Game developers Star Command published an interesting blog entry about the money they obtained from KickStarter. They set a goal of $20,000 and received pledges of $36,967, but lost $2,000 for no shows. After deductions for prize fulfillments and payment provider costs, they actually ended up with $22,000 to develop a mobile game on Android and iOS. View the excellent trailer here.
They ended up with $6,000 as taxable income after all their expenses, which is not a lot to live on for four people. But if you’re single, or young and living at home with parents or doing this in your spare time, it’s feasible.
Now I don’t know if they have an office or are just four guys working from their homes, but it shows what the internet makes possible. Not just the funding or publicity, but the actual collaborative development process.
The amazing growth in home computer games in the ’80s came about largely because of the thousands of bedroom developers who self published or found publishers. That period passed quickly as the successful ones formed companies, the game development sector consolidated, and by the early ’90s the days of the bedroom developer were history.
Then, less than a decade later, along came the internet and Web games, particularly Flash games, and bedroom developers were back. After the launch of the iPhone 3G and the App Store, they were back big time. But compared to the ’80s, it’s different because of the internet. Free sites like reddit.com’s gameDevClassifieds let artists, musicians and programmers find each other and form teams.
These virtual organizations can work together, even across time zones, and self manage using tools like distributed version control systems to share code and assets, and do project management with open source Web software like Trac. Teams range in size from one man outfits to well into double figures.
For instance, Wildfire games, which is developing 0-AD, a free open source historical RTS game, has a team of 40 located in many countries across the world. They aren’t paid employees, just open source developers, artists, etc.
Don’t expect games to be released often. Projects move forward at a conservative pace, mainly dictated by the time key individuals have to spend. Development builds might be available nightly, but stable releases may come just once or twice a year.
Recently, following the closure of Multiverse Network in late 2011, the Multiverse platform (client, server and tools) has switched from commercial to open source. Developed and run since 2004 by a bunch of Netscape veterans and with involvement from James Cameron, the Multiverse middleware was used for developing game worlds and had anounced virtual worlds for Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Titanic. It’s now an open source MMO development platform and has official forums.
Likewise, successful commercial games such as Transport Tycoon Deluxe are long gone, but the game idea lives on as open source projects like OpenTTD and Simutrans. There are thousands of open source projects (games and more serious stuff) in open source repositories like SourceForge. Whether for commercial gain or just learning, this is the golden age of the bedroom/home office developer.