Making a living designing HTML5 games

A huge frustration of mine these days is my inability to actually turn my love of crafting simple web based arcade games in to a profitable and worthwhile livelihood. I’ve been following the web scene for years and have seen a good many trends come and go.
The explosion of Flash several years ago really opened my eyes to the potential of the web but I have continued to resist it since it just niggled me that it was all dependent on a plug in. In so many ways the world of web design and development has been screaming for HTML5 for so long. And now we have it. Not only that we are seeing its adoption across the board.

Surely now is a great time to be a web developer with an eye for creating simple games that people can not only play natively but on the move as well. Mobile gaming is just going to go stratospheric this year and in the years to come.

As mobile devices become more sophisticated and their browsers more compliant to developing standards I can only see a bright future for the developer of HTML5 based web apps. Especially a developer with a good handle on design and presentation.

So what about the game designers ? What about those of us who enjoy making and playing those simple (or not so simple) coffee break arcade games. How do we capitalise on this exciting new world of web development and maybe even make a living out of it ? How did the Flash guys do it ? How much money is in it ?

I’ve seen a fair few portals appear in the last 12 months that offer some real hope. The excellent and the long established Spil Games to name just a couple present an excellent outlet for the HTML5 game developer. I’ve also been approached by a number of other portal providers to license my games for a small fee on a non exclusive basis. Which is great and very encouraging. But for a man of 41 years with mortgage, bills and family to consider it’s all just a bit too much of a risk to ditch the day job and start churning out 3 or 4 games a month. Or is it ?

You see it was when I actually put it that way that I realised there might be something in it.
Imagine you have just one game. On a non exclusive basis you might get your game on to say 3 portals. Right now is a good time since portals are in their infancy and crying out for content. Sure they might not have too much cash to offer you but these are early days.
I’ll talk in dollars to help the broader audience. Let’s say you agree a license fee of $300 for your game. That figure is not uncommon in my experience. For that the portal operator can take your game and present it within their family of web sites and you remain free to pursue other deals with the same game. By far the best option.
So if you develop a relationship with just 3 portals that’s a tidy $900 for your first game. Assuming you pay your taxes subtract a relevant percentage to stuff in to your pocket.
So then it comes down to productivity. Just how good are you at making HTML5 games ? It stands to reason that the better you are the more you will make. If your games are good you’ll also attract more portals.
So who cares if the portal ask you to slap their logo on the splash screen. Who cares if they want you to hand over a small amount of space on the title screen for an advert. If you want to be commercial it strikes me you have to play ball and compromise a little. So long as the game itself remains intact.
Just make sure that you retain the ability to identify yourself within the game somewhere (say a Twitter account or a web address). The game should do a huge amount of marketing for you. Don’t forget it’s in the interest of the portal operator to attract thousands / millions of visitors. Each of those visitors will be viewing your game if it’s good enough. Make sure it’s good enough.
Get out there and play other games. Research the technology. Push it, offer something a little different.

As with all things in industry and commerce there is a small window of opportunity in the early days to establish your self and make a mark before the whole shebang gets swamped by the big guns who seek to shrink the Market down to size to suit their own endeavours.
If you are in any way inclined to create HTML5 games I believe that now is the optimum time to get yourself out there and possibly carve a living from it.

Good luck !

Quest – defining a rich fantasy world that tells ME the story

Questing party from DragonlanceQuest is a project.
I always wanted to create a game that was essentially something to dip in and out of at will and the content would be different. Since it’s a game I also wanted to be able to present varying challenges and puzzles.
All of my games to date have been arcade games with the kind of action and pace that I was so fond of as a kid. Indeed the 3 recent games were very much an exercise in rewriting my favourite type of games from my youth.
But with Quest I wanted something different. Something a lot less hands on and a good deal more, well, thought provoking.

In essence I wanted to create a game in which I was very much a spectator. I wanted a level of interaction naturally but above all I wanted to feel as though every time I “played” the game I was being told a story.

