Monday, March 3, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

“I’ve got about 10 million, so that’s something we can work with in starting our game.”

That’s not something you’d expect to ever hear from a 15 year old, but that’s what I heard from a fellow player while playing Gardens & Graveyards mode in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

For privacy reasons, I’ll refer to him as ‘Mark’, as neither he nor his friend, who I’ll call ‘Fred’ that I met briefly in an earlier match, have decided to go public on their alleged projects as of yet.

“We’re kicking around a few ideas,” he says as he discusses concepts that him and his friend have brainstormed. Staying away from genres like shooters, Mark and Fred are looking to create social experiences, something that the industry from top to bottom is moving more and more towards from TheCastle Doctrine, to Destiny, to No Man’s Sky. One of them in which includes a concept that sounds all too much like ReRoll, a highly ambitious open world RPG coming from former Ubisoft devs Julien Cuny and Louis-Pierre Pharand.

“We haven’t considered Kickstarter since funding isn’t a problem for us.” Mark looks to paying for all the development costs, including equipment as well as hiring staff out of pocket.

Speaking with Mark, I got the sense that all ideas are intangible concepts, all except for one in which Fred, whom he met over an online match in Call of Duty, has had in the back burner since his separation from his partner who, according to Mark, completely compromised the entire project. I immediately got a hint of Phil Fish and his dispute with his ex-business partner that was dramatically portrayed in Indie Game: The Movie.

“That’ll likely be our first game and we’re looking to launch it next year.”

Details were scarce as we were too busy blowing each other up in PVZ: Garden Warfare, but as I continued the discussion with this young teen, it became less of an interview and more of an informal consultation, and he played the role as the client.

As he talked about their interest in looking at the Xbox One as a target platform for their games, we discussed how investigating getting involved in Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, how shipping the cheapest title can potentially fund future projects, and how communication with other indie developers is vital in bouncing off ideas for their projects. These were ideas that I generated in the discussion, all in which he stated that inspired him to seriously take them into consideration. We then exchanged contact info to carry this conversation on, with both him and Fred, in the future.

But let’s be realistic here; this is a 15 year old on Xbox Live, albeit a well-spoken one at that. He could be yanking my chain looking for attention and thought that fabricating a story about having $10 million to fund game development would impress me. I could, if it were true. Though not completely out of the realm of possibility, even if this was largely or completely fabricated, they are ambitions, ones that many of us had when we were young. Perhaps our discussion incepted an idea in taking game development seriously, and I could have been one of the first to have a serious discussion with a future indie developer. 

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