Becoming a #Gamedev

The Inspirational Leak: 8 tips for setting up your own game studio

Starting out as a game developer is a leap and there is one thing you never usually get until now. So here is your inspirational introduction letter to the job.

Congratulations on launching “Exalted Panda Studios” (or any other animal-adjective, non-animal noun combination). Now let’s put some miles on it!


1) Best is yet to come

I know you’re still trying to find your footing. By this time, you will probably have met with skeptics that descended upon you like the plague did with medieval Europe. You worry about if the company name you picked is good enough and about the funding thing, since everyone keeps telling you how expensive game development is. That’s good! With that trail of thought, you’ve taken your first step in working out the ins and outs of business and stick with it, never stop being inquisitive. Work things out one at a time and I can guarantee the best is yet to come.


2) Be Inquisitive

There will be so many wonderfully rewarding moments, as the gaming industry is inhabited by a universe filled with the most creative and incredible people you’ve ever met (don’t be shy to drop us at Strategy Mill a message). Remember to team up solely with those whom you feel are more skilled than you but equally hard working, and many of your wildest dreams will come true. Don’t be afraid to delegate responsibility and don’t be shy to involve a village in making it happen.


3) Reality 101

As this is an intro letter and not the Oracle of Delphi, so I will not spoil the fantasy and mystery of the unknown (Clash of Clans and Bejeweled clones are no mystery though, you can do better). Nonetheless, count on that the road ahead is pock-marked with many bumps, roadblocks, and pitfalls. A common one is that you have a team to build the game but none to actually sell it. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Set one up today! That stated, financial success is great but don’t let that define you. Realize that you will make mistakes time and time again as have I and all other veterans in the industry.

There will be times where you want to give up and throw everything in. Don’t! See it through! Remember that it’s ok and that mistakes are an inevitable part of any growth and they become failures only as long as you fail to learn anything. We all do. Perhaps we make the same mistake three times but hopefully not four.


4) Try to learn and to teach

I have always found it to be a great benefit to take “fika” breaks. After all, we in Sweden, and those in Finland, take fika breaks all the time and look at how many good gaming companies we produced. Essentially, stop each day and discuss with your team, as it’s important to pick yourself up. Retrace your steps, look at what went wrong and learn (..just check out the development of Overwatch and you’ll see what I mean).


5) Build your designs

Turning challenges into opportunities, you will find the success you never realized you were capable of achieving. Strategy Mill in 2006 was merely an idea and today we’re producing our own in-house grand strategy production with Terminal Conflict. From a part time one man hobby to working with veteran studios and game developers. New challenges, new opportunities.

When successful, share your achievements with the people who helped you and fully recognize their contribution. Then, set your master plan to teach others. In all my experience, there is nothing more powerful than to inspire and coach a young coder or designer. They will likely teach you even more.


6) Be a passionate geek and DO the math

When it comes to design, be synonymous with calculated risk. There are great tools out there like Unity and Unreal for a starter that optimize code fairly well and so the challenges today are as much more on “getting noticed” as it is one anything else. No risk will result in no payoff, so continue to take chances. There is no player in the world that wishes for a game filled with activity fatigue.

7) Calculated Risks

Your professional success and luck in the future will be determined by your willingness to embark on passionate, geeky calculated risks (nine year development time for the masterpiece Owlboy). Let your imagination guide your path and avoid having pre-made and pre-built only asset libraries. Revolutionizing a game design will not depend on a supposed pre-prepared utopia. Be enduringly optimistic and know that what looks like a deal too good to be true in business and in life almost always is. Get the data, collect the information and do the math.

8) Forget the guru mumbo jumbo

In closing, let me warn you about naysayer gurus that deter you. In fact, all the people I know who made something of themselves in the industry are explorers. Do things your own way as who knows what opportunity might be around the corner tomorrow. I shall leave you with the words from one of my favorite author’s, T.S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”.

Good luck



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Gellert Keresztes

Founder and CEO of Strategy Mill. The head honcho in the tinker-shop that makes up our awesome game development dungeon.

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