Peace in! My name is Kevin Giguère and I'm the sole member of Dragon Slumber, a company I founded in 2013 to work on my first indie game. In 2017, I quit my job to do this full time and released Arelite Core a month later. I've since released Astral Traveler also in 2017 and Tech Support: Error Unknown in 2019.

I act as the designer, programmer and producer for all of my titles, and recently have been learning 3d art for my newest project, an open world first person puzzle game called Aethernaut which I'm letting people play for the first time during Gamescom. I also have a separate unannounced project in the works which is being worked on by interns.

I've chronicled the last three years of my dev life in blog posts on Gamasutra and am happy to answer any questions about it. I've had a lot of ups and downs and learning lessons which I hope to share.


[Current game and demo] Aethernaut:

Tech Support:

Arelite Core:

Astral Traveler:

Edit: I see that things are starting to wind down, and I'm still going to hang out and answer questions as I can, but I want to thank everyone who joined in, asked a question and upvoted. I really didn't know what to expect but I hope I managed to help all of you and give some perspective on being a dev, especially when you're not one of the top tier well known developers. I encourage you to continue asking questions, or even join me on my Discord and chat with me directly:

Thanks again, peace out!

Comments: 181 • Responses: 81  • Date: 

EarlChickenearl77 karma

Developing video games has always been so fascinating to me. I know virtually nothing about but I’d like to gain an understating of how it all works. So my question is, what got you started in creating video games and what made you continue?

dragonslumber67 karma

I started programming when I was 15, in a mostly pre-Internet era. I always loved games and even as a kid, I was designing maps on paper, so I always wanted to make games. As I grew up, I went to college to learn programming (game dev courses were still in their infancy), from which I graduated but became a web developer instead.

I always kept the passion for making games but the tools weren't very easy to use back then. I did become a Flash game programmer for a contracting company for several years, where I worked on a bunch of branded games (Avatar, Wonder Woman, Sponge Bob, etc.) After a few years the company started struggling and I was let go.

A few years later, I was working as a online platform programmer and administrator, but felt my career wasn't going anywhere, so I decided to go back to my passion and started work on Arelite Core. That passion and drive has kept me going through thick and thin.

nakayuma24 karma

What have you found helpful in having for the game business side?

dragonslumber43 karma

Networking is the lifeblood of this industry. I'm currently showcasing my game at Gamescom because I've gotten to know people and they've gotten to know me, so I was extended an invitation (as well as invitations for upcoming events). I try to give back to the community by writing helpful guides on Gamasutra and posting about my experiences good and bad, trying to be a resources people can rely on when they need questions. I think the more you make yourself known as a person, even outside of promoting your game, the more you can help your business grow through external opportunities.

John93basketball13 karma

What engine do you use?

dragonslumber40 karma

For Aethernaut, I'm currently using Unity 2019.3 with HDRP, will be switching to 2019.4. For my first game Arelite Core however, I made my own engine using XNA and C#. It took about 6 months to get my demo done with the engine, controls, and in-game stuff like menus, dialogue, battle system, etc. And then 4 more years after that to actually release game :P

darkdaemon00010 karma

Why did you make your own engine? Was it like an experiment or a hobby or technical challenges present in existing engines?

dragonslumber19 karma

Arelite Core was a 2d retro style JRPG, which I started in 2012. Back then Unity wasn't as great with 2d stuff, and I wanted something that I could expand upon more than RPG Maker could allow. I also wanted to port to consoles and XNA was directly compatible with the XBox 360.

I wouldn't do it nowadays though, there are so many great engines out there accounting for any needs you might have.

1mrlee1 karma

Like Lumberyard :)

dragonslumber1 karma

Never used it, can't comment. I also never used Godot though it's the Linux of game engines: those who use it can't stop talking about it :P

1mrlee1 karma

Lumberyard is completely free, no royalties, also has easy aws integration!

dragonslumber3 karma

Yeah, but part of why I use Unity is because of how many external resources there are when I'm not sure how to do something, code segments for pretty much anything, the asset store. There's a lot of value in just buying a feature to accelerate development or finding immediate answers to issues rather than asking and waiting.

obwanaknow9 karma

do you draw your own graphics? or outsource? if you make them yourself, what do you use for software?

dragonslumber14 karma

For Tech Support, I did 95% of what's there and only had someone update the visual style of the icons in game. For my newest game Aethernaut, I learned to use Blender so what you're seeing is also about 90% me, including making textures. The other 10% is incidental assets which are meant to fill in space, I found some royalty free assets for that.

obwanaknow6 karma

what about for Arelite core?

dragonslumber17 karma

Arelite Core was entirely different, I hired over 20 different contractors for art and music and ended up spending over 80k into it. I love the game, but unfortunately that one didn't pay off and was a big learning lesson in choosing projects where I could make the bulk of it myself.

obwanaknow6 karma

out of curiosity, how many copies of that did you sell?

dragonslumber9 karma

I had to change Steam accounts for business reasons so my stats got reset. Right now I'm seeing 965 copies of Arelite Core sold since early 2019, so I would estimate my total sales around 3000-5000. However, most of that will be through sales and stuff so it's not exactly a 3000 * 20$ situation.

Rakinare2 karma

Do you decide if your game goes on sale or is that entirely on Steam's decision?

dragonslumber5 karma

I decide the specific date of when it goes on sale, and the actual sales that happen on it. Additional opportunities and promotions may be provided by Steam at their discretion, but it's important to remain pro-active and not only rely on them pushing your game.

