It’s July 2018, the fans were promised (with a huge countdown clock on our website) the very first story driven demo for the game… and it’s not here yet!
What happened to this project and is there still a future for TinyWars? Hopefully those questions will be answered in this post.
This Project is My Baby
First off, I just want to say that I absolutely love this project! I haven’t lost my passion or interest in it, nor do I believe in abandoning it. I think the TinyWars story deserves to be told.
Besides being a game, TinyWars is, first and foremost, a story about the tiny people living in a tiny, insignificant kingdom trying to come to terms with their reality and creating a purpose for their lives.
The story has a lot of twists and turns and hopefully makes your skin crawl. I’ve been developing the story since I was in my college days, dreaming during class and jotting down notes in my notebooks.
There is nothing I would want more than to commit my time fully to this project and continue to tell this story, whether in the form of a video game or just written down in a book.
What Happened to the Story Demo? Business, Funding, and Development.
The project was left off with:
- a kick ass menu system
- item collecting mechanics
- major graphical updates and glitch fixes
- a fancy new notification system
- mobile and PC control integration
- tower building and possibility for customization
- save / load wave continue system
- Massive Overworld Map
The estimate that the story demo was going to be completed by December of 2017 was unrealistic and as the month approached, we quickly realized it wouldn’t happen.
To make matters worse, TinyWars is a one man development team (me), and when I was busy, the game only continued to collect dust.
Understanding Bizurk Software
In order to see the bigger picture of what went wrong here, you have to understand the conditions in which the game was being developed.
TinyWars main source of funding comes from Bizurk Software. Bizurk software primarily develops software for OTHER companies. We offer marketing and development services to our clients.
TinyWars would have been the first in-house software project developed for our own profit.
However, because our main source of income is derived from working on OTHER COMPANY’S projects, in 2017 / 2018, Bizurk had its biggest client dealings and development projects ever! We hired on many new employees and upgraded our offices, and to be honest, we were just killing it in aspects unrelated to game development.
Back to game related progress, as the game’s code became more and more refined, it became less a matter of adding code and more a problem of adding new unique digital assets, animations, and art… all of which cost money (because I don’t have the ability to do those things myself).
The Plug on Bizurk’s Funding was Eventually Pulled
Not only was the game starting to become more and more cost intensive, but it also took a tremendous amount of time and coordination to get the digital assets and art designed right. If there was miscommunication or delay in the delivery of assets, the production became slow and took too much of my time away from Bizurk’s client projects.
It became increasingly difficult for me to justify spending time on the game (which was not currently creating any revenue for the company) and spending the company’s money on assets for the game (which again, was NOT doing the company any favors).
So in the end, it was a decision of not only myself, but of the advisers to Bizurk and company, to pull the plug on all further funding and investment towards the TinyWars project.
We Actually Were Offered Outside Funding and Investment
I can’t name the groups or companies who approached us, but we were offered investments from several interested parties.
Keep in mind, TinyWars was still very early stage at this time with nothing more to show off than the Beta Demo released on the GooglePlay store. So when we were in discussions with these companies, the amount of funding offered was relatively low (it wouldn’t deliver the finished game without a crowdfunding or some additional help) and there were, of course, some strings attached to that money which I just couldn’t come to terms with.
Obviously the nature of these discussions were private matters and I can’t discuss them in great depth, but while we were approached and offered investment from several groups, I couldn’t accept a penny until at least the Story Demo was completed!
This was a reasoning I had believed would have benefitted TinyWars in these ways:
- If we were receiving offers this early, surely we might receive more after the Story Demo was released
- Perhaps we might get in contact with a developer that more closely matched out niche or genre
- Perhaps the value of the game could be better projected after the Story Demo was released and more realistic offers might be received
This, along with some heavy strings (more like ropes) attached to the offers were among the many reasons I did not go through with any offers for investment.
Would the Story Demo exist had we accepted those offers? I am not sure, because money aside, me and the artists and everyone currently involved would still need to spend a lot of time to develop the necessary assets, and some of these offers were coming in November / December of 2017, already too late!
