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The Story of Davis Bickford and the 2D action adventure metroidvania PlayBound

The Story of Davis Bickford and the 2D action adventure metroidvania PlayBound

Startup Story

Davis Bickford

Davis Bickford

Founder

PlayBound

PlayBound is a 2D action adventure metroidvania about Kelvin, a boy whose parents have become fatally boring.

🇺🇸 Westminster, Colorado

📅 Founded 2019

🏆 1 Founders

💵 Monthly Revenue = NA / game in development

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Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Davis Bickford. I’m the founder and solo developer of Studio Sploot. I’m currently developing a game by the name of PlayBound, a 2D action-adventure metroidvania about Kelvin, a boy whose parents have become fatally boring.

I handle the programming, artwork, game design, writing, outreach, etc. The portions I’m not doing myself are Music and SFX, which are being created by Darby Burkhalter and Derrick Bozkurt, respectively.

By day, I work from home as a developer for a marketing company. Because I am building a game in addition to working a full time job, I typically start my day off early at 5:30am so I have time to exercise, make breakfast, walk the pugs and work on PlayBound before I log in for work. 

Although I sometimes work on PlayBound in the evenings and weekends, I generally prefer to leave those times open to spend time with my wife, Lacey, and our pugs, Lady and Idgie.

Walk us through the process of creating PlayBound so far...

I started learning game development in mid-2017 and began teasing at the idea for a game that would eventually become PlayBound. In the time since I started, the game has undergone several transformations and I’ve spent a lot of time bettering my skills at programming, artwork and storytelling, amongst others.

For me, the process has been about learning and continual improvement, so timelines have been less important to me than building my skills. Now that I’ve reached a point in my skill levels that feels sufficient for my intended quality of the game, I’ve been showing the game on social media and ramping up the speed of my development.

How are you planning to launch?

At minimum, a full release of PlayBound will be late 2022, possibly later.  I hope to launch a Kickstarter by Q4 in 2020, which will largely be treated like a launch in terms of building my audience and marketing.

My prime goal is to create a game that people love to play as much as I loved creating it. Because of this, I intend to take exactly however much time I need to finish the game and market it. 

Of course, I don’t believe that simply creating a solid experience will take care of sales, so I have also spent time researching methods for marketing and building engagement as well. And I plan to do much more research before I set any definitive dates for Kickstarter and a full release.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Sources of inspiration are in everything. From short conversations with a stranger, to memories of childhood games, every tiny experience or memory is a potential source of inspiration.  

I appreciate overtly inspirational podcasts, blogs, people and stories, etc. But I often find myself most inspired by the daily understated moments . I like to study the way people around me behave, the things they do with ease, or difficulty, and how they handle those moments. I do this with the people I consider role models just as much as the people that I don’t.

Ultimately, in more concrete terms, if I had to recommend specific sources of inspiration, I’d start with the following books:

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Atomic Habits by James Clear

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It by Valerie Young

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far creating PlayBound?

The biggest challenge for me has been staying motivated and consistent. A lot of the work in game development is fun, challenging and rewarding. But there are a lot of tedious and boring activities that can make development feel like it’s dragging. This can be especially difficult when you’re working alone and don’t have a lot of consistent interaction with others on the project.

For me, the biggest help has been building a daily habit of working on the game, no matter how exciting or dull the work may be, and sharing my progress. Sometimes it’s about embracing the boring days and simply doing *something*, and sometimes it’s about making the most of the high energy days. It can be helpful to share small updates on social media, to not only build up awareness, but to feel an accountability with the daily habit.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or game creators?

I hesitate to offer any blanket advice to people, but if I could say one thing above anything else, it’s to take care of yourself. For many entrepreneurs, there is often a huge amount of passion driving your ambitions. Even when it doesn’t feel like work, you can quickly burn yourself out if you aren’t careful. 

Get consistent exercise, make time for other things in your life and avoid overworking. If your hobby has become a new business, try out some new hobbies. Try to keep things balanced.  

It’s ok to maintain momentum and stay focused, but when it comes to your relationships and physical or mental health, live by the mantra: “do no harm.”

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

Things are going really well! My favorite part of the process has been sharing about the game, getting feedback and making connections. For example, getting contacted for this interview is an incredibly humbling and validating learning experience. 

Being early in development, there are no sales or revenue at this time, but many of the interactions and relationships I’ve been creating are invaluable to me. In the end, my goal is still about creating a game that people love to play as much as I loved to create it, and processes like this one are helping me do that.

Where can we learn more?

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