Rakinare2 karma

Thanks for that answer! So you can also completely opt-out of sales, right?

dragonslumber3 karma

Yup, you're in control.

dragonslumber2 karma

Also, you can opt out of sales, but depending on how popular you game is, you might be losing out on game sales as well because players are expecting those. I think even if you choose a lower percentage like 20%, you'll still see that bump that gets people excited. Axiom Verge has an article on Gamasutra about their approach to avoiding giving too big discounts to prevent devaluing their game.

senorchaos7181 karma

How much did you pay for music if you don't mind me asking? Was that for licensing tracks from a company or just hiring someone to do all the music?

dragonslumber8 karma

For Arelite Core, I hired a composer and I don't want to give specific amounts because I feel it's their perogative, but it was in the several thousands for the full original soundtrack and I'm not sure the sales of the even covered the soundtrack.

For subsequent games, I've found free royalty free music (my business partner Bora spruced up some tunes for Astral Traveler), and relied on those as well. Unfortunately, although I love video game music and could tell you what games most songs from the 80s and 90s come from, I don't think nowadays people care all that much about music so I end up not focusing on it too much. I don't think it drives sales so I can't justify that cost right now.

Bestiality_King2 karma

Yep it's terrible a game's soundtracks are not listened to enough... I'm definitely guilty of turning the music off and playing whatever I want through Spotify. It's a lot easier when playing on pc and you have all these options, play in between cooking/laundry, as opposed to a classic sit down at the TV kinda thing.

dragonslumber2 karma

Yeah, there are some legendary soundtracks for sure. The retro stuff I love, big fan of NES and SNES era music, which is why I wanted a classic style soundtrack for my own JRPG Arelite Core. More recently the soundtrack to Bayonetta was amazing, also loved Metal Gear Revengeance with its lyrics. But it does feel like a few diamonds in the rough unfortunately.

obwanaknow3 karma

btw thanks for answering - i'm just wondering because I'm trying to make a game and have very little artistic experience. I'm trying to uses free assets and make the visuals as minimalistic as possible

dragonslumber6 karma

That was my mentality when I did Tech Support, fewest assets possible and having a great clever concept that no one ever did before. It does mean you can't do anything you'd like, but having realistic expectations and objectives can help you be a lot more successful.

proace3607 karma

What "award" have you won?

dragonslumber3 karma

I won best indie pitch at MIGS 2018. I was also nominated for best narrative game and most innovative game at MEGA 2018, and was nominated for a general indie dev award at Momocon 2019.

redBeepis6 karma

Marketing. How?

dragonslumber9 karma

Marketing is such a difficult aspect of making games, quite possibly the aspect which people struggle the most, including myself. For my first two games, I tried to do it on my own. In fact, I was at PAX East 2016 to showcase Arelite Core. The reality is that with so many games coming out, there's a lot of noise and it's very difficult to stand out.

On Tech Support, I started by making a game that stood out thematically, so that the concept would immediately intrigue people. That's already a part of marketing. But even then, in April 2018, I released a trailer but no one really took notice despite my contacting various publications. Then I signed with my publisher Iceberg Interactive in August and we rereleased the same trailer. This time, a bunch of publications picked it up like PC Gamer and Rock Paper Shotgun. That drove up the traffic to my Steam page, which helped wishlists, which helped sales.

The reality is that the source of the message matters more than the message itself. We call them "influencers" for a reason, they do influence people's choices and can drive people to your game.

Make your game appealing to look at, give it a viral quality that makes it stand out on social media and make it memeable, but also I think getting a publisher can really help take everything to the next level.

redBeepis2 karma

Thanks for the reply. It will help me a lot when I release my first real game project

dragonslumber2 karma

My pleasure, best of luck, keep at it, you can already join different game dev communities and talk with devs about it. A few that I moderate are the Indie Game Devs Discord: and Playing Indies Discord:

Achieve2Receive4 karma

What are some tips that, if you had known starting out, would've really helped you back then?

dragonslumber22 karma

Don't make your dream game from the start, make something smaller and clever, aim for a 9 month dev cycle (which will likely take 2 years).

Get a publisher because you want to have that marketing investment which will help people learn about your game in a crowded space with a lot of noice.

Test early and test often to make sure your game is fun for others. Get as much criticism as you can. Last year I postponed a game I worked on for 6 months because the reception I was getting was only ok, not great. I think there's value in completing your first game, but scope appropriately and focus on what makes it great and unique.

Pie_am_Error3 karma

Hi Kevin,

I'm blown away that you've released three games in such a short amount of time on your own! As a wannabe solo developer/artist, how do you approach the beginning of any project? I have so many thoughts in my head (concept art, gameplay, story) and I'm always feeling overwhelmed, and afraid I'll start on the wrong aspect first. What's your gameplan, essentially? Thanks!

dragonslumber3 karma

Nowadays, my first step is figuring out how will I market my game. I need to make a game which focuses on my strengths and avoided my weaknesses so acknowledging my limits is really important, although I'm really pushing through them with Aethernaut's 3d needs.

For Tech support, the theme came first, since I knew that would stand out in a crowd and I built the gameplay from there. For Aethernaut, I wanted to make a first person puzzle game because I felt there weren't too many of those on the market, people love them and I feel I have a good mind for crafting puzzles.

