Jace HallcloseAuthor: Jace Hall
Name: Jace Hall
About: Aside from being the Executive Producer and star of The Jace Hall show, Jace Hall is involved in many other productions and has numerous creative titles under his belt across multiple entertainment mediums. Click here to view Jace’s music videos, including his most recent Mortal Kombat video. Jace’s daily job is to actively creates new film ideas, television shows, video games and internet content of behalf of his company HDFILMS INC. Jace has created and produced numerous commercially successful video games and franchises, television shows (he is the Executive Producer of the hit ABC television series “V” for instance), critically acclaimed feature films (such as PVC-1 ) as well as fresh new internet series innovations like The Jace Hall Show, Creepshow:RAW and CHADAM.See Authors Posts (43)
I often get asked how one should go about getting a video game idea they have made, or how to get a start in the game industry. I thought I should just try to answer the below e-mail I received the other day on my blog so that anyone who was interested in asking me this could hear what I have to say on the subject:
Breaking into the Industry Message
First, I would like to start off by saying “Thank You” for the Jace Hall Show. For awhile my only means of video game news/entertainment was the G4 network, which is good for what it is, but the majority of the hosts are not gamers and have not worked in the video game industry, so I feel somewhat disconnected from them on that aspect (But I’ll be damned if some of them aren’t hot!!).
I’ve been a gamer since my first nintendo in 1986, and I’ve played so many games over my lifetime I’ve begun in the past 15 years or so to heavily critique games in the genres I love, mainly RPG and Turn Based Strategy games. So much so that in the past few years I’ve been working on what I would call a “Video Game Screenplay”. Basically I have written down everything I want in a game, and how I would like to have it made. I know it sounds childish to some point since I’m going on 28, but it’s a hobby to me, and one that I enjoy immensely. Which brings me to why I’m writing you. I have basically written an entire video game (story, battle engine, character devlopment, etc.), and I’m wondering how to go about possibly presenting this idea to a perspective company for production. Think along the lines of Final Fantasy Tactics (in my opinion the greatest turn based strategy game ever). I think that many of the greatest games ever will go uncreated simply because most people with the ideas (gamers like myself) don’t know what channels to funnel their ideas through. I understand that companies hire programmers, artists and writers, but how do you produce credentials and a video game creator, the person that decides “THIS” is the game we are going to create. The field has just become so lucrative and expansive, unlike 25 years ago when a person with a good idea could get a game made with minimal prodcution expense compared to today. Will companies take a chance on an idea from an outside source, or is the little guy with big ideas forced to create facebook and flash games?
Any insight that you could provide on this matter would be appreciated greatly (I need something to do with the 100 page binder I’ve amassed over the years).
While I can imagine that a tremendous amount of thought and work has gone into your game design idea, the short answer is that, generally speaking, the video game industry is not set up to easily digest and process “outside pitches” that come from individuals with little to no proven game design/creation experience.
There are many reasons for this but here are just a couple of easy-to-describe reasons:
1.) The video game industry is not short on ideas. Go to ANY game company and within its walls you will find individual employees with numerous concepts, ideas, stories, even functional prototypes / proof of concepts that they have built themselves. Ideas are plentiful and a lot of them are great. YET, they do not get made. This is because while the ideas are many, the number of people available on Earth who can actually MAKE THE GAME is incredibly limited.
This is not even a question of money, of which there is plenty of. It is an actual physical limitation of having access to human beings that know how to take an idea and forge it into reality on a Playstation 3 or XBOX 360 (or whatever.) Currently, the demand far exceeds the supply.
One of the toughest challenges that any sizeable video game publisher has to face is how to fulfill and execute on all the ideas they already have. Video games can take years to build, so any decision is not only a big economic one but also one that ties up valuable human resources for extended periods of time. The video game industry is constantly facing an issue that is referred to as “opportunity cost.” If they make this game today, they can’t make that other one tomorrow – they just wont have the capacity. Publishers have a finite number of game development teams.
