Today I Ran a Studio

Hey Folks! Bit of a weird day today. Pretty much 100% of today's tasks were running the game studio. And I didn't mind it as much as I expected.

First order of business today was a conversation with a potential publisher. I wasn't originally planning on going that route, but I'm starting to get some invitations to talk, and it's got me thinking. Whatever happens, I don't want it to change what Blue Bottle Games is, or the games I make. And so far, neither does anyone who approached me.

If I did pursue it further, though, there could be some interesting developments on the horizon. Having help with community management, marketing, and launch strategy couldn't hurt. And it would actually free up some of my time to get back to actual work.

Alternately, it could be a source of extra funding to hire some help, and accelerate my progress. I enjoy doing all the things, but even I can't do everything at equal quality. And I certainly can't do it all at once. Already it's been a pleasure having Michael offload some of my writing and coding work, and I think the game's design benefits from the conversations we have as a result.

What would it be like if I could do that for other areas? Audio design? Code architecture? More art?

Of course, extra funding means something in return, and that probably means revenue share. But I think if the shares are set correctly, a publisher can earn their keep. And possibly amplify things such that we both come out ahead of where I could go on my own.

Anyway, big thoughts.

Sabina finished her first piece today, and lucky you, you get a sneak peak in today's image :) It was a blast seeing the setting come to life as the illustration developed, and I look forward to sharing it with you soon!

We're getting started on her second piece now, and I can't wait.

Also, I've just begun working with another illustrator named Ashley, who will also be tackling a couple of pieces. We're nearly done choosing the subjects, and once the contract is inked, she'll be away on those. Art incoming!

Michael's work continues on shoring-up the new pathfinding system. He's got it resolving cases where the crew was teleported into furniture to use it, and can't walk out again. Cross-ship pathfinding seems to honor both airlocks now. And his floor uninstall/install is coming along. It even revealed one of our first major design decisions: what do we do about conflicting UI for walking to a tile vs. uninstalling it?

Currently, right-clicking a tile walks there. But it also opens a context menu if one exists. In every other case, this works. But floors can do both now.

We have a few ideas about how we can deal with this. (Five, actually.) And we'll be trying those out soon. What we find might inform some of the broader gameplay questions about managing the crew actions, bulk job assignments, fine-tuned tasks, and direct vs. indirect control of crew.

Finally, I spent just a little bit of time paying invoices and uploading tax docs.

Overall, it was a day about mostly managing people and a business. Not a line of code. And surprisingly, it didn't drain my soul. I think a big part of it was the fact that work was still getting done on the game, even though I wasn't doing it. Michael was improving systems, Sabina and Ashley were creating inspirational art, and all of these activities were generating more flesh for the bones of Ostranauts. And the shared enthusiasm really feels good.

Maybe it's time for me to level-up the studio?

Tags: Ostranauts


Asthepanda2iscool2's picture

If you think it's the right call, and that it serves to enhance the quality of this game and future developments while allowing you to continue projects you want to do, then I don't see any major problems.
Also, that artwork is really nice; is one of the buildings down there just a giant flat-screen? Man, talk about being on the big screen...

Rar! Rar rar rar! Thanks for reading :)

dcfedor's picture

It kinda looks like a flat screen, right? I think that's one of the cool things about concept art: some of the detail is just ambiguous enough that you can let your imagination fill in the gaps.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Malacodor's picture

Time to promote yourself to a CEO a let underlings do your work. ;-)

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

Freddy's picture

Thats seems very cool bro :3

Hola soy un Scavenger de corazon de toda la vida :3 (Español 100% Ingles 45% Aleman 3% Ruso 1% Japones 1%) Vivo en Paraguay Asuncion en la villa del ejercito :3

ra1's picture

I am a developer at heart, and have found myself managing a team over the last 1.5 years. I miss the programming, and hope to get back to it soon.

dcfedor's picture

Delegation is really hard! I'll be the first to admit I'm a control freak, and I want to make sure everything is done "just so."

And I also like getting my hands dirty. Making stuff is the best part of being a gamedev.

But there's a certain amount of comfort in knowing smart people are there, helping you out. You feed off of each other's enthusiasm, and sometimes teammates can see things we miss due to having blind spots. Plus, it feels good knowing progress gets made even if I'm having a bad day.

But yeah, proper balance between leading and doing is key, I think.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

tehflambo's picture


I realize this is a weird request... but is there any possibility of having the publisher allow you to make your contract terms with them public? I've heard of publishers restricting everything from supported platforms to price point to release date and more...

Given the transparency you've shown over the past many years, it'd be really cool to have a publisher who'd show they were on board with that by letting you tell your fans about exactly what terms you had to agree with.


Also, if you need/want help with community management and stuff, a route some devs/studios go is to have the community handle it. Any interest in going that direction? Set up a discord, get some moderators, etc?


For funding, I can't be the only one who'd happily support you by kickstarter or patreon.

beep boop

dcfedor's picture

Re: publishing terms being public, I get the feeling that'll be a non-starter for most (all?) publishers. At least for a blanket "everything public" requirement. Even if they don't mind players knowing certain things, they won't want competitors to know.

I get what you mean, though. I have a huge spreadsheet of contract concerns and questions, and a big chunk of them boil down to "will I be forced to do (or not do) X?"

I don't want people telling me I can't do something. That's why I started my own business. I'm fine with folks convincing me to change my mind, though.

As for community management, there is a bit of that already. E.g. Discord is linked at the top of this site. And I have a few volunteer mods there. It's been fairly quiet so far, though.

The publisher's role would be basically to make the community stronger, bigger, and to involve people more in events and raising awareness. It's a full-time job, requiring experience and skill, and deserves compensation.

As for crowdfunding, it's something I prefer to leave as a last resort. I don't want to take money before I have anything to offer in return!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

tehflambo's picture

Thanks for the thoughtful reply... I guess I'll keep dreaming of a world where contract terms can realistically be made public. As far as paying someone ie. a publisher to advertise and build community, that sounds like a great idea, especially when you spell it out like you did.

I know it gets complicated when there are for-sale products as the end goal, but there are absolutely creatives who get funding on ie. Patreon with the understanding that the money is just to help the person find time to create, rather than to buy a specific creation.

Maybe a model that could work for you would be doing periodic exclusive-access content previews, mechanics discussions, livestreams, Q&A/AMA stuff for Patreon supporters. A lot of creators do something similar - a piece of art or content each month that's Patreon only or is available on Patreon before other/free channels.

I realize I'm getting pushy about this... sorry... I'll drop it. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to engage with me!

beep boop

dcfedor's picture

There may come a time where something like Patreon is a good fit for me. I've occasionally flirted with the idea of opening a Patreon for something like part-time work on side projects, or to continue adding features to NEO Scavenger.

It's an interesting idea, for sure. But it also would require me to have extra time to devote to such things.

At least for now, Ostranauts is keeping me 100% busy, and I'm not in danger of going out of business any time soon :)

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games