Pie_am_Error1 karma

I suppose I have been getting lost in the details when I should be focusing on the strengths I can bring to the table. Cheers.

dragonslumber1 karma

Absolutely. A lot of starting devs try to plan for a billion features, but if you make one thing that's really strong and focus your game around that, I think you'll end up with a much more satisfying result. Plenty of simple games end up really drawing the crowds, just look at Fall guys or any other memeable game. Quality over quantity.

Ryutsashi3 karma

What was the biggest lesson that making solo games taught you that you didn't know before (not financially, but strictly in a game dev sense)?

dragonslumber9 karma

Focus on what you're good at and don't assume that promises made by others will pan out. It's a tough reality to accept, but I've had my share of unreliable people I've worked with and that's hurt some of the stuff I've worked on. Be the person you want to work with, be reliable and dependable, and it'll profit your game. Tech Support was made alone at 95%, I only had someone do key art for marketing and update some ingame icons, and that's my best title yet. The more you know, the more versatile your skill set, the better a solo dev you can be.

Ryutsashi3 karma

What were the sale numbers from each of your released games and what's the average monthly income for all 8 years combined?

dragonslumber11 karma

I have written a bunch of Gamasutra articles covering my first 3 years as a full time indie developer, including whatever numbers I could provide (sales, income, etc.), which you can find at:

The years that preceded were a bit different since I also had a full time job, so that was income unrelated to game dev. However, a lot of that money went into developing Arelite Core and I expand upon my expenses in those articles as well.

DutchDroopy2 karma

What is your reason for doing it alone?

dragonslumber10 karma

My first two games were made with people, in the first case hiring contractors and working with a friend with the second one. We ended up wanting to work on different things moving forward (he became more of a mobile guy, I'm more PC / console) so for the next project, I felt like it would be faster in many ways. By knowing every aspect of the game, it saves a lot of dev time when iterating. I don't have any communication issues internally, I know which work is done and can better prioritize what gets made when.

Not having a dedicated artist is tough at times, although I have been learning Blender to compensate. I do find that there's a lot of risk mitigation by working alone, I know the job will get done, I know when, it's easier to schedule.

I'm tough to work with at times because I expect so much, I'm very strict which I think makes my work better, but sometimes people struggle keeping up and that makes the process that much more difficult. And when you're working on a two person project and you lose half the team, you risk jeopardizing the whole project (which I've gone through multiple times).

DutchDroopy1 karma

That makes perfect sense, thank you for the answer! Especially cutting out communications saves a lot of time if you know what your plan is. Awesome work man.

dragonslumber2 karma

Thank you! Focus on your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses and try to work around those. That's what I try to do and it seems to be working out. Took years to get into that mental state though, I wasn't the diligent worker I am today when I was in my 20s.

DutchDroopy1 karma

Good advice, thanks a lot. Im still in my 20s so thats good to hear lol

dragonslumber2 karma

I'm in my 30s now, just turned 38. I've been doing this since I was 29. I do have some "advantages", I'm single and don't have kids, so I can really dedicate my time to this. I think I end up putting more hours into it than a lot of my peers can realistically afford to, but I also think I manage to get some results that a lot of my peers would struggle to reach. Everything is a trade-off.

DutchDroopy1 karma

Hey as long as you enjoy what you're doing and you're happy with it. Thats all that matters man. And 38 is not too late to get into a relationship. Keep up the good work man! Thanks for answering and sharing your experience

dragonslumber2 karma

My pleasure. I wouldn't get into a relationship right now, I wouldn't have the proper time to dedicate to it. But yeah, you're never too old to do stuff, people in nursing homes get into relationships all the time! But how often do they release awesome games?

DutchDroopy1 karma

Very true. Keep your priorities in order buddy!

dragonslumber2 karma

Yup, and I love what I do. At the end of the day, choose to do what you love, regardless of other people's expectations. It's your life, you define what'll make you happy.

Lexonir2 karma

Hi there! I work in the gaming industrie right now but I did learn programming in school (Comp Sci degree). I want to start creating games on my own but what's a good starting point? Also one thing I was always wondering, I'm a bad artist and when I see those indie game, did you do all the art yourself? Song and music or you contract someone later on when the game start to be mire develloped.

dragonslumber2 karma

Hey there! There's never any certainty when making a game, but there are early choices which can help you out, especially when you'renot a great artist (like I am).

When I was working on Tech Support, the first thing I did was choose a theme and gameplay which wouldn't require great graphics. A computer interface isn't expected to have groundbreaking visuals and it played into getting the player immersed into this world. I also knew that I would be doing everything alone, so keeping the scope focused on what I can do mattered. Find unique features you can focus on and creative ways around your limits.

poop_in_my_coffee2 karma

Do you do shrooms to give you a creativity and productivity boost?

dragonslumber4 karma

I drink coffee in the morning, often a glass of energy drink in the afternoon, half decaf coffee in the evening. I otherwise don't drink alcohol, do any drugs and I don't smoke.

I let my mood guide my creativity and productivity. If I'm feeling problem solvy, I'll work on some tough code. If I'm not in the mood for much, I'll set up some tweets or write some stuff. There are so many tasks to do, there's a task for every mood to keep me productive.

ComputerFiguur2 karma

What is your favorite color?

dragonslumber-3 karma

First of all, thank you for spelling it "color" and not "colour". Although I am french canadian, I stand by my belief that color is the proper spelling.

