As a small, independent game company, it can be hard to decide which ideas to pursue when making your next game. Without big venture capital funding your projects, missteps can be costly, making it very important to choose wisely. It can be tempting to play it safe and just recycle ideas within a genre, improving on an existing game type or capitalizing on the success of an already popular mechanic. Tactics like these might generate revenue in the short term, but most developers didn’t get into the industry to slap new coats of paint on old ideas. They want to make games that entertain, innovate, and excite. And to do that you need to break away from the pack and come up with something truly original. That’s what we try to do. I’d like to tell you about our creative process and how we used it to produce our most inspired game to date, Jellyflop!.
We founded Concrete Software in 2003 because we wanted to make mobile apps. Since then we’ve navigated our way through 10 years of device and platform evolution to find ourselves still making mobile apps, but now we’re concentrating 100% on games. Over the years we’ve grown to a staff of 20, all working out of our office in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where we do all of our development and publishing in-house. We work with some established brands, like the Professional Bowlers Association for PBA Bowling Challenge, but most of our titles are original.
When launching new projects, it can be easy to slip into a top-down approach, deciding on a game type as an executive decision and proceeding to assign resources and a timeline. But since our team is small, we have the opportunity to be a little more creative and involve the whole company in our process. Different companies call their rapid prototyping sessions by different names (Game Jam, Codefest, Hackathon) but we call our version the Appathon. More than just a marathon session of app development, the Appathon has become a chance for us explore new ideas without the pressure and cost of a full production cycle.
We start the process with a company-wide meeting where everyone tosses out suggestions on anything from game mechanics and themes to new technology uses and monetization strategies. Once we have some solid ideas, we give all seven of our developers 24 hours to take those ideas in any direction they want. They gather at an offsite location where we provided food, drinks, console games, and other distractions to create a fun and casual environment that’s conducive to frenzied creativity. We try to make it a party, but most everything except the work ends up getting ignored once the developers dig into their concepts and are swept along by them.