Just Pine Games is a Croatian indie game development company founded in the summer of 2012. It started from the development of their first big video game Perishing Sun, which is still under active development. Meanwhile, the team started a series of small games (mostly mini point-and-click adventure games) that target web and mobile devices. Blackbeard’s Escape is one of them, and Vjekoslav Krajačić is one of the studio’s founders. He shares the story of the game they presented at the Indie Showcase at Casual Connect Europe in Amsterdam.
The team that worked on Perishing Sun was already well-established, and this was our fourth game in this genre. Tomislav Podhraški and I have been working on game design and implementation of the game, while Vladimir Koščica was in charge of graphics, where he proved himself as an excellent artist capable of creating beautiful game atmosphere. Just Pine Games is self-funded with no investors, meaning we had to face the fact that the game may fail to find a potential buyer. Risky business, but the team was optimistic from the start.
As the development progressed and the game began gaining its final shape, the whole team got more confident about its the future. Although the development process lasted for only a few weeks, we were all relieved once the game was sold, and our hard work and patience was rewarded.
New Games in the Market Inspire Making Something New
Everything started in our favorite pub called Scout, here in the city of Samobor. It’s funny how our imagination functions better after a few beers in a relaxed atmosphere at a table full of friends. After devising a story and theme for our game, followed by a process of sobering, we arrived in our office on Monday. The whiteboard again proved invaluable tool. We thoroughly researched the internet for all useful references, and our board contained a list of all relevant and important information about our future game.
A careful elaboration of the story and all the puzzles to appear in the final product followed. In the end, everything was transferred to a digital format for easy editing in the future and quality documentation. The creative process seems easy at the first glance, but it could take up to several hours to design a new puzzle which the whole team would be happy with. What greatly helped here is our love for this genre and dedication to playing new game titles that appear in this market. At the moment, we’re working on something that would allow us to actually test the game while it’s still on the stage of puzzle designing. We want to see if all of our puzzles make sense once they’re put in the game before the artist actually makes graphics. That should reduce development time, since sometimes we have to change the graphics once everything is inside the game and we notice something isn’t quite right.
A Lively Experience Without Stamped Graphics and Repetitive Logics
One of the most important decisions we made was that we would rather provide players with less content filled with original gameplay than a big, empty, and boring game full of stamped graphics and repetitive logic. We wanted the player to get a sense of pride and accomplishment after he/she finishes the game. Therefore, our game requires great attention from a person, who will need to solve puzzles that can extend to several scenes.
Also, we wanted a game that would feature beautiful and stylized graphics, along with a large number of animations that make the experience livelier and richer. A shot from a cannon and deck explosion, spinning the wheel, lowering the boat in the water – you name it.
As the game was intended for PC and mobile platforms, it was necessary to devise unified controls. Fortunately, the adventures are not too demanding in that part, so in a relatively short time we managed to design an engine that supports this.
With all that, we wanted to put a smile on our player’s face, so we included humorous monologues that place people into the role of the main character. It is important that the player feels like a part of the story, which we believe is a major motivator to continue playing and successfully finishing the game.
Bad Reviews, Better QA
Like in any other project, mistakes are inevitable. Each wrong step has a price, and we paid ours in a series of negative reviews in the AppStore. The mistakes were quite serious and came from immaturity. On the new iPhone 5 devices that have a longer screen, the “Play” button was not visible because of the way we scaled and adapted game content for mobile platforms. This angered many players for a reason.
Fortunately, the bug was detected in a short time, and we fixed it as fast as we could. We learned that in video game development, there is one thing that should never be lacking. Testing, testing, and testing. We’ve raised the level of our QA and set up a series of new criteria which our games must meet. More people have been included in the process; we’ve bought some new hardware and made a bunch of tests that our game has to pass. For instance, after the play button problem, we made a test where we check the game interface on all major screen resolutions to see if it fails somewhere. Also, we’re thinking of outsourcing this process, since there are a lot of professional companies out there that do a good job in this field. We actually met one at the Indie Showcase. The most important thing is that we admitted to ourselves that the iPhone 5 resolution mistake was caused by our negligence, and hopefully we moved from this project a bit smarter and more experienced.
Coolbuddy’s Non-Invasive Approach Led to a Long-Term Relationship
As with the previous games of the same genre, we worked with Coolbuddy, who again proved as a great sponsor, full of understanding and support. He hardly ever interferes with our game design decisions, and only complains if there are some technical issues that need to be fixed. It all started in our college years, when we were making some flash games just for fun. Coolbuddy was always interested in them, and, when we decided to make a business out of game development, he asked us to keep him informed. While developing Blackbeard’s Escape, we were exchanging new concepts and builds. This somehow allowed us to make Coolbuddy fall in love with our game and eventually led us to selling it.
Thanks to Coolbuddy’s non-invasive approach, the game turned out as one that 100 percent reflects our views in all aspects. What is more, he pays a fair price for our creation, and gives us a certain degree of assurance that Blackbeard’s Escape will find at least one interested publisher.
Looking for New Team Members Among Fans
If you are a fan of point-and-click adventures, please contact us with your experiences, wishes, and criticism. We’re always happy to talk to other players, since we are players ourselves. Regardless of your experience and previous work, be sure to talk to us: perhaps you’re a perfect reinforcement for our small development team.
As always, we are trying to absorb as much feedback as we can from our players. Every experience matters, and we want to improve ourselves, as a team and as individuals in the industry. Therefore, we want our future games to be even more original and enjoyable, giving players a memorable experience.