Favorite color would be... red, maybe? I wear a lot of blue, I think that's what I have the most in my wardrobe. My logo is gold, l that's kind of yellow. Tech Support was mostly purple...

Ok, this may have been the toughest question yet, but if we can acknowledge that it's spelled color, I think we can move forward as a society.

TheGssr2 karma

I really want to get into making games. The question I have is, how did you promote/advertise your game to the public?

dragonslumber3 karma

My first few games, I tried to do it on my own. In fact, I was at PAX East 2016 to showcase Arelite Core. The reality is that with so many games coming out, there's a lot of noise and it's very difficult to stand out.

For my third game Tech Support, my first choice was to make a game that stood out thematically, so that the concept would immediately intrigue people. That's already a part of marketing. But even then, in April 2018, I released a trailer but no one really took notice despite my contacting various publications. Then I signed with my publisher Iceberg Interactive in August and we rereleased the same trailer. This time, a bunch of publications picked it up like PC Gamer and Rock Paper Shotgun. That drove up the traffic to my Steam page, which helped wishlists, which helped sales.

The reality is that the source of the message matters more than the message itself. We call them "influencers" for a reason, they do influence people's choices and can drive people to your game.

Make your game appealing to look at, give it a viral quality that makes it stand out on social media and make it memeable, but also I think getting a publisher can really help take everything to the next level.

coltonious2 karma

What language/engine do you typically use, or do you like to switch it up? I've begun studying unity for shits and giggles and i can see how doing the code by hand would suck.

dragonslumber7 karma

I made my own engine for my first game, then switched to Unity because I wanted to focus on the game itself rather than the engine. Unity really works well with my workflow, it's very versatile (I've made a 3d racer, a 2d menu driven game and now an open world FPP). I don't like to switch because I'm a problem solver by nature, I need a good reason to forego what I've learned and start anew. And since I rely on dev for income, any bit I can use to accelerate the dev process is really important. You only really make money once the game is out after all.

AtlasonReddit1 karma

What is the best way to start to get into coding?

dragonslumber1 karma

I think the best way nowadays is different than when I started, in a pre-Internet 90s with books. Everyone learns differently, I personally like to read stuff and replicate what is shown (actually typing rather than copy/pasting) to better absorb what's being said. It also allows me to divert from what they propose which makes me understand how the code works. There's a lot of tutorials out there, I have friends who took Udemy courses which are always at a discount. I guess you just have to figure out what kind of a learner you are and build upon that.

CoinScarf1 karma

I love videogames, their architecture, their culture. I'm beginning highschool, and I'm pretty sure I'll graduate computer science to become a game designer. How do I know if games are really my future or if I'm just a kid who really likes games?

dragonslumber1 karma

I was making games as an 11 year old, designing games on paper. I was programming stuff when I was 15-16. I wasn't great at it, but the passion was definitely there. I'd recommend you just try stuff out. It doesn't even have to be fully fledged games, you can find a game to mod, or learn some 3d art with Blender (which is free), or do something in RPG Maker. There are a lot of resources that you can try out and see how you take to it.

And also, it took me until I was 29 to have the personal maturity to actually finish a personal project like this, so even if you don't immediately succeed, you don't have to figure everything out immediately. Give yourself a chance to try stuff out, go with what works for you. And meet people, make friends in the various communities, I'm sure there are other people your age who are thinking about making games, so maybe you could do something with that.

CoinScarf1 karma

Thanks man, that helps a lot!

dragonslumber1 karma

Glad I could help _^

gobigorgohome31231 karma

How did you take it when you saw the metacritic score that Arelite Core received?

dragonslumber2 karma

Arelite Core started with a score of 80, that was the first review that came out. Then it got a few 60s, followed by a 40. It was tough to take, and as the dev I obviously have my own opinions about the game, but I felt like my game got criticized for stuff that other games could get praised, like the retro soundtrack. At the end of the day reviews are subjectives, plenty of gamers loved it, plenty of gamers hate it, but it was definitely disappointing to see.

In retrospect, I think there were some red lights ahead of time, which I would only really catch on years later as I gained experience, like the reception during conventions. Ultimately, I don't know that I could have made a better game at that time with the resources I had. I'm proud of Arelite Core, I love those characters and that universe, but yeah, obviously I'll be very biased about it.

gobigorgohome31231 karma

Thanks for the reply, appreciate it.

dragonslumber1 karma

Of course! When I say "AMA", I mean it!

RosabellaFaye1 karma

Est-ce-que le Québec est une bonne place pour être un développeur de jeux vidéos indie?

Je sais que Montréal est certainement bien connu pour, par example, Ubisoft Montréal et est un assez gros spot pour l'industrie des jeux vidéos mais je ne suis pas sûre si vous êtes simplement de la ville de Québec ou de la province de Québec en général (selon ton twitter)

dragonslumber2 karma

Le Québec est un excellent endroit pour les indies. Il y a beaucoup d'opportunités, comme des crédits d'impôts qui rendent les finances un peu plus faciles. Je suis présentement à Montréal et c'est ce que je recommande car il y a beaucoup d'opportunités de networking dans la ville, mais j'étais à Québec (la ville) jusqu'à 2019 et je connais des développeurs du Saguenay (il y a un Ubisoft là aussi), de Sherbrooke, etc.

