hey! :)

I am working as a fullstack web dev in 40h a week, and Im working on my game ideas at home.

Every time I start a new project I am super-hyped about it and cannot think about anything else but how to bring it to life. After I finish the basic game mechanism that makes my game unique I lost interest in it.

So far Ive got to a point where I realised that I should show off the idea to some fellow devs or friends, to gain some motivation, but I am too affraid that someone is going to steal the idea and make the game before me (it happened to me once and I am still pissed about it..).

What would be your advice for not losing interest during development?

jblair2692 karma

I would be upset about that as well but it might be a little ridiculous to have all your friends sign a NDA before showing them anything. I do feel like working alone can sometimes be tough to not lose interest though. So maybe you should try to bring someone on board. Also you might also be burning yourself out so make sure to gradually work on a project rather then push yourself to hard in the beginning, not leaving enough steam for the end game.

Shedinja13 karma

What would you say to aspiring students that are thinking of perusing a degree in gaming? I passed on it due to being told job prospects were low.

jblair2693 karma

It really depends on the degree you are thinking of pursuing. A software engineering or computer science degree pays really well and is in constant demand. However, these degrees do not guarantee you will be working in gaming but give you a really good chance. If it doesn't pan out, the degree will still land you a job somewhere else.

bardsmanship3 karma

Is the Indiepocalypse still happening or have things gotten better?

jblair2692 karma

Some would argue that the Indiepocalypse is only a myth. The competition in game development isn't going away but I feel the playing field is now slightly more fair. I have played AAA games that I loved and some that I hated. The same goes for indie games. But only now can an indie game push AAA games to be better. AAA games aren't as dominant as they once were. Even minecraft was an indie game under a single vision and now is arguable the best game ever made. I love where we are at in the gaming world and look forward to the next great game like minecraft.

TheEvilN2 karma

I have some brilliant ideas for games and me and my brother have been developing them since we where kids, i dont have the knowledge of programing (or atleast good enough) to make my own game, so what could i do realisticly to make it? I mean what steps could i take to find people who would program it?

jblair2692 karma

This is tough because I'm not sure there is a 100% correct answer. If you just pitch an idea to a company, there is a good chance that some of your ideas/concepts could be taken and used without you seeing much in return. If I were in your position, I would create as much concept art, storyboards, scripts, or anything that could help show off your idea. I would then look to hire a small indie company to take those concepts and turn them into something. The hiring process could require different levels of up front investments or back-end profit sharing depending on the company you are working with. But some sort of contract would need to be signed, protecting you and your interests. As the main stakeholder, you would have more of a say in the direction of the project and could have weekly/monthly meetings to monitor progress.

Sansophia2 karma

Do you believe there can be a moral way to create loot boxes and microtransactions for a game? I think yeah, like a 50 cent loot box with crafting components and a rare Easter egg item (like a star trek hypo in Fallout 2, it's in,game but normally you can only get three ever) or microtransactions where you say and deliver funds to develop a stupid easy and fun editor program for modders to extend game's shelf life.

Or do you think such things are such moral hazards there is no place for them?

jblair2692 karma

While I understand why micro-transactions exist, I am not a fan at all. Especially in situations when there is a clear advantage towards players who make purchases. If I were to support them, it would be in strictly a cosmetic sense that gives no competitive advantage. Like camou's for weapons, player skins, armor variations, etc.

Kelvinzs2 karma

Hey thanks for doing this. You must have steam on your horizons as a platform to launch or sell your game from eventually or currently. I was wondering from a business model point of view, what kind of contracts are they offering you? how much of a cut do they get and how often do they get to run sales on your game and what the ratio may be on that when it happens.

thanks again for doing this have a good one cheers.

jblair2691 karma

Currently steam takes a 30% cut but lowers that percentage at certain sales milestones. The first milestone doesn't come until you hit 10 mil in sales though. I can choose when to run sales or join a future sale. For example steam will run a Halloween based sale next week that Zombie Golf will be a part of. You can choose what discount you want to apply. There isn't any contracts.

