Helping to create Friday Night Funkin’ has changed Cameron Taylor’s life.
Just over two years ago, Taylor started the video game project, enlisting the help of his friends on the Newgrounds website. It was meant to be a fun homage to the rhythm games of Taylor’s childhood and a chance to practice his programming skills.
But after raising $2.2-million on Kickstarter, the project has propelled Taylor full-time into the role of video game developer and CEO of his own company.
“I’m just a small-town boy from 100 Mile House but now I guess I’m the CEO of small video game company as I manage this whacky situation I’ve gotten myself into,” Taylor, 22, said. “Ever since I was a silly little teenager at PSO (Peter Skene Ogden Secondary) I just wanted to make video games with a bunch of different people and now it’s like ‘go, here it is.”
Taylor and the game’s co-creator and artist David Brown had initially hoped to raise $60,000 so they could turn Friday Night Funkin’ into a full game. Their goal, however, was met within a few hours and everything started moving at “lightspeed,” with a million raised within a few days. The campaign ended at US$2,247,641 with 58,561 backers from around the world.
Over the last seven months, the pair have been learning how to manage that money by creating the Funkin’ Crew, a C-corporation based out of Philadelphia. Taylor said he became CEO in a coin toss with Brown becoming the company’s president. Two other friends form their core team, while others are involved on a contract basis or collaborate on music.
He said they sometimes feel like “kids playing dress-up” and attending online shareholder meetings with his friends has been a surreal experience.
“We’re just kind of these young little creative type people. Our normal lives up to this point have not prepared us for the logistics of managing all these people and this money,” Taylor said. “It can be a little punishing at times but that’s the game development life.”
Friday Night Funkin’ is a music-based rhythm game in the style of Rockband where players hit keys to sing along to the music. The plot follows the player-controlled boyfriend engaging in singing battles with his girlfriend’s evil dad, mom and their various henchmen across multiple levels.
The group has spent the last few months writing a variety of new songs for the complete game. The popularity of their initial demo has led to some “crazy collaborations,” Taylor said. He is keeping the artists’ identities’ under wraps until the game is ready to be released.
The best part, Taylor said, is he’s been able to work with a musician whose style has heavily influenced the game’s music. Taylor wouldn’t name the musician, who was well-known in the late ’90s, and said working with him has been “just as beautiful as you’d imagine.”
“It reassures us that, damn this is going to be a good video game we’re going to make. It might take a while to get there but at the end of the day it will be something that is highly polished and has a refined taste,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the experience has taught him a lot about programming tricks, helping the entire team, grow from amateurs to professionals. He feels blessed the project has been able to push them all forward.
Some of the new features Taylor is working on as a result of the Kickstarter, include adding multiple new levels, a custom character creator, a mobile build, online multiplayer and modes that would remix songs and make the game harder.
“The plan is now much grander than originally intended just over a year ago,” Taylor said. “The pieces are starting to fall into place and it makes game development a little less scary.”
Taylor hopes his story will inspire others in small towns that they can achieve their dreams, no matter how big.
“People can just do anything they put their minds to. Coming from small-town 100 Mile House you really can make a game a project like this from the internet. You don’t have to be from the big city, you don’t have to go to some college, anyone can make stuff happen the way they want to.”