by Joseph Leray
We at the MTV Multiplayer offices — more a secret lair, really, nestled somewhere in the Adirondacks — have been remiss in our coverage of Tom Francis’ “Gunpoint,” a stealth-puzzle game by way of electrical engineering and film noir. By that, I mean that we haven’t covered it at all, which is a mistake because it’s proving to be quite popular.
In “Gunpoint,” you play as a spy tasked with stealing Important Documents, and you do this by re-wiring and re-structuring each level to suit your needs. It’s a nifty piece of design — having been nominated for a 2012 Independent Games Festival Award in that category — but the new story is that, per Francis’ blog, “Gunpoint” only cost about $30 to make and started turning a profit about a minute after he opened pre-orders for the game late last month.
Of course, games cost way more than $30 to make: Francis bought a copy of Game Maker 8 three years ago and the rest is history, but he still had to keep the lights on, pay rent, and buy cat food during that time. His day-to-day expenses were covered by his day job as a writer for PC Gamer, though, so the actual development costs are actually pretty fuzzy. Full-time employment is a luxury not available to all indie game makers, but compared to big-name, big-budget, big-studio behemoths, it’s hard not to be charmed by “Gunpoint”’s modest means.
“Gunpoint” has been a runaway success, earning roughly six times Francis’ predictions, enough that he can proudly proclaim: “I can now make games full-time for the foreseeable future.”
“So, I quit my job,” he writes. “In fact, I think I have quit jobs, as a concept. I started Gunpoint as an audition piece to get myself a position at a developer, but designing it has been so creatively satisfying that I no longer want one, and so commercially successful that I’ll never need one.”
Here’s the choicest revelation, though: Francis’ first order as a full-time dev is to begin porting “Gunpoint” to Linux and Mac. This is good news for those, like myself, shackled to OS X like some sort of Steve Jobs Horcrux, and it’s good news for anybody with experience with Game Maker 8 — the newly-minted operation is now taking applications.
For more of Tom Francis’ personal thoughts on the business of making and selling his game — complete with graphs! — do check out his article on the subject.