Monday, December 2, 2013

Development Update: Mutant Mudds Deluxe, Treasurenauts, Cult County, and more!

Mutant Mudds Deluxe
Mutant Mudds Deluxe has already made its way to Wii U and Steam, and on December 17, 2013 it will be available for download on the PS3 and PS Vita for $9.99 - supporting Cross-Buy (pay once and get both versions) and Cross-Save (transfer save progress between PS3 and PS Vita). This is North America only. Delays in Europe for this, and Wii U, are due to the cost and logistical hassle of submitting to the many age rating companies in Europe. We will eventually get our stuff together and sort it out, but for now we're devoting our efforts towards the development of games instead of dancing with PEGI, USK, and such. These companies really need to learn from the ESRB, who offer a free and fast on-line service to rate indie games.

3DS owners of Mutant Mudds (in NA and EU) should be on the look-out for a free update sometime in 2014. It will be luxurious! ;)

Progress on Treasurenauts is going very well. We're happy with the game. We have received tremendous positive support from you and we're excited to get the game into your hands. However, it saddens me to announce that Treasurenauts will not be released in 2013. Don't worry, there's nothing wrong. The game means a lot to us, and we want to do it right. We need more time to make it the game we want it to be. We're aiming for a Q1 2014 release, and will have information on a more accurate date soon. Sorry for the delay, but as an independent developer we rely on the success and revenue generated from each of our self-published games. More time = better game = better sales (hopefully).

Cult County
Cult County is another game we're very excited about. We announced it very early in its development and, as with all games, it continues to progress and morph over the course of development. We'll have more news on our survival horror exploits in 2014.

Mutant Mudds 2
The development of Treasurenauts put Mutant Mudds 2 on hold for a bit. We feel that it is healthier/better for us to develop a new 2D platform game in between Mutant Mudds and Mutant Mudds 2 to maintain perspective on what Mutant Mudds 2 needs to be. We did this with the development of Dementium: The Ward, Moon, and Dementium II, which I believe helped make Dementium II a better game than it otherwise would have been if we had immediately dived into making a sequel. The development of Moon gave us creative perspective and technical advancements, which Dementium II was able to leverage.

New Games
We have two new games in the works. One of them is a 3DS title that will be announced in January 2014, and released early-mid 2014. The other game will be announced a little later down the road.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. We truly appreciate your support.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mutant Mudds Deluxe Makes a Splash on Steam

Austin, Texas – November 18, 2013 – Pixel lovers across the globe enjoyed many retro-inspired moments in the award-winning and critically-acclaimed Mutant Mudds: blasting muddy foes with Max’s heavy-duty water cannon, hovering over dangerous spikes thanks to a H20-powered jetpack, leaping between three depths of gameplay, equipping power-ups from Grannie’s Attic to reach secret doors, and even unlocking Grannie herself as a playable character to travel even farther into muddy territory by accessing the über-elite CGA levels.

Mutant Mudds Deluxe, launching November 21, 2013 on Steam, includes all of these magnificent moments while also offering a host of new features that were not available in the original. And, all of this with a glorious new HD makeover that presents Max and his muddy nemesis in big, bold, beautiful, crisp, and clean pixels in 16:9.

“After 369 emotional days on Steam Greenlight, we received the joyous email from Valve that said Mutant Mudds was Greenlit,” said Jools Watsham, Owner and Director at Renegade Kid. “Having the opportunity to finally bring Mutant Mudds Deluxe to the Steam community is very exciting for us!”

Exclusive to Mutant Mudds Deluxe are 20 new and challenging “ghost” levels that can be found in a mysterious parallel world beyond the phantom mirror. As you unlock each level in the “normal” world, its counterpart in the “ghost” world will be available too. New spectral enemies, haunting hazards, and a ghastly new ghost-shot power-up await you!

Mutant Mudds Deluxe supports Steam Leaderboards and Steam Achievements. 

Visit the Steam Store, here:

About Renegade Kid
Founded in 2007 by Jools Watsham and Gregg Hargrove, Renegade Kid is an independent development studio based in Austin, Texas. A developer of home console and handheld video-games, Renegade Kid is known for its award-winning titles including, Dementium, Moon, ATV Wild Ride, Mutant Mudds, and Bomb Monkey.

For more information on Mutant Mudds, visit

# # #

Mutant Mudds, Dementium: The Ward, Dementium II, and ATV Wild Ride are trademarks of Renegade Kid LLC. © 2012 - 2013 Renegade Kid. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Self-Publishing vs. Working with a (Traditional) Publisher

For the first 5 years of Renegade Kid’s existence we worked with publishers to develop and release our original games, using – what some may call – the traditional publishing model. However, for the past two years we have embraced self-publishing.

Our first self-published game was Mutant Mudds – released on the Nintendo 3DS’ digital store, called the Nintendo eShop, in January 2012. Mutant Mudds was the catalyst for the change in how we approach the funding, development, publishing, and marketing of our original games today.

Having experienced two sides of publishing our original games, I thought I’d draw a direct comparison between the two as a personal exercise that may help some folk in deciding how they want to proceed with their games.

Working with a publisher
Back in the day, working with a publisher meant they covered the bill – the primary reason for us to work with a publisher. Game development can be a costly affair. In our experience, the monies paid to us to develop the game was always an “advance on royalties”, which meant the publisher would take our royalty share of sales until the development budget was paid back.

When the full development budget was recouped the team then started to see royalties. If the full amount was not recouped, the team did not owe any money to the publisher nor were they responsible for that. This was the financial risk that the publisher took when investing in the development of a game.

The hope was that both parties came out ahead, but this was obviously not always the case. And as such, development budgets were often kept low with the hope of making a profit with sales. This made sense, from a business perspective, but the thing that this could hurt the most was the game; the very thing we were trying to make great.

Many times we had presented a budget to a publisher – something that we felt was competitive, while still allowing us to confidently create a great game – only to have it reduced. Sometimes even cut in half! When this happened we had to re-scope the game to fit into the lower budget. This typically resulted in a game that was not as good as the original vision.

Based on what I have witnessed with successful games; good games typically sell well, especially those that have support from the publisher across the board with development, PR, and marketing. A fully realized effort – not one that has been tainted by reducing costs – usually results in a success.

