Blog | Developing Disaster Golf

Hippo Havoc’s Disaster Golf demonstrates the power a little guidance can have in an industry flooded with indie games competing for a piece of the pie. Initially created by the undergraduates of Bradley University’s game design class of 2022, Disaster Golf’s journey to success was shaped by a strategic partnership with indie publisher VoxPop Games. The game is miniature golf with major chaos; the player uses natural disasters to propel the ball as fast as they can to the hole.

The Birth of Disaster Golf

Disaster Golf was originally conceived as a student capstone project in Bradley University’s game design program. A total of 30 students contributed to its development at one point or another, and the concept caught the attention of indie game publisher, VoxPop Games. The publisher specializes in launching small developers and partners with universities to find students real-world game development experience.

The VoxPop Partnership

Recognizing Disaster Golf’s potential, VoxPop Games offered assistance to Hippo Havoc, from refining gameplay mechanics to navigating the intricacies of game publishing, VoxPop’s guidance played a crucial role in expanding Disaster Golf’s reach. Through its strategic marketing efforts, targeted platform relationships, and expert guidance, VoxPop helped the novice team understand how to navigate the business side of bringing a game to market, helping the team prop their game across platforms, and reach out to trade shows and events.

“We had next to no experience with marketing a game, with VoxPop’s help we were able to get placements opportunities we didn’t even know existed,” said Doug Guzman, Hippo Havoc’s cofounder. “That’s why it was important for us to find a publisher in the first place – we had no idea how to tackle the business side of launching our title.” 

A priority goal was to look for opportunities to get the game in front of audiences that would typically go overlooked, instead of going wide with expensive YouTube and Twitter engagements that might get lost in the noise. For example, when Outer Terror was nominated for “Best Hidden Gem” at the New York Game Awards, VoxPop took the chance to work with the organizers, The New York Critic’s circle, to get keys for Disaster Golf distributed at the event.

“Organic or earned PR opportunities like awards, speaking opportunities, and media placements can be very effective for raising awareness for an indie title,” said Marc Anthony Rodriguez, co-founder of VoxPop Games. “If you’re a student dev team, a little PR outreach can go a long way.”

Filling in the Gaps

With VoxPop Games as their ally, the team at Hippo Havoc faced the challenge of preparing Disaster Golf for launch. VoxPop’s industry connections and insider knowledge were instrumental in getting the game on Steam and in front of a global audience, providing insights on navigating the platform’s analytics and launch logistics. In addition to building a launch roadmap and sourcing talent for music composition, VoxPop assisted in placing an interview and podcast appearance with All Ages of Geek.

In the words of Kyle Grenier, Guzman’s Hippo Havoc cofounder. “If you’re a student team serious about launching a game, the right publishing partner can help give you a leg up in the industry.”

Lessons Learned

As neophytes to professional game development, there were some growing pains.

“We could have benefited from a clearer outline of what we needed, and worked with VoxPop to help with timelines, patch notes, etc.,” said Guzman. “It was challenging to find a balance with what we were sending, and we tended to oscillate between sending too much and too little information. Next time, we’ll plan for launch way ahead of time, and start gears moving months in advance to have the best launch possible. Post-launch, momentum is key, losing it means a dramatic drop in sales.”

Added Grenier, “Stick to deadlines, look for any opportunity to market your game (e.g. award submissions, sending early playtests to friends, releasing a demo alongside the main game).”


Embracing the Future

With Disaster Golf now available on Steam and receiving positive feedback from players worldwide, Hippo Havoc looks forward with optimism. The game’s launch represents a significant milestone for the indie studio, showcasing their talent and creativity to a global audience. As players delve into Disaster Golf’s immersive worlds and innovative gameplay, Hippo Havoc remains committed to supporting the game with updates, new content, and continued community engagement.

“Launching a game can seem daunting – near impossible – for a small inexperienced team,” said Grenier. “Finding the right partner and right support can be a game changer.”

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