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  • Shadowhand Postmortem: Our Top 10 Takeaways

    [07.26.18]
    - Helen Carmichael
  • We recently did a detailed postmortem of our RPG card game, Shadowhand. Going over every aspect of the project honestly and in depth generated 23 pages of notes about what we got right, and, importantly, what we got wrong and how we could improve next time.

    We have distilled our findings into a checklist of ten points, which we can use for future projects. We are sharing it so that you can avoid making the same mistakes with your indie game project (or, hopefully, reassure yourself that you are on track.)

    1 Pitching
    Pitch your project to more than one publisher and/or funding body.

    Listen to their feedback and think about it carefully. You are entering a long-term business relationship with them. As well as securing funding, your pitch and design document (yes we had one!) are part of the process of clarifying to yourself what you are offering and why players should care.

    2 Budget
    Pay yourselves and your contractors properly.

    Ensure that you genuinely have a big enough budget to do this for the duration of the project. When it comes to contractors, you get what you pay for. But conversely, don't be tempted to pay more than you need to, or can afford, for assets or services. Be realistic about the scale of your project, and how likely the extra spend is to make a difference to sales in the long run because you could just be wasting money (and time) on unneeded content.

    3 Schedule
    Make a realistic schedule and try to stick to it.

    In our case our schedule was unrealistic and with hindsight, revealed that our project really needed an art director (or a different scope, see below).

    We should have built in a lot more contingency time for predicable things, such as attending shows and conferences; and for random curveballs and disasters, such as a runaway moth infestation and a very sick child.

    4 Scope
    Have you got the scope right?

    How long do players expect your game to be for the price? How much content does it really need? Does your team have the skills and capacity to deliver this or do you need to pay contractors who can help? How big is the market for your game?

    Speaking as a tiny team who delivered an incredibly rich and complex game that we are extremely proud of, but which is probably twice as long as it needed to be, we suggest you think very carefully about this. Your reasons for making a game, financial and emotional resources, and potential market will vary.

    5 Publisher
    Find the right publisher for your project.

    Try to find a publisher who gives you a fair deal in terms of advance and recoup, and is great at marketing support. It is also worth considering the other products in their portfolio. Are they a good match for your game and therefore likely to drive their existing customers to you?

    It also goes without saying that you need a solid contract that covers all eventualities.

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