Two years ago, a group of us got together around our interest in real-time graphics. We loved the idea of games, and some of us came with industry experience. However, our interests were broad; using real-time graphics to create entertaining experiences in marketing, education - anywhere really. We finally landed on an opportunity to create interactive experiences at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Canada. We seized the opportunity and created an interactive tour called Ace Academy, which gamified the exploration of touring the First World War exhibits.
The app did really well, won awards, and was featured on iTunes twice. Subsequently, the CEO of the museum floated the concept of making full-fledged games with us in order to test the market's appetite for narrative-driven, historically-accurate experiences. Working with museum curators over a period of eight months, we created Ace Academy: Black Flight.
Ace Academy: Black Flight Announcement Trailer (more info on the site: www.blackflightgame.com)
Black Flight is the story of a pilot who fights with the RAF and finds himself among the Canadian Aces of the First World War. You follow along and play through his journey as he travels from England to the Western Front. The characters who lived and died in this game were all real people, with the blessing of the families involved. It was a truly amazing experience to live the war through their eyes. We did our best to pay tribute and release the highest quality game possible. Our focus on lush environments, different and dynamic missions, and a strong narrative really paid off.
However, now on the heels of our launch, I'm reflecting on the process of indie game development that so many others have done before us. I reflect on the angst of wondering whether there will be any payback for our hard work. I wince at every callout review and commiserate with other devs who tried and failed before us.
So what's in store for our game? I don't know.
What I do know is that I was able to cover my cost of production and keep all of us fed for the last eight months because I found a sponsor for my project. I couldn't imagine taking this kind of a leap without offsetting some of the risk. We put the better part of a year into this project, knowing full well the challenges of app store monetization. If you look at the numbers, all good sense will tell you that you need to offset the risk. I found the museum through a cold call, one of hundreds I put in to cultural institutions, schools, marketing agencies, and in-laws, all in the hopes of finding a partner in game development. "Gamification" or the concept of non-developer entities with an interest in exploring gaming as a mode of communication is a growing reality. It all comes down to your pitch and explaining how game loops are relevant to their needs. How do games attract an audience? How does it create behaviour patterns? How do people learn concepts and ideas from games?
What I've learned is that even indie developers should have a publisher. Games are becoming more sophisticated, audiences are expecting more, and the days of a coder and an artist creating the next Angry Birds is the exception, not the rule. Broadening markets are believers in games; find yourself a partner who agrees and make your gravy on the monetization, not your fries.