At Casual Connect Europe, Alexey Menshikov shared lessons learned from their interactive streaming for #killallzombies, where spectators can play with Twitch streamers. “We have 100-plus comments that spectators can type and change the gameflow. They can heal players, they can send more zombies, they can switch him to a better weapon or a worse weapon,” Alexey says. For more details and a demonstration, see the video below.
Alexey Menshikov is CEO and founder of Beatshapers Limited, a Ukraine based developer and self-publishing company and is responsible to act as trouble shooter across all the company’s projects. After working in several companies, he repeatedly saw other CEOs missing opportunities that he believed were too good to be ignored, so he made the decision to found his own company.
The proudest moment of his career came with the release of the company’s first game in 2009. This achievement was possible through a series of fortunate events, the people he had met and the ideas he generated.
He is never bored with his work; as company owner, Menshikov finds the fun of his work comes from constantly switching between dozens of responsibilities. And he enjoys the travel that allows him to meet many crazy (in a good way) people.
Starting Out in the Games Industry
Menshikov began his career as sound designer at Action Forms in Kyiv. At the time he was involved in the demoscene as a graphics/art programmer and was also interested in audio programming and sound design. There were many graphic designers, but only a few audio programmers, so he decided to become one of them. He relates, “It was really fun to be one of the first audio guys here and to experiment with audio.”
He had so many ideas that he organized a pet project called Delaydots, which he then sold in 2008. This was his first “exit” as an entrepreneur. Eventually he realized he could go beyond audio and it was time to establish his own studio.
Menshikov was inspired to join the games industry by the people he met in it. He claims, “This is a great industry to meet awesome people.” When he saw what they were doing, he realized he could, too, and he could have ideas just as good as theirs.
However, as a child, his dream was to become a pilot. His father was a pilot, so he hoped to become an astronaut, or, at the very least, a jet pilot. And if he were not in the games industry, he would still choose to become a pilot, or possibly a sound designer.
Perhaps the greatest challenge he has found in his work is the desire to create all different kinds of games. Although the company would like to be active in all genres, their studio capacity is limited. He admits, “My team has found a way to calm me down and get me to focus on current projects.”
Developing the Right Team
Beatshapers has strict requirements for new staff to join the team. Besides a major skill area, such as programmer or artist, the potential employee must also have additional skills, preferably in game design. Their requirements have recently become even more stringent; any two members must be able to form a micro-team capable of developing a game. This is why they have internal game jams and encourage participation in global game jams.
The most difficult talent to find for the team are those committed to growing professionally. And, although difficulties between team members are rare, if an unfortunate situation arises, Menshikov has the last word.
New Projects and New Technologies
At Beatshapers, starting a new project is the result of careful market research rather than simply having an idea and deciding to run with it. Menshikov says that out of dozens of ideas, only one will actually become a prototype which they send to production. They recently developed this mission statement: “We will make fun games using the newest technology available.” For the PS Move/PS Vita launch of StarDrone Extreme, they created unique controls. In the recently released #killallzombies, they went beyond streaming to make a game where Twitch stream spectators can play with the user. And they have now made a PS Vita VR headset. Menshikov is very excited at the prospect of releasing their VR experiments with Project Morpheus and can’t wait to play with HoloLens.
When the company releases a game, they then have an internal postmortem where they identify the bottlenecks, what went right and what went wrong, in order to learn these lessons for the next development cycle.
Menshikov has noted unusual reactions to a game during a playtest. He describes one with #killallzombies in broadcast mode: when a player discovered spectators were playing with him by typing commands, he was really scared. Menshikov describes, “He was streaming with camera and microphone, and it was funny to see his face when he discovered that.” But by the time the game was released, they had foreseen most of the streams, and since they knew most of the commands, few streamers were frightened.
Beatshapers produces games both as free to play and as premium games on consoles. However, Menshikov would like to reach a broader audience with F2P. He believes F2P will become dominant over time, so the company is moving in this direction. And he believes VR/AR will be the next important trend; since he enjoys VR movies and HoloLens ideas, this is an area they are watching carefully.
With all the satisfaction Menshikov has had through his career, he admits there is a downside to running a global company: lack of time. Besides his normal working hours, he is still working at all other times, since he must communicate with people in all time zones. And as a father of three children, he has no time at all left for hobbies.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.