You get what you pay for.

Going solo and publishing your game by yourself means you’re responsible for the cash. There are many ways to fund a game that you intend to self-publish, such as your bank account, investors, kickstarter, and so on.

Some may not consider anything outside of strictly using your own hard-earned funds in your bank account as being truly “indie”. I disagree. I think what makes a team indie is the fact that you are responsible for obtaining cash to fund your game, and how you do it is on your shoulders regardless of where you get it from. 

We do not have investors or any other creative way of making cash appear in our bank account. We save a little here and there. We do some work-for-hire gigs. We try to make it work as best we can. It is not easy, but the result is something we feel good about.

The main joy I get from not working with a publisher is the freedom to develop what we want to, why we want to, when we want to. Replacing a publisher with an investor for a source of money can be equally or more distracting to the vision of the game.

I check our money situation on a daily basis. It has become a necessary habit to load up my excel doc, enter in funds earned from our current games and see how far our money stretches into the future. It is both glorious and terrifying. If things start to look really bleak – meaning; we’ll have no cash in three months – then, it is time to figure out a solution before it is too late.

Fortunately, self-publishing games digitally means that they always exist and always have the potential to earn you money. We’re still earning cash from Mutant Mudds on the Nintendo eShop today – nearly two years after its release.

Working with a publisher
One of the first things we always had to create for a publisher – beyond the game design document – was the milestone schedule. There was usually a release date already chiseled into stone, and it was usually a holiday season release. Therefore, we had a set amount of time for development. We would typically create a milestone for each month and list the “deliverables” that would be available for review by the publisher. Each milestone also had a payment attached to it.

Only when the publisher reviewed and approved the milestone deliverables would payment be processed – sometimes with a 30 day turnaround on receiving the payment from day of approval. Each month we ran the potential risk of the milestone not meeting the publisher’s expectations.

This use of milestone throughout the project made sense, and was a generally a good idea as it kept the project on track and everyone honest. But, it also took a lot of trust on both sides. In the best scenario, the developer and publisher could work together to resolve any issues if some deliverables did not match publisher expectations as to not disrupt the payment schedule.

The creation of the milestone schedule took a lot of work and required the input from everyone on the team. We had to break the entire game design down into the individual pieces that would create the final experience, and assign a time to each of those tasks. It was not easy. It was not fun. But, it was very important.

It is understandable that some may feel as though they can be more relaxed when they don’t have to submit to a publisher’s demands. I think many developers have fallen into this trap. Anything resembling the flying by the seat of one’s pants, when it comes to game development, can assuredly result in disaster, and no game.

We have, and always will, take the planning of our games very seriously. Next to the other key aspects of game development, such as the vision, game design, technology, and art style, the planning is of equal importance. If done right, planning is the very thing that can allow you to be relaxed – with the knowledge that everything should fit if nothing goes wrong.

Something always goes wrong! Your project schedule needs your constant attention. Every task that is completed on time, ahead of time, or late needs to be noted. Chances are that all of those results will happen throughout the course of the project. Knowing where you stand in the storm of development is the only way you make it through to see sunshine again one day. OK, that was a little cheesy, but hopefully you get my point.

Publishers usually do the things they do for good reason – whether you agree with those reasons or not is your call. Something that we always consider is the ideal release date for our games and see if that gives us enough time to produce what we want. It is a good starting point, at least.

You may not be a publicly traded company with stock-holders demanding results, but releasing your game at a good time for maximum sales is always a good idea. Well, unless you don’t like money I suppose. We make games to make money to make games. So, the cash-factor is important to us and our continued development efforts.

Working with a publisher
Some of the aspects of game development that we were not concerned about when working with a publisher was QA/testing, age rating, devkits, and so on. The publisher typically handled all of this, which was helpful. However, those costs would also contribute to the overall development cost of the project and be included in our advance.

One of the less glamorous elements of self-publishing is having to find a solution for QA/testing. Some games can get away with very little testing – as we found with Mutant Mudds – and some require a professional testing company – as we found with ATV Wild Ride 3D, largely due to the on-line component.

At the start of a project, try to think of everything that may be needed to complete the development of your game, and account for it in your budget. QA/testing can be $5 - $20K depending on the game and time needed. Devkits can be expensive or even loaned from the console manufacturer in some cases.

The ESRB kindly offers fast and free rating services for smaller digital games. You will have to sign up on their website ( and then simply fill in their on-line short-form and be on your way. If your game requires what’s called the long-form, you will be looking at a more complicated and expensive rating experience.

Working with a publisher
Publishers typically have great relationships with console manufacturers that can benefit the submission process in some emergency scenarios – definitely a benefit of having a publishing partner. Much of this might be unseen by the development team.

There is a fair amount of paper work involved with submitting your game to a console manufacturer. The publisher’s producer usually takes care of this with some help from the development team. The QA/testing team can also be a great help with this process as this is something they deal with a lot of the time.

Most of the time, you just need to make sure the bugs are fixed and follow the submission guidelines and then upload the build to a FTP server somewhere and wait. Then the publisher takes over and gets it through the system.

This is when you will typically be waiting approximately 10 – 15 days to hear back on the build. Time to get some sleep and then some fresh air.

Dealing with the submission process on your own is a daunting task. The good news is that the folks who work at the console manufacturers are all awesome people willing to help you. It is important to get all of your contacts at Nintendo, Sony, etc. figured out early so you know who to email about what.

There really isn’t much advice to offer for submission apart from get reading! There are a lot of guides provided by the console manufacturer and unfortunately it is something you just have to go through to get a better understanding of the many, many things involved in the process.

Working with a publisher
When working with a publisher, the exposure of your game is largely handled by the publisher – sometimes with very little input or involvement from the development team. Sometimes this can be good, and sometimes this can be bad.

I should note that working with Gamecock Media to publish Dementium: The Ward was really the perfect publisher / developer relationship – especially in regards to PR and marketing. They included us on everything that was going on with PR and marketing. Nothing was done without our approval. Really amazing – especially when compared to most publishers in the industry. Gamecock was not a traditional publisher. 

Trying to get someone, anyone, to care or talk about your game as an independent developer/publisher can be quite challenging. The number of indie developers who are self-publishing their games seems to be growing each day, which is a great thing, but also means there’s more noise and competition for press attention.

