Starting a software company is one thing, but starting a software company with the funds required to launch a game is something entirely different. This is the uphill battle currently being faced by Austin, TX based Big Men Games.
Big Men Games is a small game development group founded by friends Chris Haga and Steve turner. Chris Haga, a Blizzard veteran of eight years who worked largely on Diablo III, joined forces with Steve Turner with hopes of creating a game company and pursuing their passions to build the types of games they would want to play themselves.
Along with musician and sound designer Michael Wachell, the company is set to begin primary development on its first major project, GUTS.
What is GUTS?
GUTS is more than just an interesting name. It’s a casual-looking game that combines turn-based strategy with problem solving on a 2D game-board style plane. Your job: to get through zones filled with skeletons, rats, bats, and at least twenty other creepy creatures standing in your way.
A spell system is being built in to allow the user to customize their character. Like Diablo III, the entire game is built to be played with little more than the left mouse button.
Building a multi-platform game for release on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android isn’t cheap. You have to consider the vast amount of hours that goes into building the various zones, placing and testing a variety of in-game items, and making sure that every platform receives the same experience takes a lot of time. That time costs money, so Big Men Games has turned to Kickstarter for help.
Kickstarter and the Playable Alpha
I decided to ask Chris Haga, one of the founders of Big Men Games, a little about the company and what goes into the development of a game like GUTS.
“We don’t really have an established reputation, so getting the word out is definitely a huge challenge.” He continued, “Theoretically, as long as we keep making the game better, people will be interested in what we’re doing.”
With a $60,000 goal placed on the Kickstarter project, audience interest levels are absolutely key. In order to help get the word out about the game, GUTS has been made available in a playable Alpha (Unity Player is required) which can be accessed through a browser.
While the alpha itself is just a rough draft of what the game’s developers have in mind for the final product, it shows a great deal of promise. It’s fun to play, and casual enough to appeal to a large demographic of non-hardcore gamers. I could just as easily see my wife playing it as I could my nephew. There really isn’t anything fantastically new being brought to the table, though it’s that familiarity which makes it so easy to pick up from the instant it loads.
What Makes Big Men Games Different?
When asked what sets Big Men Games apart from the competition, Haga replied: “Our development philosophy is quite different from many game studios. We’re heavily inspired by companies like IDEO, and creative visionaries like Jim Henson. Nassim Taleb would call it ‘Stochastic Tinkering’. Basically we try squillions of ideas in an attempt to find something great, periodically checking in with potential customers for feedback.”
Indeed, Big Men Games brings to mind much of the fun, adventurous feeling that the video gaming world was founded upon. It’s a company founded by two guys that are passionate about creating interesting video games.
GUTS may not have all the gloss and shine of a million-dollar production, but it does deliver on a promise that many small business owners would relate to. It’s a humble beginning to what Big Men Games’ founders hope will be a much larger long-term business.
You can try the alpha version of GUTS out for yourself here.