Three Years of Gamechuck
Hi, it’s Alex, the CEO of Gamechuck (the company making Trip the Ark Fantastic) and also one of the idea-guys behind the game concept.
Although it might not be as interesting for the gamers who read us, I believe gamedevs will be very glad to read about our journey and experiences as a company. So in the next few Thursday blogs I’ll try to guide you through some of the important things that helped us out, starting with a broad overview of the first three years of our company, and moving on to our GDD procedures, choice of next games, publisher relations, etc.
So to start off, today I’m here to tell you that the company making this game is already three years old already, so I’ll take this time to write about our short trip from 2017 to today.
2017 – The year of many ideas
Has it already been three years? Almost! It was 13.7.2017. when we released our first Gamechuck game – All You Can Eat. We made it in a few months (from April to June) just so we can get the ball rolling. A bit different from my previous gamedev experience (working as a student programmer on a point-and-click adventure with these guys for years) in a lot of ways, but since both games were story-driven PNCs, I believe the game was done more quickly than expected. It helped that we did everything in a quick-and-dirty way, and had no animations, only around 2000 words of text (which is enough for maybe 20-30 minutes of gameplay) and a symbolic price-tag of 1.99$.
However, it got us going, and we really got hooked on the idea of this fast prototyping. If we can make an entire game and ship it in a few months to great critical success (financially the game didn’t really sell well but we were invited to a lot of festivals and conferences with free travel and accommodation so that was at least partly cool).
After our first 12 copies sold, we got so drunk with fame, fortune, power and intoxicants that our next idea was to make a billion completely different things all at the same time! And so we started making a retro shooter that we’re still developing, a hardware arcade which would play our game (that we’re still developing), a VR motorbike concept (that we’re not yet developing), another bigger interactive comic (that we’re still developing, see picture below), and so on and so on.
However, we did manage to make a very rough prototype of one level of Speed Limit and a very rough prototype of our hardware arcade system which would play the game by the end of 2017 for the local Reboot Infogamer conference:
2018 – Making Business!
Then in 2018 we did a bit more work and polished the retro shooter level and released it on Android devices for free (no ads even!) as Speed Limit: Stage 2. This was a cool experience and learning to port to mobile was immediately useful as we got a few commissions to do mobile games (Svi putevi vode u Simora-u, HR Heron, etc).
Since it was clear that things were going well, we decided to “incorporate” so we also opened a trade and applied to some local subsidies which got us a nice sum of money from the City of Zagreb (thanks ZICER!) and another nice sum of money from the Ministry of Culture as well.
So we got a part-time sound designer, a part-time dedicated writer, a part-time dedicated programmer and even a part-time dedicated bizdev/marketing person. This was great for me since it meant I can focus more on game design, especially useful as we started developing YET ANOTHER project to do in the future (which was to become Trip the Ark Fantastic).
Anyway, this was when we started making more comic books with external writers and artists, including Sidekick, Cosmonaut’s Caretaker, The Heist, and also vApe Escape by our new writer Jan. The shortest to make was vApe Escape (and as of currently the only one that has been released yet) and it was so cool that Humble Bundle picked it up and put it as part of their “Humble Originals” programme.
This meant that on Reboot Infogamer 2018 we showed up with a much more detailed prototype of our retro shooter Speed Limit (with 11 levels, all different) as well as a lot of interactive comics (some demos, some commissioned, some released).
2019 – The year we incorporated!
These successes kept piling up in 2018 and we caught the eye of a few local investors who wanted to help us grow. This meant that in 2019 we opened a limited liability company and also applied for the Creative Europe grant for video-games (which requires match funding, which our investors covered).
For the project, we applied with Trip the Ark Fantastic, an idea that our programmer Piet and I toyed with since our student days while on a student exchange in Moldova. And, believe it or not, we got news that we received the full funding a few months later. This came as great news as we became the first company to ever receive this game grant, let alone ask for the full amount and already secure the entire matched funding! So we decided that it’s all too much for one team to handle and decided to split into two teams – one for Trip the Ark Fantastic and one for the retro shooter Speed Limit (so we can finally finish it in its full “11 completely different levels with completely different gameplay” glory).
This of course meant expanding our part-time team of 6 into a full-time team of 15, which you can check out here. This also meant that we had to decide what kind of company we want to be. We’re trying to guide the company to a unionised and open-source based direction, but we’re still a long way from where we want it to be.
We also made three games for the Alkari festivities in Sinj (available on Android and iOS) as well as interactive comic books for a lot of cultural events. We managed to also create a trailer for the Ark, and even finish Speed Limit which is now in its QA/porting phase.
2020 – The year of releasing stuff
In 2020 we are (finally!) finalising a lot of our projects – the arcades will soon have their final form, Speed Limit found a publisher (more on that in a later post!) and will release on PC and consoles by years end (or as soon as the QA/porting happens!), and we’re even cooking up a gameplay trailer for Trip the Ark Fantastic. The externally made comics also finally seem to be close to completion as well. We’ve also produced a few documentaries as well:
Also, the covid19 virus outbreak made it possible for us to attend a lot of digital conferences at a fraction of the cost as well as showcase our previous games on several sales and bundles which got us a lot of traction as well (All You Can Eat is nearing 60k units!) So, all in all, it’s going well so far. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
As the retro team is nearing completion of their game, we’re holding an internal vote on which idea / gdd we want to take up and work on with the retro team after Speed Limit. However, more on this voting procedure and corporate democracy in a future post.
2021 – The future!
What’s in store for 2021? Well, ideally, we’d finish Trip the Ark Fantastic, but we all know that it’s never ideal (that’s why even our teaser trailer back in 2019 had the release year 2022, just in case). Also, we want to find a great publisher for the game as well. The retro team in the company will have made their next game by the end of the year as well, so we’ll have a few big released titles even before we release the Ark, giving us valuable experience.
Looking back on these three years, I’d say we’ve gotten off to a great start, and now it’s time to keep the momentum going and start generating some hit games that will win the hearts of gamers everywhere. If we won over your heart, don’t forget to like, follow, join on Discord etc.