So your game bombed! The Man Buns experiment.

A chance encounter leads to the worlds first male modelling video game.

Hey for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Bobby and I’m the one man indie studio behind the underground hit “Point Perfect”. Actually on the mean indie streets they know me as “Highcastle Studios”. A while back I read an article about how a major free-to-play publisher (Kongregate) was offering a special program to help fund the development of innovative web games. I had never made a web game before but I just so happen to have a weird and unusual gem brewing in one of my sketchbooks. It was the idea of a game that would have the player assume the role of a douche-bag male fashion model. It’s something that I happen to have a lot of experience with because I spent several years in the pretty-people business myself. I’ve been pressured to cut body fat, had my package fondled in a photoshoot, and lived with some of the most arrogant pretty-boys that you will ever meet. This in my mind was comedy gold, and was a story worth telling. I pitched the idea to Kongregate and they loved it. The project that was at that point called “Sexy B!tc#” was later changed to “Man Buns” as the development wheels were in motion. The arrangement was to complete the game in a month or two as if I was in a game-jam of sorts.


The artist verses the business man.

The concept of the design was simple. The player navigates a google-maps city on their cellphone. They must map there rout to avoid fast-food at all costs and hit the gym whenever possible. The meat and potatoes of the game would be the text conversations that would adapt to the personality of your decisions. Crude and raunchy humour was the name of the game, and Man Buns has ample amounts! Kongregate knew from the start that the game would skirt the fringes of what might be considered acceptable, but they gave me the artistic freedom and set me loose. Those two months were the most hectic and productive months of my game dev career. All of the artwork and assets were made from scratch, which was of course very ambitious as I also had to teach myself the HTML 5 export for the first time. Two months later the game was finished on time and I was quite proud of the final product. It was submitted to Kongregate and I was told on the same day by the director that he loved it! He thought the game was hilarious but needed to run it by some people at the company. After almost a week of deliberation the game was deemed too offensive and I was given two options from the people at Kongregate. Either I would have to censor the game to their standards, or they would let me out of the contract to self-publish the game. Regardless of my decision, Kongregate would pay me for the contract. Kongregate truly is full of class, but the stubborn artist in me did not want to compromise the vision and so I severed my ties and decided to publish the game myself uncensored.

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The indie launch from hell!

Over the next few weeks I worked hard to have a PC and iOS version of the game. I started a Steam Greenlight campaign and that was when I was first hit with some harsh realities and roadblocks. Almost immediately I was bombarded with negative feedback about the mobile-feel of the game. “This is a shitty mobile port”, or “This belongs on cellphones, not Steam”. The trolling was relentless and I quickly realised that the PC community was not going to embrace the idea of my cellphone concept and art direction. On the same day, I removed the campaign from Greenlight with an embarrassing 17% in yes votes. From that point on I decided to focus my efforts on the mobile version but it was going to be an uphill climb. You see, Apple was not likely to feature the game because of its mature content. This is the reason that I had to sell the game for $1 rather than make the game free-to-play. It had to be this way, because it was the only shred of a chance that Apple might feature me on new releases. Parents do not want their kids learning about the male anatomy when they should be playing Minecraft lets face it. I worked for the next week or so before my release on sending out emails to mobile gaming journalists. I also made posts in their forums about promotions for free copies of my game. I was shocked to receive almost the same response that I did from my Greenlight campaign. There was no response from the journalists and my forum posts had embarrassingly low views. In fact I topped out at about 400 views on, and to put that into perspective the Flappy Clone published before me had over 2000 views! This was NOT a good sign. Only 2 of the 6 keys that I posted were even claimed. To make a longer story short, I released the game a week later and was not featured by Apple. The game sits in obscurity on the app store with only sales from my Mom and a couple close friends.

Some hope, and then not so much…Indie game journalism in a nutshell.

