Last year I talked to some of my family and friends. I mentioned that 2017 would be the defining year for me to decide whether to continue making games or quit. And suddenly, 2018 came knocking and a particular question was thrown a lot.
“So, 2017 has passed. Have you decided to continue or quit developing games?”
It’s a tough question to answer because everyone in our studio was betting everything on our last game: My Lovely Daughter. Let me start the story from the beginning to give you a full understanding of our situation.
Our studio, GameChanger Studio, is an independent game studio based in Indonesia. We’ve released two games on Steam from 2016 to 2017 and they did not do well financially. Our first game, NSFW – Not a Simulator for Working was a hit with Youtubers and streamers when it was being developed due to its weird theme. Sadly it did not perform well sales wise.
Our second game, Ascender, actually started development long before NSFW and went on hold. So, we used whatever money we had from NSFW sales to finish and release Ascender. Unfortunately, the game was a failure and sales performance was ridiculously bad. The failure of Ascender foreshadowed that we might close our studio soon.
We decided to make one last game and bet everything on it.
It started from a game-jam
My Lovely Daughter is an alchemist simulator that explores the depths of a father’s grief and how far someone will go to get something they had lost. It is a game that was originally developed by teammate Marcel, Roderick, and Alessandra as part of our internal game-jam in November 2016. The game idea came from a simple concept of ‘killing a creature that you created’.
The game also becomes a medium for some of our team members to express their own experience of having a very tough childhood and growing up with strict and/or abusive parents. Parents who manipulated and exploited their children for their own gains. Such as forcing their children to be someone they are not to fit the parents’ own ideal, or forcing them to do hard labor, “killing their souls” in the process. It’s a taboo topic that is rarely discussed but happens more often than we think.
Toge Productions has released My Lovely Daughter for PC through Steam. Is this game developed by GameChanger Studio worth to try? Here's our My Lovely Daughter review.
Through this game, the team found an opportunity to talk about it.
During the internal game-jam, we had also invited friends from other studios to be judges and give us unbiased feedback. They thought that My Lovely Daughter has a unique hook and interesting concept and picked it as the winner of our internal game jam. This convinced us to continue working on it and develop it into a full game.
Around December 2016, we put the game on greenlight to see if people would be interested in the concept. The result was positive; within 2 weeks the game got greenlit. We were excited and planned to release the game in April 2017. At the time, I was not really involved with the game. I was just advising on the game design aspect of the game because I was also working on other projects.
During development, we had a lot of setbacks. Alessandra can no longer be with us because she had to go back to her hometown, and Marcel could no longer work full time in the studio. So, we had to restructure our team. This also meant that I had to switch gears from being an advisor to the game’s full-time designer.
Around this time, we had again changed our target release date from May to September 2017. We had some contract works to finish, but we refrained from taking new contract works and from going to game events so that we could dedicate our time to the project. This was also the time when we started to discuss more the condition of the studio with our team. We came to the harsh realization that if My Lovely Daughter fails then we would have to shut down our studio.
We tried to secure more funding from additional investors to help us cover our expenses and keep the project going. Sadly, we could not find anyone willing to take the risk. Our failure to approach investors led us to cut our salary, it was one of the hardest decisions that we made during the project.
As the founder, Riris and I stopped taking any salary in order to make sure that the others were getting paid. Riris decided to go back working full time as a librarian and found time to work on the game. She still went to our studio after her office hours. For me, I continued my work as a part-time lecturer. I also needed to sell my Wii U, iPad and PlayStation to make ends meet.
We managed to even share responsibilities, Faiz (sound designer) and Roderick (programmer) helped with taking care of the studio and accounting studio expenses. Even with that approach, our money was still not sufficient, we had no choice but to take contract jobs again in order to make sure we survived.
A great opportunity came and knocked on the door. Our friend, Jonathan Manuel from Toge Productions, who we invited as a judge in our game-jam took interest in My Lovely Daughter. We had told him about our financial problems, Jonathan told us that TOGE has just started a game publishing initiative in 2017 and that they might be able to help.
According to TOGE’s publishing team, although our gameplay was still far from ideal the game had a lot of hooks (such as the catchy title, the controversial theme, and interesting alchemy mechanic) that showed a lot of potentials and it had a strong thought-provoking message.
Another good news comes from Indonesia's game industry. One of Indonesian top developers and publishers Toge Productions announced that it gave an early stage investment to Tangerang-based GameChanger Studio for an undisclosed amount.
TOGE pointed us the weaknesses of the game and told us how we might improve it. This was exactly what we needed to hear, a fresh perspective and proper guidance from a trusted friend who has a lot of experience. TOGE gave us development support and funding, and we both agreed to work together.