3JUP1T3R1 karma

I want to work in the video games industry, what paths in college do you recommend I take in order to be set for a game at a large studio?

dragonslumber3 karma

Unfortunately my path was vastly different from most people getting into the industry nowadays. I only have a regular college degree in programming and did a 3 year stint as a Flash programmer in the mid 2000s. Otherwise, I basically built my game dev career myself and never worked for a AAA company.

My recommendation would be to get in contact with people from AAA companies and ask them directly what kind of education they're looking for. It'll help you network as well. Conventions are a great opportunity for these things (in regular times), but otherwise you could try to contact on social media or by e-mail.

3JUP1T3R1 karma

Thanks a ton :)

dragonslumber1 karma

My pleasure, best of luck!

TheySeekMyEnd1 karma

Tech support rocks! You planning on anything else like it or more content etc?
That game really was the pasta to my meatballs. Thank you c:

dragonslumber3 karma

Thank you so much for loving Tech Support, I've really gotten a lot of great comments about it. Right now I'm focusing on Aethernaut but I have so many ideas if I were ever to make a Tech Support sequel, including adding in a lot of what people were asking for the first one which unfortunately I never managed to get around to. I'm not making any promises, but if the proper opportunity manifests itself, I'm definitely up for it.

nobody50501 karma

Hello! I came over from your discord announcement and have not seriously watched your streams in a while is this your steampunk styled puzzle game that you mentioned in the title?

dragonslumber2 karma

Yes it is! And a demo is available now during Gamescom so if you're curious as to what I've been head down into these past few months, now's the perfect time to go check it out:

cpsc41 karma

Hey! Do you play any other games? Which ones? What are your favorite games of all times?

dragonslumber2 karma

I try to play games on sundays, trying to go through a variety of games to see what's getting made, learn from what others have done well and from their mistakes as well.

For research for Aethernaut, I played a lot of Turing Test, Talos Principle (which I absolutely love), Portal and Qube 2.

Outside of research, I recently popped open Phantasmagoria and am on Day 6, and also going through various Mega Man games because they're very short (~60-90 mins to complete, which I do across various sessions).

I'm looking forward to Cyberpunk like everyone else and expect that to be one of games I end up investing more than the average I do. Hopefully it'll be as good as I'm building it up in my mind!

BlotOutTheSun1 karma

Talos Principle quickly became one if my favorite games ever, the difficulty yet intuitiveness of the puzzles makes this game obnoxiously addictive and the religious/psychological aspect had me HOOKED.

You have a great set of games to model :)

dragonslumber1 karma

Thank you! If you're going to be inspired, be inspired by the best and learn from the rest _^

v1rtu4l_boi1 karma

Does it looks like portal ?

dragonslumber2 karma

It does have some similarities to Portal (and there are portal generators in my game), but I usually compare it more to Talos Principle since it's more open world and you don't have any inherent abilities, everything is provided in the puzzle rooms themselves. But of course it has plenty of unique aspects to it, like time traveling portals and the ability to climb on stuff.

pumpkinbot1 karma

I've had an idea I've wanted to flesh out into an actual game. Generic question, but what advice would you give to someone trying to make an indie game for the first time?

(Other than "don't". :P)

dragonslumber3 karma

"Don't" is an answer I try to never give, although I do try to be brutally honest about how difficult it is to succeed in this field, especially as an indie.

I always recommend you don't make your dream game from the start and instead focus on a smaller and more manageable scope which will allow you to learn a lot of lessons and make plenty of mistakes in a less damaging way.

Think about the business aspect of game dev, figure out something that people want that other games aren't providing, and which you could be passionate about.

Try to get a publisher because you want to have that marketing investment which will help people learn about your game in a crowded space with a lot of noise.

Test early and test often to make sure your game is fun for others. Find people who will be harsh about your game and take that criticism to heart. Once it's out, you'll be potentially facing way worst, so facing as much it early on can save you some hardships down the line.

pumpkinbot1 karma

All fantastic advice, thank you. :) Sounds like I've got a lot to think about.

dragonslumber1 karma

My pleasure. I think the most important thing is "Do it". Even if you fail, even if you give up once, twice, more. Get back up on that horse, learn from it. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take - Wayne Gretzky - Michael Scott

pumpkinbot1 karma

Yeah, that seems to be the common answer to any "how do I learn to do this?" question: "Suck at it, then try to suck at it less the next time, then repeat."

dragonslumber1 karma

Very true, you can learn a lot of stuff from articles and people telling you stuff, and you should to avoid as many mistakes as possible, but you'll still make mistakes and need to internalize a lot of stuff, and time really is the best teacher when it comes to that. Practice practice practice.

bappibhai1 karma

How long did one of your games take to finish making?

dragonslumber3 karma

Arelite Core took 4½ years, most of which I was part time, working between 20 and 40h a week (yes, that's part time in the dev world) Astral Traveler took 7 months working full time (60-70h a week) and we were two on that Tech Support took about a year working full time Aethernaut has been in development since November 2020 and is not releasing this year, so that gives you an idea for that one.

Genre and amount of content matters a lot when it comes to these things.

