Inspiration & AdviceRising Star: Brian Jamison shares the story behind Jumpdrive Studios new sci-fi strategy game [XO]

Founder of Jumpdrive Studios, Brian Jamison
Founder of Jumpdrive Studios, Brian Jamison

Do you have what it takes to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign? Jumpdrive Studios new sci-fi strategy game, XO, reached its crowdfunding goal of $40,000 in less than two weeks. With an original soundtrack in the works by composer Jim Guthrie (known for his work on Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Below, and Indie Game: The Movie) and excellent marketing, they’re now focusing on stretch goals with 8 days to go on their Kickstarter campaign.

Brian Jamison, founder of Jumpdrive Studios and creative director of XO, answered our questions on the inspiration behind XO and spoke on what entrepreneurship means to him. Read his Q&A and watch the game trailer below:

What was the spark that inspired the birth of your concept?

A fellow game designer and I were talking about how to capture the experience of leadership in difficult times.  I have a little experience as a founder, and wanted to translate some of that into a game.  I wanted to incorporate things like managing time and priorities, making difficult and unpopular decisions in the face of an economic downturn, and how to motivate that team in the face of bad things continuing to happen.  A sci-fi setting seemed the most interesting to me.

How did you come up with the name?

I wanted something simple, short, and easy to remember.  XO has at least two meanings.  The game is about being on the run; you are leading the eXOdus of the human race.  You also start the game as the Executive Officer (XO) who is promoted into command after a series of terrible events leave everyone else dead.

How are you better/different than your competition?

Unusually for game development, we’ve been bringing early demos of XO to the public since March (less than three months into the project).  We’ve been watching people play for a long time, and it’s really helped with our game design while simultaneously building awareness. We have a unique art style, which helps set us apart.  And we’re creating elements of play that, as far as we know, haven’t been done in a game — such as  modeling an actual political network of people in the fleet.  Each person has their own goals — like trying to seize power.

How do you make money?

XO is currently on Kickstarter, where we’ve already exceed our funding goal of $40,000.  We have a few exciting stretch goals to help us raise more cash in the remaining days.  Post Kickstarter we will continue to sell pre-launch access to the game for a premium.  At launch, we’ll sell individual copies of the game and soundtrack on Steam, which is the world’s largest distribution platform for games —  with over 100 million subscribers.  We are already approved to sell on that platform, which in itself is an achievement.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

Seeing something you envisioned come to life.

What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?

That more people don’t do it.

Your biggest success?

Selling my professional web services company in June of 1999 to a publicly traded firm.

Do you have a failure story to share? What did you learn from this failure?

I once made a terrible mistake with a hire.  I had some senior people telling me that the person wasn’t the right fit.  Some of those individuals even left the company.  And rather than cut that person quickly, I told myself that I had to have other people in place first — a process that took months.  I waited too long, and it ultimately led to the company going under.

What is the best entrepreneurial advice you have received (and from whom)?

Put your idea, as quickly as possible, in front of people who will tell you why it will fail and listen to them.  Those people are not your friends or family.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?

Get out there and do it right now.  Start something small.  You can start a real business with absolutely no money.  It probably won’t be the business you keep and it probably won’t be successful — but you will learn more in a day when you try to sell a product or service to an audience than you will throughout a year of school.

What is the #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur?

There are lots of great books, but it’s more important to get out and start something — anything.  Direct experience is vastly more valuable than books.

What song best describes your entrepreneurial journey?

Epsilon in Malaysian Pale

Imagine your venture becomes wildly successful. What does that look like?

Millions of people playing and enjoying XO would be fantastic.

What’s your favorite local business and why?

Hot Lips Pizza.  That’s a company with a great local reputation that has expanded into a line of high quality locally produced soda.  They’ve managed to do that while keeping their quality up and their integrity at the highest level.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An entrepreneur.  I sold lemonade in front of my house, candy in school, had my first employees at 14.

Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business? How has it helped you, and what challenges has it posed?

While not hostile, Oregon isn’t particularly a favorable place, either.  There’s not much investment capital, there’s an extremely conservative funding base, there’s almost no experienced middle managers, and there are precious few successes. As an indie game developer, I’m encouraged by incentives like iOPIF.  We need more state-backed programs like this, that are better funded.  Look at Austin, Texas — they’re a major hub of game development– disproportionately so for their size.  The only thing that Austin has that we don’t, in my opinion, are the state incentives.

Any other tidbits or fun facts to share?

We have about a week left on Kickstarter, and are looking for more backers! While we’ve already reached our minimum funding goals, we just announced a couple excited stretch goals that are worth checking out. Help fund our stretch goals!


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