Brad Hall and James Emory talked about the development of VertXLabs – a new 3D marketplace for game creators.
Brad: My name is Brad Hall and I’m from Tyler, Texas. I’m the Co-founder and CTO of VertXLabs, where I’ve been developing the VXL marketplace for the past several months. I had been considering building my own digital products marketplace for some time, but didn’t dive into the project until James pitched me the idea of building one under the VXL name.
James: My name is James Emory and I’m from East-Texas. I currently work as a full time technical generalist and co-founder for VertXLabs, which is a developer oriented contracting company. When working as a technical artist/generalist, I build shaders, particle fx, complex materials and assist with any number of areas in development. As for starting the online marketplace, I had toyed with the idea when coming up with the primary areas that VXL would focus on, but never got serious about it until I saw how upset certain developers were over the state of another marketplace. After talking with Brad, we realized that we could really foster a special relationship with the game developer community by making a marketplace where *every* developer is welcome, regardless of what engine they use.
Launching a 3D store
Brad: I think most fields these days are saturated, especially in gaming and software. But when you believe in something enough, you pursue it relentlessly even when the odds are stacked against you. This is true for us and it’s true for most game developers today. We wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t think we could make an impact.
In fact there are many 3D marketplaces out there, but there aren’t really many engine-agnostic marketplaces that combine all aspects of game development under one roof and cater only to game developers. We believe there are still improvements to be made in this space.
James: Yes, there are quite a few 3D stores online, but so far, we haven’t seen any modern marketplace specifically cater to game developers, and we want to help bridge that gap. What’s so interesting about this approach is that we have access to developers directly in real time via our personal Discord server so that verified sellers can provide feedback, ask questions, request features and more directly from us. By going down this route, we can make sure that we provide an environment where game developers prosper with their products.
Brad: Any content related to game development is available on our marketplace. That includes 3D models, audio, textures, coding blueprints, and even tutorials, amongst other things.
Most of the content in the marketplace right now are 3D models and textures, but as the marketplace grows we hope to see just as many uploads from sellers in our Audio, Tutorials, and Coding categories.
James: DevFlip is an engine-agnostic marketplace, so any game developer is welcome to open a store and sell their wares. We have a wide variety of categories and subcategories ranging from 3D Models, Textures, Audio, UI, VFX, Programming, Tutorials and a lot more. I think the key elements to our marketplace is the unification of a marketplace storefront and the seller’s personal profile. In traditional marketplaces, the most visited pages are the featured product sections and sale sections, which we do have. However, we’re constantly working on making sure that our seller’s personal profile page will let them promote their wares without worrying about competition from the marketplace front. So by using our marketplace, sellers will get the best of both worlds with product awareness via the store front and by having their own personal profile that lets them arrange their favorite products while also displaying each product they’ve uploaded underneath their featured products.
Brad: Product prices are determined by sellers, and we give them freedom to set virtually any price they would like. They can even offer free downloads of their products. We believe that the market will determine the best price for seller assets, so sellers can play with their product pricing until they find the best price for demand in order to maximize their profits.
VertXLabs makes money by charging 30% of sellers’ revenue as compensation for listing their products on our platform. With this approach, we only make money when our sellers make money and so we do everything we can to empower our sellers in order for them to make more sales.
As far as psychological barriers for the project, I work a full-time day job as a programmer, working on developing the marketplace at night and on weekends. For the most part I have relatively few psychological barriers when developing the marketplace since I love doing it, but some things, like continuous scope creep, are somewhat stress-inducing. I did all of the coding for the marketplace and since we built it from scratch, this was a little bit of an undertaking. When development of the marketplace was in full swing, I was easily putting in 70-80 hour weeks between my full-time job and working on the marketplace.
James: Sellers on our marketplace can set their own prices and create their own individual product sales whenever they wish. We don’t want to restrict our users if we don’t have to, and we feel that letting them appropriately price their content is the best way for them to sell said content.
Brad: The store is open for the public to upload their assets and sell on our store, although since we just launched a few weeks ago, most of the content of our store is generated by members of the VXL team. Pricing is determined by sellers, so they can set whatever price they like. James can speak more to the pricing side of things since I myself haven’t uploaded any assets.
James: So right now, I’m currently working on building up a texture material library for the marketplace, and a fully built material made for end users can take anywhere from a single day to a week depending on material complexity. After I feel that I’ve uploaded enough materials, I plan on making several course ranging from technical art to material creation and more. Kyle Ham, our programmer at VXL, has already uploaded a programming product and has several more products in the works. It’s hard to specify a static number for the time it takes to make the content for the marketplace as each developer’s area is vastly different from one another and requires different guidelines/rules to adhere to. That being said, the marketplace is open to the entire developer community, so we’d love to see user created content alongside the content that we create.
Brad: One of the main reasons we built DevFlip was frustration with the experiences we had while using other marketplaces. The approval process in most are slow, and if you’re a seller you never know if you’re providing support to somone who actually bought your product or if they stole your product and are now needing help. With DevFlip, you can only message buyers if you’ve bought their product, so sellers always know that they’re talking to a verified customer.
Another advantage I feel we have over other marketplaces is our on-demand payout feature. Rather than paying our sellers on a predetermined time interval, we offer on-demand payout with a low payout threshold of just $10. If you’ve benefited us by using our platform to sell your product, we want you to have access to your money and to be paid on your terms.
We are fanatics about customer service. I once ran home on lunch break to fix a bug that one of our users came across after he posted about it on our Discord channel. We’ve uploaded large product files for users who don’t have access to fast and reliable internet. I just don’t think you’ll find that from anyone else in this space.
James: We built our marketplace for a large myriad of reasons, and one of those reasons is that we didn’t feel like existing marketplaces really fostered a positive community or offered substantial growth for developers wanting to make a living selling their products. Current marketplaces are often bogged down with extremely long approval times, flawed relations with sellers, and the general lack of an engine agnostic store also played a part in this decision. We’ve built in features that we know developers will need and appreciate, such as the ability to provide support via our built in message center to verified customers. Gone are the days of scammers trying to take away a developer’s time by saying they have an issue with a product that they stole; our message center will allow users to send to us a chat log during events like customer disputes so that we can provide fair support to both parties involved. Alongside the built in chat feature, we also understand that sellers need to access their funds at times that aren’t dictated by us, and so we’ve built in a payout request system that will allow sellers to request their funds and receive them very quickly. To top things off, we want to be a home for developers to sell their products and grow alongside us.