The CEO of Muse Games, an indie development studio located in New York City, was a guest speaker for the Game Industry class on campus. Howard Tsao gave a lecture to the aspiring game developer students on the challenges of the industry.
He discussed topics including marketing, adapting games to different systems like iOS and Stream (an online video game market website), partnerships, finding inspiration, how to reach out to the online community, and when to release games into the market.
One of the main points of the presentation was to express the mistakes and failures of the business. Mr. Tsao stated that you must expect things not to go as planned and some ideas and plans to possibly end up blowing up in your face. One example he made was when they introduced a multiplayer option on one of the games and it ended up having problems, which had to be patched up after receiving a lot of complains from players.
Another thing he expressed to the students was that more ports are not always a good thing. Having your game on every website or platform leads to tons of maintenance and version updating issues that could soon be out of your control. The fewer platforms you use, the better, in Tsao’s opinion.
Muse is currently working on a new upcoming project that will soon be available on Steam called Guns of Icarus Online. It is a team-based, post-apocalyptic and steampunk themed, multiplayer shooter that involves controlling airships and engaging in combat against other players. There will be three different classes (player options) to use: the engineer, the gunner and captain, which each have different tasks to maintain the ship. The game will have two modes to play, which are skirmish and adventure. The game is set to be released this fall.
Muse Games has eight employees, which includes interns, with only one room to act as their workplace. Unlike larger companies, there is no chain of command. The group works together, combining ideas on a limited budget but with a goal to focus on games first before the profit, according to Tsao. One of Muse’s most popular games is “CreaVures,” a platformer game. This is a game that involves side-scrolling and jumping puzzles with stunning 3D graphics. It won the Independent Propeller Award for Best Mobile Game and is currently available on Steam and the Mac App Store.
Tsao ended his presentation with saying that promoting is usually better than relaying on publishers and distributors that you will have to make contracts with. Using programs like “Kickstarter,” an online pledge system to help small companies raise money for creative projects and making key giveaways are ways to reach out to the online community. Also, aspiring game developers should learn to experiment with different kind of themes, mechanics, and ideas, to make your vision come to life.
After the lecture, Courtney Aiello, a sophomore video game design major, said that Mr. Tsao, “had some valid points and it was nice that he showed some of their failures.” Tsao concluded with one last piece of advice: “If you have an idea, try to push that idea.”