So you have made your first game, what's next?
Published 2 years ago
A discussion about what the next steps are for an individual or a collective after making your first game.
So what is the best direction to go after your first game? I'm sure you have loads of fresh game ideas right? Well in short I don't know, but let's have discussion about what we are going to do, or at least plan to do, and if it all sounds crazy you can let me know.
Who are we what have we done?
We are Madowl games and we've not done much. We released our first game on mobile a few months back, it's called Hex Defender, it's a unique spin on the tower defence genre and it took us ages to make, or at least what felt like ages. Hex Defender was in large made by 2 people, with some amazing help towards the end with illustrations and music. Making your first game and actually seeing it through to the end is incredibly hard, there are so many ups and downs, it's so easy to loose interest or doubt your skills. Having someone else to work with was the difference between success and failure for me. To all the people that make games on their own and see it through to release I have an enormous amount of respect for you. Fortunately the other half of Madowl Games, Tony, has the highest level of dedication and work rate I have ever seen, he really plays up to the German stereotype when it comes to work ethic. That's another important point, Tony is based in Germany and I'm based in the UK. I actually wrote a story about starting up with someone you don't know over the Internet, read that story here.
Here are a few shots of Hex Defender and the Android and IOS links if any of your are interested.
Ok so that's our past, let's talk about our future or at least how we are hoping our future plays out. Well firstly we have a new member, his name is Reko and he's an insane low poly 3D modeller, he's based in Finland, 3 members and 3 countries, it's a logistical nightmare, Skype and WhatsApp have become the most important tools for communication.
The 2nd Game 
After your debut game I think the best and obvious next step is to start another one, we had ideas for more games in the middle of making Hex Defender so we weren't short on new projects to start. We started what we think could be an amazing game, let's call it 'Project H' because we haven't decided on a final name yet, in short it's a zombie game... Another zombie game, but I promise this one is different. Project H is based on PC and might also work on consoles it's a much more ambitious project compared to Hex Defender. So how are we managing a larger project? Well we've sidelined it for now. The good news is that we've started another mobile game, named QB, its' much smaller and In fact it's aproaching alpha completion faster than we thought, we think we will have a playable alpha after just 3 months of development. QB is a Rubiks cube type puzzler. I would advise against what we have done, shifting attention between 2 games when there's only 3 people in your team definitely goes against the grain. Read more about QB here.
Here are some very early concepts pictures from the development of QB.
And since we have changed direction a little, her are some more up to date images.
Let's talk about maintaining communication, I brushed upon it a little earlier but it's such an important part in the Madowl Games set up its worth talking about some more. We are fortunate that our countries are only separated by 2 hours time difference so arranging times to talk together isn't too difficult, but it is vital for groups like us to arrange these talks regularly. Building up trust and building friendships is such a huge driving force when making indie games, you have to know that the effort your putting in is being matched by the others, you have to trust their input when it comes to the design and mechanics of the games, building these relationships can take time but the time is reduced if you're regularly in contact with the others.
Be Vigilant
This is obvious and many devs highlight this as maybe the most important aspect in game development and I agree. Set your self tasks and milestones. No doubt you will miss these targets more often than not but try and hit them as much as possible. If your'e working with others spend as much time sitting next to them working in the same room as you can, this is tricky for us but easier for others, it will help motivate one another and serve to discourage each person to waste time. If you see your partner/s midnlessly browsing the net, tell them to stop and get back to work! Use a task sheet, you can set one up using Google Docs or use a service like Asana, which we use, and also is free for the basic service.
On to money, everyone's favourite topic. It's easy to ignore the financial side of making games when you first start out and I think you probably should. Your first games should be about the game and not how you can squeeze as much money out of them, focus on the player experience, if the game is awesome and groundbreaking the sales figures will reflect that. For most individuals or small groups the expense of setting up developer accounts with some platforms can be a financial hit. Hex Defender has covered its costs, this was more than we could ask for. We didn't think of a clever way to monetise the game, simply put a small price tag on it and hoped a few people would pick it up and they did, awesome thanks guys! The cost on the developer accounts has led us to try and make the most of them and it's essentially a very big reason why we want to create another mobile games to get the most out of these developer accounts.
Free Marketing
This was by far the hardest part of our project. I was the one tasked with this and I can admit I largely failed. We had some Android fan sites pick Hex Defender up and add them to their list of best games in March, for example, and that was great!  But the initial momentum died out quickly and we never really knew what to do. My limited advice on what to do here is try and get your game on Gamespress this is a hub for journalists looking for games to report on. What didn't work was contacting youtubers that focused on mobile games, I thought this was a great idea, but all of them wanted quite a bit of money just to mention the game this made me feel that the game didn't deserve attention and deffinatly disheartened me. The biggest piece of advice I could say would be to start early, post all the time on social media and try use reddit and the unity forum as much as possible, it can take up quite a while but it's worth it in the long run. 
The Future
So what does the future hold and how far ahead should teams like us be planning? I think small teams should probably take it one game at a time anything more can become a distraction. Have we got dreams? Yes. Do we want to work together in an office? Yes. Do we want to expand and employ people, create bigger and more ambitious games? Of course but it won't happen if we are just talking about what could happen, it's up to us to actually make it happen.
Thanks for reading, good luck to all aspiring developers and smaller teams. Time to crack on.
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Rory Busby