Let’s talk about an often ignored issue that service companies have to deal with. It can be hard for a potential customer to know exactly what the experience of being a customer will be like. The user might ask themselves: “What problem is a service solving?”, “What kind of support will I receive?” and even “Will this be worth my time?” Most companies address these questions with some sort of customer journey visualization that they put out on their site. This usually takes the form of a video or an infographic.
A while back, we sat down to solve the same issue and quickly realized that we wanted to create something a little more fun. With some outside-the-box thinking, we decided to start an internal game jam every Friday, our first project: a customer journey game!
Spoiler Alert: There are a few minor spoilers here. We don’t think they will detract from your experience, but if you want to go play the game a bit first, please do so.
This Game is a Business Card is a short visual novel that gives you, as the player, the chance to become an Executive Producer or some other kind of senior manager on a game development project. You will encounter the kind of problems that such a person is likely to contend with and you’ll be given choices that will let you solve them, or perhaps, make them worse. Along the way, you’ll be given the chance to collaborate with Tiny Hydra. It’s impossible to give you a holistic insight into game development in a 10 to 15 minutes experience, but we made sure to use situations we see again and again. If you make games professionally, we are pretty confident you’ll recognize at least some of the issues presented.
Solving those issues will also involve you navigating around the colorful and sometimes conflicting personalities of your team members.
Even though this is a customer journey game, it’s was really important to us that this experience didn’t become just an advertisement for Tiny Hydra. Using Tiny Hydra’s services may give you an edge (just like in real life), but it doesn’t guarantee you get the best outcome. What constitutes a ‘winning’ end state in the game can be personal. What does that look like to you? Do you want to maximize profit? Are you looking to secure a multi-game deal and strong future potential for your company? Do you want your team to be super close and excited to work together for many years? These outcomes and many more are possible. It may be very hard to get everything you want, but you should really play the game to see what is possible.
Why Did We Make This Game?
This Game Is A Business Card represents a fair amount of work. About five full days from our core team of four got us eighty percent of the way there. Then polish work took two people another five days plus a few hours here and there from varying team members. That might not sound like that much, but if one person had done it alone, it would have taken them around two hundred and eighty hours or seven full-time weeks’ worth of effort. We could have made a customer visualization video in far less time (we regularly produce internal videos for training purposes so we are pretty good at production planning for videos as well). So, why did we go to the trouble?
For one thing, we all love making games and this was a good opportunity for us to do just that (which is hard for any of us to pass up). From a more practical standpoint, we were really interested in building our own web-based engine for narrative experiences and this gave us a chance to do just that. We also wanted to add the Ink scripting language into our collective tool belt. For anyone who doesn’t know, Ink was made by Inkle and runs all of their games such as 80 Days and their Sourcery! series. It was a pleasure to work with and we’re already looking at opportunities to use it more in the future. From an art perspective, this game gave us a good excuse to expand on our art style and apply it to something more polished. But, most importantly, this game was a great internal team-building exercise that brought us all closer.
In the future, we plan to continue making little game projects pitched by our team members. We love challenging ourselves to expand on our in-house capabilities. It isn’t at the core of our business model. Some might even say we shouldn’t be bothering. But our entire team supports the Game Jam process because making games together, if done right, brings teams together in a way that few things can.
Until we release something else, we hope you’ll enjoy This Game is a Business Card a short narrative experience about game production.