In order to make this happen I knew that I needed a good deal of depth. Each character, location and inventory item needed to be represented by a wealth of numbers and flags in the background. So I set about crafting a database to store it all.
My research for all of this took me off to AD&D headquarters at Wizards of the Coast. Well, in that I studied their web site and trawled forums to get a feel for what was important to genuine pencil, paper and dice RPG enthusiasts. What struck me most was just how much detail these gamers rely on. It’s quite overwhelming.

So finally after about 6 weeks of assembling, testing, tweaking and administering I have a database and fully functional editor such that I can create and administer everything from Monsters and Characters to Locations, Inventory Items, Combat Situations and Treasure Chances. I even go to the trouble of weighting each entity such that I can calculate the probability of having such items reappearing or indeed their abundance within their environment. There are relationships throughout the system to allow me to create a realistic world with logical inhabitants based on class, temperament, religion and a whole host of things. Even though I say it myself my world editor is beautiful.
I’m that sad I’ve spent the past week just tinkering with the base class of a few monsters to see how it affects the world around them and the behaviour of potential nearby NPCs. To have this level of control over a world is my dream. And it’s all text. I’ve deliberately steered clear of creating graphics since it’s just not necessary right now.

So I moved on a step in the last couple of days and actually put the world to test. I created a party of 6 members (all of whom are my friends with suitably appropriate statistics, e.g. the big guy is the muscle man, the athletic guy is the thief etc) and placed them in to a logical starting point – a town. The system is set to take what I refer to as snapshots over a set period – currently 15 minutes but most likely 1 hour in live. With every snapshot I assess the situation of the party based on a set of instructions handed to them by the player.
For example: if the last instruction was to travel to a given location I assess how far they have traveled based on the world they’re traveling through. Fairly basic stuff. If at any point en route they encounter hostilities or anything for that matter that requires intervention, I alert the player (me) via email and send a link to the controlling web page.

What’s so satisfying about this is that it hooks in to something that I enjoy in web browsing – the potential for someone to have contacted me or responded to a post or query on a forum. The Facebook phenomenon epitomises this. How thrilling to receive a number in a red circle. Who or what is after me ?
I wanted this in Quest. The potential for something different with every visit. But I also wanted something that prodded me. Something that said “hang on, something’s changed in this virtual world and you really need to come and address it”. Better still I wanted to regress and enjoy the same kind of adventuring thrills that I had as a child with my hopelessly overactive imagination. Quest is allowing me to do this. It is allowing me to not only be Dungeon Master and adventurer but also, and I hesitate in saying this, God.

Once I’ve adapted the front end a little I will talk in more detail about the design of the game system and where I think the real thrills (for me) of Role Playing lie.

HTML5 game identity crisis

I have this game that I’m dying to make in to something more than just bloody Space Invaders on a grid. I think I must have been a bit lazy and just fell back in to my default “ooh, create a shooting game” mode.
I initially wanted to launch missiles that careered off down the grid and hit objects in the distance – something like a submarine torpedo style game with battleships crossing the screen. But I don’t know I just found it to be a bit dull.

Perhaps there is a game in there somewhere but for the life of me I cannot identify it.

If any game designers out there can suggest a neat idea for how to use a horizantal shifting grid then please let me know. The only thing I’ll add is that I want to be able to shoot stuff :-)

Moving everything under one WordPress roof

It has long been my intention to pull all my web work under one web site. When I started Space Monsters I simply wanted somewhere to write up my day to day thoughts on “stuff”. The more I get used to having this blog the more I consider it to be my main web site.

I’ve enjoyed blogging about my HTML5 game development and look forward to continuing it on here. I will keep the original blog online since it contains a ton of stuff I just don’t want to duplicate. I like the WordPress interface so this site is built using the WordPress software as opposed to the hosted solution. The benefits of having more flexibility and the added ability to actually generate some revenue from it (one day) far outweigh the simple convenience of having someone else host all your work.

So the first thing I’ve done is to move a few of my mobile HTML5 based games over to Space Monsters.

They are HyperGunner, Spy Chase and the first one I made, Wizard Wars.
HyperGunner and Wizard Wars are playable with the keyboard arrow keys and Z or Ctrl to fire where relevant. All three use the mouse of touchscreen on relevant mobile devices.

So welcome to my new home. I hope you enjoy my prattling and thoughts on “stuff”. :)

%d bloggers like this: