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.
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 Taparcade.com, 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!