First Games, Marketing, Publishing, and Postmortems

Hello patrons (and non-patrons),

I have to begin with a disclaimer because this article is in addition to the two articles that I have committed to delivering to my patrons each month. Additionally, I am making this content public because I believe that it is very important and I would like to combat the spreading of false information regarding the topics at hand. With that being said, I hope that you enjoy this and learn something. If so, consider becoming a patron if you are not one already. Thank you.

The Luck-Based Business Plan

Wow, so there is a lot to cover here. To avoid reiterating the situation that influenced me to write all of this tonight, I will supply a few links to the original blog entry: Here, here, and/or here. Each of these links depict the same post, but the comments sections shed a lot of light on the situation and differ from portal to portal. Also, prior to saying anything seemingly negative about Poncho, the developers of Poncho, or the publishers of Poncho, I would like to state that the purpose of the article is NOT to bash on anyone or their abilities. The purpose of this article is to assist in avoiding a situation where new developers are scared away from a thriving industry and a strong community due to one group’s horror story.

ss_01e61119526baa5c31d23e35ec1d5b570d63a592-1920x1080(Poncho – screenshot from Steam storefront)

Continue reading “First Games, Marketing, Publishing, and Postmortems”

First Games, Marketing, Publishing, and Postmortems

How I Approach ‘Game Ideas’

Before starting, I would just like say that I am very excited that I finally have a platform where I can share all of this information with you. Working on Spaceboy Games and managing Spaceboy Partners simultaneously is EXHAUSTING. This Patreon page has lit a fire that allows me to be enthusiastic about educating the community again. To those who have access to these articles, a sincere thank you!

I am often asked questions along the lines of, “How do you come up with your game ideas?” or, “How do I come up with a new platformer gimmick or set of mechanics?”. Prior to being asked these questions, I didn’t really notice that I had a *method* per se. After further investigation and adding this topic to my list of potential articles, I realized that I do have a game development routine and I do have a method for coming up with what I call the game’s base. I will share both of these with you.

I may be abnormal here, but recall that abnormal practice(s) breed abnormal results. If you aren’t getting the results that you desire, you have to change what you’re doing. On the other hand, you aren’t required to adopt my routines to see success. It is one of many successful options. With that being said, one habit that I have adopted is always having a notebook on hand. I have a backpack or plastic bag full of notebooks (regular, spiral notebooks, 1-subject) that I carry with me in my truck. If you don’t drive or don’t carry a backpack, I suggest carrying a small moleskin pocket-ruled notebook. I started doing this while working with my longtime friend, Ryan Swarner, on Frog Sord in 2012.
moleskine-cahier-pocket-ruled-notebook-set-of-3-3-5-x-5-5-mc710-3These notebooks are handy and fit perfectly in the back-pocket of most jeans or cargo pants

Currently, I have ~a dozen of these notebooks on me at all times. I have one for general game ideas. If anything, this is the one that I suggest to you; it is where you will jot down all of your brainstorming and spontaneous ideas that pop into your head throughout your day. I also have a notebook designated to each game idea that I feel is fleshed out enough to pitch to my team. For example, I have one for HackyZack, another for Fara & The Carnival Curse (unannounced, sshh), and one for games that apply to our publishing company, Spaceboy Partners. I also have another for my diet and workout planning (this habit will bleed positively into other avenues of your life).

Carrying a notebook will not help you come up with more or better ideas, but it will help you remember everything. After I go over my three approaches to finding a game’s base, you will spend a lot of time in your head and you will forget even your best and most exciting breakthroughs.

Method A – Spiritual Sequel

The first method is by far the most simple and takes the least amount of creative strain. Method A can be summed up as the spiritual-sequel approach. A lot of AAA studios use this approach, as well as a lot of “idea guys” and even kids or wannabe-devs. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad way to make games. What it does mean is that if you want to pull it off correctly, you have to do it extremely, extremely well.

