Two years ago I was sitting down with a good friend and talented developer in Panera Bread and asked the question: Why aren’t we working for ourselves? Dylan and I both worked as corporate developers and have each at one time struck out as independent contractors. Even as an “independent” contractor though you’re not working on your own stuff, you’re at best a hired gun with free range to make decisions and at worst stuck in a contract with the client from hell who is more interested in feeling self important than the success of the product.
We came together and formed FuncWorks, LLC with the only goal of making stuff ourselves. We started out and made a few t-shirt sites for designers we knew, thinking we could build a source of income off the t-shirt sales to leverage other projects. It didn’t work.
We then decided to create an Xbox 360 game, IncaBlocks. It was a small scoped puzzle/board game that we were able to complete and ship in about 3 months. We were not expecting a hit, the game was really meant to be our exploration into the world of Indie Game development. Commercially, the game flopped (we never received one cent!).
From our experience with IncaBlocks we decided to create GameMarx.com, a video game news and review site dedicated to covering Xbox Indies. We pulled out all the stops for this one, setting up a video studio for green screen shoots, getting 1080p cameras, building our own teleprompter, and getting a solid solution for recording HD game play from an Xbox 360. Over time it’s become clear Microsoft isn’t promoting or enhancing the Xbox Indies channel, and the service looses many talented game developers who move on to other platforms because they cannot generate sales on the service that they can elsewhere. This means our site covering Xbox Indies really can’t hope to make much either!
Along the way we picked up XboxIndies.com and brought together sites coving Xbox Indies like GameMarx to increase visibility for everyone. The site runs a database of Xbox Indie games, links to news and reviews from around the web, and keeps a history of game rankings on Microsoft’s Best Selling, Top Downloaded, and Top Rated game lists in 10 countries.
So where are we now? GameMarx is becoming developer focused as we are returning to game development with our tentative title Captain Dubstep. We’ve learned quite a bit about game development since IncaBlocks and our goal is to make fun games we can showcase. XboxIndies will continue to share content for gamers interested in Xbox Live Indie Games and add more features like expanding the Game Data API.
AgileZen has been our co-pilot through all of this. We are agile, in spirit and process. FuncWorks operates only in spare moments, and it’s essential to have good communication. I manage priorities just by moving some stories around, and can see where everyone is at with just a glance. We would not have been able to build IncaBlocks, our first full game on any platform, inside of 3 months without AgileZen’s project management software. AgileZen helped us migrate both GameMarx and Xbox Indies to Microsoft Azure in less than two weeks. While we have yet to have our breakout “hit” we have always shipped.
The freedom and flexibility AgileZen provides in defining our own flow is my favorite feature. In addition to using it on all the projects above, I use the AgileZen project management system for non-code projects as well. I use it to plan CodeStock, an annual developers conference in Knoxville, TN. Tasks and deadlines might be “improper” for a Kanban board to some – to me they are perfect for making sure guides are sent to the printer on time and tracking which sponsors owe me a logo and I’m glad AgileZen has these features. I use AgileZen to manage my daily task load. I’ve recommended AgileZen and Kanban to friends looking to organize life’s little tasks.
AgileZen is open everyday on my desktop – I don’t know how I lived without it!