At Casual Connect Europe, Yoeri Staal showcased their game, Wild Ride West. This game is designed as a trilogy, with three episodes to be released on many platforms, something which has not been previously attempted by any indie.
Yoeri Staal, founder and producer at StaalMedia, tells us the most fun part of being involved in the games industry comes from the constant stream of new materials. He says, “As I’m working on a project, any day at any time, I can receive a message from an artist, a composer, a programmer, or any other team member telling me they added a little piece to the huge puzzle that is my new game. It’s like finding a present under the Christmas tree at any random moment.”
As founder of StaalMedia, he started the company making games by himself. Then he began hiring the right person for the right position inside many projects, a modus operandi he is still using today. He is also a teacher of computer science, and finds understanding children, what they want, and how they need their information shaped, highly advantageous skills when designing games for this particular audience.
Doing What We Love
His passion for the industry comes through clearly when he insists the proudest moment of his career came at the Speaker Dinner at Casual Connect USA when he realized that a “silly piece of software”, which he only planned to entertain people without any thought of commercial success, had brought him and a few other game designers to an elite location. He emphasizes, “It was confirmation that we indie developers could reach a very high level while doing what we love.”
Perhaps it is no surprise that this game developer spends any free time playing games. He considers his PSP as the favorite platform he has ever owned. Its strong processing, for the time, and its ability to store a multimedia library made it his personal treasure before the age of smartphones, so much so that he gave it a custom skin and matching wallpaper. But now, of course, it is completely outclassed by his smartphone. Last year, he did buy a PS3 simply to play GTAV, so he sees no need to move to PS4. And he prefers to keep his use of Microsoft products to an absolute minimum.
What is Fun vs. What is Valuable
Staal recognizes the dichotomy between what is fun for the player and what is commercially valuable for the publisher as a huge challenge for the games industry. He notes, “The company that creates a really fun game, without constantly bullying the player into buying in-app purchases, could easily rise to the top of the charts.” At StaalMedia, there is an entirely different focus. All games are completely free for players to use, with no in-app purchases, no paid unlocks, and no “silly” premium hats. Instead, sponsors are the clients, and they pay to have their logos in the game.
Because touchscreen is the latest trend on all tablets and smartphones, StaalMedia designs all games to support touch controls. Staal believes the coming trend will be even more sophisticated ways of control, such as motion control combined with virtual reality. When smart watches and glasses have sufficiently penetrated the market, he will be designing for these technologies.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.