my personal Derrick the Deathfin debts run to £40,000. oops.

it all seemed so straightforward at the beginning: funding was secured from Channel 4 & Screen Yorkshire. our partner agencies were on board. Different Tuna was set up. our explosive extravaganza was all laid out on paper: we were to complete our production run on our PSN game Derrick the Deathfin in 11 months, and launch in late summer 2011.

looking back now, that seems like the most ridiculous sentiment in the world. i’m not sure how any of us believed that would be possible. perhaps we were all on drugs. thanks to Ron, most of the papercraft creatures that made it into the final game still are of course.

some background: Different Tuna is a venture that consists of myself & Ron, specifically founded to make Derrick but one which is set to power over the awesomeness horizon in the future too. we were aided and abetted by contractors Tuna, ten24 & Pitstop along the way but we are a 2 man team. Ron makes everything look sexy, i do the rest. Ron has been beyond great, he’s a genuinely amazing & talented guy & worked for many many months for free.

but enough about Ron, back to me and my eternally expanding ego. i do game design, level design, development, frontend, press, business administration etc etc. it has been enough work to keep me at my desk for 12 hours a day every day for 2 years, and even after all that time I have no actual idea what the term “business administration” means.

as for myself? well I’m a ruggedly attractive, sensual yet dynamic independent games developer who managed to piggy back on the critical success and commercial catastrophe of my previous game, lilt line, to secure funding for Derrick the Deathfin. amazingly, I am married. astonishingly, I have two children as well, aged 3 & 4. they arrived with a complementary mortgage. so quitting a well paid job to pursue some half-assed dream about paper fish was probably a little foolish. luckily my gorgeous little family is inhabited entirely by angels and they all supported me 100%. well, my wife said it was okay and i promised the kids some crisps & a holiday if they kept quiet for a bit and that was that.

so long story short: turns out making a console game is a bit tricky, especially one made out of paper, and 11 months was wildly optimistic. in the end it took 24, but we only had sponsorship for 11. Channel 4 and Screen Yorkshire have been insanely supportive throughout the entire development of Derrick, but nevertheless after 11 months I needed to find income to support myself until the game was done. i certainly wasn’t about to give up, nor was i prepared to take a break and come back to the project a few months later. no sir, Derrick was going to get done & i would beg, steal and borrow the money to do so. Which is exactly what i did, apart from the stealing bit. Here’s how:

that was enough to finish it all up! since completing the game I have been on a promo tip as all my twitter followers will doubtless know (sorry everyone!) & doing some freelancing with the lovely folks at Preloaded too, which has helped out a bit.

due to sponsor requirements, revenue shares between those involved, platform costs and so on for each copy of Derrick sold i personally receive just under £1. it’s entirely possible, or indeed by the looks of things at the moment 100% probable, that sales will never amount to enough to pay back even a quarter of my personal debts.

but here’s the thing: i don’t care. i love Derrick. i’m deliriously happy that Ron & i managed to finish the game and make it so beautiful and fun too. i would do it again tomorrow.

just don’t tell my family i said that.

7 comments

  1. I can’t help to feel sorry for you, even though you did pursue your dream, and managed to achieve it. That’s an accomplishment few people have done, but the leftover burden, both financially and in paperwaste must be crushing.
    I loved Derrick the moment you gave your witty EU Playstation blog comments, and really hoppe someone recognizes your many talents, and finances your next project. Wish you all the best, and don’t let the games business crush you!

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  4. Hi, stumbled here by reading a Kotaku article. It’s around midnight and I’m in a mood for constructive criticism ;)

    First, thanks for sharing all this information. The more similar info is in public domain – the better.
    Second, as a developer you probably have done well, making all the mistakes people do when working on their first game (especially console). As a developer you should be proud.
    Third, the money problems come from your weak business assessment of the market. I don’t have all the info, but from what I’ve read I’ll make a couple of assumptions.
    I presume you spent around £60-80k of sponsorship money during the first year and then extra £40k of your personal money, which brings a total budget of the game to £100-120k. That’s a good budget for a console game, but considering that IP is new, and indie, it should have been around £50k. Yes, 50k total. Other people including myself work under these amounts, profitably.
    Another problem is exclusivity. If it’s exclusive you should have been paid for by a platform holder (Sony) or whoever is benefiting from it.
    Also, I presume it has been developed using your own custom tech/engine. Does it support other platforms? iOS port is a must in 2012. If you used PhyreEngine – that’s another mistake.

    Again, thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for your input Unintended.

    Taking the time to respond is always appreciated but I can’t help feel that your comments are unintentionally slanted in favour of Wood Desktop Organizers.

  6. Hey I just stumbled across this. The game looks great! I nearly died once making an XBox game with 11 people, working till 5am, starting again at 9, it was educational. You’ll never regret making this game I’ll bet. Also reminded me that I meant to make a paper craft portrait of myself. You can never have too much ugly.

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