Derek From Stormcloud Creations

Hello, and welcome to my world. I’m Derek DiBenedetto, Owner,
CEO, and Lead Designer of a small indie game development/publishing
company called Stormcloud Creations. I’ve been in this crazy biz for
over 4 1/2 years now, and this is dedicated to my father, whose faith
kept me going in the beginning, even when I was ready to give up.

It’s strange looking back on this sequence of events now, because
SC almost never was. It started on a whim one day, while I was
sitting around my house, bored of my current crop of games and
running through ways to pass the time. I had been toying with the concept of starting up a little game company for awhile, as I had always been
told I had great ideas for games by many people. I would modify
existing board games like Monopoly with my own cards and rules,
and it always made the games more fun. I designed my own little
games on a C64 from an early age, and was weaned on all the great
classics: Civilization, Colonization, Master of Magic, and
SimCity, M.U.L.E and Balance of Power, among others.

Of course, almost 5 years ago, the landscape of the Internet was
a little different than now; fewer indie game companies and less
competition. So being an indie game publisher and dev was an
unknown quantity, and uncharted territory for most people. I had no idea
what to expect really.

Which made the ignoble flop SC was
at the beginning not a huge surprise, in hindsight. The problem
with hindsight is that that it doesn’t make you feel any less
crappy at the time its actually happening.

So I started developing my first game, abandoned it, then
started on a second game. Abandoned it. You get the idea.
Took me 5 tries to finally start on something that shaped up
into a playable game. Many big game designers, like Sid Meier,
do pretty much the same thing. None of it is a science, and those
who tell you otherwise are sadly deluded. For every great
game idea someone comes up with, they have at least 2 – 3 they’ve
quietly started and abandoned, and not told even their
closest friends about for fear of uncontrollable laughter in response.

Along came Interstellar Trader, which
was a conglomeration of various games I had played and loved,
from Elite to Privateer, combined with my own ideas and
mechanics.

It was designed to be simple and quick to learn,
but yet held many little quirks and secrets for the player to
figure out. It started my love of randomly generated worlds
and game variables. For instance, the demand ratio for all
150 items in the game were randomly generated each game,
as were the planets and encounters. For me, pre-set scenarios
and such are terminally dull. Replayability was to be a primary key
in all of my designs.

Trader took me 4 months of late nights and long days, and
cost me a whopping $92 to produce (all spent on artwork,
basically). It was released in late Summer of 2000… and
bombed spectacularly. There were many reasons of course:
I didn’t really know much about marketing something like this,
there weren’t as many ways to be noticed, and the game, as
originally released, was… well… ugly, frankly. Using public
domain and licensed (with author’s permission) art made
the look inconsistent. I sold 1 copy the first month.

Brushing up on my marketing and distributing the game as
many places as I could, I sold 5 the next month. Not too bad,
I thought. But my visions of Ferraris and caviar
were proving to be a bit off the mark. The next month
it started: 15, then 50 the next month. Word of mouth was a
real trigger with this one, it seemed, along with me finally getting
a real Web site (goodbye, Tripod!) and a real domain name
a few months later, and finally refinishing Trader with new graphics
and a new interface to give it more appeal.

Trader ended up selling over 12,000 copies in the next 8 months,
and became a “hit” of sorts. The rest is history, as the very overused
saying goes.

That’s it for now. Please continue reading and I’ll be glad to
give you great insight as to what an indie company goes
through from day to day, my latest projects and thoughts
on just about everything.

Comments, questions or protests may be sent to
derek (at) stormcloudcreations.com (or simply click the “comment” link at the top of this entry), and I welcome your input.

Article Written by