My Beautiful Paper Smile: The Story of a Solo Indie Game Developer

My Beautiful Paper Smile: The Story of a Solo Indie Game Developer

Gavin Eisenbeisz discussed how he's been developing and working on the release of his first big title My Beautiful Paper Smile, a psychological horror game set in a dystopian world where children are raised to be perfect.

Introduction

My name is Gavin Eisenbeisz, and I’m the sole developer behind Two Star Games. My strengths are in art and writing, but my love of video games brought me to learn the other skills needed to make games, so I could start working on my own projects.  My one-man studio was officially founded in late 2019.  In the past, I’ve mostly just worked on personal hobby prototypes, and other small games, but I’m currently working on my first large commercial release, My Beautiful Paper Smile.

About the Game

My Beautiful Paper Smile is a linear, story-driven horror game about a world where children are raised to be perfect. Players are put into the shoes of one such child who has spent his life in a facility where he and other kids are taught how to be happy at all times and resist any other emotions. This character and his friend decide that they need to escape from the facility, and the game follows their journey out into the world.  The main focus of the game is creating a compelling narrative and strong atmosphere. For anyone who wants to learn more about the game, they can find it in early access on Steam.

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Jumping into Game Development at a Young Age

As a solo dev, I haven’t had much trouble managing my “team”, but it has been a bit difficult at times managing development for myself. I’m nineteen now, graduated high school last year, and I am working on the game (more than) full-time from my parents' house. I started working on My Beautiful Paper Smile at the beginning of my junior year of high school, and balancing game development with classes was a huge pain. I worked on my game about five hours a week until I graduated, completing the first chapter in just under two years. Since graduating I’ve been able to work full-time without needing to worry about living costs, and being able to focus all my attention on development has been great. I consider myself pretty lucky to be in the situation I am in, and I’m hoping that this game will give me the jump start I need to support myself in this industry.

Deadlines and Release Dates

So far I've had two major releases for the game. The first was the initial two chapters being published in EA on Steam, and the second happened recently, in October, when we released the third chapter. My deadlines are pretty fluid, and I don't announce any solid release dates until I'm sure I can finish the upcoming chapter/update in time. That being said, I do create personal milestones and a development timeline for each chapter that I follow as close as I can. My publisher and I typically discuss a general release window that we're aiming to have the coming chapter ready by that time. Then, as long as development goes well and the chapter is good enough for fans, we'll announce our release date. Usually, by the time we make an announcement like that, I'm just making the final touches and verifying everything works as it should.

 

Juggling Several Projects at Once

I wish I could say I don't get overwhelmed with all the projects I'm working on, but I don't believe a person can truly grow unless they push their limits. My main project is of course my game, but I'm also running a YouTube channel about game development, and in the process, I'm starting a podcast called The Indie Circle (shameless plug). As far as time and resources go, most of my effort goes to developing My Beautiful Paper Smile, but any time leftover is going straight into these other projects. I've recently started posting more videos, and with the podcast underway, I have been finding it a little stressful to keep track of everything that needs to happen in a given week. When things get a bit chaotic I always pull out my trusty Trello board and that tends to help me organize things a bit better.

Plans on Pushing the Brand

I have a lot of areas where I’m planning to improve and grow my studio. Perhaps the biggest change I’ll be making involves focusing more on building my brand and audience. This is where YouTube and my podcast come in. With game discoverability being difficult these days, I’m beginning to find time and time again, that the people with an audience tend to make it a lot farther in the industry. The second big improvement I’ll be making relates more to how I develop my games.  With future game projects, I’ll be focusing more on the core concept of the game and making sure it’s gripping even after seeing no more than a few seconds of gameplay.

Marketing

V Publishing, the Publisher of My Beautiful Paper Smile: We employ a variety of marketing ideas to promote our games. We tend to focus on grassroots community building, finding a core group of players who love the genre. Obviously, influencers and media are always communicated with, advertising and social media are also involved. The key is to build a marketing campaign around the game and not try to make a game fit a template. With MBPS, because it’s in early access, we are going for a community strong approach as our communities’ feedback is invaluable for the development of the game.

Monetization

I talked with my publisher, V Publishing, early on about different monetization methods for the game. The initial idea was to release each chapter of the game as a separate purchasable DLC and then combine them all into a full game once all the chapters were released. We ended up deciding to go the Early Access route instead though. Currently, the first three chapters sell for $14.99 USD, and once the game is complete we may raise the price. So all in all, we're approaching monetization from a pretty basic standpoint. We would also consider some small DLC or merchandise in the future, but that isn't anything we have immediate plans for.

Future Plans

The biggest goal for 2021 is completing the game and fully launching on Steam. Honestly, I can’t say I know what exactly I’ll be doing after that, but I guess I’ll see once I get there. A lot will depend on how the launch of my game goes, and I’m really excited to find it out.

Gavin Eisenbeisz, Game Developer

Interview conducted by Ellie Harisova

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