I walk through the enchanted forest trying to find my way to the big oak that Dani told me to meet her at for the interview. It is a lovely day and the calm breeze that blows through the olive fields makes me want to take a nap on the thick grass under my feet. The scene is almost magical in a sense, and I’ve never been friends with nature, but this is something else. Something I can’t quite describe. The forest has a life of its own.
Finally, I spot Dani at the big oak tree. She’s wearing a white dress that makes the sun look like a flashlight. She has the contents of the picnic basket out already. I sit down and grab an apple.
Javier: Congratulations on the success of your Kickstarter Campaign. Now that you’re all good and funded, would you mind sharing some of the secrets? I know you had other two unsuccessful funding campaigns for Bloom. In your opinion, why do you think those two campaigns didn’t reach funding?
Dani: Thanks so much. I guess the biggest secret is to create something you believe in, and never give up.The first two campaigns failed for a lot of reasons (the first one largely being simple we were very naive in how Kickstarter works). The other time was largely because we were unknown and there was a lot of skepticism surrounding our abilities. Pushing forward and showing progress was a great way to let people see our hard work, and get them to understand our passion behind the project.
Javier: What would be your advice for those starting their Kickstarter Campaign?
Dani: Biggest advice is to study other campaigns and try to learn from their presentations. Also getting a stronger understanding of reward tiers (and just how severe shipping costs can be). Besides that, you need to have something about your project that makes it stand out. Why would someone want to pledge to your unfinished game when they can buy from the huge pool of existing games? You need to offer them something they don’t have today…something they wished existed…and something that could only exist if they stand up and support it.
Javier: I know your team is not always in the same room because, like many indies out there, you guys don’t have an office or working place. Many think of this as a disadvantage when it is not. How does a regular working day go when you don’t have a team on site? Do you have online meetings?
Dani: We generally just talk to each other through Skype when we can (leaving messages for each other when the other wakes up, if on different schedules). Now and then I would match my sleeping schedule to James so that we could work all night together and get more done, but keeping that up for long was pretty difficult for me.
Then, since most of the team was working on other projects while also working on Bloom, trying to demand hard schedules was impossible. It relied more on each persons self motivation and trying to work when they could to bring things together.Basically, for indie development, you have to have passion for what you are doing…since there isn’t a lot (any?) money floating around to motivate people.
Javier: What’s your setup like, Dani?
Dani: I have a U shaped desk with a bed behind it. Basically, 3 computers surrounding me and a TV to keep me company. I just wake up and sit down and work, stopping to eat now and then. Really, indie development isn’t glamorous.
Javier: How do you work out your relationship with the press?
Dani: I send emails to press with latest updates (not too frequent, since I know they are busy and don’t appreciate spam). Basically, the press are just an extension of the game developers… they are vital to the success of people like me, and they are just like anyone else trying to do their job and provide interesting news to their readers.If you want to get the attention of them, you have to bring them something news worthy…you have to be doing something new, something special, something that might connect with their readers.Of course, the press are also gamers, so they all have individual tastes and cover things that interest them. So doing a little research and trying to get into contact with your favorite journalists is a great place to start.
I think that is important to keep in mind. The press are just people. Drop all the marketing buzz words and impersonal speech…and just talk to them, tell them what you are doing, and hopefully they will decide to cover you.
Javier: Now Dani, you are an artist, a writer, and a game designer too. I know many indies out there who refuse to make a game because they feel it is virtually impossible to wear that many hats at once. They only know to do one thing right, and they want to stick to it. What would be your advice to those indie devs who specialize in just one field and want to jump into making their own games without learning how to code, or how to compose music for example? How do you make that jump?
Dani: I think you do have to have an understanding of more than your specific field (especially if you are leading a project). So, while I am an artist, I also have a firm understanding of game structure and technical issues (such as how memory works, limitations of 3d and 2d, how games are assembled and structured, how dialog trees work, and all sorts of other things).The good news is a lot of knowledge you can get by simply playing games. So if you are a heavy gamer and have a deep love for them, chances are you are already well on your way.
But, besides that, even if you know only one specific area… then consider teaming up with other people who can fill in your weaknesses. That is why I teamed up with others, so they could complement the art I was doing and add their own talents to the project. Network, get out to game jams, introduce yourself to other developers, and just become a part of the community.
Javier: What’s your favorite dev drink? (What you usually get addicted to while working, we all get addicted to a drink!)
Dani: I drink an insane amount of diet coke, and sometimes flavored sparkling water. I really need to quit …
Javier: That’s it for me. Let’s finish this basket before the ants get the rest. Congratulations on your Kickstarter campaign again, and please keep me posted on Bloom.
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