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The Trials and Tribulations of Tiki Games, part 2

Tiki Games is currently developing a PSP-exclusive RTS game called "Galaxy's End." Read more about the trials and tribulations of being an upstart developer in this three-part series by Tiki Games President Kevin J. McCann.
See part 1 of the feature here.

Looking back, there are things I've done right, and other aspects that were in some senses just plain naïve. The areas that were right were our approach to the tools/technology and assembling core team members that I've worked with while avoiding anyone that had egos (or primadonna attitudes) and laying out the design and milestones before actually bringing the team onboard. The last thing you want to do is be writing designs while a team is being paid and waiting for you to finish designs. This happens a lot in the game industry – so I was happy to avoid it. And I targeted the RTS genre because it's a genre I really enjoy, and I wanted Tiki Games to be the first to create a high-quality RTS for the PSP. The PSP has the power to do a very attractive 3D RTS which made it even sweeter.

But for what I did right there were also things that were naïve. It's easy to convince yourself "I'll create an original IP for the PSP that focuses on an untapped market – the RTS. It's huge on the PC – let's try to bring them over by creating an RTS from the ground-up for the PSP. And we'll also be relatively low-cost in terms of overall budget. Surely publishers will appreciate that!"

In reality, while myself and my team had been in the industry for a long time, and shipped a number of titles, as a new start-up we're unproven from a publisher's viewpoint. And an original IP isn't nearly as powerful as having a license for some big property.

So to step into this with "I'll create a new IP in the RTS genre for the PSP. We'll then create a solid proof-of-concept playable demo. How can it go wrong?" Well, toward the end of 2006 I did a lot of traveling (and have done similar this year so far), and while Galaxy's End was well-received at most publishers, we're still a new company with no shipped titles, and the RTS genre doesn't equate to guaranteed success on a handheld.

We had some extremely positive meetings with publishers – they felt the game looked sharp, that we had conquered any control doubts (meaning the game does play well on a handheld), and they liked the overall game concept. Then the following week was something along the lines of "marketing finds it too risky." Lots of temporary elated moments followed by extended periods of frustration.

See part 3 of this feature tomorrow on PSP Fanboy.

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