In short, Method A means taking a game that exists and fine-tuning it, polishing it, or adding something substantial to it. Cave Story is an example of this. Cave Story is without a doubt, a Super Metroid clone or spiritual-sequel that integrates Method A. Cave Story is nothing new to your avid gamer, but it is widely proclaimed as one of the greatest independent games of all time. Cave Story does this by using a well-known game formula and adding a meaningful story, an array of new weapons (as well as a leveling system for these weapons), and charming pixel art to make something aged feel fresh again.

A lot of new devs, younger devs, and “idea guys” turn to this approach due to a lack of programming and game design knowledge. Without any concrete experience, it is easy to say “I would love to make a game like Zelda”, or “I would love to make a game like Metroid”. In my opinion, this approach is either done very well, or very poorly. If you decide to go down this route, be sure to examine why. Do you have a deep and interesting story that you want to tell? Maybe presenting the story within a familiar environment is the best way to let it shine. Perhaps you see a glaring flaw in a game from an older generation and you see a way to fix and perfect this hole in the design. Use this method if you are passionate about a game series and genuinely think you can do it 1) better enough, or 2) different enough (with purpose).

Lastly, I will say that Method A thrives when your game can promote itself via a strong nostalgia. Shovel Knight does this near perfectly. Shovel Knight plays very much like an old-school game. It wasn’t necessarily meant to be better in terms of more modern, but more so it is better for the time. Remember that there are many different ways for something to be objectively better than the original. Better controls, better plot/setting, better level design, or just modernizing an old concept.

Tips for applying Method A:
1) Consider moving away from the usual suspects. Do not simply try to outdo Metroid or The Legend of Zelda. Nintendo has large amounts of nostalgia and charm on their side.

2) Do not clone a game and then fall short of its quality. If you can’t do it better, don’t do it at all.

3) Do not be afraid to remove things about popular games that you dislike. Nintendo makes mistakes, too.

4) Try not to use a similar plot or setting to your source material. Your Zelda game should take place in space. Your Mario clone should have a deep story about a powerful female protagonist.

5) Make sure that you are passionate about your concept. Games require passion to push through stages of burnout. Copying someone else’s work is the easiest way to feel apathetic about your own work.

Method B – Addition

To my knowledge, Method B is a favorite among independent studios. This second method establishes a game’s base by adding two existing ideas together to create an idea that hasn’t been explored yet. You can add more than two concepts together with Method B, but I would suggest sticking with two; three, at most. The idea is to find the most accessible combination of mechanics that have the most depth, rather than simply increasing complexity.

I have used Method B for a lot of the games that you may know me for. After Frog Sord fell through, I had little project funding and I truly believed that I had one last shot at games before I would need to go find a “real job”. I needed to imagine a base that would blossom into a successful Steam title that would not require me to pay an artist (the art would need to be generated via code). I was a big fan of Super Meat Boy and I knew that I could make a platformer controller that feels good to play like Super Meat Boy does. Another game that I was playing at the time was Unfinished Swan. It wasn’t an incredibly interesting game to me at the time- I wasn’t big about the indie scene yet. However, it had an interesting segment where the world was a blank sheet of white, and you had to fling ink blots around to discover your surroundings. I took these two games, Super Meat Boy and Unfinished Swan, and created my base. INK is a fast-paced platformer where the world is black; to discover your surroundings, I added a burst of ink whenever the player double-jumps.


Method B is flexible. Your game doesn’t necessarily have to boil down to idea #1 + idea #2. In fact, I suggest that you don’t do that. INK is almost too straightforward, and because of that it is very obvious where I drew my inspiration from. You want your base to be like this, but not your final product. When you write your combination(s) of ideas down in your notebook, they will be very cut and dry: Pokemon + Metroid, Braid + Zelda, and so on. As you begin to develop your base, it should evolve organically into something that seems less and less like the two games that you wrote down, and more and more like it’s own, unique idea. This happened quite a bit with Spaceboy Games’ Fara series. Fara & The Eye of Darkness began as Nuclear Throne + Megaman: Battle Network. It was supposed to be an action-rogue-like about collecting spell cards that would persist between runs. You would build a better deck with your spoils and try to progress further during your next loop through the game. Fara & The Carnival Curse still includes a combat system that is card-centric, but almost every other bullet point has been changed or removed.

