Ready to start learning how to make a successful game?
In case you haven’t heard of him from one of his many hits (the list goes on from The Last Stand and Warfare 1917 to Crush the Castle), Chris is a full-time game developer who will be sharing his start in game development with us, and how his first game went on to become so successful.
1. How did you come up with the idea for The Last Stand?
The idea came from a movie, in this case 28 Days Later. There’s a very particular scene in it where they’re defending a barricade in front of a farmhouse and although it was very short, the idea that they had to hold that line and fight off this incoming horde really got me. On top of that, I’d been playing quite a few of the other defense type games that were around at the time and they all seemed really stale. You’d have a base and you’d click on enemies directly until they die, adding the movement of the player so that positioning matter created an extra level of tactics to it. When it comes to brass tacks, I basically made Space Invaders with zombies.
Last Stand was actually my first Flash game so I really didn’t know at the time how the whole system worked. I was just making it to teach myself more about Flash and Actionscript and had no intention of selling it. I was working a full time job and making good money as a producer at an advertising agency as I was making it, so I’d just bring my test versions in and show it to the devs and designers. They’d play and give me feedback on what was too easy or hard and of course had ideas to make it better. In terms of researching or analyzing the player base, it was part of my actual job but I didn’t bother in this case as I never thought it’d reach any sort of actual audience.
Nearing the end of development, I’d caught wind that I could maybe get the game sponsored by someone and I started hunting around Newgrounds only to find that Armor Games was running a competition with a very healthy amount of prize money. So I entered and it ended up taking on first place. That was enough for me to then break away from 7 years of advertising and start full time.
2. Were players involved in the creation process?
As I mentioned, I was working as a Producer for an advertising company, so I was running a team of game developers to make advertising games. The feedback from those guys helped shape the game a little but not greatly. I was pretty set in how the game was going to be. With my more recent games, the player base has had a much larger influence. For the Last Stand: Union City – I had around 1500 beta testers who played and provided feedback for around 6 months before the game was released, they turned out a huge amount of balancing issues and forced me to change some design decisions pretty drastically.
3. Did you do any pre-release marketing?
None whatsoever – was entered in the competition and that was that.
4. How did you market the game after it came out? Was there a point when you realized, “This is going to be big”?
When Armor Games announced it as the winner of the competition it was entered into, I was shocked. I really didn’t see what people were seeing in it. Not to say that I thought the game was bad, I just didn’t see what everyone was getting so excited about.
5. Why did your game connect so well with players?
It took me a while to come around and realize that the zombie genre has a way of pulling people into it that a lot of other genres don’t. Even though it’s fictional, the ties it has to the real world is what makes it so engrossing for people. What weapons do you use, where do you go, who will help you, how do we live. The idea of turning society on it’s head is really appealing to a lot of people it seems.
The reaction from players was amazing. I think timing played a big part in it as it was before the recent zombie game glut that we’re currently going through. Left 4 Dead had only been teased at that point and the anticipation of that was one of the driving factors in my development, I think it helped get people in the mood for a game in the genre as well.
6. Anything else that played a part in the game’s success?
I’m a big believer in making games that you have a really strong interest in the subject matter. In the case of The Last Stand, all it was was a passion project (with a little bit of self improvement on the side) and I think that. Since then though, I can track with actual monetary gains the projects that I’ve been super invested in the subject matter well before I made a game based around it.