Final Form Games, Year One: WHERE WE’VE BEEN

Tue, June 29, 2010 -- 23:19 UTC

On July 1st, a scant two days from now, Final Form Games will be one year old! To celebrate, we decided to bring our (fiercely!) loyal readership up to speed on where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re going.

But what about right now, you ask? What is Final Form working on right this second? When will I finally see evidence that anything from that timeline up there is actually true?

Well… it is our birthday coming up…

Business Time (Part I)

by Tim
Wed, August 19, 2009 -- 14:59 UTC

Well, here we are, our webpage is finally live. It’s taken longer than expected getting from “let’s start this party!” to “man, this is a sweet party!”, so I thought it might be interesting to share some of the unexpected hurdles we’ve bumped into along the way. Particularly, those pertaining to Starting A Business. When I inquired with friends who had trod this path before me, they shared their Great Lessons – sage words of wisdom earned at a great cost. Unfortunately, because I did not at the time possess a clear outline of the overall shape of what was to come, these bits of widsom were of little immediate value to me. I hoped that some day they would become useful, like in the movies when a bullet is stopped by a seemingly-worthless trinket the main character keeps on a chain around his neck.

Given our lack of clarity on the issue, and because we happen to work in an office teeming with talented lawyers, the first thing we did when we hit the ground was find a lawyer and start talking about exactly what steps must be taken to start a game development business in Philadelphia. It turns out it is at once easier and more difficult than we had imagined. Let’s start with the easy part: First we needed to decide what kind of corporation we wanted. There were several options on the table, but we quickly whittled it down to either an LLC or S-Corp. The differences between the two are subtle, and we talked for a while about the tax and liability implications. Because it is such a complex optimization space, it’s hard to confidently recommend anything to anyone. That being said, we decided on an LLC for now, with the option for an S-Corp election if and when we establish some cash flow. This seemed right for a situation where all partners are supporting themselves out-of-pocket, startup costs are low, and losses are expected for at least the first year.

The next question was where we should incorporate. Apparently, there is something of a mythos surrounding ‘Delaware Corporations‘, a mark of priviledge and prestige in the business world. Companies sometimes even append it like a title, e.g. “Columbian Chemicals Company (a Delaware Corporation)”. According to our friends in the business world, this made a lot of sense a few decades ago because of Delaware’s tax incentives. However, as time went on, other states figured out why everyone was incorporating in Delaware. Hungry for that tax revenue, they adopted competetive incentives, and the free market corrected itself. So, given that there was no obvious advantage to incorporating out-of-state, and the massive headache of dealing with twice as many state tax bureaus, we decided to go with Pennsylvania after all.


Delaware. Where the corporations come from.

A quick aside – apparently, Philadelphia is working with a group called the Videogame Growth Initiative to establish incentives for incoming game developers and publishers. Given that Philly recently decided to join California for an old-fashioned budget crisis, it seems unlikely that any such investments are likely to pass in the short-term. Still, it suggests that such incentives are starting to crop up in less-well-known locations, and that video game startups may actually do well to look outside of CA when deciding where to set up shop.

But enough about Philly. Once we finished officially incorporating (there is a form and a fee) and received our tax ID (which is like the SSN of a business), we were able to set up our company bank account. Each of us poured an equal part to cover startup costs (office equipment, software, hardware, etc…), and we all got fancy-looking bank cards. In this process, I learned an amusing fact: when bankers hear that you are starting a business, they get Excited. Coming from a world of personal finance limited to free checking that comes with a free casserole dish, it was jarring to see the curtain pulled back, and realize how much more interested banks are in ‘helping you out’ when you are talking about a business account. And by helping you out, of course, I mean selling you services that make no sense for a tiny three-man company. So, we thanked them for their enthusiasm and promised we would talk more if/when we see a positive number on our balance sheet.

Anyways, That just about wraps up this first installment. I’d love to hear any other indie devs’ experience with this – the comment section awaits you! Next time: The Hard Part.

Welcome to Final Form Games! Dot com!

by Mike
Wed, August 19, 2009 -- 14:07 UTC

As I type this, Hal and Tim are muttering arcane strings of code sigils. Ostensibly, this constitutes some form of back-and-forth communication between the two of them. The frequency of these little gobbledygook salvos has been rising steadily for the past two hours or so. A good chunk of it is over my head, but I have pieced together the following through context clues:

  • This website is almost done. Indeed, it is very possible that we could go live before C.O.B. today.
  • Doing so will require that several annoying bugs in the category Tim refers to as “survivors” be squashed with extreme prejudice.
  • Going live before C.O.B. today would be desirable in the extreme.
  • Having some actual content on the blog when we go live (for our “readers”) wouldn’t get kicked out of bed either.

So our two alpha coders put their heads down and started speaking in tongues. As a result, I have been charged with producing our very first message to the world at large. I’ve decided to talk about the big picture of what this year is about for us.

Put simply, this year is about starting up. It’s about paying what it costs to spin up a studio, a technology core, and a decent understanding of what 3 guys making an entire game in a reasonable amount of time really looks like. Most importantly, it’s about setting up a webcam. Because you gotta have a webcam.

We’re 2.5 months in now, and things are going pretty well! In keeping with our goal of contributing to the Dialogue At Large, we’ll be expanding on the how and the why of our emergence from the primordial bog in subsequent posts. For now, suffice to say that we have the studio, the technology that will underpin our games is well underway, and we’ve been evolving our development processes steadily over the course of these initial efforts. We also (improbably) have a webcam. On a webSITE! Not using capital letters and italics to convey our excitement is becoming increasingly difficult.

Which brings us to today. With the website done, there’s not much left to do around here except our JOBS. To wit:

  • We will make fun, handcrafted games that explore the themes and mechanics which have always resonated with us.
  • We will sell those games to you. For cashy money!
  • We will use that money to repeat this process.
  • We will drive the minions of evil to the world’s jagged edge, and pitch them into the chasm so that the bell of peace can ring in our land once more.

Alright. Back to it. Join us! Explore! Check back often! There will be new stuff!