CraftStudio, year one

I took a week-long break from any CraftStudio development to recharge my batteries after this first year (and work on a little side-project which I’ll let you know more about very soon).

It’s hard to believe it’s been a full year already. Let’s look back for a bit, shall we?

Starting off with the wrong tools

In late July of last year, I realized real-time cooperative game-making would be awesome, sketched a few ideas and started working on a Web-based version of CraftStudio.

Screenshot of the early Web-based version of CraftStudio

CraftStudio before it was cool

In Mid-August, I realized I was getting nowhere because of the various limitations of the Web platform, so I decided to switch to a native XNA application. This is the first mock-up of the current CraftStudio user interface:

In early September, the company I used to work for closed down and I ended up with way too much time on my hands, so I started working full-time on CraftStudio.

By September 11th, the website was online and along with it, the very first pre-alpha build. This version’s only feature was a basic chat system and it didn’t even had any support for scrolling which meant that after exchanging a handful of messages, it became completely useless. As they say: release early, release often ;)

Later the same day, I pushed out CraftStudio 0.0.1.1 which added scrolling and proved the auto-updating mechanism I had implemented was working. A week later, the 0.0.2.0 build added initial modeling support!

Jim, the first character made collaboratively with CraftStudio pre-alpha

Jim, the first character made collaboratively with CraftStudio pre-alpha

Another week passed and I got painting basics working!

Failing the October Challenge like a boss!

I kept releasing new builds every few days. I took part in the Ludum Dare October challenge but failed to meet the goal in time: making my first dollar with CraftStudio before the end of the month.

What I did manage to do though, is add support for editing maps. I had tons of fun building this spaceship with a few friends & some random strangers:

A thousand new users!

A couple months passed as I kept adding new features. Collaborative text editing took a while as I had to write the whole text editor from scratch, then wrap my head around Operational Transform (which is the science behind merging concurrent text changes in real-time).

On a Friday night of December, I was headed to the swimming pool but I was met with closed doors so I backtracked home. I noticed a bunch of new registered users on craftstud.io and discovered Cassandra Khaw had stumbled on my TIGSource devblog and ran a blog post on indiegames.com named CraftStudio: Game Maker Meets Minecraft?.

I didn’t get much sleep that week-end as over 1000 people signed up. I spent my time greeting them all on the Public Test Project, answering questions and providing support. Felt awesome, and very tiring.

Company & Crowdfunding

As CraftStudio advanced, I decided to set up a company so that I could keep working on it and hopefully make my work on it sustainable. Sparklin Labs came into existence by the end of January.

After talking with a bunch of people, I decided to kickstart things with a crowdfunding campaign.

I worked hard with Thomas, Robin and Victor (thank you guys once more!) to cobble up a decent video. Thomas designed some awesome t-shirts and we set out to make Project Waffle, a full game with CraftStudio (which we still haven’t gotten around to release!).

The campaign ran from March 13th to April 27th, it got covered on Rock Paper ShotgunPCGamermade the Hacker News frontpage, and we raised an amazing $23,500 all thanks to over 600 generous funders.

In late April, I got an invite to give a CraftStudio presentation at PitchMyGame‘s first edition (thanks guys!). Then later @schouillette, @Canardu57 and I were kindly offered to hold a booth at the Cité des Sciences’ Minecraft-themed event. I got to chat with plenty of cool people and introduced lots of people to game-making (some were 6 years-old, others were over 60).

A CraftStudio introduction session at the Cité des Sciences

CraftStudio Alpha and the road ahead

By the end of May, I finally had scripting & game export working and was able to release CraftStudio Alpha.

Together with a bunch of friends, we made the first actual CraftStudio game, aptly named CraftStudioKart over a week-end and it felt AWESOME!

Over the 3 months since CraftStudio Alpha was released, various  games have been built (Porté par le Vent, FoodyFast Coding, Penguin Dash, Natura Jump…) or are in the progress of being crafted (Curse of the Iron Keep), and Matthew joined me as a summer intern. Together we made tons of progress towards a Beta release (see what’s left on the Roadmap).

Oh and we put an AT-AT in Minecraft too :D

Kicking off year two

Working on such a massive project with no one to tell me if I’m making the right calls (especially on the business-side of things) can be really taxing at times, but CraftStudio is my dream job and I feel very privileged to have been able to keep it up for the whole year.

Currently, day-to-day sales of CraftStudio wouldn’t quite make it “ramen-profitable” but the successful crowdfunding campaign coupled with my current situation (which allows me to keep earning unemployment benefit for a while) gives me quite a bit of leeway.

Once CraftStudio Beta is out the door in a few months, featuring visual scripting & the integrated store, it will have reached a point where it finally fulfills its core premise: to provide an awesome collaborative game-making environment without requiring prior technical knowledge.

The biggest challenge then will be to ensure it ends up in the right hands: people of all ages who have always dreamed of making their own games, indie game developers, schools… I’ll need to make a new video, build great tutorials, have interactive 3D content on the website, devise more creative ways to reach out to people… I can’t wait to be there!

Thank you all for being along for the ride and supporting me through it all with both your time and your money. Here’ s to another year of revolutionizing the way games are built!