Calm_Hawk2 karma

Do indie studios take "Pitches" for video game ideas like movie studios do? If so, how exactly would that work?

jblair2692 karma

I can't speak for all indie studios but with Icebreaker Games, we would likely only be able to take a "pitch" if it had an investment attached to it. For example, here's 20k, make this game for us and we will split profits. We are always willing to hear ideas and maybe work them in, but we couldn't guarantee anything.

c_ynest_a2 karma

Where do you usually base your insipiration for your games, is it something that happens to you in real life, or is it just because you have a wild imagination?

Also, how do you take criticism to your games, and difficult situations (e.g. after every single update your player base would complain about this and that)?

jblair2692 karma

I think the majority of my ideas just come from a wild imagination. I actually keep a 100+ page powerpoint collection of all my ideas that I would love to see come alive. When we are looking for a new project we start there.

There is definitely no way to make everyone happy. Even the most successful games have large groups that criticize it. I think its important to have thick skin and focus on the positive. But one thing I really like about indie games is they usually listen more to the voice of their players then AAA games. Some indie games even take input directly from forums and add them into their games.

bestminipc2 karma

whats tech stack used to make this? doesnt say in the post

jblair2691 karma

We use 3ds max for design, Unity for development, and Steam for publishing.

Heerrnn2 karma

When you are looking for programmers, what are you looking for more particularly? Degrees and so on.

jblair2691 karma

I think the industry is looking mostly for computer science or software engineering degrees. Of course experience is still key but hard to get sometimes. For me its more about your ability to code and problem solve. First things I look for is experience in Unity and C#.

wrnghaus2 karma

Hey there! Thanks for doing this AMA, really appreciate it :)

My question regards music placement in indie games. what is the best way to go about that? Should I find someone who will pitch my music/talents to the right people for me, or are their easy ways to directly submit music for consideration by music supervisors for games?

Thanks!

jblair2691 karma

This is a difficult question and varies depending on the company. I think you have a higher chance if you pitch smaller indie companies but keep in mind not everyone is looking. The music we have considered for future projects was pitched to us and was available on youtube. The entire team was able to listen to all the work and make a determination if we felt the music fit our project. So I would definitely start with samples on youtube. Also keep an eye out for early release games and maybe make a track or two that you feel could work for that game. Then try pitching it to them.

tech_b902 karma

Are you hiring?

jblair2691 karma

We are not currently hiring but thanks for your interest.

i_like_trains_a_lot12 karma

Can you give us some sales numbers? With all the respect, I don't think having two early access games priced at <1€ that also look very generic and have very few features is sustainable for an indie game studio.

- How many people has your team ? (since you said "we are looking for new projects or exciting ideas")

- How many sales did your games generate since their launch?

jblair2692 karma

The two early access games published are only a small portion of the projects we are working on but help us get our name out there. Currently we have a much larger project we hope to launch around summer 2020 and another early access game due to be published by the end of the year. We have been pitched many new projects and ideas that can sometimes lead to investments and new teams.

bardsmanship2 karma

Which parts of the game creation process are you involved in? E.g. Programming, art, music etc... How difficult and expensive was it to find other folks to work on the parts you're not good at? How big is your current team?

jblair2691 karma

My current team is only 6. Each of us has their own set skills and place in the team. I handle the business side but also get my hands dirty with almost every process.

halborn2 karma

As a matter of motivation/discipline, how do you make games when you could be playing games?

jblair2692 karma

I've played games since I was a child but at some point I felt that the games I was playing no longer kept me entertained. I was always looking for more. More features, more stories, more immersion, etc. This lead me to believe that if I wanted it done a specific way I may have to do it myself.

JohnSebastienHenley2 karma

Hi!

How big is your team now and where will it be in 2 years?

jblair2691 karma

We are currently 6 members strong but hope to be triple that in 2 years. Our goal is to try to remain small, in order to keep an environment where everyone's opinion and idea counts.

the_Dachshund2 karma

A small indie company that has two early access titles on steam, and one more coming in a month, and all of them look like little mobile games.