I finally did hear back from one journalist however. It was a writer from Pocketgamer that said that she would like to feature the game in an App-Army review. I would give her 10 keys for some members of the community to review my game. I thought this was awesome, and maybe an opportunity to have my game seen. When the article was released however, it was a bloodbath. In fact my ass is still hurting from some of the things that were published. The 10 reviewers joined forces to tar-and -feather me sentence by sentence. Some of the things that were said were quite hurtful to be honest. One of the reviewers said something along the lines of “did the developers even play the game”. It was at this point that I felt like game development was not for me; I wanted to quit.

So what now?

We as developers are artists really. Getting kicked while I’m down is not a new experience for me. I can’t tell you how many romances have ended once the girl realises that I live and work out of my parents basement. It’s a hard-knocks life for us, as little orphan Annie would say. But I’m going to keep doing what I always do…I’m going to pick myself up again. There’s no shame in living the life of an artist. You try your best every day to give the world something new to look at. Sometimes you will have a hit and sometimes you will miss completely, but your work will be immortalized for future generations. You will live on long after you die, and maybe in a 100 years people might have a strange fetish for video games about men with long hair. Currently I’m still working on a game that I hope to have finished this winter so stay tuned!



Confessions of an indie dev at deadline

Adventures in Game Making

If you don’t know me, my name is Bobby and I’m the one man, lone-wolf, rouge operation known as Highcastle Studios. But it’s more like basement studio with 1 employee but hey, you’ve got to dream big and name your company accordingly. After a brief setback due to a major computer malfunction I’m back in action! However it has left me months behind on my goal to have a playable prototype for my upcoming game “Beer League Hockey”. Ultimately it would be ideal to have something to show publishers before Christmas rolls around. So now is the time to cut out the excuses, set the flux capacitor to 11 and kick this operation into overdrive. Runner 2015-11-08 00-45-50-54

Game dev related injuries

Professional athletes can get tennis elbow but game developers get carpal tunnel syndrome. The other day I was doing the tedious task of changing the values on hundreds of programming variables. It involved a crap load of clicking that put my hand in a state of suspended animation. You see, I would never think this could happen to me in a million years because there have been many long nights where I have played League of Legends for countless hours. If you’ve never played it I will sum it up for you easily as “clicking simulator 2015”. All you do is click in that game, and I’ve had some serious League of Legends benders in my day. I guess there is a big difference between work and play because in that moment I had lost all motor skills in my right hand. I was like Stephen Hawking trying to play Point Perfect (*changes eye contact from camera 1 to camera 2 directly at the reader of this article*). Shameless plug: Available on Steam, check it out!

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If you don’t have anything nice to say…

If I don’t have anything nice to say, lately I’ve just been saying it. I’m not proud to admit that crunch time has me acting crazy towards people. We’ve all seen those videos on youtube of people losing there shit and putting their foot through their computer monitors. There are whole tribes of people in remote areas of this planet that just don’t trust technology, they think that if their picture is taken they will lose a piece of their soul. And sure, they might not have the highest level of education and wear nothing but a rubber tube on their private parts, but I think they’re on to something here. I mean, there is something about sitting at a computer all day that can really test your humanity. It’s not just people that I get angry at either, sometimes I find myself arguing with inanimate objects. There’s nothing worse than having a programming issue with your game and then on the way back from the washroom you bang your toe on a piece of furniture. In that moment I find it helps to pretend that piece of furniture is actually a person that comes to life when you fall asleep. I’m talking full blown Beauty and the Beast kind of shit. That way you don’t feel so crazy that you’re telling your desk to fuck off. Or when you’re right in middle of something and then Adobe Acrobat decides to grace you with another update. Then instead of working on your project you spend the next hour writing Adobe some nasty email about how their programmers need to find a new hobby.


Keeping it real

I do think at the end of the day you’ve got to put yourself in pain if you want to get good results. It’s like what I always say to other devs about not compromising your vision. You have to make your product valuable to the players to make a profit. And they don’t care what excuses you have for leaving out features of half-assing it.

I’m not sure when my next post might be. Thanks for reading and feel free to post your comments. I will eventually give updates about my progress with Beer League Hockey!