You need someone on your team who really wants to talk about your games to be communicating with fans on twitter and members of the press. Honest passion for what you’re doing comes across to those listening and is way more effective than just going through the motions because you know it needs to be done.

I have always enjoyed the behind-the-scenes of game development – even as a kid before I worked on games professionally. And now that I am developing my own games, I find it exciting to talk about what we’re up to and engage with like-minded folk who are interested in our games.

I started a youtube channel and blog where I blab about random development occurrences. I tweet out random game-related things on twitter. We have a facebook page, which is a little neglected, honestly!

When it comes to sending out review codes I send a personal email to each member of the press. I started from scratch, and slowly accumulated a list of contacts at various websites and send them all a code for our games when I have them.

Due to the fact that we do not have a marketing budget, yet, I try to start the awareness of our a new game a few months before the intended release date. It can start with the name, a logo, some key art, or even a single screenshot.

We have been fortunate with Mutant Mudds and Treasurenauts in that they were both announced in print magazines as a special feature in Nintendo Power and Nintendo Force respectfully. Not only does this hopefully get the word out to lots of people, but always lends a sense of grandeur and legitimacy to your game that will hopefully be carried along with it up to its release.

One other big change for us is having a booth at PAX. Our very own booth! Crazy awesome. We had our first booth at PAX East 2013, and intend to continue for years to come. It is a priceless way to connect with players face-to-face. The sense of comradery with fellow developers you get at a show is exciting and helpful for everyone involved. If you have the opportunity to do so, having a booth at PAX can be a key element in your company’s growth and public/industry acceptance. 

For the most-part, I really enjoyed working with publishers to develop Dementium, Moon, ATV Wild Ride, Face Racers, and Planet Crashers. Each project had its ups and downs, but without the support and trust from each of the different publishers we worked with, none of those games would have made it to the stores. I truly appreciate those opportunities.

However, the sense of excitement and freedom I now feel with the development and publishing of our own games is unmatched. There is a lot of risk and subsequent scary times involved with self-publishing. This path is not for everyone. But, for me; this is what I have been working towards my whole career.

I started developing games professionally over 20 years ago. I could not have imagined that I would be where I am today. I am thankful for the opportunity that I have. I treat it with respect. I look forward to what the next 20 years will bring! Viva independence!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Boxed Copy: Mutant Mudds (3DS)

Many fans of Mutant Mudds have asked about the possibility of getting their hands on a physical boxed copy of the game for the Nintendo 3DS. I would love to have one too! :)
The only way we will be able to make such a thing happen is to turn to kickstarter. There has already been a successful kickstarter campaign for a DS game, called Diamond Trust of London. They needed $78,000 to create 1000 boxed copies for the Nintendo DS. Click here to check out their kickstarter page.
I am not sure if we are even allowed to order our own copies through Nintendo, and I do not know how much it will cost. It could cost more than the DS cartridges due to the larger storage sizes. I have sent an email to Nintendo to find out the details.
So, there it is. I just wanted to let you know that the first step towards having physical cartridges of Mutant Mudds for the Nintendo 3DS has been taken. I’ll keep you updated on the information I find.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Win a Copy of Mutant Mudds Deluxe!

Wanna win a copy of Mutant Mudds Deluxe for Wii U? Great! Read on... 

We at Renegade Kid love art. We love to make our own art. We love to look at art. Art is fun. Art is an expression of your creativity. 

Mutant Mudds Deluxe is full of arty stuff. The game is releasing this Thursday, June 13, in North America. If you would like to enter this competition for a chance to win a free copy, simply follow the steps below.

1. Create an image that is somehow related to Mutant Mudds. You may create an original image using traditional art supplies. Creating a digital image on your computer is cool too. You may even use existing images you find on the web to create an interesting collage. The important thing is to show your creativity by producing something original.

2. If there's a voice in your head that says, "I can't draw", ignore it. Some people are born with the gift of drawing. Some have to start from scratch and learn. Everyone can draw. Just try.

3. Email your image to

4. Entries must be received before midnight (Central time) on Wednesday, June 12.

5. Anyone may enter this competition, but realize the copies of Mutant Mudds Deluxe we're giving away will ONLY work on Wii U consoles sold in North America.

6. We have three copies of Mutant Mudds Deluxe to give away.

7. By entering this competition and sending Renegade Kid your image, you agree to allow Renegade Kid to use your image as part of any future Mutant Mudds marketing efforts.

8. All decisions are final and at the discretion of Renegade Kid.

9. Have fun!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mutant Mudds Deluxe Available June 13 on Wii U

Austin, Texas – May 30, 2013 – Pixel lovers across the globe enjoyed many retro-inspired moments in the award-winning and critically-acclaimed Mutant Mudds for the Nintendo 3DS™ hand-held system: blasting muddy foes with Max’s heavy-duty water cannon, hovering over dangerous spikes thanks to a H20-powered jetpack, leaping between three depths of gameplay, equipping power-ups from Grannie’s Attic to reach secret doors, and even unlocking Grannie herself as a playable character to travel even farther into muddy territory by accessing the über-elite CGA levels.

Mutant Mudds Deluxe, launching June 13 for Wii U™ in North America, includes all of these magnificent moments while also offering a host of new features that were not available in the original Nintendo 3DS game. And, all of this with a glorious new HD makeover that presents Max and his muddy nemesis in big, bold, beautiful, crisp, and clean pixels in 16:9.

“Having the opportunity to bring Mutant Mudds to Wii U is very special to us,” said Jools Watsham, Owner and Director at Renegade Kid. “I am particularly excited about the new ghost levels we added, which offer a new gameplay experience thanks to the mischievous ghost mudds who cannot be shot with Max’s regular water cannon!”

Exclusive to Mutant Mudds Deluxe are 20 new and challenging “ghost” levels that can be found in a mysterious parallel world beyond the phantom mirror. As you unlock each level in the “normal” world, its counterpart in the “ghost” world will be available too. New spectral enemies, haunting hazards, and a ghastly new ghost-shot power-up await you!

About Renegade Kid
Founded in 2007 by Jools Watsham and Gregg Hargrove, Renegade Kid is an independent development studio based in Austin, Texas. A developer of home console and handheld video-games, Renegade Kid is known for its award-winning titles including, Dementium, Moon, ATV Wild Ride, Mutant Mudds, and Bomb Monkey.

