I’m proud to announce that www.midnightflock.com has reached open beta. Not that our site is as ambitious as a game or any of Google’s projects or anything, but we don’t want people to hunt us down with pitch forks or tar and feather us if there are some broken links and such at first.
I can’t explain what it is to be a member of the Midnight Flock. So rather than waste my breath, I think you’ll find it well worth 45 seconds of your time to take our short quiz to find out if you are a member.
I wrote up the following link for a post on GarageGames.com, but figured it might be interesting for people here as well. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what nurbs mean
Midnight Flock started as an indie game company in February 2005. At that time our artist thought nurbs were celestial objects, our programmer (me) thought C++ was a grade of 79.5% (I hadn’t even written Hello World yet), and our game designer/writer hadn’t done much beside create some really fun AD&D campaigns. But we had what we thought were some great ideas for games and the intelligence and tenacity to bring them to life, so we started a game company.
We were all busy with the other aspects of our lives (work, study, gaming), and the combined time the 3 of us were able to dedicate to games development was probably the equivalent of 1/10 the weekly productivity of a seasoned programmer or artist. We had also learned that most saavy indie teams license an engine so that what little time they do have can be spent on their game, not on creating the basic foundation that all games need. So we began looking at engines to bring our ideas to life. We found GarageGames and over the course of time bought indie licenses for Torque, Torque Advanced, and Torque Game Builder.
We soon realized that the games we had initially conceived were the type of games that require AAA budgets/staff. Being impoverished and unexperienced like many indie developers, we had to think of a different game plan. We decided to try and build a few smaller games that we thought would be fun, but that we weren’t necessarily passionate about creating. We laid out a path that we thought would allow us to “snowball” our cash and experience from small games to the games we were passionate about creating.
But of course, the first “small” game we tried to create with the Torque Game Engine made us feel like babies trying to chew a jolly rancher. After about 6 months of slow progress, we ran into some hurdles that we realized we just weren’t going to be able to solve with our limited time, experience, and cash. We tried to rescope the project without the features causing these problems. But then the gameplay just didn’t seem as fun as we envisioned. So we decided to scrap the project and create an even smaller game with Torque Game Builder. Soon we had created a prototype for this game. But while the game was fun, we just weren’t confident that it would be a hit on the portals.
It was about this time that Jeff Tunnel began his blog, www.makeitbigingames.com. In one of his entries he talked about getting published on Xbox Live Arcade. He stated that he thought the average budget was around $300k and would probably climb rapidly. He also stated that he believed it was a meritocracy, and that the best games would be offered positions in the lineup.
Of course, we think we have some dang good ideas (doesn’t everyone?), but we began thinking about this $300k figure. To us that meant 6 $50k/year caliber employees working full time. We were more akin to 3 $25k/year caliber employees and we were working part time. Our efforts were probably worth $50-100k or so per year. We could continue as we were: pick a game with an appropriate scope, dedicate a few more hours a week to the project, and work for an estimated 2-6 years to bring it about. Or we could once again alter our strategy.
Being eager for success, we opted for the latter. We decided to take what we thought would be a brief pit stop of a couple months and turn our brand into an apparel line for gamers, after which we would return to game development. 10 months later, here we are. :p
A Design Process Rooted in Games
In keeping with our roots as a game company, our art pipeline is complex and convoluted. Seriously though, our art process is much more similar to a game studio than the typical apparel company. We created concept art of our characters. That concept art was used to create models in Maya. Those models were used to create all of the images on our site. Additionally, renders of the models were translated into the vector art we used to create our shirt designs.
The Benefits of Programming
Having cut my teeth on C++ and Torquescript, picking up PHP was a snap. We’ve been able to program some nice extras/mods into our website, including our referral program. We’re not done yet, but it’s nice to have the power to do whatever we want, instead of make do with whatever we are given.
Lastly, here are some shots of our first 2 designs: