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Friday, January 5, 2018

BGP's Patreon Budget (Choosing a Bank & Shopping for Unity Assets)

First month on Patreon! Not too shabby.
Now I gotta buy gamedev stuff with it.
     Let's talk money. So Patreon charges patrons on the 1st of each month, then transfers the money to the creators on the 5th. That all went down this week, so now that it's in my hands, I can show how all this crowdfunding stuff works and explain exactly where the money's going.

     One of the new adulting things I gotta worry about now is where to put money after I earn some and how to use it to make my games better. (I can worry about living off it and all that after the game comes out. Parents are covering my livelihood right now.)

     I did some research a while ago about different types of bank accounts and how best to stash away a budget for developing a game (basically running a non-profit business until the game actually comes out). I wanted to find the best bank to use for the future anyway since I've always been annoyed with the way my current one seems to just be a long-term money sink.

     Smart people keep telling me to not let money sit in a bank like that and have it out there in stocks and real estate and all that. But being fresh-outta-college ™ I don't have anything to invest yet anyway. I just need a bank that doesn't take money away from me whenever the balance gets wiped out to near-zero. Which is frequent when you rarely have above 3 figures in there.

   So there's 3 types of bank accounts out there I could choose from. Checking accounts are the basic ones where I put money in a bank, and can spend it however I like. Savings accounts are the ones that super-slowly earn interest over time if you don't touch what's in there. That kind is good for stashing away emergency money or saving up for a new car or house years down the line that you may have to dip into every once in a while to cover unexpected bills.

     Then there's this new thing I learned about called a money market account. It's basically a savings account with an even higher interest rate in your favor, but the number of times you can spend any of it each month is super-limited. So that's like a reinforced piggy bank you shouldn't smash open til you really need it.

     So I went on a Google hunt for "the bank that rips people off the least"... Surprisingly, I found the exact kind I wished existed. An online-only bank with no fees or punishments for having $0.

     I ended up settling on Ally Bank, which overall sounds like a better deal to me than the Wells Fargo bank account I've had since high school. They're not gonna take $5 every month just for existing, and I'm basically going to get every other service I'll need. Only drawback is there are no physical locations to go to, but I hardly use those anyway, and Ally partnered with some ATM brands that I could use when I need cash anyway. I could also get up to $80 cash withdrawn anytime I buy something at a grocery store or gas station with my card. So on the liquid cash front, I'm good.

See how I'd make basically nothing if I had money sitting in my old account?
Then on top of that, they take $5 a month for service fees, so I'd be losing $60 year.
For a small-fry like me, that hurts.
     So the current plan is to keep my Wells Fargo account as my personal spending/family account since all my relatives are on it and that's where my allowance for food/gas/conventions/holiday gifts is stored. I can't just abandon it because I need to keep more than $5 in there to avoid overdraft fees caused by their monthly service fees (that actually happened before and it blew my mind).

     My new Ally checking account will be where I'll store all the money related to Yotes Games. When Unicorn Training is purchased, or I get a PayPal donation, or Patreon money comes in, it'll go there and I can easily keep track of my business spending.

I could also use it on myself in an emergency (most likely more car problems) without having to dip into Patreon funds or I could use it for personal travel expenses when I start going to conventions and expos to show Battle Gem Ponies around.*****

     The Ally money market savings account is where I'll be hoarding excess riches (if I ever get that far) until I'm ready to invest some of it elsewhere with even higher return rates. It's empty right now, but luckily this bank doesn't charge you for being rock bottom broke so it can sit there until I'm ready to use it.

     Income is currently at about $200 a month so I'll be budgeting around that number for now. I can keep track of everything and divide things up based on the goals I listed on the Patreon page. With any luck, soon I'll reach the 2nd Patreon goal, purchase the remaining tools I need, and split the remaining earnings evenly between the BGP musicians as motivation & thanks for sticking with this project that's gone on for way too long.
     If I somehow end up getting to goal #3, I'll have two happily paid musicians AND a budget to work with for marketing the game. I could afford artist commissions, social media promotions, Adsense spots on YouTube & blogs, or I can even offer somebody a decent amount to help out with the hundreds of sprites I still have to make!
Speaking of stuff I still have to make, I've set my sights on some new toys from the Unity Asset store that would certainly be helpful...

     For examples of what I mean, I'm talking about the plugins I've gotten from the asset store over the years that have helped my games take less time (and less fuss) to make. Things like the 2D Toolkit to make working with sprites a simple drag n' drop experience. Or the Rewired plugin that handles controller support for me. Or even TextMesh Pro which allows me to make all kinds of fancy text effects for my cutstom-made RPG textbox system.

