Hey everyone. Today we have Torreng Labs as our honorable guests. They are 2 game developers who are passionate about making and playing games. They've just started a fresh new project that they call TOGAM and I will ask all the questions you've sent me about it.
Welcome gentlemen, let's start with the easy question. What's TOGAM?
It stands for "Torreng One Game A Month". It's a self-imposed challenge in which we release one (sufficiently polished) game each month of 2021
I see, why are you doing this? What are your motivations?
TOGAM has two main motivations behind it:
1-) Shipping games: The main reason why we're making games in general is the exhilaration of giving games in the hands of people and seeing them having fun playing the games we make. Although we both work in the gamedev industry and practically work full-time on games, most of the stuff we work on don't see the light of the day. That's just how the industry works, unfortunately. From time to time, we want to remind ourselves why we're in this line of work
2-) Mastering the second 90%: We all know that starting projects is easy and finishing them is hard. There comes a point in the project's lifetime where it looks somewhat finished but you feel it's not quite there yet. That missing piece is usually the 'polish', and that's a big part of what makes the game is fun to interact with. We want to be more proficient at taking an unpolished (maybe kind of original) mechanic, and fill it with feedback regarding what's happening in the game world.
What are your expectations? Or, do you have any?
The main expectation is seeing people having fun with TOGAM games, really. If we can manage to do that and nothing else, we'll consider TOGAM successful.
Another less critical one is to have prototypes-on-steroids under our hands. Should the opportunity arise in the future for us to make a (multi) year-long project, we're going to have some options which will be already battle-tested in the hands of the players
We don't expect any kind of financial income or popularity or that sort of thing after TOGAM. The only expected outcome is the games themselves and the fun we had during the process.
You mentioned that TOGAM games must be "sufficiently polished". What does that mean? What's the scope for a TOGAM game?
We have this term called "TOGAM Scope". Functionality-wise, it's about your average jam game, maybe slightly bigger (at least that's the initial vision, and yes, we kinda blew it a bit with some of the entries). So that we'll have a good amount of time to spend on polish&juice.
Gamejam entries also count as entries to TOGAM. So for example we can attend LD or GGJ and call it that month's entry.
So you are jamming throughout the year. Isn't it exhausting?
Theoretical answer is, it's as tiring as we'd want it to be, since there isn't any authority forcing us, nor is there someone we promised anything. On the other hand, the practical answer is yes, it is exhausting, especially if we're going beyond the scope we mentioned above. Since this isn't your average gamejam where you just immolate yourself through a sleepless weekend (don't get us wrong, we love that as well), but rather a multi-week endeavor with a self-imposed deadline, you need to set your pace very carefully in order not to end up like a sizzling BBQ under the rain. We need to stay fully functional in our day jobs, so we plan very carefully and consciously about what we can fit, what we need to cut in order to do that. We admit that although we're experienced at making projects on the side over the past years (Atil: I don't remember not having a side project since I've learned Unity, version 2.6 at the time), this is putting some strain on us at the moment.
That being said, our sanity is the top priority here. If at any point we consider it to be bringing more harm than overall benefit, we'll just give it up. We have kind of a 'safe word'.
What about other parts of game development? For example, do you spend time on marketing?
Anyone who has shipped commercial games is going to recognize how much of a work the marketing part in general is. We'll not go into details, but let's just say preparing some marketing material isn't the top priority for us. We'd prefer to spend the time and brain-energy on the product itself. That being said, we do post our games on Reddit and Discord channels, if it counts as marketing. It's not too much work, just sharing a link. And it's fine, since our livelihood doesn't depend on the outreach. Besides, it motivates us when someone plays our games. It wouldn't align with the goals if we just make the game and tell no one about it. But as mentioned, any sort of mass-outreach isn't the main goal here.
The same goes for other tasks like serious analytics/data tracking/live operations/user testing etc. We don't want to spend our limited energy on them either.
But you do set up analytics for your games?
Yeah, sometimes. Game developers use analytics for several purposes but mostly for gathering data to outline how well the parts of the game perform, whether it be balancing or monetization. Since we don't want to continue working on the same game after the month, we don't need to go beyond the basics here.
We set some analytics if we are really curious. We won't use this data to optimize the game, though. It's mostly for measuring if the players' behavior go along the lines as we expect them to. And this is always the lowest prioritized task on our list.
I played your previous games and really liked them. Don't you think of having some income with them?
Taking someone's money for a game gives the whole thing another perspective than we've discussed above as goals. It basically turns a game into a "product" and it complicates stuff. We want to stay focused on what we want to achieve and not on what "selling a product" would entail.
At least open the donation button?
Thank you, we really appreciate that you think that way. However, probably you can think of better places to spend your hard-earned money at this point in time. You already support us enough by playing our games and reading this wall of text up to this point.
But if you want people to play your games, why don't you put them on other platforms like mobile/consoles?
If you took a look at one of TOGAM games and thought like "hey this would do pretty well on mobile", then you're not alone. We hear this a lot. The main reason we go for WebGL-only for the time being, is pretty much the effort itself. Unity's 'build settings' window may make cross-platform development look easy (and it is, compared what we have without game engines) but it entails a lot of design and technical details to solve (like what we'd replace the mouse hover with)
Same questions but this is for the storefront. Why itch.io and why not Steam/Epic Store/Xbox Game Pass?
Setting up a Steam page (and all the others as well) is a lot more work than it looks. Itch is easier to deal with for us at this point in time.
Are you going to "release" them?
The games are already playable on Itch.io. But if you mean releasing them on marketplaces like Steam as a product, not for now, not in this state. Maybe one day we can take one of those game and start from scratch to make it a "product", but currently they're all free jam games.
What you say is a lot like what Sokpop does. Are you going to become a new Sokpop at the end?
We really like Sokpop and appreciate what they're doing. They're pretty solid in their productivity that they reached their 3rd year in releasing a new game each month. We don't know if we can go that far, but our initial goal is to keep doing this for 2021 only.
And after that?
Who knows? Maybe we do it for another year. Maybe we just get bored and don't even make it until end of the year. Maybe we start working on our favorite TOGAM game for the future. It's an open question for us as well, at this point in time.
I dig this idea! As a developer/artist/designer, can I join you?
At first, we were considering inviting people from the industry as guests. After the first few months though, we realized that it would make the process more complicated and exhausting for us if we try to shape our way of working each month with these people. Getting to communicate with someone efficiently is difficult, and trying to establish that level in a month would certainly entail some mental overhead. Therefore, we'd like to keep it personal for now.
Sorry to hear. But maybe next year, huh?
Yeah why not!
What happens if you can't meet the deadline or miss a month?
We didn't promise anything to anyone, right? This is one of the best parts of TOGAM. It's our hobby in the end, we don't need to torture ourselves over it. If we can't hit the deadline, it's fine, it's not end of the world. We are not putting our life or our money in this. Still, it motivates us to finish each game just before end of the month, since being able to say "the game is released within the month" has a charm to it. Besides, as we all know, it's difficult to get results if you don't set deadlines.
You said you don't have any boss or anyone you promised, but what if you create some expectation from the audience?
Well, we don't have any audience. We assume we aren't that important to someone, so no one will stalk around our backyard if we stop doing TOGAM. We're not even sure if anybody is reading this.
Overall that's a huge undertaking. You must have learned a great deal. Would you mind sharing the benefit of your hindsight? What have you learned?
We're still in the beginning of it, and thinking of doing a postmortem kind of thing when this is over.