The burning question that all 15K of you, who’ve signed up for our beta or our newsletter, are asking us. The quick answer is: It’s coming, and soon! But here are more details…
First off, I wanna say, calm down. It’s happening, we’re working our asses off and we’re keeping in touch with our little Skype community to get feedback and using (in a very good and positive way) our initial Sparkans to learn more about your experiences as game developers, to better understand what problems you’re having so that when we release this long awaited Alpha, it will be well worth the wait, at least as an initial MVP (Minimum Viable Product) release.
In our last email, we gave you an update on our progress. We have progressed plenty since then, but we still don’t have a release date for the alpha. What we do know is that it’s so close, you can almost touch it. Now, it’s time to talk about a bit of the background on the project and on us and what our goals are and how we got to these goals.
Our Hunt for Funding
As many of you know we are a very small team with this really huge project – Aris, developer; Athina, UI/UX Designer; and myself doing everything in the background (including writing the blog posts :P). As many startups do, we started looking for investment opportunities from the very beginning, starting with startup accelerators. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but we submitted two applications to two different accelerators and were accepted in both; the first, we refused the deal because it simply wasn’t good, and the second was Startup Chile. The experience at Startup Chile was amazing and very useful, as you will see in our blog post about it.
While in Chile, we started connecting with investors back home (Greece) and began keeping them up-to-date on our progress. Progress was unbelievable in Chile so we had lots to show. We went there with this as a prototype:
And came home seven months later with this:
Startups look for investments as, truth be told, money makes things go faster. You can hire a few people to help speed up development; buy a few programs/services that you need to help with marketing, etc. When a startup gets an investment, it’s considered ‘successful’. So, for us to be ‘successful’ we needed an investment, too…right? Well, no. We realized early this year (too late in the game? Meh, that’s subjective…and a whole other topic.) that this opinion is so wrong in general, and more importantly, wrong for us.
The process we went through meeting with the executives at the accelerator here in Greece and two Greek investors, along with all the investor events we went to, turned out to be very time-consuming and we lost very valuable time on development. For the accelerator, it was a five-month period of preparing presentations, documentation, videos, presenting, discussing. We went through a similar process with the investors, but not over such a long period. Don’t get me wrong, we learned A LOT about pitching, investments, term sheets, investors and this has been invaluable.
If I were to add up all this time up, it equals 10 months! Ten MONTHS of Spark Game Engine development not being the priority. Crazy, crazy, super fu**in’ crazy! And considering that we only have one developer (poor guy 🙁 ) that’s a sh**load of time. So, the decision is no more looking for an investment at this point. We want to get users first, gather our metrics and our numbers and then…MAYBE then we’ll look into an investment…
Our PRIMARY goal is to release an MVP / alpha version that people will love as a first release. As you know, Spark Game Engine will have a lot of cool features, which will provide you with a lot of versatility. BUT as you can understand, so that we do things right, we need to choose features that Aris can ‘easily’ implement, ones that you will love, that will be perfect (well, I’m sure you can forgive a bug or two :P), and that will provide you with the flexibility you need from within this particular feature set.
We started researching from the very beginning, talking to the gamedev community here in Greece, in Chile, and of course via email and social media with many of you who have touched base. We are gamedevs ourselves, so we know a thing or two, too 😉 What came of this research is that you want something easy to use, easier than what’s out there; you want flexibility; you want 3D with no coding, you want a strong community and many more. Unfortunately, for a first release, 3D with no coding would delay things far longer than both you and we want.
So, what did we do?
We released a pre-alpha last December to our Skype group ONLY. We wanted to keep it small and simple for easy management of the feedback we’d get, essentially, on a first release. The time and effort put in by many in our group was invaluable (Thanks, guys!). We realized that, to release this particular version as an MVP, it would not go over well with the majority of indie gamedev community. It was far too limiting, too buggy, too complicated because we didn’t have any written documentation, among other things.
We’ve fixed the bugs; we’ve found out how it was limiting and made additions and changes; and now we’re at the stage of implementing the proper UI that we had intended from the very beginning so that it’s not complicated. Compared to what we’ve done, implementing the UI is a piece of cake. The end is near, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, we’re taking our research to the next step. Athina has started conducting a handful of one-on-one video interviews with Sparkans from our Skype Group, asking targeted questions that would help us understand you better. If you’re interested, fill out this survey. Leaving your email would give Athina the chance to email you to arrange a time for a video call.
Influence the direction of Spark by filling out this survey and leaving your email address for a chance to have a one-on-one video call with Athina!
Do we not care about money?
Hahahahahahaha! Well, rhetorical question, right? We wish we could do it for free because we LOVE what we’re doing, but we’d like to survive by doing what we love. Isn’t that what everyone’s dream is, after all?
What we don’t care about is getting an investment, at this point. The three of us are surviving, though, and we’re doing it by making games using Spark for two very good clients. Don’t get angry…Aris has been coding the game within Spark, except for our more recent game which he created using the editor, an editor that isn’t pretty, wouldn’t you agree? 😛
If you’re interested in seeing our progress with the upcoming MVP, we have made our Spark Trello Board public so you can see what we have done, what we’re working on, and what we have left to do for the pre-alpha v2.0 (terrible name, we know, but…). Our goal with this MVP is to allow you to create simple 2D platform games using behaviors.
Once we have a better idea on the release of the Alpha, we’ll let you know what will be available for it and we’ll start creating a crowdfunding campaign. This is much better for everyone involved.
So, why write this blog post?
We feel it’s important to communicate with our community as much as possible. Your eagerness to use Spark is so obvious, with all the emails and social media posts we receive regularly. We hope that this post will help you better understand our position so that everyone is on the same page.
Thank you for all your support!!! We can already tell that we are going to have an awesome Spark community full of creative and excited Sparkans 🙂