Gutza1 karma

What was the most surprising facet of your indie game developer experience during the last five years? What was the most surprising for the past year? I'm mostly interested in personal disappointments, when "how hard can it be?" met reality – but I'm also interested in fun or inspirational aha! moments you had during the experience.

dragonslumber6 karma

The most disappointing was the sales of my first game Arelite Core, after 4½ years of dev and investing over 80k of my own money into artists, it only made a fraction of that money back. That 80k would have gone such a long way as I worked on future projects, just to sustain me. Then I made Astral Traveler trying to apply what I learned and I lost less on that, but it still didn't break even. It was a difficult period and the fact that I've pushed through it and am now starting to see the light on the otherwise kind of shows the importance of not giving up, although you also need to make sure to learn from mistakes and apply those lessons diligently.

Winning the best indie pitch at MIGS 2018 was one of the coolest moments. I was showcasing my game and discovered on the day that there was a contest, so I just applied since I had nothing to lose. Everyone was very nervous doing their pitch in front of an audience, but because I stream, did theater and also because I didn't have any expectations, I just went in and had fun with it. The judges loved my energy and I won an award. That's always fun and it was great to show my publisher as well, kind of validating their choice of signing me up.

Lazaek1 karma

Do you do your own game art/spriting?

dragonslumber1 karma

For Arelite Core, I hired artists to do that and only did slight modifications to a few assets.

For Astral Traveler, it was a shared load between a hired artist, my business partner on the project and myself.

I did most of the art on Tech Support and only hired for some key marketing art and better in-game icons

I did most of everything on Aethernaut, only finding royalty free assets for decorations on the sidelines of rooms.

ComputerFiguur1 karma

At what age did you make your first working videogame, and what type of game was it?

dragonslumber2 karma

The first game I remember making was a text based fighting game in QBasic, around 1996 so I would have been 14 or 15. You chose what attack to do, each type had a chance to hit and chance of damage, it was very D&D style. It was also very easy to min-max, always jump highkick and you'll be golden.

ComputerFiguur1 karma

hey its something :) i certainly wasnt doing that at 14

dragonslumber1 karma

It was so much harder too, had to learn from books rented from a library. I didn't have the Internet back then, and the Internet certainly wasn't what it is today.

Arctic29-11 karma

May not see this but, why do some developers not care about their fanbases and only care to squeeze every pen y from them?

dragonslumber1 karma

I think it's human nature to try to find shortcuts to where you want to go. I've met devs who didn't really care about the games they were putting out, it was just a means to an end, making money, and they were min-maxing systems to enable that.

I think devs are often in a harsher condition than some players may realize as well. I know there's a lot of stuff I'd love to do for every single game I've put out, that I simply couldn't afford to focus on because I need to be able to make a living and although I'll do my very best to put out and support the games as I can, at some point I could be doing that for years and just go bankrupt for that.

Any business out there is going to be a give and take. Groceries choose what products to put on their shelves and what price to assign, and customers will choose to buy that product or even go to that grocery. I don't know that everyone involved in the grocery business is passionate about feeding people, but I'm sure some people are. Game dev, by virtue of its artistic side, just skews more towards the passionate.

msissler1 karma

What are your best marketing tips?

dragonslumber3 karma

My current best selling game is Tech Support: Error Unknown, but it wasn't tracking well when I released the first trailer back in April 2018. In August I signed with a publisher who re-released the trailer and now it got picked up by big publications like Rock Paper Shotgun and PC Gamer. Sometimes the message itself isn't enough, the source of the message makes all the difference, which is why influencers have such a big impact.

Arivallin1 karma

How do you stay invested in a project? I have started so many different projects but I always end up losing focus and moving on to something else after a few weeks.

dragonslumber2 karma

I used to be like that, especially in my mid 20s. When I started on Arelite Core, part of my motivation was to give myself career advancement opportunities which I felt I deserved but was not getting in my regular job. One big thing I did was to spend a lot of money on that project, over 80k over the course of 4 years. When you invest that much, it becomes way too costly to lose interest. I'm now doing it full time so if I don't work, I won't be able to afford rent or food.

But I think my mindset has improved in general, I've always been a hard worker but I manage to be a lot more focused nowadays than I used to be. It took me a few years but I got to the right level of maturity I guess.

barmstronggames1 karma

I’m also a solo indie developer! Just released my second game. Neither of my games have received a lot of traction (just sold my 1000th copy of my first game, second game came out a month ago and has sold only like 5 copies)

So my question to you, how do you market your games and gain traction? And additionally, how did you get enough attention to get nominated for an award in the first place?

dragonslumber1 karma

Marketing is such a difficult aspect of making games, quite possibly the aspect which people struggle the most, including myself. My first two games didn't do great either, despite pushing with press releases, trailers, and I was even at PAX East 2016 to showcase Arelite Core. The reality is that with so many games coming out, there's a lot of noise and it's very difficult to stand out.

On Tech Support, I started by making a game that stood out thematically, so that the concept would immediately intrigue people. That's already a part of marketing. But even then, in April 2018, I released a trailer but no one really took notice despite my contacting various publications. Then I signed with my publisher Iceberg Interactive in August and we rereleased the same trailer. This time, a bunch of publications picked it up like PC Gamer and Rock Paper Shotgun. That drove up the traffic to my Steam page, which helped wishlists, which helped sales.

The reality is that the source of the message matters more than the message itself. We call them "influencers" for a reason, they do influence people's choices and can drive people to your game.

Make your game appealing to look at, give it a viral quality that makes it stand out on social media and make it memeable, but also I think getting a publisher can really help take everything to the next level.