For more information on Mutant Mudds, visit

# # #

Nintendo trademarks and copyrights are properties of Nintendo.

Mutant Mudds, Dementium: The Ward, Dementium II, and ATV Wild Ride are trademarks of Renegade Kid LLC. © 2012 - 2013 Renegade Kid. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Designing the Wii U

I love Nintendo. I really do. In my opinion, they have the best understanding of game design in the industry. By that, I mean the nuts and bolts type of game design that delves into the nuances of visual communication, psychology, and many other aspects that are not always readily apparent to the player. I would go as far to say they are masters of it.

With this in mind, how did Nintendo make so many missteps with the launch of the Wii U? I have already stated that I love Nintendo, so it pains me to see them make so many seemingly obvious blunders. Especially when they are some of the same blunders they’ve been guilty of in the past. But, I would like to look at one of the new mistakes Nintendo has made with the Wii U.

Putting the lack of Wii U killer-apps aside, how did Nintendo fail to communicate what the Wii U is to the public? This, honestly, blows my mind. In a recent explanation session Mr. Iwata had with investors he admitted that, “Some have the misunderstanding that Wii U is just Wii with a pad for games, and others even consider Wii U GamePad as a peripheral device connectable to Wii. We feel deeply responsible for not having tried hard enough to have consumers understand the product.”

I realize that the game development team is different than the hardware design team, but perhaps they need to cross-pollinate a bit. I understand how they wanted to keep the “Wii” brand and so decided upon the name, Wii U. It may not have been the best idea, but it has logic behind it. The visual design of the console itself, however, has no excuse. The Wii U is essentially a smoother looking version of the Wii – and that is only apparent if you’re really paying attention. At a quick glance, most people could easily mistake a Wii U for a Wii.

This is something the game development group would have avoided. Let’s take the New Super Mario Bros. games, for example. They contain some new power-ups. Even when a new power-up is a variation on an existing theme, it presents itself clearly as something new and different.

Fire Flower

Gold Flower

The new Gold Flower communicates that it is related somehow to the Fire Flower. However, it also makes it very clear that the Gold Flower has unique properties.

Let’s pretend we’re designing the Wii U visual design for a second. Considering the Wii U is a completely new console, and not just a variation on the Wii, you would think a logical conclusion would be to make sure the audience realizes it is a brand new console – especially considering how peripheral-happy the Wii era was. OK, we’ve decided to call our new console Wii U, which is already a little dicey, but we should be able to make this work, right? Afterall, we managed to communicate that sometimes things can produce dramatically different results with mushrooms.

Mini Mushroom

Mega Mushroom

If we look at the way in which the game development department chose to communicate the differences between the flower and the mushroom power-ups we can see that both size and color can be used to dramatic effect.

So, with this in mind it baffles me that Nintendo did not radically redesign the Wii in some way to help communicate that the Wii U is not just a GamePad peripheral for the Wii. When you look at the previous consoles in Nintendo’s history, you can see they are not afraid of being adventurous. Both the Nintendo 64 and GameCube were very unique designs.

Even if there were 100 great reasons to go with the simple design of the Wii U, in spite of it looking practically identical to the Wii, you would at least assume then color could be used to differentiate it from the Wii. Perhaps one of these could have worked... 

Toy Blue

Trendy Green

Executive Silver / Gray

I have faith that Nintendo will get the Wii U back on track with the amazing line up of games they have planned for this year, but perhaps some of the heart-ache could have been avoided by looking at their game design team for inspiration and direction.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Turning Point: Going Indie!

There was a specific point in time when Renegade Kid went full bore indie. I prefer to avoid using the term ‘indie’, but the current meaning of the word accurately describes our current status: we stopped relying on publishers for game-development funding and decided to start trying to fend for ourselves financially with the development and publishing of our original games. At least, that’s what indie means to me.

There were two events that happened in 2012 that firmly set our destiny on course. The first was the release of Mutant Mudds in the Nintendo eShop on January 26, 2012. Even though we self-funded and self-published this title – putting us in the indie role – we did not expect this to be our new business model going forward. At least, not one hundred percent anyway.

The development of Mutant Mudds was a labor of love. We did it because we felt we had to. We had to quench our thirst to create such a game. We were developing other titles while Mutant Mudds was being created, so it felt like a side project. Even though we dedicated many hours to the development of the game, it almost felt as though we spent no money on it. So, when we published the game it felt like a perfect gamble and allowed us to be able to accept the possibility of no sales because our emotional bank accounts were filled by the completion of the game. We were proud of what we achieved.

After the release of Mutant Mudds we went back to the way we had done business for the previous five years, which consisted of pitching original game concepts to publishers and fishing for work-for-hire gigs. Work-for-hire gigs typically involve a licensed title, one that leverages the popularity of a well-known movie, TV show, or other entertainment property. Needless to say, these projects are not always the most fulfilling in terms of creative accomplishment.

Being on the look-out for work, we were fortunate enough to be contacted by a fellow developer with a work-for-hire opportunity. They were in talks with a large publisher to develop the console versions of a very popular license, and wanted Renegade Kid to handle the 3DS version. I was genuinely excited. This was a big brand with a big publisher. This was the type of opportunity that could really put our company on the radar of many large publishers and set us up for a successful future developing large licensed properties, which can be a very financially secure situation if everything pans out properly. 

Everything was going really well. We determined the budget we needed was around $500K to develop the 3DS version of the game. To you and me, half a million dollars is a lot of money. But, when you consider it must fund a team of ten for about nine months, the money goes fast. If divided evenly, that’s about $5500 per month for each team member. That must also include all equipment, office rental, and other expenses involved with the development of the game. It’s a decent budget – enough to get the job done.

The milestone schedule we presented to the publisher spread the $500,000 over the nine or so milestones that took us through the nine months of the project. Naturally, we need money coming in each month to pay the team to make the game. You can imagine my surprise when the publisher presented their milestone schedule.

In a self-serving turn of events, the publisher allocated $125,000 of the $500,000 budget to the development period of the project, holding the remaining $375,000 back for the final stages of the project that include alpha, beta, approval, shipped, etc. In other words, the financial risk of the project was put on us, the developer, and taken off them, the publisher.

