December 4, 2014

Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber by Alexander Bruce

Antichamber is a successful computer game developed by an Australian guy named Alexander Bruce (His Twitter: @Demruth). It has sold more than 750 000 copies. Less than a million copies might not sound impressing, but the game is a so-called indie game, which is defined as:
Independent video games (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams generally without video game publisher financial support. Indie games often focus on innovation and rely on digital distribution. Indie gaming has seen a rise in the latter half of the 2000s decade, primarily due to new online distribution methods and development tools.

Another successful indie game is Minecraft (sold for more than $2 billion to Microsoft). While some modern games need $500 million and an army of developers to complete their games, many of these indie games are far from that expensive. Minecraft began as a game developed at home in the evenings and with a marketing budget of nothing else than a website on the Internet. 


But back to Antichamber. We know much about Minecraft (there are books, articles, documentaries, etc), but we know less about Antichamber. But the developer of Antichamber gave a good talk this year with the topic "Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber." You can find it here and part 2 is here.

Here are some key points from the talk:
  • As the topic of the talk suggests, it took 7 years to develop the game. So much for easy money and overnight success. Making games is hard.
  • "Luck is what happens when preparations meets opportunity." We often use luck to describe things we don't understand. You might first say that Alexander Bruce succeed just because he was lucky, but then you don't know what he did during the 7 years it took to develop the game. Luck is just a multiplier of your efforts. If luck is in everything, then factor it out of everything. So if you ignore luck, you have to take everything else more seriously. In the end, you can succeed without luck, but luck will make you succeed more.
  • His first idea of a game he wanted to make wasn't Antichamber as we know it today - he began with smaller experiments. "How would Asteroids looks like in 3D?" 
  • Do something radically different. You have to make something that is different than what everyone else is making. Antichamber is the first game of its kind. Ask yourself: "What makes me different?" This is related to an earlier article where the entrepreneur Peter Thiel said that you should always own your market.
  • Festivals are a great way to get noticed, so visit them all - and hand out cards to a lot of people.
  • Learn from other people's mistakes.
  • Fake it till you make it! Stop doubting yourself by saying, "I'm not a programmer," or, "I'm not a designer." If you want to be someone - start being someone right now!
  • You have to be able to explain your game in ways that someone who has never played it before understands it.
  • You need to be able to watch how people are playing your game, so you can understand your users. Remember that data without any physical observations can give you wrong information. "The moment I start tracking the data, then I'm going to track the wrong thing. People track what's easy to track." What you need to see is the player's face.
  • Calm down! If you rush too fast, you will not make it till the end.
  • If you just look at the successful people, you can miss 90 percent of the story! (If 90 percent fail) 
  • The name of the game is important.
  • Make the best game for the best platform (like PC). If you from the beginning want to add the game to Xbox, PlayStation, etc, it will use time you could have used to improve the game.
  • But when you have a good game, the high expectations of the game might lead you to depression. Alexander Bruce actually had a small mental breakdown. But so did other successful indie game developers (as seen in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie)
  • It's common to feel jealous of other successful games.
  • A good way to market you game is to let someone who is popular on YouTube play it.

1 comment:

  1. Seven years is a lot of time. Now I don't feel so bad for the 2 years I put into a project that was never finished. I played anti-chamber. It was mind bendingly awesome.

    ReplyDelete