As for getting enough attention, part of it is being in the right place at the right time. Attend all the conventions you can, keep your ear to the ground and apply for all the events you can. Network, get people to know you, they can bring you opportunities you wouldn't have expected. I'm at Gamescom today thanks to Ubisoft and the local video game guild, because I've done stuff with them and they know me now. I'm doing a stream tonight with a gaming group because I met them at Montreal Comicon last year. And I was at Comicon because I had a publisher to pay for that convention, along with several others. Networking is king.

iluvs2fish1 karma

If an individual wanted to back a gamer/project how would one go about it? Thank you.

dragonslumber2 karma

A lot of developers have patreons nowadays, I'm no expection to that rule ( Otherwise, buying games makes a big impact for us, especially when you do it on day 1 (but any day matters) and leave a positive review on Steam. That in turn goes into the algorhythm which gets Steam to promote our games more, and gets people more interested in them.

br1t_b0i1 karma

I'm looking to get into Indie Game Dev myself, what can I expect from my first game?

dragonslumber3 karma

A lot of hardship. Game dev is tough because there are so many people who want to make games and so many games getting released every single year (10-15k+). So make sure to market you game properly, get people interested, make sure the game you choose to make will stand out. There are many genres which are popular and end up with a ton of copycats (farming games, twin stick shooters). Doesn't mean yours won't be popular, but you're putting better odds in your favor if you go after a unique genre that will get people to notice. That's what I did with Tech Support. which definitely got people's attention.

Other than that, try to avoid relying on others too much. Take the help that you can, but never take it for granted. That also means scoping your game smaller so help ensure that it gets completed. If you're working in teams and your partner quits, have a contingency plan for that.

ComputerFiguur1 karma

On days you can eat anything you like without cooking or looking at the price, what would you eat?

dragonslumber1 karma

I love sushi, it was typically what I'd choose for my birthday meals. I think I prefer it to steak as a special thing, because I can do steak at home. I could technically make sushi at home, but not with the degree of variety a restaurant can offer.

I like to discover stuff when it comes to food, so long as it's not vinegary.

ComputerFiguur1 karma

What is the strangest thing you've ever eaten?

dragonslumber1 karma

I don't know, but I'm not especially grossed out by stuff. I'd eat bugs and spiders and scorpions, I don't really care. I might not like it, but I'm not repulsed by it. I don't like vinegary stuff though.

ComputerFiguur1 karma

Why dont you like eating vinegary stuff?

dragonslumber1 karma

Because it's too vinegary. I also don't really like cheeses except boring cheeses (mozzarella is fine). I also don't drink alcohol, tastes disgusting.

YonTheDon_1 karma

Anything VR?

dragonslumber2 karma

Not at the moment. I would love to, but I don'T feel like the market is strong enough for me to invest time into that right now. But I'd love to make something with those controllers, I love that 1 to 1 so much.

eraser2821 karma

Did you start your own studio and incorporate it to release your first game or did you just release it under your own name? Do you get any tax credits that help support funding for your games?

dragonslumber1 karma

My first two games were under a registered company, but I incorporated in 2018 and now have access to tax credits, though I think I'll have access to more this year since my expenses are increasing, if you don't make enough or spend enough, having an incorporation is a lot of unneeded overhead and way more stressful than a registered company.

eraser2821 karma

Is there any risks involved in not incorporating? I've see the whole tax questionnaire that and steam have and I felt like there was a need to incorporate in order to deal with taxes?

dragonslumber1 karma

I've never had any issues as a registered company. On one hand I lost out on tax credits, but I also wasn't paying myself a salary so I saved on some costs, so may or may not have balanced out. From a legal standpoint, I've never had any issues on any platform (Steam, Twitch, Patreon...)

dragonslumber1 karma

Also, I am not a lawyer, my advice does not constitute legal advice and is not binding in any way. User discretion is advised.

eraser2821 karma

Haha. No absolutely! Appreciate you doing this Ama!

dragonslumber2 karma

I appreciate the amazing responses I've received. I started off not being sure that I'd reach even 10, and I'm almost at 1000 upvotes which is amazing. I always hope my experiences and mistakes can help others figure things out. It really took me a while before I found the right people who could help me out.

robint881 karma

Probably too late to the party here but I'll ask -

I've been a hobbyist programmer on and off for the past few years (Nodejs/Python) but I'm looking to try out game dev. I've been working on a 2013 MacBook which is now on it's arse.

So my question is - if you were going to recommend a good laptop for under £1000 ($1300) to start game dev (probably Unity) as well as being able to just play around on python/web dev stuff what would you suggest?


dragonslumber1 karma

I'm still here, I'm still replying, I really want to reach that 1k upvotes!

I've been running on a desktop forever so I can't really help too much on there. I do have a laptop which I use while travelling, it's a Dell Inspiron 7577, I've done some dev in hotel rooms and never had any issues with it, and it also acts as my system during conventions.

robint881 karma

You da man

dragonslumber1 karma

I'm definitely the best employee Dragon Slumber has ever had. I always hear praises about myself from myself as I roam my office (apartment).

imghost121 karma

I've been interested in making games in my free time, but I am as of yet almost clueless when it comes to making assets. What tools do you use that would you recommend? What do you use to make textures, and where do you start? What does your workflow look like?

dragonslumber2 karma

So here's a breakdown of all the tools I use to make games:

Unity: My game engine of choice, powered my last 3 games and several prototypes on top of that. Open Office: I use Calc (the free Excel) to develop a lot of aspects like balancing out monster stats, localization and I've even made levels for my racing game. I love spreadsheets for managing data, and later converting to a json file through a custom script and importing it into Unity. Photoshop Elements: The cheap version of photoshop, bought in 2013, I use it to edit images and do simple layouts. I also use it to make textures by editing images. To make the normal map version, I convert using the website: Premiere Elements: The cheap version of Adobe Premiere, I use it for video editing. Audacity: Used for audio recording, some editing of SFX. Microsoft Visual Studio: A great tool to actually code for Unity. Notepad: I keep track of my todo list in a huge txt file.