AnimeWorld Became a Thing
As some of you might know, long before the Story Demo projections were made, I started a little side project called AnimeWorld (AnimeWorld.io originally UltraMunch.com), which was nothing more than a little blog for me to write anime reviews and post memes on Facebook.
Can you predict what happened?
In the first month of starting the Facebook page we hit 1,000 Fans, then in about 6 months it turned into 30,000 and in about 12 months from the day I started AnimeWorld, it was a whopping total of 100,000 fans. Right now, it’s been about 18 months since I started the page, it’s currently at 300,000 fans, I have a dedicated team working on it and our website is getting a lot of traffic.
Had I struck gold or just gotten lucky? I applied all my best marketing practices and skills (some of which I learned from posting about TinyWars to the anime community) and was able to successfully grow an anime brand. Of course, it’s much easier to make popular memes about Naruto or the most popular anime than it is to post about your original game idea and expect people to pay attention to it or even care.
AnimeWorld is an important project to me now, and it has taken up a lot of my time. But I will tell you, I have met so many companies, gained the respect of popular anime influencers, and built so many incredible connections as a result of starting AnimeWorld. I know it will come in handy when I need to promote my game.
I know this because many game developers and companies have been reaching out to AnimeWorld so we can promote their games and projects.
Our Facebook performance is virtually unmatched, we were reaching millions of people per day and it was awesome!
Unlike TinyWars, I was able to justify putting funds into AnimeWorld because AnimeWorld was generating a return on our investment immediately with Ads, Sponsors, and even some affiliate product sales.
Currently, AnimeWorld has come to a point where I can trust my incredible team to handle it for us, and so I have had some free time to think about further game development and write this blog update! Also, since there was a massive crash in the crypto market and some of our clients have had some troubles, I have found myself with more free time on my hands as well; I am thinking more and more about game development again.
Alternative Sources of Funding for TinyWars
We tried in the past to sell some TinyWars keychains and wallscrolls to help fund the project, but the small amount of sales we received on those, even after being featured at popular artists’s booths at AnimeExpo, wouldn’t even have covered the cost of a single piece of art.
Some have asked me why we didn’t open a Patreon? To be quite honest, I didn’t want to open a Patreon until we had something more substantial to show off to the fans. We had nothing at the moment besides the Beta Demo which really isn’t much to brag about.
Just like with the investors, I didn’t feel comfortable asking for money from the fans when we hadn’t “proven” ourselves worthy of it.
If we were able to raise significant funding on Patreon, say $2,500 – $3,500 / month minimum, I would be able to let go of some projects and focus a lot of time exclusively to TinyWars. But based on the current fan base and level of interest in funding the project, I wasn’t sure if this would happen.
I would have felt awful if we were accepting a couple hundred bucks from a few big supporters and failed to deliver the demo! The risk is a lot higher with less funding and I would just feel terrible if we failed and probably want to give their money back! With a few thousand dollars of funding per month, at least I would have a proper and reliable budget to work with.
Again, since no Story Demo existed, a kickstarter or indiegogo campaign was out of the question.
Exactly How Much Was Invested in TinyWars Up To This Point?
You are probably wondering why I kept saying we invested “so much” into the project or why I think we have put a lot of value into the game.
And this is exactly the truth, we have invested a significant amount of our own money into the project, and that money DID NOT GO TO WASTE.
Above (sound cloud embed) is a live recorded orchestra piece which was supposed to be used as the game’s main theme song. This is such a beautiful piece composed by Edwin Toh. Really magnificent piece, and I think anyone would say that the quality and attention to detail that we put into this project was very high.
This was not your typical mobile tower defense game…
All of the money we invested in the project ended up manifesting itself as permanent digital properties and assets to the game, not “wasted” in a typical sense.
Most of the fans have not seen everything that we have, the music, the animations, the artwork that we have developed is just sitting on a hard drive not doing anything yes, but they are still fully part of the TinyWars package that would be included in the final game.
