Bleeding Cool has enlisted one developer to tell his three year journey to get his new game, Real Fantasy, out. What follows is that journey in his own words…
by Chris Hood
They call me the “video game mogul” – or VGM for short. Of course, when I say “they” I mean my friends and it should be noted that they use the term with no inkling of respect or reverence. They are mocking me when they say it. Kind of like when we call Kanye an “artist”.
I do, however, actually create video games…hence the moniker. I never planned on being a game developer. It’s something that kind of fell into my lap – and it’s actually quite cool. After two (very) small games, I tackled a monster (no pun intended). A location-based RPG (role playing game) in the vein of Dungeons & Dungeons and unlike anything else on the market. I created a game that didn’t exist that I very much wanted to play. Real Fantasy just hit the market and the response right out of the gate is very promising. The projection – “could be huge…”. Video Game Mogul is still not an appropriate moniker…but I’m on my way! For the time being, feel free to refer to me as “Chris,” or “Mr. Hood,” or “God damn, you are one, sexy geek!”
The mobile game space is a juggernaut. And like most new technology that explodes into peoples’ awareness, it brings with it a degree of interest and curiosity. All kinds of people, but especially people who love games, are interested to learn more about the process of bringing a game to life. At the invitation of Bleeding Cool, here we are.
Although there are probably almost as many ways to end up in this business as there are games on the market, I can share the story of my own journey. I won’t say my route was the best. In fact, I’m sure that it wasn’t. There were some major hurdles along the way. Mistakes were made and my lack of previous experience in this arena created some difficulties. But to quote the greatest food additive engineer of all time, Clark W. Griswold – “Nothing worthwhile is easy.”
So if you have an idea for a mobile app that you’ve been kicking around and thinking about developing, are simply interested in this new industry or even just how games are made, I’ll share with you the nearly three year journey to bring Real Fantasy to the market. For those who have played it, the main feedback I get is along the lines of – “Wow, this is really advanced. There’s so much to it. It’s more like a PS4/Xbox game!” I love to hear that as it’s exactly what I was aiming for. The second most common thing I hear is “I’m addicted!” – also a great compliment. The third most common thing I hear is “That looks infected. Is that infected?” – but that has nothing to do with the game, so I’m not sure why I’m bringing it up.
Real Fantasy was a massive undertaking and worth every ounce of energy we put into it. It’s been an adventure.
The adventure started six year ago when I had no knowledge or particular interest in mobile apps. I’d always been an avid game player growing up with Atari, Coleco, Nintendo and probably every system in between. And if your first thought on that is – “Nerd who never got laid,” you’d be mistaken. (Okay, you wouldn’t be mistaken. Let’s get past that. I appreciate you reopening THAT wound!)
Aside from video games, I have always been a board game fan as well. Growing up in Flint, Michigan I have great memories of sitting around the kitchen table with my family on the weekends playing games and commenting on the high quality of the municipal water supply. Back then, the games were Acquire, Monopoly, Facts in Five, Scrabble and Life. This was before the new wave of great board games: Settlers of Catan, Le Havre, Ticket to Ride, Arkham Horror and Last Night on Earth. These newer games proved more time consuming to learn and sometimes difficult to grasp, yet I loved the complexity (as did millions of people around the world as these games contributed to a recent rebirth of board games).
Of course, through this period of time I also got hooked on great console games like Fallout and Bioshock which I would occasionally binge play when I could escape my responsibilities for a couple of weeks. Despite being a devoted gamer, at that point in my life I had still never given any thought to creating or developing games. I was (and still am) immersed in an unrelated business.
That business is domain name investing. Along with a friend, we bought and sold domains and did very well at it. A couple years ago, during the Ebola scare, you may have heard of the opportunistic “leeches” that sold Ebola.com for $200k. I was one of those leeches. Although nowhere near one of our biggest sales, it got the most press coverage, as you may recall that for a month or so the Ebola “crisis” was the leading story almost every night on the news. I was actually supposed to be on CNN but a mass shooting that day bumped the segment and it was never rescheduled. Buying and selling domain names continues to be my bread and butter.
So, going back about six years while I was still focused on the .com rush, I was approached by a friend who had just finished a small game called Pocket Zombie for the iPhone. It was a simple, cute, basic app with South Park-like graphics. The mobile game space was still new at this point. His game was doing reasonably well and I was impressed with his ability to jump into this business and bring a game to market on a small budget. I agreed to fund his next game in exchange for an interest and his first born child (which I later sold for big $$$.)
It turns out Billy made some mistakes, most notably choosing the wrong team (a mistake I would also make at a later date) and the project stalled. Unwilling to put more money into the game, and not wanting to pressure Billy for repayment of money I knew he didn’t have, I offered to take possession of Pocket Zombie and forgive the debt – even though I knew it would never generate enough to recoup my investment. I justified this by having a completed game in the marketplace which I felt would give me a tiny bit of credibility as I decided I wanted to continue in the mobile gaming arena. Was it a good compromise? Not necessarily as I don’t think having that one, small game made much of a difference, but the other route would have resulted in me having to hound my friend for years to come to get back the money he owed me. I’m fine with how that all turned out and if it hadn’t been for him approaching me in the first place, I would probably have never ended up creating mobile games which I truly enjoy.
I did have the game bug at that point and was eager to make another app. Around this time, I had become a fan of “coin push” type games, of which there were several on iTunes. I wanted to do something relatively simple as I didn’t want to invest big money, yet, and decided to create a game in this vein. The problem I saw with the existing coin push apps was that there was no endgame, no “goal.”
So, I created Coin Push Casino Tycoon (iPhone only…oops!). Aside from earning more coins to keep playing the game, players could earn money and deeds that they could use to build their own casino empire. I also incorporated a slot machine feature where players could earn spins and get more goodies to enhance their game play experience. While no Angry Birds, it did pretty well and continues to get daily downloads and supply a modest monthly revenue.
What I realized about my Casino Tycoon experience is that I looked at what was out there and saw a lot of potential to do it better. To a very modest degree, I think I accomplished it on that one. As it turned out, my next project would follow a similar path.
I always loved fantasy RPGs and was very disappointed with what was available on the mobile platforms. I was also fascinated by the new location-based technology and saw room to work with and improve on that as well. And that, my friends, is the genesis of Real Fantasy. Three years ago I came up with the idea to create the best location-based mobile gaming experience available. I had no idea how ambitious that idea was at the time, but fortunately I lacked the pragmatism to realize just how difficult a task lay before me. It took three long years and far more money than I originally planned, but it’s finally done…and I’m damn proud of the result. (just like I’m sure I would have been proud of that child if I hadn’t sold him to the gypsies.)
I look forward to sharing that journey with you.
PART 2, DEVELOPMENT