This is what goes through my mind:

"OK, let me get this straight. You want us to develop a licensed game for you? A game where we see no royalties? Where we have no ownership or rights to future works or derivative works? You want us to sign a contract that allows you, the publisher, to terminate the project at any time? You want us to spend our own money to partially fund the team during development? OK, so you want no minimize your risk. I get that. But, you want to put that risk on the developer? Wow!"

In a sane world a sane person’s reaction would be to walk away from the deal, right? I mean, that deal is stinky. Why would anyone accept such terms? Well, because you have nothing better offered to you at the time. That’s why so many developers accept deals like this, and why so many developers go under while the possible cause of their demise can live to see another day: the publisher.

This brings me to the second event that cemented our new future. Even though we have already established that sane people would not accept such a crooked deal, we had some serious soul-searching to do – and some important math! The slap in the face that the publisher dealt us made us sit up and think. As suggested by the name of our company, we are somewhat rebellious, and an act such as this makes us grab our shields and swords for fighting whereas some may desperately grab their pens for signing.

Due to the relative success of Mutant Mudds on the Nintendo eShop, we saw that releasing our own games has the potential to work out OK. It is certainly a risky affair, because you cannot determine what will and will not sell, but is it any riskier than partially self-funding the development of someone else’s game that you have no control over? No, I don’t think so.

We allowed ourselves to dream. We created a phantom list of games that we could create and release over the next couple of years and then determined how much money they would each need to earn in order to fund the team to continue. Even though our estimates could be completely wrong, it honestly didn’t look that bad. It certainly wasn’t riskier than the licensed publishing deal sitting in front of us. In fact, perhaps going indie was less risky!

As I’m sure you guessed, or are already aware, we decided to reject the licensed publishing deal with the large publisher. It was a difficult decision, but in the end they made the decision easy for us with their unfair terms. In a perverse way, I thank them for that. It forced us to evaluate ourselves and determine whether we could stand on our own two feet. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but nothing really is, honestly. If you know you’re facing a battle, you might as well fight for what’s right.

My name is Jools Watsham, co-founder and director of Renegade Kid, and this is how we went ‘indie’.

EDIT: While it is a fact that Renegade Kid has been an independent company since it was founded in 2007, and so are many other companies in the video-game industry, the term 'indie developer' seems to have taken on the specific meaning of  referencing developers who do not rely on outside funding. There's a wiki write-up, here for anyone who's interested.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Muddy Steam - Before and After Greenlight

When we decided to port our critically-acclaimed and award-winning title, Mutant Mudds, over to the PC I looked at the library of game available on Steam to get an idea of pricing and genres available. Based on the games that are available on Steam I expected that Mutant Mudds would not have a problem getting on Steam. Not because I think Mutant Mudds is oh-so deservedly so, but because the library of games available on Steam ranges greatly in genre and quality. It does not give the impression of any strict guidelines.

My development experience with Renegade Kid has primarily been with Nintendo platforms. When we submit a game to Nintendo they test the game to ensure it does not crash or have any major bugs that impede gameplay. If the game contains any issues in this regard Nintendo sends us a report that explains why the game was failed. We fix it and resubmit. Nintendo works with developers where needed to isolate issues and correct them.

Valve is a successful company that is reportedly in good financial shape. With this in mind I assumed they would have a robust team in place that provides a similar submission service as Nintendo. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a Steam team member via email thanks to a friend. The Steam team member sent me a friendly email with a link to the submission form and said they look forward to checking out a playable build of Mutant Mudds.

I filled out the form and uploaded a playable PC build of Mutant Mudds with the hope of opening up a dialog about the game to see what features they would like to see supported on Steam, such as achievements, etc. I received an email from Steam about 10 days after submitting:

Thank you for submitting "Mutant Mudds" for potential Steam distribution. We have taken a look at the information provided and determined that Steam is not a good fit for distribution. It is our company policy not to provide specific feedback on a submission but we would like you to consider Steam distribution for your future products.

I was shocked. Like most developers, I never truly know whether one of my games is good or not, but due to the high review scores and fan reaction we received for Mutant Mudds on the 3DS I assumed the game was at least above average and at least on-par with the quality and genre of games currently found on Steam. Steam’s rejection of Mutant Mudds made no sense to me. And, to boot, their policy is not to provide feedback. That’s helpful.

Soon after this, news of Steam Greenlight was heating up and offered potential for Mutant Mudds on Steam – and possibly offered an explanation for Mutant Mudds’ rejection. Did the Steam team want to include it as a relatively ‘well-known’ title in their new Greenlight system? Maybe. Many folks tweeted me saying as much, and I wanted to believe them. I felt fortunate that the Steam team wanted to include Mutant Mudds with the launch of Steam Greenlight. That was awesome.

And then, it quickly seemed as though the games that were being received well on Greenlight were either first-person games, contained zombies, and/or were supported by a built-in PC community or a unique publicity angle. Mutant Mudds could not find its audience. Greenlight is, after all, a popularity contest. Some seem put-out by calling it this. There is nothing wrong with it being a popularity contest. Isn’t that the point of asking a community of thousands to vote? It is what it is. But, now do I need to launch a dedicated PR campaign to get my game(s) noticed and accepted on Steam? I respect and commend those teams that have had their games greenlit. Nicely done, ladies and gents!

Mutant Mudds sits at #82 on the Greenlight list right now. It has hovered around there for some time now. It was at around #40 or so at one point. About 30,000 folks have voted either yes or no for Mutant Mudds to be included on Steam, with a 54% / 46% split in favor of yes. Yep, those numbers pretty much sum up what the Greenlight community thinks of Mutant Mudds: polarized. At this rate I can’t see how Mudds will ever be deemed suitable for a Steam release.

It is puzzling though. How can a game that has been accepted with open arms on one platform be shut out on another? It is truly a fascinating case study. The 3DS audience is more-than-likely very different than the Steam audience, which is one factor for sure. I suppose Steam’s original rejection of Mutant Mudds is somewhat justified now that the community itself has also not accepted the game. Perhaps this means that a game like Mutant Mudds is not suitable for Steam. But, hang on... there are games like VVVVV, Offspring Fling!, Capsized, Beep, Braid, Serious Sam Double D, Super Meat Boy, and even Commander Keen available on Steam right now.

