It has been quite a long time since we’ve blogged, but hopefully you’ve been keeping up with us through our social media. If you have, you might have seen that things have been accelerating faster than we had thought possible just a year ago. After a year of creating Deep Inertia from the apartment and our kitchen tables we’ve made some big moves and solidified ourselves as a company. This blog will hopefully close the gap and provide the missing link to show you what has happened and hopefully explain (or at the very least atone for) our blog silence.
ComicCon, and the big play
When Scott first started writing Deep Inertia, as you might know he was doing so because he didn’t have the team around him to build the game he had envisaged for it. The story, being one of several ambitious projects was the perfect one to take the leap into the novel format. Writing in this format would allow him to tell his story in a way he was able to achieve by himself. It wasn’t too long before David and Sean learned of it, and PickLock Games was born, with the first mission – make that game!
We hit Pax Melbourne with ambition and learned a lot from our mistakes, but we weren’t ones to say die too easily. There was another major convention we wanted to take a crack at, ComicCon! And how best to find like minded individuals there? A comic perhaps? Crazy, but we think it might just work. We set our sights on ComicCon Sydney 2018 and began planning very much in advance for our next big try for the spotlight.
So then our focuses were:
Our lives and our daily jobs
We had our work cut out for us!
So much preparation goes into conventions, it was crazy of us to think we could get everything done in time to showcase our game and comic. We didn’t have a comic yet. Hell we’d even just switched our game’s engine and art style, essentially starting again from scratch. Pushing ourselves to the limit meant we’d need copious amounts of coffee and junk food. This we could manage.
Scott engaged Grego, a talented artist from Spain to draw the artwork we needed and show us the way of comic book design. For months Scott and Grego worked, sharing intricate design briefs for each frame of each page, making tweaks and changes as new things revealed themselves and the story evolved. It took us about 9 months to finish the comic, all the while things were evolving for our little (but growing) team.
Registered, re-homed and settled in
Funding would always be a big conversation piece at the weekly dev night. Our entire project was (and still mostly is) completely self-funded by the three of us. We work 5 days a week here in Canberra, the capital of Australia. We have families, busy lives and little free time. Somehow, we have managed to take this particular passion further, and we are all very proud of this achievement. The costs are significant, especially where we are now (as you will read later) but when you believe in something like this, you make concessions. As a team we discussed (and argued) of the merits of finding venture capital or some kind of basic seed funding. Selling off a portion of what we had worked so hard to build would be a complicated thing and not without risks and complexities. We knew we wanted to at some time consider it but for now we had agreed to find alternative methods.
Patreon was our first thought. A platform that provided patrons of the arts to fund teams like ours. Our platform was comics and game development, and this let us provide updates, videos and art of our journey to patrons. Our first video below was filmed in Scott’s apartment, using a roll of material we bought from the local craft store, and Scott’s HTC Vive lighthouse stands. We spruced the space up with some plants and pop culture and squashed into frame.
David’s belly aside, we were proud of this terrible video, and still use it to this day! But creation of this video unlocked a new world for us. Sean bought himself a video editing rig and a video mic, and we began taping our Dev nights for the first time.
We are still quite rusty, and learning things, but from then we were able to show the world just how crazy being a small start-up can be. Working from a cramped apartment, building the thing we believed in.
The incubator and the academy
During this time something bigger started brewing. We were tired of working from home. We wanted to expand our team but the limitations of our situation were preventing us from growing. We needed two things – new team members who could share our dream with us (Which we couldn’t afford without bringing in some capital) and an office to put them in. Fortunately for us, going through the Patreon phase we had registered ourselves as a fully fledged business, which meant that we had passed the basic requirements for getting ourselves both.
Our three directors work in IT in leadership roles, either directly through management or indirectly through team coaching. We knew how to build an IT team, we knew how to run one and we knew how to train people who had never had the chance to work in the real industry before. This put us in an excellent position to be able to take on ‘interns’ (we could later learn that internships are complicated beasts through Australian law and the option of the ‘vocational placement’ was legal, ethical and beneficial to the company and any students who might wish to join us).
Quick side story…
During all of this, two new members joined our team. Max and Lumi! Snow Bengals, who have taken their place in the story along with John Renton.
Now back to where we left off…
We struck up a simultaneous conversation with a local digital entertainment education academy and a videogame incubator, building a relationship that bore fruit. We found an office in GamePlus that we could afford and through a complicated process (legally and logistically) we took on four students in a specially crafted vocational placement program. The process took months and saw us learning contract law, getting insurance (on a side note game company insurance in Australia is ridiculously complicated!) and filling an awesome office with all the things we believed would make PickLock Games a place we would want to come to work every day.
We wanted to make the experience valuable for these students and we wanted the kind of workplace that a tech team would dream about. Inspired by start-ups like Amazon (starting out of a garage) and big companies like Google who focus on culture and people to build good things rather than command and control systems, we have built a bright, exciting and innovative space where people can work as well as play. When people want to come to work, when you treat them well and give them what they need to succeed, they do better things and generate a snowball effect on culture and quality.
And then we had a big office with nothing in it.
But with the help of a visiting tech pro (Scott’s cousin!) we put together a start-up style office to dream about.