Metal Shell: Neon Pulse (MSNP) was Light Loop Games’s 2nd title and while the game never shipped or got finished I wanted to take the time to tell its story because I learned a lot from attempting to create it. You can download the demo from Steam here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/819460/Metal_Shell_Neon_Pulse/
Originally MSNP started as a game jam game created for Ludum Dare. You can find the playable version of that game here: https://sethrolfe.com/2017/08/03/neon-knights-mech-fighter/https://sethrolfe.com/2017/08/03/neon-knights-mech-fighter/
I worked on this over a weekend with a couple of other Full Sailer’s and another friend who did all of our music. Neon Knights Mech Fighter ended up being less than what we were aiming for but the general idea seemed to stick with myself and another designer from the group.
Using my newly minted company, Light Loop Games, I started looking for people to hire that would help us bring our new idea to life. Eventually we started finding people who were both talented and totally on board with the idea. We continued to polish up our design and started requesting assets from the new comers. *It wasn’t that simple, in reality there was a lot of behind the scenes/business stuff that went on here, like providing asset lists, describing what we needed, negotiating prices and figuring out deadlines. It took up a lot of my time and cut into my development time, its certainly something that I’ll keep in mind if I ever try to start a company again.
I ended up with a decent sized team, myself and one other designer, three artists, an animator and a composer. I was the sole programmer and was doing the marketing when I had time on the side as well.
As we started to get a playable build put together, I decided to get a booth at Playthrough Gaming Convention in Raleigh.
This was an amazing experience! We had tons of people test out our game and give us feedback. I think it was pretty awesome to get a game out in front of the public too.
We continued working on the game for a few more months and attended a few other events including East Coast Game Conference which is one of the biggest events in Raleigh. Here’s a quick video from our booth there.
Eventually we were getting close to finishing up the demo and I wanted to start a Kickstarter campaign to get the rest of the funding I would need to finish the whole game. I sought out the help of a marketing team because building the game, managing the business, taking care of my family and doing the entire Kickstarter was a bit much to take on at once.
I ended up hiring an awesome team from the UK and they helped me with social media, a Discord server, a trailer and the Kickstarter page itself. That took a lot off my plate and let me focus on the game to get it ready for the demo/Kickstarter launch.
The day finally came and we had what we felt like was a great launch, we had a decent looking page and I felt like we had given it our all. You can still see the page here:
Unfortunately, we came in overwhelmingly under the goal and I decided to pack up the game and stop development on it. I had been funding it with my own money up until that point and it wasn’t sustainable any longer without outside funding.
Things I learned/Would Do Differently:
- Hire/assign an art lead. I didn’t know enough about art to wrangle 3 different artists and an animator. If I were to go back and do it over I would have assigned 1 of the artists as the lead and would have had them make sure everything came out the way we wanted.
- Put more design work in before hiring artists, animators, composers or sound designers. If we knew exactly what we wanted before hand, creating the asset lists to give the artists wouldn’t have taken so long. We had a decent amount of work done but it wasn’t detailed enough.
- Set aside time for business management that doesn’t interfere with development time. This is probably obvious but I ended up struggling even though I’m pretty good at time management. I would pre-plan as much as possible next time to avoid the hang ups I encountered. I might even hire this job out depending on the role I wanted to take in the games development.
- Hire more programmers! I was the only one and I thought that I could handle everything.
- Have a back up plan for funding, crowdfunding isn’t overly reliable and if you’ve got employees that are depending on you for a pay check there needs to be some sort of back up plan for if things don’t go the way you wanted them to. Ideally I would have sought investment from angel investors.
- Ideally, I would want to find someone that had the same passion and motivation as I do for game dev and form a partnership with them. Having someone who’s as determined as I was to create a game would have made a huge difference in the games outcome.
- Overall, MSNP had several flaws but here’s a few that stand out to me:
- Mismatched art style, some of the art was out of place and didn’t fit the overall theme.
- Lack of unique/interesting mechanics. The marketing team asked me what our unique selling point was and I wasn’t really able to give them anything concrete. While not every game is going to have a USP I think that MSNP didn’t do enough to stand out.
- Not polished enough to launch on Kickstarter. There were bugs, quite a few bugs and there wasn’t enough of a hook to keep players interested and wanting more.
Once the Kickstarter failed, that was pretty much the end of Light Loop Games because it wasn’t long after that when I was picked up by Epic Games and hired onto their Events team. More on that to come later.