How is Mutant Mudds not a good fit for distribution? I wish I knew. I briefly chatted with a Valve employee at PAX East, who asked for feedback on the Greenlight process. I was not expecting to be chatting about Greenlight at that moment, so I had nothing to offer. Perhaps I should have told them that it is my “policy not to provide specific feedback”, but that would have been rude, right?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

PAX East 2013

PAX East is THIS WEEK! So Exciting! I visited PAX East and PAX Prime for the first time last year, and loved them both. Even though Prime was great, I enjoyed East more due to the city of Boston being pretty awesome and the layout of the show floor being so simple and accessible. The layout of PAX Prime is kind of a mess, honestly, which makes it very difficult to navigate.

So, to have our very own 10’x15’ plot of pleasure at PAX East this year is supremely thrilling. What I like about PAX over E3, for example, is the fact that it is a sea of gamers that ascend upon the show – not just industry folk. Tens of thousands of gamers explore new games and experiences under one roof. That’s very awesome!

Preparing for PAX East 2013 has naturally added a substantial work-load to our already busy schedule. We might make it look like we take it all in our leisurely strides, but the reality is that it takes a tremendous amount of work to ensure we have – to put it bluntly – our shit together, in time for the event.

Not only must we complete our playable demos – of which we have Mutant Mudds Deluxe (Wii U) and our new FPS (3DS) – we also need to design and create banners and merchandise for the show. This year we decided to go with the ever so fancy vertical banners. They are 30”x80” – imagine the size of a sturdy door – quite large! One for Mudds, FPS, and our latest release: ATV Wild Ride 3D for the 3DS.

At least ATV Wild Ride 3D was already finished, so that was one less thing to worry about. But, Mutant Mudds Deluxe needed some attention to make sure it was ready for its close-up. Even today – three days before the event – we’re polishing the game so it presents itself in the best light. I must say, I am really enjoying the Mudds experience on the Wii U. I’m excited that PAX attendees will get to check it out for themselves.

Our 3DS FPS has been an especially challenging task that we thrust upon ourselves. Not only have we needed to get the playable ‘Atmosphere Demo’ in shape to show off, but there’s the fact that this is the reveal of the game to the world. No pressure there, right? This has forced us to finalize the name of the game, the game logo, and the key imagery that hopefully embodies the game theme at a glance. I know that the world will quickly judge and decide whether we have successfully presented an appealing game or not in just few days, but personally I am feeling really good about the game.

Another aspect of preparation I wasn’t quite expecting is the renting of Nintendo hardware to show off our in-development titles. A game that is in-development simply won’t run on retail hardware. They run on our devkits. But, we can’t demonstrate our games on devkits because that not only presents many security issues in terms of Nintendo’s hardware and such, but also runs the risk of the public thinking that the devkit units are special versions of the consoles and available for purchase – which they’re not of course. So, we need to rent Wii U and 3DS hardware that ‘look’ like retail units, but are in fact dev-units that run in-development titles. They do not, however, run retail games. Yeah.

One special setup I am particularly excited about is the 3DS display podium we will be using for ATV Wild Ride 3D. If you’ve ever visited a Nintendo booth in the past year or so you’ve seen one. They’re a fairly simple station that sports four 3DS units – one on each side – with a display header above head-height. I’m pretty sure there’s a fancy Nintendo 3DS logo along the side of the unit somewhere. This should fool everyone into thinking that we’re legit.

In addition to all that malarkey listed above, we had to arrange flights and hotel for our stay in Boston. Gregg and I will be staying at the Revere Hotel on Stuart Street. Seems like a nice place, and was one of the few hotels left with availability. We arrive in Boston on Thursday at around noon, and will have to race from the airport to the hotel and then to the show to setup our booth for the next day, which is the first day of PAX East. If everything goes to plan – ha – the banners will have arrived at our hotel and the flat-screen TV that Mutant Mudds Deluxe will be rockin’ it on will arrive on the show floor on Thursday. Yeah, we’ll see how all of that comes together. If you see just me and Gregg hanging out at our booth with our 3DS’s, you’ll know that the plan failed. :)

Oh, and then there’s PR. There was a bunch of stuff to gather for the Indie Megabooth website, which was done long ago now. We also needed to gather assets for the ever-impressive print magazine, Nintendo Force, so they can include the goodies in their next issue, which releases on the first day of PAX East – I think. We are also sending some stuff over to IGN for them to run something on the game this week at some point – in theory – so we won’t get to rest until… well, I’m not sure really. The important thing is that this is all fun, despite the sleepless nights and grey hairs. I love it.

See you in Boston this Friday!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

ATV Wild Ride 3D - March 7, 2013 - $7.99

ATV Wild Ride 3D To Deliver Extreme On-line Racing in Nintendo eShop

Austin, Texas – February 28, 2013 – Today, Renegade Kid announced that ATV Wild Ride 3D, the eagerly anticipated off-road racer, will be available on March 7, 2013 for $7.99 USD in the Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS™.

Prepare yourself for massive air and jaw-dropping showmanship in this nitro-charged, ATV racing experience. Travel the world and compete in the USA, Thailand, England, Russia, Canada, and Mexico. Speed around 24 challenging tracks hitting epic jumps and earning “Nitro” by unleashing dozens of wild tricks!

“We’re super excited to be releasing ATV Wild Ride 3D in the Nintendo eShop,” said Jools Watsham, Owner and Director at Renegade Kid. “I am particularly thrilled about the multiplayer mode that enables players to go head-to-head online and compete to be the ‘Best Wild Rider in the World’.”

  • Tricked-out, nitro-charged, arcade racing.
  • Choose from a varied line-up of riders and quad bikes – unlock new content as you progress.
  • 24 unique off-road courses set in exotic locations including, Thailand, Russia, and USA.
  • World Tour, Quick Race, Freestyle, Time Trial, and Elimination.
  • Players can compete in local wireless matches or on-line over a broadband Internet connection.

About Renegade Kid
Founded in 2007 by Jools Watsham and Gregg Hargrove, Renegade Kid LLC is an independent development studio based in Austin, Texas. A developer of handheld and console video-games, Renegade Kid is known for its critically-acclaimed titles including the Dementium series and Mutant Mudds.