Tips for applying Method B:
1) Try adding together ideas from different genres. Do not stick with obvious combinations like Metroid + Castlevania. It wouldn’t be different enough.

2) Some combinations won’t play as well as they do in your head. Do not be afraid to throw out any of your combinations.

3) Consider modernizing mechanics that may have felt bad or clunky in the past. Zelda II can be difficult and frustrating, but it might be a great addition to another mechanic.

4) Remember that these methods create a base. Continue to evolve your idea into something that less resembles your base.

5) Ideas of varying complexity often pair well together, but try not to create needless complexity. This method works best for mechanically-driven games.

Method C – Perspective Shift

To some, Method C may seem a lot similar to Method B, but I feel that they both have their place, and both put me in a different head space when I am trying to come up with a new game. Method C is about a shift in perspective. What would Zelda be like as a platformer? How would a top-down Mario play? I think about easy perspective shifts like those, as well as ways to bring 3D concepts into 2D. For example, would Glover make an exciting 2D game? Is there a 2D game that borrows ideas from Banjo Kazooie? If not, what would that look like?

Examples of Method C are hard to spot because the change that the shift makes to your base is extravagant. There are several popular indie games that could have been pitched as a 2D Dark Souls or even a 2D Monster Hunter, but it is hard to pinpoint. Lately, this has been my favorite approach because it is the fastest way to stumble upon ideas that are seemingly new. It also requires the most creativity.

Tips for Applying Method C:
1) Try swapping between side-scrolling and top-down perspectives. Remember to try action games, racing games, puzzle games, and so on.

2) Consider combining Method C with either of the other methods. Maybe you can do Super Metroid better if it were 2.5D isometric. Maybe roguelike + racing works better as a side-scrolling platformer.

3) Focus on transferring 3D gameplay approaches into a 2D space. How would the Ocarina of Time Z-targeting work in a 2D game?

4) Like Method B, do not be afraid to let the idea change organically. Not all of the game’s concepts will translate to your shifted perspective.

5) Consider games like Master Blaster that have gameplay across multiple perspectives. How can you combine that with Method C?

Those are the three approaches to game design that I have been practicing throughout the last few years. They are essentially just guidelines that allow me to come up with the mechanics that make Spaceboy Games’ products FUN. None of these methods will really stretch your brain in a way that promotes improved writing or strong narrative, but perhaps I will talk more about that side of things later. Please let me know what you thought about this article! You can leave comments here, on the equivalent post on my Patreon, or send them to me via email ( I hope that this can be of some help for you and your team!

Thank you so much for supporting me and my content,

How I Approach ‘Game Ideas’

Not My Game Of The Year List

Greetings you beautiful gamers, 

I was kindly offered american dollars in exchange for publishing my game(s) of the year list, but hey, that sounds like a lot of work. Instead, I paid (the far more popular) William Pugh in E-X-P-O-S-U-R-E. With the assistance of Twitter DM, I bring you:

SPONSORED BY NOTAKU!! The Best Video Games Site That Isn’t Kotaku.

will Continue reading “Not My Game Of The Year List”

Not My Game Of The Year List

Is There More Than One of You?

Is there more than one of you? That is a question that I have been getting somewhat often lately. The answer is yes and no. I would like to talk about what that means and  a bit more about everything that I’ve been up to lately! I enjoy being transparent and sharing my life with all of you. Talking openly about all of this helps me remain motivated and actively involved, as well. With that being said, let’s see where I have been devoting my time!

Spaceboy Games

Let’s start with Spaceboy Games. This company is where it all began, and is what I am most known for. Currently, Spaceboy Games is a Seattle-based LLC comprised of both local and remote employees and contractors. Myself (CEO-roles, programmer, and designer) and Alejandro (producer-roles, and programmer) reside in Washington, USA. Sandy (pixel artist and animator) is currently living in Japan, and Fellipe (creative genius and concept artist) is currently living in Brazil. We also contract sound effect work and music composition from Vince Rubinetti and Joonas Turner. So yes, in a way there is more than one of me. I could not do even half of this without my amazing team!

ZeroDoubleBomb.gifGameplay – High Noon Revolver

Continue reading “Is There More Than One of You?”

Is There More Than One of You?

