Archive for May 29, 2009

The BS Team

I’d like to share a brief history on Binary Space’s dynamic duo. Ok so we are yet to prove our dynamicness but our first game hopefully will! BS is coded and creativized by Saxon Druce and Jay Weston, both of us PC game developers from way back. We worked together at Ratbag Games on games such as PowerSlide and Dirt Track Racing from the late 90’s until the early naughties, myself doing art and game design for 5 years, Saxon coding until the coke ran out (a few years).

Saxon left Ratbag and continued coding away as a contractor for the intervening years at various places including the defense department and big name mining companies. I started a texture library company, Hyperfocal Design with another Ratbag employee. It took a few years to get going (because I was incredibly slack and poor at motivating myself) but is now a decent earner. Through Saxon’s contracting and my own business experience we luckily have some business sense and legal experience, which will always come in very handy.

During the last few years I certainly started feeling the creative itch coming back after being pretty burnt out and disenchanted you might say with AAA class games development. Plus while I’m quite happy with Hyperfocal, there is little in the way of creativity – its almost purely a business exercise. I actually made one possibly foolish attempt at starting a PC title, which I’m quite glad didn’t work out now, because I’m not sure I’ll ever be keen to lead a large company with many people’s jobs in my hands! That attempt got as far as getting funding for the concept phase but not much further.

At this time I increasingly found ideas for game concepts popping into my head, so I’d share them with friends between breaks in front of the 360, and thought how cool it’d be if someone made it. Yeah, the same old story with many gamers I guess. I’m not sure what actually changed to make me decide to give it a go for real, perhaps because the latest idea I had I felt would be so much fun… I’d also recently been forwarded or somehow came across a few flash games that really surprised me with their game play, graphics and cool factor. Two of those games were definitely “The Last Stand” and “Dino Run”. One of the best things about making small scale games like this is that you can make lots of them in a short time, and you aren’t constrained by publishers, deadlines, execs or existing IP/licenses. While I was a game designer at Ratbag, I realized that I wasn’t ever going to have the sort of creative control I wanted. Its just the nature of the beast. Now if my game design’s fail I have no one else to blame, however!

I had a pretty good look at various articles on the biz side of flash games (man’s gotta make a living somehow) and it seemed to be becoming reasonably profitable. So I thought to myself “I can’t code to save myself, making games is no fun on your own, and that Saxon dude could really code!”, so I emailed Saxon and asked if he ever considered making games again. The short version is he did, so we are. It’s good for me, because I’ll read the comments in his code (and even the actual code, which makes my brain bleed) and realize that few other flash developers would be so lucky to have someone with so much experience and coding skillz. And lucky for Saxon too I spose, cos programmer art is ugly!

So I think we have a pretty dang good team, and I can’t wait to show you our first game…

Flash Game Development Journal

I’ve read a few great development diaries from other people such as Emanuele Feronato and I thought I’d do my own for Binary Space and for any other developers who are walking down a similar path. I’m not sure yet exactly what I’ll write about week to week, so I’ll just write when I feel I have something interesting to talk about.

Small Biz
At the moment our game is at very early stages, and we’re familiarizing ourselves with how the whole industry works. There’s just the two of us, a programmer and myself (artist/designer), so the whole thing is run very much like a small business I suppose, with the owners doing a bit of everything whilst trying to steer the ship. So yes we are in this to make money as well as make fun games. I have another business that is doing well, so I can afford to spend as much time as I like on the game. I’d say its one of the harder things to do, trying to perform your main roles whilst trying to figure out how to host a website, what is a CPM, what is a CPC, whats a good CPM/CPC, how much bandwidth will we need, what’s our game going to be worth, what’s a good company name and a million other little things. But I feel like I’m getting a reasonable handle on all of this now, so I’ll be writing about my expectations, thoughts and plans, without giving too much away about our game in the short term!

Numbers and Best Case Scenarios
I must admit I’m a little surprised at the numbers for flash games, specifically: the low cpms for advertising and high game hosting fees almost cancel each other out, and depending on various factors, my maths say that we will be either making a small loss on our homepage or a small profit. I’ve looked at a ton of dedicated host options and content delivery networks, both of which are fairly expensive. Then there’s also Mochi’s free hosting option, which I’m looking into closely. I can’t help but think there must be a catch, so I’ve emailed them to confirm!

Home Page Numbers
If we look at some exact numbers, a successful game can do 30 million plays in a year, and I’ve heard from other developers that they still get up to 5-10k visits a day one year after their game is released.
For this example, I’m going to take Mochi’s standard CPM (money they pay per 1000 views/plays) as a very reasonable 0.50c, and I hear Adsense is roughly the same for entertainment. So for the home page, getting 10k visits a day (yes this is best case scenario), you should expect to make an un-whopping $10 a day or roughly $3500 a year, possibly double or triple that daily rate in the first few months of release, I’m yet to pry too much into other developers to get this figure. Guessing numbers of views on your home page is always going to be mega-ballpark because it all depends on sponsor deals, your own marketing efforts, whether you were Dugg, how good your game is, and so on. So say $1-5k on your home page a year per great game…

Outside the Home Page
For everything outside your home page, you’ve got sponsorships and mochiads. For a game that does 30,000,000 plays, mochi might give you around $10,000, and you might manage another 5-30k from sponsor deals again depending on how much they like your game. I have little idea what the upper limits are for these guys, obviously they will be trying to part with as little money as they can, whilst you will be asking for as much as possible. is certainly a good site, in that it definitely creates a bit more competition among sponsors to get your game.

Wrap Up
So for a killer flash game you might make tops, $50k a year. That’s using the standard advertise, sponsorship, mochi route that most people take. Depending on how long it takes you to make this game, 50k is either paltry or awesome. Either way I swear money must be getting left on the table somewhere. I mean, 30 million or so plays in a year or two – that’s a really, really big number. If you did that in other game industries, you’d have a massive hit on your hands, but with flash you might make an average wage. Yes the scales are much different, but when you work out an hourly earn, its pretty average. Plus when you consider that other free games like Mafia Wars on Facebook are killing it to the tune of millions a month, the same should be possible to at least some extent with flash games.

You could say its a combination of a flooded market, mostly sub par games, and unfortunately low advertising rates that causes it, and that’s possibly true. However I’ve been in business for a little while, and while I mainly want to make fun games, I also find it fun and challenging to make money! So while our first game will follow the tried and true, standard portal/advertising/sponsorship formula, that will just be to get our bearings, get some experience under our belts, and then we already have some plans for something different for the next game.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Other Sites
If you’d like to read some existing dev blogs/reports then:

Emanuele Feronato
Fun Face

Elite Games
Gaming your way
Gamasutra: “Wheres the Cash in Flash”
… are all great places to start.

Under development

Our first flash game is still under development! We are hoping to produce something very different from the swathe of games that are currently out there. It’s ambitious, possibly too ambitious, but we can’t wait to show you the game as it nears completion. Stay tuned.

Binary Space

Post numero uno! Well, as I fight hard to do something as simple as create a website, we are out of the prototype phase for our first game, and on to full (part time) production! I’ll be keeping our small number of followers up to date via this blog, talking about games, the biz, and eventually even our game as it gets close to completion.