For more information on ATV Wild Ride 3D, visit

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Renegade Kid, ATV Wild Ride, Dementium, and Mutant Mudds are trademarks of Renegade Kid. © 2013 Renegade Kid LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mutant Mudds is FREE on the App Store

Mutant Mudds is FREE on the App Store

Austin, Texas – January 31, 2013 – Today, Renegade Kid announced that Mutant Mudds, the critically-acclaimed “12-bit” platformer, is available for FREE on the App Store for the iPhone®, iPad®, and iPod touch® today and tomorrow only (January 31 & February 1, 2013).

“We’re honored that Mutant Mudds has been received so well on the App Store by fans and critics,” said Jools Watsham, Owner and Director at Renegade Kid. “To celebrate the success of our debut iOS title, we’re giving Mutant Mudds away for free today and tomorrow, so more players can enjoy its challenging retro goodness.”

Our hero, Max, may be just a 2D sprite, but he can leap into the third dimension by jetting between the background and the foreground playfields with his trusty jetpack in this unique dimensionally-woven experience.

Armed with a heavy-duty water cannon, Max has what he needs to vanquish his long-time nemesis: the Mutant Mudds. Max must blast and hover his way across the soiled landscape to seek out mysterious Water Sprites. Legend says collecting all of the mysterious Water Sprites will wash the filthy Mutant Mudds away for good!

Mutant Mudds is available on the App store for all iOS devices. To download Mutant Mudds, check out the official iTunes information page at:

About Renegade Kid
Founded in 2007 by Jools Watsham and Gregg Hargrove, Renegade Kid LLC is an award-winning independent video-game development studio based in Austin, Texas. Having created many memorable gaming experiences for the Nintendo DS™ and Nintendo 3DS™, with titles including the Dementium series, Moon, ATV Wild Ride, Mutant Mudds and Bomb Monkey, the studio is expanding its portfolio by exploring additional gaming platforms. Renegade Kid is excited about the future of video-games, and continues to devote its efforts towards creating fun, high quality games.

For more information about Renegade Kid and Mutant Mudds, please visit

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iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. Copyright © 2013 Apple Inc. All rights reserved.

Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS are trademarks of Nintendo. © 2013 Nintendo.

Mutant Mudds, Dementium, ATV Wild Ride, and Bomb Monkey are trademarks of Renegade Kid LLC. © 2013 Renegade Kid LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Wild Ride of Development

Renegade Kid’s start was somewhat of an explosive one with the release of Dementium: The Ward. It was the right game, in the right market, at the right time. It put our company on the map – at least within the Nintendo DS community.

The success of our debut title lead to the development of Moon, which may not have met with the same success in terms of sales, but it connected with fans thanks to improved story-telling and sense of adventure – scoring higher with reviewers across the board.
With SouthPeak's purchase of Gamecock, Dementium II was born and enabled us to pour more resources than we ever had into the development of a game. The result was something very special with variety and gore to please those who appreciate such things.
In terms of development, we were building some great momentum as a team and felt very fortunate to have developed three first-person shooters in a row. However, the market was changing. It was 2010 and everyone seemed to be cranking their “mitigating risk” levers up to the max!
Publishers have always been tight with their cash, understandably, but it was getting to the point where we could not find any publishing partners willing to invest in the development of… well, anything really.
Forget original adventure games, we couldn’t even land license game gigs! It was a very difficult time for developers in the industry as a whole, and the DS market was no exception. We needed to get creative! We needed to find a way to land a deal and still try to have fun doing what we do.
I turned to the data. The sales data, that is. Looking at which games sold well in the past does not predict the future, but it shows you where audiences have existed, which at least suggests they may still exist.
After filtering out all of the Nintendo games and big license games (movie and TV tie-ins) you are left with virtual pet games, racing games, and… not very much else in terms of consistent genres that performed well in the DS market. Huh, well that’s a bit depressing.
Believe it or not, we did actually create a concept for a virtual pet game, but never found a home for it. That’s probably a good thing. And with regards to the racing genre, many of them utilized licensed vehicles and such to help promote them. That is, except one specific racing genre.
There was a number of ATV racing games released on the DS that sold quite well. At least enough to show there’s potential for investment there. I immediately tracked them all down and played them. Unfortunately, none of them were fun to play. Fortunately, none of them were fun to play! This gave us an opportunity to actually offer a good ATV racing game for the DS market.
The ATV racing genre is an interesting one. At the time, I was not sure if the term “ATV” was owned by someone. Was it something that needed to be licensed, y’know, kind of like NBA and stuff like that. Apparently, the answer to that is a wonderful “no”. It is just a general term, kind of like SUV.
It just so happened that I had been playing Pure on the Xbox 360 around that time, and found it to be tremendous fun. More on that later…
Now, the reason I wanted to find a genre that had sold well was primarily to sell the idea to a publisher. Even if you present a publisher with an outstanding game concept, if you can’t back it up with sales data you’re going to have a tough time convincing them to invest their money into the development of the game.
So, we had a genre that had generally performed quite well in the DS market. There are a handful of ATV titles that sold a respectable amount. From this we can present a decent justification for why a new (and better?) ATV game is a great choice for the DS market, right? In theory, yes, but…
In reality, it was a tough slog trying to find a home for the game. At that point we were just sending out pitch documents to publishers, which explained the features of the game and sales data on how previous ATV titles had performed in the market. It wasn’t working, so we needed to step up our game a bit.
If you have played Moon, on the DS, you’ll be familiar with the buggy sections. My hope was to use this as the foundation for our new ATV racing game. In the span of just two weeks we cobbled together a playable demo of an ATV racing game. It did not feature everything the game needed, but it demonstrated the basic concept and, if I may be so bold to say, proved that a good ATV racing game could be achieved on the DS!
We started shopping the playable demo around to publishers, and got some good feedback. Things were starting to look a bit more promising. However, no contracts were being sent to us despite it being a somewhat “safe” proposal. It was time to get even more creative!
We looked at our development budget and cut it in half, offering publishers a co-development deal. This reduces the financial risk publishers need to take, off-loading a large amount of it onto us, while also offering us the opportunity to make more money on the back-end in royalties.
Yes, we got a bite! The fine folks at Destineer were on-board with the new proposal and we went full-steam towards completing development of the game. Working with Tony and Matt at Destineer was great. The executive producers/producers you work with at a publisher can make all of the difference. Thanks to the fact that both Tony and Matt are great people, the development process fun and creative.

