I spoke with Thomas about his process of working on his game during college and marriage, then working with a publisher to help market, promote and distribute his game whilst he kept aiming to finish his Kickstarter game for Steam. Thomas is a great example of what a solo developer can accomplish if they are truly passionate about their project.
Who Are You?
It’s just me, Thomas Brush. I’ve been making games for almost ten years.
What’s your Game?
Pinstripe is a game about an ex-minister’s adventure through a frozen afterlife in search of his daughter Bo.
How did you come up with the idea/concept for this game?
So many things inspired me to make Pinstripe, but I think the primary inspiration was my fascination with the afterlife. I also love the work of film-makers like Tim Burton and M. Night Shyamalan, so I certainly took some direction from their work.
How long did it take to build? What was that process like?
It took me five years to complete and launch on Steam. It was a super difficult process, and I’ll likely do it very differently for the next project. Most of the project was created while I was in-between classes at college or in my apartment. After I got married and started working a full-time job, I would wake up early in the morning and work on the project, work through lunch, and late in the evening. I was always working, but I certainly knew what my end goal was, so that’s what kept me going.
Have you released a game previously? If so, how did it go?
Yes, I’ve released two Flash games, Coma and Skinny. Coma was straight from the heart, so it kind of seamlessly communicated with the players. It went viral on Newgrounds and other Flash websites, whereas my next game Skinny was made very quickly and without much emotion. I think it was a failed sophomore release.
Is this your full time job?
Yep 🙂 So grateful to Kickstarter for that.
Have you used an external publisher before?
What did the publisher do for your game? Was it worth it?
Armor Games. Absolutely. A publisher handles all the nitty gritty details of marketing and distribution that you likely don’t want to handle. Plus, if they are a good publisher, they are an excellent shoulder to lean on. Sometimes it’s hard to find someone who understand the challenges of making indie games, so having a publisher is priceless in this regard.
Did you have a marketing budget? If so, what was worth it? What was a waste?
Yes. I’m not sure yet. Maybe a year later I can have a better idea of how things ended up. Steam sales is all about the long run, so I can’t judge how valuable the marketing budget was.
Do you rely solely on game purchases for profit?
Yes, if you consider Kickstarter game purchases.
What was/is your marketing plan/strategy?
With the help of a PR agency, the plan was to reach out to large and small press outlets, get reviews and coverage, while also hoping YouTubers played the game. Fortunately, JackSepticEye played Pinstripe which certainly helped spread the word.
What advice did you take 5 years ago? Is it still true today?
I received a lot of advice that I didn’t take. I can’t tell you specifically what it was, but I’ll say this: advice that works in a normal, steady career path doesn’t really work in game development.
What advice would you pass on to developers who are looking to launch their game?
Only build it if you love it. If you don’t love it, you will become bored with it, and your players will too.
Do you have a dev log?
Where can people follow you?
What’s your favourite element of the game that everyone should know about?
The music! https://atmosgames.bandcamp.com/releases
Why should I play it?
That’s a good question. It’s a really interesting experience, likely something you’ve never felt before. It’s also a project completely from one person!
Where do you get inspiration to build games or come up with an idea?
I really love nature. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s cliche. I really do. I’ll go lay in the grass and come up with ideas. I also love more traditional-type adventure stories, like Star Wars, LOTR, and Harry Potter. These are certainly stories that inspire me to keep going.
For aspiring gamers reading this who want to work in the games industry/make games, what advice can you give them?
Prepare for hard-work. It’s a very difficult industry, and things are always changing. If you like a steady job that doesn’t freak you out and take you out of your comfort zone, this might not be for you.
What marketing information did you wish you knew before launching your game?
Even now, I wish I knew what to expect regarding a typically indie game’s sales numbers. All the data available on websites like Gamasutra is from a couple years ago, before Steam was crowded with indie games. Currently, I just don’t know whether my sales numbers are healthy.