Last month Ceri got a chance to interview Ben Britten, Technical Director over at Tinman Games.
Her focus of the interview was to find out what it’s like to be part of a successful independent team, and how Ben got there.
- How did you go from your former, non Tinman self, to where you are today?
“Previous to the games industry I worked in the film industry doing visual effects. Specifically programming large scale high speed motion control camera system (basically giant robotic camera moving machines). I traveled all over doing film work and eventually made my way to Australia where I met my now wife. Around the same time I was tiring of the constant travel so took a year off to get my visa here and spent that time working on game stuff.
The film work I was doing was all real-time control system, so not really that dissimilar to game programming. This is the same time that the iPhone first came out and the indie scene exploded. I worked on a bunch of different projects and ultimately hooked up with Tin Man Games and have worked with them for the last 6 years.”
- Why is staying an indie company important to you personally?
“Mostly just because I like to have a stake in what I am doing. I have worked for big companies before and it is pretty draining. I mean you get a paycheck at the end of the week, but you just don’t care what you are working on. That, and the schedule. Working for large companies, they expect you to work 50, 60, 70 hours a week and don’t really care if you get burned out. With my own company I can work as much or as little as I need to keep the bills paid and don’t have to worry about stupid corporate politics and stuff like that.”
- Originally, when you started up, what games/genres did you most want to make?
“I am a big RPG fan, so I always want to make RPGs.”
- At what point in Tinman’s history did you have a published, marketable game?
“About six weeks after I started we released our first gamebook on iOS. I would honestly say that for anyone starting out, you should plan to have your first game on a store somewhere in less that 10 weeks from the start. If you take any longer than that you are setting yourself up to fail. You learn so much from releasing a game.
Mainly indies go out and try to make a huge game right out of the gate. They think that they should spend two years making their magnum opus and they have never released a game before. This is pretty much guaranteed to fail, and to fail horribly. Instead, you should keep that big dream game in your back pocket and make a handful of smaller simpler games first, and get them out on whatever platforms you can. Then you will have the experience to make that dream game and not have it fail horribly.”
- How did you go about marketing and selling said game?
“For the first one, we mostly did a big press push ant release time. sending out press releases to all the major iOS outlets at the time.
For future books we continued to do the same thing but you also started spending money on Facebook ads, going to things like PAX in the states, which is where the market is, and stuff like that.
We also have a very active Twitter and Facebook presence, and whatever we release a game we spend time in the various forums engaging with the players as much as we can. To be honest we should probably be doing more, but more costs money, and TMG still has very little capital.”
- What advice would you tell yourself if you could go back in time?
“Good question, Probably to try not to sell premium content 🙂 We still sell premium titles but the market is vanishing and being an indie in the premium space is nearly impossible. The golden age of indie dev is pretty much over. This is not to say that you cannot be successful as an indie, just that the big players have seen that there is money to be made in this market so they are bringing their whole companies to bare in the marketplace. This means that in order to succeed you have to differentiate yourself somehow.
Nowadays the only way to do that is to make short casual titles (think Crossy Road, a three person team) until you have the war chest of cash saved up to do a proper two year+ game cycle.”