Our focus was to try and capture the excitement and energy of Pure. Even if were able to capture only an ounce of what Pure offered, we felt that we'd have a fun game on our hands. To me, that means exotic locations, big jumps, cool tricks, and nitro boosts!
Despite all of this goodness, the short version of how well the game performed in the DS market is: not good. We won’t know how well it could have performed in the DS market due to the unfortunate fact that Destineer was in a difficult situation at the time and unable to distribute the game as originally planned. Some copies went out to retail, but it was a very limited run. It was no fault of Destineer’s. It was just bad timing.
ATV Wild Ride on the DS was received well in the press with Destructoid scoring it 8/10 calling it, “One of the best racer offerings on Nintendo’s handheld to date.” Games Abyss scored it 9.5/10 saying, “ATV Wild Ride not only delivers on the fun factor, it makes me appreciate the genre a whole lot more than I ever would have imagined.”
So, the idea of bringing ATV Wild Ride to the 3DS was not a difficult one for us to decide. We have faith in the game. It delivers fun! Now, due to the fact that we have been busy working on a multitude of different games for the 3DS, and other platforms, it has taken a little longer than originally expected to complete. But, we’re nearly finished!
As with the DS version, we initially pitched the game to publishers for a retail release, but got no bites due to the newness of the 3DS platform and the early negative reports of the 3DS and how it was doomed due to the mobile market. I am thankful this happened. Not only has the 3DS market grown to be a very successful one, it has also given us the opportunity to publish it ourselves on the Nintendo eShop.
Our focus for ATV Wild Ride 3D has been to create an enhanced port of the DS game. The sad fact is that practically no one bought the original DS version of the game. However, even those 10 people who did purchase the DS will hopefully agree that the 3DS version is closer to a console racing experience than ever before. Not only have we upgraded the art, with the fancy tricks the 3DS affords such as, specular highlights, mip-maps, higher resolution textures, real-time lighting, shadow maps, and the like – we have also been able to work on the physics; adding suspension to the ATVs. This is a relatively subtle addition that, in my opinion, improves how the game feels.
We have fully funded the development of ATV Wild Ride 3D. This not only means the cost of creating the game itself, but also additional expenses such as the QA team to ensure the game is bug free and ready for Nintendo’s lotcheck. And, now we’re in the final stretch. This is the first week of what we’re expecting (hoping) to be a three week QA focus before we submit the game to Nintendo for their approval. The game is already very solid, so I think we’re in good shape.
Now starts the PR push. With little to no money to spend on advertising, we just have to put our thinking caps on and try to drum up some exposure and interest in the game. We have created a 3D trailer for the eShop, which will hopefully be included in the “Coming Soon!” section in the next few weeks. We will send the game out to the press a week or two before the launch for previews, reviews, and interviews.
And then, we wait for the game to launch, which as of today looks like March 2013. We would like to release the game in the US and Europe at the same time, but it depends on when we receive age rating from PEGI, USK and COB. We already have the ESRB rating. In fact, I got it within 10 minutes of applying for it. ESRB are great. The others need to follow suit. So, if the game does not release in Europe at the same time as the US, you’ll know why. That would make me sad, but we cannot risk missing this quarter with the US release of the game.
Will the game sell well or will it meet with a silent reception? I don’t think anyone can predict. The game has potential to meet both scenarios. The game is good. I firmly believe that. The team has worked well in producing a fun arcade racer for the 3DS. In fact, it will be the first eShop racer released, which is really cool! Let’s hope that helps with sales. If we sell a decent amount, we’ll be able to stay in business and make more games. Now that we’re relying more on our self-published titles for revenue, each sale could not be more important to us.
Due to the lackluster release on the DS, this, in many ways, is the moment we’ll find out if this game was worth it all. I hope to post an update on the game later this year that talks about how well it has been received by the players and the press. That would be a good result to what has been somewhat of a wild ride!

Friday, January 4, 2013

3DS Piracy Revisited!

I would like to thank those who took the time to read my post regarding 3DS piracy and respond with support, different view points, and interesting comments. It wasn’t pleasant, however, reading the rude and hateful comments, but I won’t dwell on those. Piracy is a very emotional topic; one with many facets.

I have always been a huge supporter of Nintendo, the Nintendo DS, and the Nintendo 3DS. If you have followed my vlogs, blogs, and tweets over the past 6 years you will know this. What saddens me is that some people have taken my comments as an attack on Nintendo, the 3DS, and the players. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I wrote this: “If piracy gets bad on the 3DS, we will have no choice but to stop supporting the platform with new games.”

This does not mean I am taking a stand against piracy. This does not mean I am taking my business elsewhere in an action of protest.

What this means is if we cannot make money from developing games we can no longer develop games. That is what can happen if piracy gets bad. If enough people choose to illegally obtain copies of my games for free instead of paying for them, it directly affects my business and my home.

Many claim the Nintendo DS market was not affected by piracy. Nintendo themselves blamed piracy for a 50% drop in European sales in 2010, reported the Asahi Shimbun.

I understand that piracy is always going to exist, and that every market has some form of piracy. I accept that piracy will exist on the 3DS. The question is how much is it affecting the market? Some markets maintain a healthy business environment alongside piracy. I believe this is due to many factors, not least of which is the service provided in that market.

I don't think there is a solution to piracy. It will always exist in some form. We just need to make sure the price of games is affordable. We need to make it easy to buy and own games. The availability and access player's have to their games needs to be at least as easy and convenient as the ROM sites make it to illegally download a game file. Ideally, it should be better. If the player's only question is, "buy or not buy?", and not dealing with issues such as, "how do I transfer ownership of this game to my new system?" then we'll have minimized the appeal of piracy.

I hope this helps explain where I was coming from a little better. We have games planned for the 3DS into 2014. Our support of the 3DS platform couldn’t be stronger. I expect the cynics out there will discard my words as an attempt to just smooth things over. No. I just want to try and get my original intent communicated. That is all. 

Thanks for reading.