Here we present one of two parallel posts that provide an insider view of the successful Boston Indies company Fire Hose Games. In this post you can read about two different versions of Eitan’s recent post mortem talk on PSN release Slam Bolt Scrappers. In the other post by Jon Myers you can read a narrative about the foundation of the company.
On June 8, Fire Hose Games Founder and Creative Director Eitan Glinert and several members of the studio’s development team were at the Skellig in Waltham to give a postmortem of Slam Bolt Scrappers, the studio’s first game.
A month later, Eitan was at the Bocoup Loft in Boston, talking to Boston Indies about the studio’s journey from Ramen-eating artists to releasing Slam Bolt Scrappers on the PlayStation Network.
Both presentations featured the good, not-so-bad, and really bad things that happened along the way to creating Slam Bolt Scrappers. Eitan showed the same slides about the same game to many of the same people. But this doesn’t mean the two presentations were anywhere near the same.
Take Eitan’s two opening statements about his presentation on a game about punching baddies in the face and building weapon towers from their dead bodies that was released on March 15:
Boston Post Mortem: “This is something we poured our hearts into, so it’s really hard to say, ‘hey, this is where we screwed up.’”
A month later at Boston Indies: “The whole purpose of this is for you to learn from the shit we did wrong, and hopefully things we did right also.”
At Boston Post Mortem, there were a hundred people or more: journalists from Gamasutra, AAA development studios and other local developers in the industry. Eitan told his studio’s experience developing Slam Bolt Scrappers.
At Boston Indies, there were 30 or so other indie developers (and one wayward journalist), all in varying stages of production that Eitan and Fire Hose Games passed through in the last three years to create Slam Bolt Scrappers. It was a conversational how-to guide, with footnotes, for a room full of friends and acquaintances.
“It all comes down to audience,” Eitan said in a later email conversation. “At BPM I assume there are more ‘industry professionals,’ people who work at big studios and have done so for years. So I try to focus on development points that will be most relevant to them – how we could have improved production, how marketing went, etc.
“At BI I assume there are more ‘aspiring indies,’ or people who are just about to take the plunge into making their own game. For them I focus more on getting the pieces in place that are needed to create the game – things like setting up business deals, putting a team together, and getting your game out there for people to see.”
From the beginning, that was the stuff that the indies assembled in the Bocoup Loft wanted to hear. Unlike the BPM format, where questions came at the end, at Boston Indies Eitan invited the crowd to stop him and ask questions. And that they did.
Why did Fire Hose Games decide to go exclusively with Sony and the PlayStation Network?
“Because they said ‘yes’ to us,” Eitan said. “It’s not like everyone was lining up to throw money at us. But I know very few indies that got the support we got.”
How much time did you put into fundraising?
“You just need someone who is either basically just raising money, or actually … just raising money,” Eitan said.
How important was showing off the game?
“Ultimately, buzz matters more than anything else,” Eitan said. “Get on your soapbox and show people your game. If people aren’t impressed by your game, than ask yourself why they aren’t impressed.”
Fire Hose Games took Slam Bolt Scrappers through five iterations in over two years, which Eitan said was incredibly difficult towards the end, having essentially to throw out three or four months of hard work spent on the fourth iteration.
“I was actually afraid of mutiny at that point,” Eitan said. “It gets really dangerous when you have something mediocre, because then you start lying to yourself and incorrectly thinking it will be good enough if you just put on a few layers of polish. Be ready to iterate whenever your game is not awesome.”
Perhaps the most apparent “really bad thing” that happened was entirely out of the studio’s control. They released Slam Bolt Scrappers on March 15, and then in early April the hacker group LulzSec took down PSN.
“Three weeks after it went on sale, suddenly it wasn’t on sale,” Eitan said at BPM.
There wasn’t much anyone could do; Slam Bolt Scrappers’ distribution network evaporated, and so did the games sales. But that hasn’t slowed down Fire Hose. At both events, the studio announced its next project: Go Home Dinosaurs.
Eitan later said he hoped what people took away from both his presentations were the hard learned lessons that impacted the games development, hopefully helping people sidestep the landmines he and his team waded through.
But standing up at the Bocoup Loft, Eitan could point out more than half the crowd as an example as someone who helped him and Fire Hose Games when help was needed. And now that Slam Bolt Scrappers is done, there is one more Boston Indie that’s been to the finish line and can help the next stressed out first time developer to the same goal.
At Boston Indies, Eitan said there was one extra message: “You can do it, just be prepared to bust your ass in the process and realize that you can’t go it alone.”
Ian B. Murphy is a newspaper reporter at the MetroWest Daily News in the daytime, but would rather be gaming at any given time. He is excited to learn about the business at a grassroots level, make some friends, and have a few beers.