They say time flies when you're having fun, well I can tell you it also flies when 3 of you are crammed in a tiny room trying to work out things like why your submarine is passing straight through the bloody mesh colliders or why the hell a model that was behaving perfectly well in Blender decide to turn itself inside out when you imported it to Unity.
Anyway suffice to say we were a little surprised when we got the email telling us that our website's domain name was due for its annual renewal. We had always intended on keeping a regular development blog and we certainly have a fair few posts in the blog on the website but to be completely honest that’s just a series of images with a few one line descriptions, so we've decided it is high time we tried to rectify that and we're going to start off by filling you in on what’s gone on, answering some questions that people have asked us and what lessons we have learned in our first year in development.
Where did the name Howling Hamster come from?
We spent 3 days wandering the coffee shops of Galway developing a good strong caffeine addiction and leeching of their free wifi, this was in the days before we found the Hamster’s lair, trying to come up with a name for our game dev enterprise. First we each drew up a list of all the cool names we could think of, checked if the domain names were available, they weren't, and then dumped them. Then there was the list of funny, weird, gothic, Irish and even misspelled names, gone. It was half way through day 3 that the name Howling Hamster popped up, to be honest it wasn't meant to be a serious suggestion , if I recall correctly it came along with the line, “I know it's ridiculous but I bet the domain isn't taken”. A quick domain search, a declaration from the art department that the logo draws itself and Howling Hamster Games was born.
The Development begins.
More days, more coffee shops and of course McSwiggan’s pub, which was fast being our main base for creative development, and we eventually had a working concept for Trench. The previous project we had worked on had been an app game so it seemed natural to us to develop this game as an app. While each of us worked from home on the new app we were also doing as much research as possible on marketing, which we still seem to know nothing about. So after 3 months work we came up with the conclusion that a small dev team like us, working on a zero budget, had little to no chance of successfully marketing an app game. So we decided to bin the 3 months work, start on a PC version and aim for Greenlight on Steam. Sweet God I can't tell you how much that hurt, but just like that development began again.
Here are a few screenshots from the scrapped app.
Ya got to have a plan. Ours was to make a polished single level alpha demo as quickly as possible, submit for greenlight, if it get a favourable response we continue development, if not we all get job application forms from the local supermarket. At this point we had found the Hamster’s Lair, otherwise known as my nephew’s dining room and were all working together 8 hours a day, how long could it possibly take to knock out a single simple concept level. As long as we stuck to the deadlines we set we would find out if we had a viable without investing too much time in something that we might have to scrap.
Deadlines are vital in the development process, it is the only way to insure that a project doesn't meander on and on forever. I feel it only fair to point out that we never came within a donkey’s roar of actually hitting a deadline but it was still useful to have something to work towards.
The Game Announcement
As quick as possible turned out to be 6 months and at this point only a group of heavily armed men have a chance at convincing us to drop this project, so we held our breath and submit the game to Greenlight and put the demo online for download everywhere we could. The first few days were great, we got were getting a great yes percentage on Steam, good viewing and download numbers for the demo on GameJolt and lots of positive comments on both sites.
We had put together a list of over 300 Youtubers and press sites and we got down to the joyous task of emailing them all and asking them to take a look at the demo. The response was something I was genuinely not prepared for, the silence was deafening. It really does make you feel a little sick deep down in the pit of your stomach. It took nearly a week and then some articles and let’s play videos started to appear. It’s such an incredible feeling to read a really positive review of your work, it really makes all the work you put in feel like it was worth it. It’s not quite as strong as the murderous rage you feell at the first negative comment you get but it’s best on to dwell on them
Then after 3 days we went to page 2 of the recently added Greenlight games, which as far as Steam Greenlight goes is the same as strapping your game to a rocket and firing it into a black hole. We stopped holding our breath and got back to work. On the upside the views and download continued at a good rate on Gamejolt.
The exact criteria for getting through Steam Greenlight are pretty much like the 3rd secret of Fatima, but what every they are we meet them and after 57 days on Steam we have been Greenlite. YeeHaw.
So that pretty much brings us up to date with where we are and I promise that we won’t wait another year before updating the blog.