     Tools like Playmaker and pre-made Online Server code have caught my eye before, but I didn't have the budget for them until now. If I'm getting at least a hundred a month I can finally take a look around the store, buy some assets of things I would've had to spend days/weeks coding myself, and cross them off my development task list!

Here's a list of specific tools I intend to buy in order to make development much easier and make the final product much nicer. (And in the order I want to purchase them in.)

Unity Tools Shopping List:
  1. PlayMaker ($65) - Simplify the overall coding process. The battle system is buggy because my code is kind of a mess. Despite my best efforts and rewrites, debugging still consumes way too much of my time and reading through my code to find what I want is way harder than it needs to be. (This is the same tool used by indie pros like Playdead & Team Cherry!)
  2. Dialogue System ($65) - A system that handles branching dialogue, event triggers, and cutscenes for me. Something I was about to spend at least a week coding myself, but way more versatile. It handles localization, passive npc dialogue, and save/load functions too.
  3. EasySave ($30) - More efficiently stores data and cloud saves to different platforms, a highly requested feature (and since it can save to a generic web database, I could look into carrying over player files across  multiple platforms via logins). It can even write the data into a spreadsheet I could use for analytics or bug fix updates to save corrupt files. There's even encryption included so hackers can't mess around with it and cheat, which makes it a little harder to pirate the game too.
  4. Super Text Mesh ($65) - Incredibly expressive text. Like, beyond Paper Mario and Undertale levels of customization can be done with this. It'll certainly spice up text effects in battle, but also make dialogue more engaging if I use it properly. It'll definitely make the overworld parts of my game stand out from the competition.
  5. 2D RPG Effects ($22) - This one's a bunch of sprite effects I could use for moves in battle (with a little editing to match my style) and it'll save a ton of time in figuring out how to make some attacks look good. There's a bunch of others like it too for about the same price, and with some digging I bet I can find enough to make animating 360 moves super feasible.
  6. Ultimate Mobile ($50) - This is best kit for the publishing and finalization part of development. Game Center and Google Play integration as well as analytics stuff and just about every basic function app stores want your game to be able to handle. If I get this, I skip some beta stage headaches.
Total: $297, if Patreon income stays steady, I could have all this in the game by February 5th!

  1. I2 Localization ($45) - If the Dialogue System language swapping features aren't as robust as I need them to be, this will get the job done. This one can dynamically update people's games based on a spreadsheet of in-game text I'll have access to, so if they're online, I can push fixed typos super quick. It also supports Google Translate (who knows if it'll be any good though) so my game can be in any language right from launch. And I know a lot of Spanish and Russian Unicorn Training players who would love that. 
  2. RateBox ($13) - I'm sure I can figure this out on my own (I have a link to the app rate page in my Feed the Plant game) but if this can let users submit a star rating without leaving the app, it's a must. This makes it easy to control that all-so-important pop-up of "Please Review this Game" that leads to getting higher placement in the app stores.
  3. Loading Animations ($5) - If I can't get the game loading to be super quick, I can invest in this and hopefully have a pretty distraction on screen that won't be frozen by the loading process like the animations I've tried putting in myself.
  4. Pixel Weather FX ($10) - To save me the couple days I would've spent trying to create these effects from scratch.
  5. Shader Weaver ($100) - Doubt I'll get to it for this game, but I'd like to buy this when I make BGP2. It's the fancy effects used on Hearthstone cards that I could put over the backgrounds in battle to make it much more visually interesting. Right now I just stamp environment tiles and blur it all out.
  6. 2D Toolkit ($75) - Although I am currently using it, I originally downloaded this plugin on a different Unity account, so if I ever had an extra $75 to spare, I'd like to purchase this to have it forever linked with my professional Unity account and be able to create new projects with it and keep up with any substantial updates I might be missing out on. 
  7. Particle Effects ($55) - And then theres miscellaneous particle effects packages for $2 to $10 each that will make move animations and various fanfare look better. I'll just list em all at once: Epic Victory Effects, 2D Magic Attack EffectsCartoon Effects Kit, Toon Effects Vol 1, Hits & Slashes Vol 2, and Stylized FX Pack
Total: $303, so I could possibly have that much by March 5th if Patreon keeps up and I avoid spending allowance (not driving anywhere and only eating at home) and ask family members for a bit extra here and there. I'm sure I could at least afford the first few with money from Unicorn Training between now and mid-February.

     I'm gonna hold onto hope that the Yotes Games Patreon will blow up after the playable alpha is released and the game starts to get noticed by YouTubers. The sooner I get all these tools, the sooner BGP goes from amateur to astonishing.


Hope that clears up exactly what I had in mind when I started a Patreon for game development. And if you're an indie too, I hope this was insightful.

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