This is a key differential from Hollywood. In Hollywood, although the production investments can be enormous, generally the physical supply of talent to create film and television programing exceeds the demand of the number of available productions (one of the huge advantages of having a fixed final delivery platform of ”film”, instead of having to literally re-invent everything every 5-7 years when the consoles “upgrade” – but more on that in a different article!) On top of this, the bulk of most film’s heavy spending and en masse team work is measured in months, not years. So key talent can get in and out of a production and be available to work on something else. This creates the opportunity of more and more productions of varying sizes and types and eventually over 80+ years time the need for new ideas wherever they might come from since they have used up every internal idea imaginable and still have capacity.
The video game industry is not there yet. Instead, imagine if Will Smith signed on to a movie and simply could not work on anything else for over 3 years. Key, bankable actors being tied up for 3 years at a time would have a profound impact on the film industry. Some things would be quite limited and different. Welcome to the video game industry!
2.) Given the above points (and many others I don’t have time to articulate) it just does not make a lot of sense for publishers to open the front doors and let inexperienced people come in and pitch game ideas. On top of that there are numerous considerations that must go into a game design that relates to the actual limitations of not only the current hardware technology, but also the particular software technology that an individual publisher uses or has developed and it is very unlikely that an inexperienced designer would know to design with those considerations in mind.
Due to all this, the current business model really doesn’t support the notion of buying random external “game designs” and then doing all the heavy lifting to make the idea into a product.
There are many other factors that I could go into, and I’m sure there will always be some exception to the rule, but I’m going to stop describing the obstacles and now I am going to tell you what you CAN do to possibly make some headway with your efforts.
2 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN TRY:
Option 1.) One of the points that I made above is the scarcity of competent development resources in the video game industry. Publishers look left and right to find independent developers that demonstrate capacity and promise and they quickly engage them with projects and determine if a longer term relationship might make sense (i.e. BUYING THE DEVELOPER.)
Given this publisher need, you can use it to your advantage – your challenge is to approach DEVELOPERS with your idea/design instead of PUBLISHERS and convince them that you have something amazing. Among many things (like budgeting) a developer will be able to examine your design and if there are technical problems with it (unfeasibility, etc.) they will know what can be done (or not done about it.)
IF you can get a developer to get excited about your design, it will be UP TO THEM to take it to publishers and engage them.
A competent developer with a track record, and an idea they are passionate about will get the attention of a publisher, I assure you. At that point, you will be in the game and have a chance.
Now, I am not sure of the size and scope of your game design, but if you are targeting premium AAA game production as your end result (like GEARS OF WAR), to be honest, most competent developers with worthwhile track records that could do that job, will likely not be interested in speaking with you. They are busy. Forever. Seriously.
So, if you are going to take this direction, aim high, but set your expectations more toward finding a smaller, perhaps somewhat unproven independent developer that is looking to make it big. It is possible that they have been so busy doing grunt-work just to survive as a business that they may not ever have had time to develop a full-super-big game development idea and document. It is possible that you might just walk in and provide the missing piece they’ve been looking for!
Option 2.) Build your own game team and make the game yourself. I’m not going to go into the detail of how to completely do this (I’ll save it for my book!) – but basically you need to find other people with the necessary complimentary talents who are as hungry as you are and work together toward the common goal of creating the game. Everyone will need to contribute, everyone will need to sacrifice, and everyone will need to cooperate. They may be inexperienced, or poor communicators, or whatever, but as long as they share your passion to see it through, you will all be successful. I promise. I know this because this is the route I took to enter the game industry. I founded MONOLITH PRODUCTIONS INC. with 4 of my friends when I was 23 years old. The rest is history!
I know this is not an all encompassing answer to your questions – but I hope it helped a little. In the end, I can tell you that there is no single way to break into the games business, but it all starts just by making the attempt – which you have done by sitting down and writing your game design document – KEEP GOING – try anything – define yourself by what you CAN do and not by what you CAN’T.