Founded in 2014, La Calade Games is merely composed by the couple at the beginning. As a player of roleplaying games, co-founder and CEO Shirley Cheng was excited to see so many hidden object games with amazing animations and stories on iPad during 2012. She remembers her first time playing these games on iPad: being really impressed, especially when the games were inspired by some classic works. One day Shirley’s husband saw her playing those hidden object games and wondered why she was so obsessed with them. Eventually he realized those were truly interesting, and considered making one, since he’s always had a dream to make his own game. Shirley tells more of the story of the award-winning game that has been honored for Best Narrative at Casual Connect Asia 2016.
Small dream but a big step made
Due to our backgrounds, online gaming experience and literature majors, as well as a limited budget, we decided to make a light hidden object game. Even though such games are not new, and you can find quite a lot of those in the market, we wanted ours to be unique through our creative ideas. I try to pour a literary soul into the story, so Demon Archive contains the famous topic from Dr. Faustus — the deal with the demon.
This game is light, but not simple. It contains a general theme that arises from resonance. At the same time, we didn’t ignore the fact that the game is for gamers – and doesn’t attempt to transmit a topic too serious, as the original Dr. Faustus presents. We designed Demon Archive with replayability in mind, but also decided to present literary spirits from storylines simultaneously. We believe that consideration of both sides could bring a stronger immersibility for players.
Initially, there were only two of us and a few outsourcers to make Demon Archive. However, it made the working process slow, while I thought holding on to the market trends was important since it all went fast. I applied for a space in our city’s incubator to work on our project. This got us closer to completion of the game. We could temporarily stop worrying about the cost spent on infrastructure, but focus on meeting our work schedule. Furthermore, settling at the incubator helped us reach professionals or partners from various fields. I was happy to work in an environment full of startups! On the other hand, as a small developer team, we always had problems hiring artists or programmers due to deficient costs and resources. Luckily, we had friends and outsourcers who supported us at the first stages. For example, we found an experienced person for character voices, and he was a Westerner, with that exact pronunciation a Western character would have. He loved detective stories, so agreed to help us. We also found some people who just wanted to try voice acting. Touching the recording equipment made me feel like one of those professionals as well. So Demon Archive is almost done after many hard working days, and we won some compliments from professionals in the games industry when they saw it.
From ideas to design till completeness, it took a while to make our dream come true. Notwithstanding the whole process is hard, we got the sense of achievement in game design. Managing a team and connecting with publishers afterwards, we also learnt some lessons. For instance, how to balance the requirements for quality and schedule, and meet the standard in our minds. As well as how to keep the faith in 2D games focusing on a niche market, while publishers ask to adjust the original idea in order to meet the needs of a wider market. The market changes fast, but we think we should make our own games, based on our ability and professionals, and we should enjoy it, identify with it – and just then we can ask players to love it, and pay for it.
In order to let more people know about our game, we started participating in the biggest game shows. Not rushing, but cautiously taking each step. An unexpected message of interest in our game, or a chance to ask for cooperation – these were nice surprises for us. However, as a new games studio, we needed to contact possible and potential publishers again and again, and they might not give us a certain response. As a founder I knew the whole process is tough, but I have to overcome it. We know success is not immediate – it needs continuous endeavors. You move forward, and a footprint is left. It might become a result at some point, who knows? Making a game is definitely not easy, but we know that’s the thing we want to do, and we want players to feel impressed. We hope to build our own brand through the production of a good and memorable game.
Keep Original or Change?
We were sometimes asked why we didn’t do a F2P game, or 3D arts, as if to make the process faster. Thinking of the distinctive features of roleplaying games, we wanted Demon Archive to represent a classic hidden object adventure game. People can still enjoy beautiful arts and multiple mini games, but a storyline containing original 2D art and a powerful theme could recollect the pleasant flavor of characters’ encounters. We don’t deny possible changes in the future, but the idea of Demon Archive should remain like that—inspired by numerous masterpieces we’ve read before. We want to believe our works can be long-lasting, like the classics. The player can be a detective exploring anywhere in the game. The experience is really imaginative and personal.
We pour many elements into Demon Archive, including some unexpected animations and music. Being not what it initially seems to be, this game lets the players define what exactly it is, and I hope it’s not perceived as just another typical hidden object game. What we need to do next is to confirm that our game quality is high enough. More surveys and research are needed. That’s also one of our tasks, in addition to general routine development work.
An Unknown Journey, but Move on Bravely
So far, we’ve completed the PC version of our game, and are ready to port it for more devices. In order to create a more pleasant working environment and attract more professionals to join us, our next step is to get more funding.
As for the Demon Archive storyline – it has two endings. We decided to open the final one in a bonus chapter, which has not been added to the current version, but it’s been planned and will be implemented when we have more money. To be honest, I feel bad about not having used that ending this time. This is that situation when a studio lacks resources and can do nothing else than compromise. I believe the bonus chapter could express the regret of the villain. That’s also the vibe touching me and many people in Dr. Faustus.
It took the team almost one year to finish the game, and two years of planning. They’re now considering a change of the engine, and they admit: It’s like the full reconstruction. Nevertheless, the devs are proud of what they’ve accomplished. They’re looking forward to seeing their creation in more places and hope more people can enjoy it!