I literally just posted this on SoundCloud to show off one of the amazing songs you guys never got to see in the game yet…
So in a sense, if the game were ever to be sold or evaluated based on current existing digital assets and licenses, the value of the game would already have presented itself. It’s not one of those things where I could say “I coded this game for X years so there’s a lot of value” it is more of a financial thing where I can present a ledger and show exactly how much value the digital assets in the game already have.
In this sense, I am not surprised that we were approached for investment so “early” in the game’s development, as the assets, the art, the music, and the ambition I believe was very obvious.
Is it a Result of Poor Planning?
Not everyone agrees with me about my defense of the project’s valuation and assets. I am still ridiculed by some of my personal friends for investing so much money into the project only to come to this point where I still have nothing really to show other than some music, art, and ideas.
How exactly was TinyWars planned? What went wrong here???
Since I come from a web development background, the development was planned exactly as such. UI / UX mockups were developed in advanced. I literally have bundles of hand written papers with the game’s code and user flow on them. A lot of the game was developed first on paper before digital assets were commissioned. Approximate pricing and maximum spending budgets were laid out exactly, I was not to go over those budgets.
As far as money was concerned, I did not “over spend” on the game, because I was prepared to and planned to spend exactly as much as we did.
But there was one thing that I did not quantify or account for in my planning of the game’s development, and that was my time in relation to the growth and development of Bizurk Software. I admit that this oversight was a huge problem which lead to the eventual delay of the Story Demo.
At the time, I did not account for my time being sucked away from development because at that time when I was making my plans, I was able to reliably spend 3 – 5 hours every day working on the game. While everything from the art, UI / UX assets, and finances were planned out in advanced, my schedule was not, and was ever changing as new clients, employees, and offices came into the picture.
Again, this is another problem with being a one man team. No one is here to cover for me while I am away. And yes, while our artists are able to work without me, and most of the work is done without me needing to supervise, I was still the director for the game, it was my vision after all. If I was not there to give precise instruction and relay the information exactly then there is no progress to be made. It takes a long time to write detailed emails and instructions for the artists, but I assure you, every artists I have worked with loves my attention to detail and exact requests.
Without me at the helm of the project, nobody was around to make progress. When I wasn’t around, there was no progress and this was a problem.
The Game was Too Ambitious
I hate to admit it, but the vision we had for this project, the attention to detail… basically everything which made this project so great and special, also made this game nearly impossible to complete!
Most mobile games do NOT look like TinyWars. I am in no means hating on these games, I very much respect the success of popular mobile games, but if you think about most mobile games, they are usually turn based or collecting games, or have some very simple mechanics which can easily be templatized and replicated. (again, not hating on these simple mobile games, just making an observation.)
TinyWars is more the type of game you would see on a console or some AAA release, with a fully fleshed out story mode and we even had some ideas for online multiplayer. This is not a simple moble game that could be developed by a one man team and enjoyed by millions.
No, TinyWars is certainly no FlappyBird or CandyCrush. Not everyone likes Tower Defense games, and not everyone likes anime. The audience for TinyWars is already a little restricted, but beyond that, the entire project is just a massive mountain that a single developer like myself and a few artists could never create on our own (without a significant budget).
This isn’t some visual novel game or turn based strategy game, this was like a Tower Defense version of Breath of the Wild with an old school Mario style over world riddled with secret notes and story telling, combined with item collecting and tower customization.
And to be honest, looking at some of the most popular anime games out there, it’s not like it has to be some epic AAA title to become the most popular anime game out there. So it is a little discouraging to look at the current trends in the market and compare it to a project that I consider to close and dear to my heart.
Consider the fact that this was Bizurk’s first video game development project ever. I think every indie developer’s first game idea is overly ambitious. The seasoned experienced game developers (in the indie communities) have learned to develop simple and brilliant ideas that could be developed in 24 hours, as opposed to crazy games inspired by their favorite childhood memories.