Those are the big ones, and as for my workflow, I work on what's needed basically. Early on focus on the game, prototype the stuff you're not sure will be fun or not, abstract out the visuals. If your game is great without good visuals, it'll be amazing with them.

Boxingcactus271 karma

What's the difference for making games on different video game consoles (PC, Switch, Xbox, PS)? Are their different ways you have to develop your games for different consoles, or are they all sort of the same where you can just make one on PC and launch it to xbox, Nintendo switch or Play station.

dragonslumber1 karma

With Unity, you can build your game to target different platforms without changing most of your code (Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox, etc.). There will be some platform specific things you need to make sure you account for, like if a game can be put in sleep mode it might require different operations. Also achievements and other console specific features.

Another factor is optimizing your game. PCs tend to run at a better rate than consoles because they're more "universal". Consoles may require specific code to make your game run smoothly which will require additional development time. Usually at least a few extra months per console should be considered.

eraser2821 karma

I noticed you mentioned you spent 80k on your first game. In hindsight how much do you think you should have spent? Also what do you consider are things you just had to pay for?

dragonslumber1 karma

In hindsight, I should have made a different game altogether. I made an RPG, which is a content driven genre, very expensive to produce because you need to create a lot of unique content. My newer games try to not require as many new assets and instead reuse them in unique and interesting ways. For instance, Aethernaut is planned to have 100 puzzles, but every puzzle takes about 1 to 2 days to make since I reuse assets a lot and it's just a matter of the right layout. Fewer biomes, more focus on the gameplay and all of that.

eraser2821 karma

How did you go about trying to manage your budget? Would you have done anything different on that front? Also another tangential question, do you do crowd funding at all for your games? If so how do you approach that?

dragonslumber1 karma

I didn't plan for it to cost 80k, it was supposed to cost way less. However, over 4 years, the canadian dollar went down compared to the USD, which made everything more expensive. But also I hired people early on for a price, but eventually there was too much work or live realities got in the way and they left so replacing them became a lot more expensive than expected.

For newer games, I avoid hiring if I can, it's easier to know how long things will take if it's only me and it's easier on the finances. I've never done crowdfunding (aside from having a patreon), I've always seen it as a huge investment of time, energy and even money, and it doesn't always pay off. So right now I don't feel well equiped to do a successful crowdfunding campaign.

eraser2821 karma

I hear you on the Canadian dollar part. I feel the same thing currently with my game and trying to hire people for work. What was your initial budget for the game? Why was it expensive to replace people? Rework?

dragonslumber1 karma

Finding illustrators and music composers is fairly easy, there are a lot of those out there. Pixel art artists and animators are a lot more rare so that became a huge challenge which ended up costing more. Music also cost more than anticipated.

I think early on I was looking at 20k overall, without including my costs. It was also supposed to take 2 years, but it turned out to be a very ambitious game.

misterantoine1 karma

I assume you're from Quebec with that name :).

How much time do you have to spend on "business" elements every week vs spending time working on your game?

dragonslumber3 karma

I am indeed from Quebec, well caught!

Different periods of time will vary how much time I spend on business stuff. The end of the year is rough, a lot of administrative tasks, but right now there was Gamescom, finding a publisher, some tax credits stuff so those administrative tasks pile up as well. I do 16h of dev streaming per week however so unless I'm unavailable or really on a tight deadline, that's usually a lock for dev time.

dragonslumber1 karma

I know it's not much of an answer, but really there's no normal. On good weeks it'll be a few hours if that, this August has been heavy in administrative stuff probably taking a full time job's worth at times.

pickets0 karma

Are you guys hiring for sales/marketing?

dragonslumber1 karma

Not at this time, I'm trying to get a publisher for financing and they'll be the ones taking care of sales and marketing. Right now money needs to flow in, not out.

that_is_so_Raven-1 karma

When was the like time you had diarrhea?

dragonslumber6 karma

I drink a lot of coffee, which can have a laxative effect. I'll let you work out the math yourself.

aronwozere-1 karma

Where can someone find a hat like yours? :)

dragonslumber1 karma

I think I got this hat at a sale when a store was going bankrupt, so you're out of luck! I actually have 3 fedoras though, one for streaming and digital events, one for regular going out and a fancy one for in person events

aronwozere1 karma

I knew it had a cool story! My guesses were either:

  1. You won it in a high stakes game of Russian Roulette.
  2. It was purchased from a pawnshop in a shady part of town. And it's actually cursed.
  3. The hat just appeared one day from out of the aether. Like a box of 20 chicken nuggets.

dragonslumber1 karma

I actually started wearing hats after a Murder Mystery party where I played a ship captain. I was wearing a floppy fishing hat and liked it enough that I kept it for years to come. Eventually I decided to change styles (which the people around me really liked) and decided on a fedora. At that time I figured I'd change styles on a regular basis, and that was over a decade ago.