Project Overboard to power up at this year’s T.O. Jam

Ryan Henson Creighton of Toronto-based game development studio Untold Entertainment talks to Playback about his project for this weekend's three-day game-making event.

Ryan Henson Creighton is aiming for epic at Toronto Game Jam 2012.

The Toronto-based game developer and founder of Untold Entertainment is to create Project Overboard, a retelling of the myth of Perseus in the style of ancient Grecian black figure pottery at this year’s three-day gathering of game-makers.

Oh, and it’s a comedy.

And going big has Creighton assembling at least 30 fellow game-makers to work on Project Overboard and not just the usual suspects.

Creighton says the Ontario indie game industry with mostly small shops leaves no infrastructure to hire people to fill roles outside of the programming and artistic realms – like project management and production.

That’s in contrast to Quebec and British Columbia, where giants like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts dominate.

“All the little independent game shops, and the up-to-10 man shops – it’s not until we get to a certain size that I’m even going to think about hiring producers and project managers and marketing people and that kind of stuff,” Creighton explains.

That’s where Project Overboard comes in.

Creighton aims to create a game for T.O. Jam that uses people with required skills and who wish to work in video games production, but haven’t received a leg-up into the industry.

Project Overboard also aims to encourage indie game shops to focus on business and marketing strategies.

“Our strength is in making games. We’re not all that great at marketing our games and getting them out there, and in a world of digital distribution, that’s super-important,” Creighton says.

Creighton is also leaving little to chance, as its studio-size team comes to T.O. Jam with a complete game design document and UGAGS framework.

“I’m trying to remove as many barriers to success as possible,” Creighton explains.

“We are craftspeople, not artisans – so we’re not making creative decisions or artistic calls. We’re getting our marching orders and building those pieces that we’re assigned to the very best of our abilities.”

The team will be split into two parts, one focused on production, and one on business and marketing,

It’s also a test for Creighton, who, in wanting the opportunity to lead and manage a team, will have to relinquish control of a large part of his project.

The plan is to sell the game via iTunes and direct web sales, with the proceeds going towards sponsoring kids to attend technology camps.

Creighton says Project Overboard could be a prototype for indie studios to consider as a future strategy.

“I’d like to see more people thinking about using producers and project managers, thinking about using writers, thinking about the marketing side of the games, because too many of us are launching titles and they’re disappearing in that huge app void, and nobody gets noticed,” says Creighton.

“I think it’s because we’re not leaning on business and marketing enough. Most people are domain experts. I’m going to start a company because I know how to make games. Do I know how to write a contract? No. Do I know how to market a game? No. And it’s hard to convince someone who fought tooth and nail to get the money for production to spend the money on all the extra things around it,” he adds.

The project is about the experiment, says Creighton, and not about what they ultimately produce.

“It’s about getting people to do things they can’t normally do, and trying to generate revenues on the game and seeing if we can muster up the marketing strength do to that, and using the money that we do generate for a great cause,” he says.

“We have to double down on this industry knowledge, and I don’t feel that we have done it with early education to the degree that we should,” he adds.

Photo: T.O. Jam 2011 / Jasmine Lin