Loadworld DevLog Pt. 2

Good evening, friends!

This is part two of the Loadworld development blog and the first official day of development! I will be honest, I have toyed around with Zelda-like ‘engines’ in the past and have a handful of helper scripts that I drop into all of my Game Maker Studio projects, so I’d like to take this entry to cover some of that stuff. It might be a little dry, but I hope that someone out there finds it helpful!


Helper Scripts Continue reading “Loadworld DevLog Pt. 2”

Loadworld DevLog Pt. 2

Loadworld DevLog Pt. 1

Hello everyone,

I want to introduce all of you to a new project of mine called Loadworld. I’ve always had an itch to document the entirety of a game’s development process. Both for fun and my own use, as well as for an end-all tutorial for Game Maker Studio users. If everything goes as planned, I should be simultaneously developing a commercial product for Steam while teaching all of you how to do the same. I want to include my programming strategies, any refactoring that I may do, my design iterations, my approach to level design, and everything in between. This first entry will simply be an introduction to the team, our development environment, and our project.

mockup3 Continue reading “Loadworld DevLog Pt. 1”

Loadworld DevLog Pt. 1

Publisher Relations Primer

Hello everyone,

We are very appreciative of all of the positive attention that we have been receiving since we announced Spaceboy Partners, our games publishing platform. My inbox has surprisingly been flooded with everything from concepts yet to be fully realized, to early prototypes, to finished products in need of marketing help. I love all of this, but I thought that I’d make a quick post that covers what we expect from you as publishers, how to make a deal, what to do, what not to do, and how we can get the most out of each other after we have created a partnership!


High Noon Revolver, the product of our first partnership with Mike Studios


The Pitch

Your first step is simply to get our attention. If you want to work with Spaceboy Partners, or any publisher, we need to be aware of your team and your project. This can happen in one of two ways: the publisher approaches the team with interest, or the team makes a pitch to the publisher. Due to the fact that we are a small team that develops games of our own, we are not yet actively scouting for projects to fund, assist, and market. This means that we might never reach out to about your project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we aren’t interested! It just means that we are very busy! To make a pitch to Spaceboy Partners, you will need to organize and send an email to me at

What I expect:

1) High concept and background information: Explain your game in one to two sentences. Give me the elevator pitch. Accompany this with some basic information like the genre, the scope and size of the project, your target platforms, and so on.

2) Playable prototype: Send us something to play! It doesn’t have to be the final art or an incredibly polished masterpiece, but we want to know how it plays. It should generally *feel* like the experience that you want our players to have. I will probably skip out on your email as soon as I notice that there is no attachment to go along with your text.

3) Release window and distribution strategy(ies): When do you plan on releasing your game? We don’t need an exact date, but we want to make sure that we can give your project the love and attention that it needs. We don’t want to have three projects launching simultaneously. The distribution strategy is simply whether or not it’s a game that we will release via Steam, or a mobile game that will need to go through Apple, etc.

4) Expectations of publishing party: What do you need from us? Do you need funding? How much? We can handle your PR, your marketing, etc. We want to know what we can help you with. It’s better to ask for more and get turned down than to low-ball things and then fail when you need more and we are unprepared. We can always come back to you with concerns and work with you to find an offer that works for both parties.

After A Deal Has Been Made

Congrats, you are making a video game with Spaceboy Partners! Now what? You will be assigned a contact email and you will discuss all of your questions, concerns, wants, and needs with that person. Having a solitary means of communication with our team will ensure that the whole team is on the same page and that we won’t make changes to our trajectories via Facebook with one person while another member of the team talks about tweaking something else via email. We want to keep things organized for everyone’s sake.

An initial deal will be made and we will create a contract for both teams to acknowledge and sign. From there the deal may change dependent on what you need, how the timeline or necessary assets may change over time, and so forth. The contract may only be edited if both parties agree on the new terms.

Essentially, our job is to make everything aside from the task of developing the game disappear. That is the high end of what we can offer (not accounting for funding/advance(s)). That covers PR, marketing, Steam Greenlight (or bypassing that system), managing the Steam storefront, managing your build repo, managing your payments, creating a press kit, performing a press release, organizing your Steam sale schedule, contacting different companies to arrange potential bundle options, etc.

