Someone on the Indiegamer fourms was thinking about making a game engine and possibly selling it and asked me about my Grey Alien BlitzMax Game Framework. After writing a long reply I thought I’d post it here as it’s quite interesting.
Well my engine is for BlitzMax and basically the language is relatively new and I knew that I needed a game engine to make some professional games for it but there were no engines in existence. There was lots of useful code on the forums which I gathered together and did research on and found out fixes of my own etc to throw into the mix. This gave me a technical framework and then on top of that I build tons of my own Types (e.g. TButton, TMenu, TSprite etc) and a system of Screen management which works well.
When I first released it, I released it with a demo game so people could see it in action and I listed a summary of its features as well as having a full list of features in an FAQ. The FAQ is here:
Initially upon release lots of people were very interested in it but a few people claimed that I’d just cobbled together some free code from the forums and was selling it. In reality the forum code is about 1% of my framework. But you always get a few moaners whatever you do – they are mainly just jealous.
When I released it there was clearly a demand as I sold 27 copies in the first month! I also put the price up a little bit when I released a new version and it kept on selling. Price has gone up a bit more again since then but the framework is more stable, has more features and has been used for several professional games since then. Sales carry on but not at such a high rate. I have to “pimp” the framework occasionally by mentioning it and by making new releases. However, it has many fans who help to promote it for me.
I didn’t make the framework with the aim of selling it originally, it was just for me. Then one day I had a brainwave “I wonder if anyone would pay for this?” I thought that because *I* would have paid for it because it took me months (hundreds of hours) to research, make and test. And I was right, people DID want to pay for it. I also had some pretty good sales copy to help people get excited and my demo game is loaded with cool little things.
Anyway, It’s made me several thousand pounds so far, which is not loads of money, but it’s pretty good. In order to sell it I had to make an FAQ, a Getting Started Guide (which needs improving for sure) and a few pieces of example code. This all took time. Also of course I had to offer support. Most people don’t ask for support but a few do. Most of the time the support questions are easy and don’t take long, so it’s not a major issue, but I know other people who have made modules and got endless support emails. I pride myself on my support and my customers seem to be grateful.
The other good thing with people using my framework is that they effectively test it for me and help me find bugs and offer good new suggestions (as well as some not so good ones). So as a result my framework gets better! This means that we all win.
I’ve also given away a few copies of the framework to people I’m working with and to key members of the Blitz community in exchange for their products etc. It’s nice to trade like that, but it’s nice to get paid for it too
Soon the framework will be made 100% Vista compatible and fully Mac compatible (it already compiles on the Mac but is missing some features). This should happen in June as I’m contractually bound to do this work for Big Fish Games.