As Founder and CEO of 4gency, Cox has found the most challenging and the most satisfying role of his career. For more than half of his professional career in games, he has been involved in project and people management. Now his role requires setting up the visions for 4gency’s new titles, establishing partnerships, setting schedules and budgets, and overseeing production of the small teams he creates to make up the games.
Lessons and Change
At Casual Connect USA, Cox discussed the greatest challenge he has faced bootstrapping his company with $25,000 of his own money. Within a year, it was gone. Although they had two finished titles on three platforms, they had not made a significant amount of money. The painful lessons from this experience led him to change the way he approaches designing and pre-producing games in order to better align for success before diving into hardcore R & D.
Of course, his path has also had its share of successes. One of the greatest times for Cox was seeing the initial response to Node Hack, which was presented in the Indie Showcase during Casual Connect USA. It received praise from numerous outlets, including winning the Pocket Gamer Silver Medal. He says, “Even though it wasn’t gold, it felt great to have an original design of mine resonate so strongly. I’m still thrilled about it.” During the Indie Showcase, Cox did not make a formal announcement about the sequel to Node Hack, but he was happy to discuss it with interested individuals.
Direction of Development
Cox tells us that although he has been in this industry for more than twelve years, nothing has ever influenced him more than an encounter with a child and a shooter game he was working on at the time — an encounter that led him to walk away from the genre forever. If you want the details of this story, you can read about the experience on his blog.
After turning away from first-person shooters, Cox began to consider seriously the kind of games his company will create. He points out that there are titles reaching deeper to tell stories, moving beyond simple violent interactions towards creation, management, system balance, and emergent behavior. He maintains, “It’s an encouraging direction; one I’ll be following.”
Cox insists that developers can only make a better product by identifying with, listening to, and understanding the audience. “It’s not just ‘the market’; these are specific groups of fans who are looking for a refinement or a new twist on something they already love. Your most dialed-in micro-market will become your biggest fan base and drive your game further.”
“You’ve got to live life on the right sound track,” he claims, saying his is a Boards of Canada kind of life. For his life defining moments, he comes back to a mix of ambient, electronic and shoegaze. His broad range of interests has him singing karaoke, writing science fiction and sailing, with plans to cruise the Sea of Cortez this November.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.