These guys really know what they are doing and it is part of the reason mobile games can be so addicting, yet simple, and so plentiful.
Ironic that a game revolving around tiny things could be so massive?
We go from exploring the stump village to a candy filled sand castle, then we travel inside the giant’s house, explore the mines beneath the rock, and pop out at the kingdom beneath the mushroom with a bunch of optional side quests in between.
I have developed and revealed lovable characters than the fans wouldn’t have even met in the first levels of the Story Demo; we’ve gone pretty far!
Oh boy, the vision and planning that went into the total game, beyond what players would ever experience in the story demo, the entire story for the game was already written out!
Is the Game Going to be Abandoned?
Absolutely not! All the assets, properties, and music for the game are still the property of TinyWars, and if we abandoned the project fully then all of that certainly would be considered a waste!
However, it needs to be said that development for the game can NOT continue as it currently stands. We simply don’t have the funds to proceed with the enormous amount of digital art required to finish the game. I don’t have the money to work on this full time without focusing on other responsibilities or clients. (Oh if only I were a Bitcoin millionaire, I’d be able to work freely on this project with no worries in life!)
No, the game is not going to be abandoned, but we do need to delay any hope of the Story Demo coming out anytime soon, and we certainly can’t be making any more promises about release dates, funding, etc.
I will be more than happy to sit down with any company who wants to offer some serious investment for the project.
A Conversation I had with a famous Game Developer
During Anime Expo, I shared a hotel room with a group of friends. One of those friends included a very famous video game developer who most of you might actually know if I said his name. For the sake of his privacy, I won’t mention it.
We discussed the current problems with TinyWars and he gave me some good tips and advice about game development.
Surprisingly however, we jokingly had a conversation about an imaginary game that I could develop. I came up with the idea of a stupid, joke mobile game as I was explaining how simple it would be to make some mobile game rip off and post it to the app store.
However, this joke concept for a game actually sounded very interesting to this game developer and he told me how he would totally play and love to see a game like that if it actually existed.
It wasn’t until a few days after that conversation that I seriously started to think more and more about that joke idea I came up with in my head. From a technical perspective, the game would be a lot easier to develop and TinyWars. I could even reuse some of the code for the new project.
From an artistic and digital asset perspective, the game would also require a lot less assets.
And finally and most importantly, from a game adoption and public interest perspective, this game idea is so generic, so mainstream, that just about anyone could fall in love with the concept and play it. You don’t have to like a certain genre of game to be a potential candidate for this game. The concept is simple and easy to explain in a few words, and I really do think that this could be the “proper” first game Bizurk develops and finishes.
I certainly wouldn’t need outside funding to finish such a project and even just some tests of the project or videos posted for fun might gain some traction.
… I know I’m building up this idea as if it’s something grand and epic, thinking about it, it kind of it unique and catchy! In fact, I have already begun marketing this new idea and have received immediate positive feedback and results! Perhaps this may be similar to the explosive growth of AnimeWorld? A meme worthy idea, worth taking a second look at, and a game development concept so easy to replicate.
Should this new mobile game idea actually become popular, the success of that game may be able to fund TinyWars or at least put Bizurk in the spotlight for some bigger opportunities with investment, fan funding, or anything we wanted at that point.
Nothing is Set in Stone
So, I haven’t committed to anything at this point, but I am saying what has been on my mind lately. From the best marketing practices I have been applying and understanding from running AnimeWorld and interacting with a bigger audience, to the advice and interest I have received from my closest fans and friends, I really do appreciate all the love and support I have received from everyone so far.
I hope I can make you proud of our accomplishments so far, what is to come, and what is still yet to be thought of.
I truly appreciate all the help and support we have received for this project so far, it really means a lot to me! We will continue development of TinyWars when the time is right and when we are actually prepared to take on the monumental task.
TinyWars is not an idea that can be compressed into a simple point and click mobile game, if we are going to make this game, we are going to do it right!