Level Up KL: Surviving failure and trying again

  • Developing games is a tough business and independent studios need to be prepared to fail
  • Learn from mistakes and improve upon them on your next attempt


Level Up KL: Surviving failure and trying again


THE sad truth is that, the majority of independent game studios do not survive past their first game according to Rami Ismail (pic), co-founder of Dutch independent game studio Vlambeer during his hard-hitting address aptly titled You Don’t Stand a Chance.

It was a hard dose of reality in the early morning that got the audience’s attention on the second day of the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) organised Level Up KL.

“Understand that (the game) industry is a tough place and your chances are slim,” warned the veteran developer of six years. “You need to come to terms with the fact that things are likely not going to work out for you.”

A lot of developers hope to make it big one day but the majority of them haven’t considered how to make enough money to support themselves and their studio said Rami.

It is funny that all people focus on are the success stories but what about the stories of developers who failed?

Rami firmly believes that this survivorship bias, which is the error of concentrating on studios that “survived” and overlooking those that did not due to lack of visibility or publicity, creates a false assumption that the videogame industry is highly successful.

“We have all made mistakes before. The problem is not failing but picking yourself up and continuing after you have failed,” he said.

Rami advised independent game studios to aim for success but be prepared for failure so that if things go wrong, they will be ready.

Speaking from experience Rami spoke of the time Vlambeer’s game Ridiculous Fishing was cloned before they could release it.

It was a painful lesson for him and co-founder Jan Willem Nijman and it almost caused their business to fold.

But the entire experience taught him to persevere and take better care of himself.

“I used to be proud of working long hours, not taking holidays and not sleeping. Now when I don’t feel good, I will take some time off and do something different like take a walk in the park,” he said.

Regardless of whether a game is successful or not, Rami says that studios should build communities of fans be it on Twitter or Steam forums. These little pockets of players are a great resource for honest feedback and they are also a good source to reach out to when a studio next makes a game.

“Take small steps because in the end it is not just about what went wrong. Make your game, learn as much as you can. Survive the crash of the game so that you can try again with the knowledge you gain and be better than before,” he advised.


Related stories:

More to gamification than just games

Level Up KL 2016: A showcase of Malaysian gaming talent

36 hours non-stop gaming war @ SEA Game Jam 2016


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