4 Months For A Game: How To Self-Publish Quickly As A Small Studio?

Me when we started Darewise. I looked so young!

The Story So Far

When I heard Benjamin Charbit, CEO of Darewise and my partner in crime, saying we were going to launch our Massively Multiplayer Online game (or MMO for short, like World of Warcraft among many others) prototype in four months, I didn’t think it was possible. As CTO, I couldn’t help but think: “we don’t have enough time, or resources, to build a game in such a short amount of time!”. Needless to say we were astonished by our own results!

Life Beyond Key Art

Why Self-Publish?

Let’s roll back to the early stages of our project: Benjamin and I had decided to make a high-quality PC video-game, while staying in control of its development all the way up to its launch, and improving it thanks to close contact with future players. We just needed a publisher to back up our project… except it didn’t follow their expectations. It was simply too risky for them: not only did it not fit within their game portfolios, but they likely wouldn’t allow us to give access to our game while in development, to validate our ideas continuously with player feedback. Usually, Publishers want to be in control of all the messaging, and only allow final quality things to be shared publicly. So for Benjamin and I, things were crystal-clear: we weren’t going to waste five years of our lives toiling on a game, only to realize after its launch that it didn’t work or that no one wanted it! If we were going to make this game, it was going to be on our own terms.

How Did We Self-Publish?

Going back to our game, after setting our objectives and finding our business model, we had to go into the nuts and bolts of how we could get our game off the ground. Firstly, we needed to create our MVP: since our team at Darewise was entirely composed of game developers, they were very efficient in developing new features. But we didn’t have the resources necessary to build our own game engine, or to create our game’s backend services (everything around the game that make it work, such as authentication, payment, or choosing how and where the game servers are hosted). So, I set out to evaluate all available services and technologies on the market, and selected the best solution providers. Over the game’s production, they became our close partners, and I know for a fact that we couldn’t have achieved this challenge without their support.

Our map creation in editor
Courtesy of SpatialOS
Playfab dashboard
Our website in Xsolla’s Site Builder
Our backend architecture

Our results (and new uses):

After four months of hard work, our “game-as-an-MVP” approach started to pay off: we started to test out our prototype with a few players at first, which quickly got the ball rolling. Now our game is getting more and more attention… and yet that’s not the only positive outcome of the choice we made with Benjamin. It wasn’t simply a new strategy, but a new way to work, to interact with our community and to develop future projects. Much like start-ups, we got our prototype ready for a small launch, and followed our KPIs to prove the appeal of our upcoming game. This process made it possible for us to take bigger risks, backed by constant validation from the audience.

Our player onboarding process

Conclusion

Within four months, we at Darewise achieved more than we could ever hope: with only our vision, a small team and little to no resources, we set out to self-publish a game prototype for our genre-redefining MMO… and we did it! Using an MVP approach, and relying on developer-friendly partners for high-quality game engines, backend products and more, we could take calculated risks and give free rein to our creativity to achieve our vision.

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Darewise

Darewise

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We are developing Life Beyond, an interactive and socially-connected experience that goes beyond entertainment.