Why don’t you just focus on making one good game? This project isn’t icebreaking. Not yet at least.

jblair2691 karma

Icebreaker refers to a few concepts. First, we are designed to help inspiring developers break into the scene making even the smallest of games if needed. With the smaller games comes experience which helps with the bigger games. Second, we are located in the north and third, we strive to break through obstacles in our projects similar to the Icebreaker.

jblair2691 karma

We are also working on a bigger project that should release sometime 2020. Updates on that project will be released in the near future.

N4hire2 karma

Dream job right there, but I’m too dumb to even going for it.

How’s the economics of it. Can someone sustain themselves by being a game developer?

Also, I do have an idea for a VR game. But I bet you get ideas thrown at you 24/7

jblair2692 karma

All it takes is one good idea or game to change everything but it's definitely a very competitive field. We love hearing ideas, especially VR ideas. We have been working on few ourselves.

N4hire2 karma

Super simple, a sailor, a storm, get to the center of the storm and you find a moving graveyard of sea vessels, weird creatures roaming the decks of those botes. Some do come out to play.

Your sail thru the wrecks with very little light, usually it’s the lighting and flares the only way for you to find your way, repair the boat from time to time, and sometimes you get visit from a creature or 2.

Your only weapons are a survival knife, flare guns, a speargun and the floodlights on the boat, and sometimes you just have to go the cabin and hide because a couple of uncomfortable big creatures are moving from wreck to wreck.

I even have the perfect ending in mind.

The game is usually a 3 room game, main deck, to move lights around, fish items and clues of the water, and try to find a path thru the wrecks, the second room will be the cabin were you drive the boat, you see how fast you’re going, your location or simply to try to stay safe and hidden from time to time from small and huge creatures, the third room will be the lower deck of the boat, you do repairs, inventory and sometimes you have to hide also there.

jblair2691 karma

When I think VR and ideas similar to this, the first thing that comes to mind is which system would I target (Quest, Rift, etc) and how will I handle movement inside the game. Your idea has 3 rooms, so would you teleport from room to room(rift) or physically walk from room to from (Quest)? I am not a fan of using the joystick to gradually move the character in VR while my physical body is stationary. This tends to cause motion sickness for most users. Also another thing to consider is, most people get sick with the gentle rocking of a physical boat. How would you handle making sure the player feels like they are on a boat without giving them motion sickness? Ultimately I like the idea though and would love to see a collaborative version that requires a friend to drive the boat, a friend to do repairs, while another friend fights of creatures.

Pledgey1 karma

Why do you have a picture of the Russian icebreaker?

jblair2691 karma

The picture of the Icebreaker comes from the website but is unintentional and only seems to show up on the mobile version of reddit. But as mentioned below the icebreaker name refers to a few concepts. "First, we are designed to help inspiring developers break into the scene making even the smallest of games if needed. With the smaller games comes experience which helps with the bigger games. Second, we are located in the north and third, we strive to break through obstacles in our projects similar to the Icebreaker."

HmmBandit1 karma

If someone have an idea about one game.. Did your company offer to develope that game?

jblair2690 karma

It's difficult to take someones idea and develop it without having an initial investment to cover the team. Especially when we don't know how the developed idea will produce once released. Well love hearing ideas and working those ideas into existing projects but it's hard for a smaller indie to cover the cost initially.

TalkingBackAgain1 karma

Hello CEO of a Small Indie Game Developing Company, what is it that people don’t seem to understand is one of the greater problems in trying to make a Small Indie Game Developing Company successful?

jblair2691 karma

The hardest part in my opinion is marketing the company, the product, and yourself.

Be_Genuine1 karma

At what dollar evaluation, would you say, do you plan to have your company go full Bethesda and stop caring about its base? Or do you plan to continue to care about your players even after you've had success?

jblair2691 karma

As stated in other questions, our goal is to remain small where every opinion of the team counts. I believe the larger you get the more you get away from that core concept.

LeSmokie0 karma

Could you guys please stop using IAMA as a PR platform? Thanks!

jblair2690 karma

That definitely wasn't my intention. I only wished to reach out to inspiring developers and address roadblocks.

KingZachIII0 karma

Are you hiring?

jblair2691 karma

We are not currently hiring but thanks for your interest.