Steam Early Access

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about what Steam’s Early Access is and isn’t. For those of you who don’t know, Steam Early Access allows developers to sell their projects before they are complete. Customers can then interact with the developer via the Steam forums and potentially get involved with the development process and influence the final product. This obviously allows for some cool things, as well as for some shady business strategies. The latter is why I am mentioning it here.

Steam Early Access is NOT an excuse to not release a finished product. Steam Early Access is NOT a tool for corner-cutting when you fail to stick to your project timeline or underestimate your development budget. Often, when we are discussing the release window or the amount of funding that a team may need, the developer may suggest Early Access (EA) as an alternative. If your game does not fit into our lineup or we cannot afford to fund your game at the current point in your development cycle do NOT shoehorn your project into EA. EA should be for extremely large projects that can be community-driven, or games with extremely modular content that were built with EA in mind (Nuclear Throne is a good example of this).

EA is also fairly bad for your sales numbers (according to research, friends, and fellow developers). People have grown weary of the system and often don’t trust developers to ever deliver the final product. What is the incentive to finish if money keeps flowing in throughout development? Don’t abuse EA and ruin it for developers that would like to use it correctly (both mechanically and morally).


We are excited about Spaceboy Partners and have put hours into market research, development experience of our own, etc. We know how well INK did. We have tools like Steam Spy to approximate how our friends did. We have lots of feedback and advice from friends who have done this many times, as well. We have friends from within other publishing companies. All of that being said, do NOT trust a publisher who tries to promise you ‘x’ number of sales or ‘y’ dollars (or whatever currency applies) worth of revenue. It is impossible to make guarantees. All we can do is learn from the past and give you educated estimates. I promise you that we will work hard and that we will do our best to give you honest advice and honest numbers. Our goal, unlike most publishers, is to inform you. We don’t want you to have to come to us again (unless you just enjoy the hands-off approach). We want to teach you how to do what we do so that you can continue to excel in this industry alongside us.

Thank you, and feel free to email me if you have further inquiries,

Publisher Relations Primer

Spaceboy Games is now a Publisher for Devs, by Devs

Hello everyone!

Here at Spaceboy Games we are constantly playing with new approaches to our job as an independent studio. We have ideas regarding a plethora of topics including pc/console gaming , monetization strategies, conference talks/prep, and most recently, a way to give back and share our experience with other developers. Along with my fellow team members, we are happy to announce that Spaceboy Games will now be publishing games, as well as developing them in-house.

Below, I will detail what that means for us and what that means for YOU, our potential partner(s). First, we would like to show you the first game to be published under the Spaceboy Games umbrella. Take a look at High Noon Revolver, by Mike Studios!

The Beginning of a New Chapter


Continue reading “Spaceboy Games is now a Publisher for Devs, by Devs”

Spaceboy Games is now a Publisher for Devs, by Devs

Spaceboy Diary #6

Hello, everyone!

As a lot of you probably know, I’ve been having a pretty busy summer. I thought that I’d write a quickie update for all of you before I head to the gym (it’s 2:00AM and leg day *womp womp*). Anyway, status report:


Ok, so HackyZack was a small project that we decided to take on over the summer for several reasons that I stated here. It’s going well and for the most part, as planned. As usual, things got…slightly larger than originally anticipated, but we’re on schedule. We added some extra playable characters and a break-the-targets mode that will extend the amount of content by quite a bit. Continue reading “Spaceboy Diary #6”

Spaceboy Diary #6

#Gamedev: Efficiency and Morale

Hello everyone!

This isn’t going to be my typical blog post, in fact, it will likely be one-of-a-kind, as far as my blog goes. I am constantly asked about how I iterate on code and designs so quickly, how I stay motivated, where my inspiration comes from, and things of that nature. I’d like to take this time to touch on those topics. I may rant a bit, and I may swear a few times. If that is something that bothers you severely, please tell me. I will post a clean and strictly informative version, because I think that this is important. Continue reading “#Gamedev: Efficiency and Morale”

#Gamedev: Efficiency and Morale