Several people asked me to “elaborate” on the trials and tribulations of creating a mobile app game with no prior experience or aptitude. I’m happy to do that, since the experience was fun and creatively rewarding (money to follow), and since I just finished working with my developer to create a kick-ass 15-second promotional video for the game (please click on this YouTube link [you might want to watch it more than once as it is action-packed and goes by VERY quickly]: game ad).
It should be noted upfront that I am NOT a guy who generally plays any type of video game, on phone, PlayStation or otherwise. But one day when I was brainstorming ways to promote my novel, MURDERING LAWYERS, I started collecting Dead Lawyer jokes (and realizing how many of them there are). I considered that such jokes seemed to be attempting to address a need and a widely held sentiment but that they were ultimately too indirect and passive to be really satisfying. Instead of just reading about Dead Lawyers, wouldn’t people prefer to be the ones who made them that way? No, I didn’t want to encourage an actual revolution against our legal overlords (for one thing, it would never succeed; they’re far too entrenched and powerful). But surely even a cartoon metaphor could be pleasingly cathartic…
At that point, I was completely stymied. I couldn’t figure out how to get someone with the right experience to take my money and work with me to make a professional-looking (and working) game. I looked at some “boards” full of smart individuals who might be willing to take on the project, but I had no reliable way of knowing if any of these far-flung individuals could really pull it off.
My brother, Alan (Alan Fine, the writer-director of the upcoming horror movie blockbuster The Catalyst, and collector of true ghost stories; see his fascinating web page), saved the day. My brother mentioned my lawyer-murdering game idea to a potential business associate, who mentioned the idea to a friend of his. That friend knew a guy who was very accomplished in the game development space. When I contacted that game guy, he was very polite but unwilling/unable to help me directly. He put me in touch with a business associate of his who was more open-minded, plus intrigued and inspired by my game idea.
That’s how I wound up creating the game with Sylvain Rochon of Stratdgi Corp. He and his company are based in Canada, but many of their workers live elsewhere including Malaysia. Sylvain has been a fantastic collaborator on the game design, as well as the video trailer which we just released.
I sent my book, MURDERING LAWYERS, to Sylvain. I don’t know how much he read, but he definitely got into the spirit of the concept. It was Sylvain’s idea to have progressive text between game rounds, and to have an introductory scene, in order to have more of a story. We worked together to decide on the appearance of the “enemies” (several types of male and female lawyers and judges, plus bailiffs and two types of ninja-like fellows with sharp scimitars), their attributes and the backgrounds for each scene, but when it came to game play enhancements like power-ups, wave-clearers, shields, three-way split shots, etc. I deferred entirely to Sylvain. He and his people came up with a great variety of death sounds. I also wound up keeping many lines of place-holding dialogue that Sylvain wrote.
One of the big decisions was how to slay the evil lawyers and judges. I didn’t want the game to literally be an overly realistic “shooter”, so I decided to have Marc (the main character) defend himself with the main metaphorical tool of his trade, a pen. It just made sense that a trapped lawyer could only rely on the contents of his pockets, which would definitely include one or more pens.
Sylvain encouraged me to create the music for the game, which I enjoyed doing, and I was pleased with the results. I wrote and recorded one somber-sounding song for the introduction and rules, etc, and a different peppier theme for game play. Then I had the opportunity to create and record a third song for use in the 15-second video promotional trailer.
The idea for the video promotional trailer came up because I personally had no idea how to promote the mobile app game after it was done, other than telling friends about it. I hadn’t been sure that promotion would be needed; I erroneously figured that “downloading a free app is such a simple operation, why wouldn’t everyone want to download my super-cool game?” Turns out that people won’t take those few seconds to download and won’t give up the icon space on their already-crowded phone faces without substantial persuasion.
I looked at many promotional trailers for all types of video games, but my favorite turned out to be an ad for a SpongeBob Squarepants game! I enjoyed its presentation of gameplay on a phone screen which was moving around against an appropriate (in this case, underwater) background. I spoke with Sylvain about adapting the concept to the promotion of lawyer-killing and he was quick to agree that it could be done and would be good.
The trailer wound up taking longer and costing more than was budgeted because merely filming gameplay didn’t yield a quality product; consequently, Stratdgi was forced to go back to the drawing board and painstakingly “animate” the gameplay. Ultimately, though, the result was an impressive thrill-ride of a 15-second video. I think most people will enjoy the video and that it will make them want to play the game, but we will find out soon if I’m right. I’m planning to utilize Google to promote the video trailer on YouTube.
One further wrinkle was that we had difficulty deciding on the right sounds for the end of the trailer. I had proposed adding a few enemy death sounds to the music at the end, but that version of the trailer turned out funnier than I had expected. As a result, we also created a version with a more conservative “blast” sound at the end, and now I’m having trouble deciding which should be considered the definitive version. The link which I included above was for the “blast” version; if you want to hear the more jarring (and smile-inducing) “death sounds” version, please click on this link. (I would greatly appreciate it if you, my reader, would comment or reply to me with which version you prefer.) I’ve posted both versions on my YouTube channel.
So that’s the story of how a novelist came to dabble in bloody video game action and the promotion thereof. In my experience, the keys to success were strong desire and the fortuity of hooking up with a capable and inspired partner to translate and deliver the concept as a fun new game for a jaded world. And hopefully, after a few thousand kills, some gamers will take time out to read my novel, MURDERING LAWYERS!