Game Development

Digital Melody: “Never Borrow Money to Develop Your Game.”

June 22, 2017 — by Industry Contributions


Game Development

Digital Melody: “Never Borrow Money to Develop Your Game.”

June 22, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

“Indie Games Polska is a developers organization, like many in Europe, only for Poland”, founder and board member Jakub Marszalkowski explains. “We are working to help developers, mostly indies, as they need support the most. IGP is quite new, formally it exists since the end of 2015. You could find some of our earlier activities, but this still would be 2015.”

Indie Games Polska has been involved in IGJAM 2016 as well. The winner in the Best Mobile Game Category, a game called Masky by Digital Melody Games, participated in Indie Prize at Casual Connect in Berlin.

Jakub admits they have a lot to catch up on, compared to other organizations around. “First what we did were national booths and pavilions at international events. In 2016 it was 8 of them including Gamescom, PAX West and Tokyo Game Show.”

Another task is Indie Boost, an acceleration program that Indie Games Polska has just started. “We are not ending with that”, Jakub comments. “We are joining forces with some partners to offer additional training for young devs in Poland. And we finally do our best to represent the industry to the politicians, to keep the possible legislation going in the right way, here together with Polish Games Association, representing the other end of the industry in Poland, the biggest companies. That is a lot of work for the small team we have, but we all already looking for more.”

The Digital Melody team that IGP sent to Casual Connect in Berlin says – gamejams are useful for testing your skills under pressure of time, as well as they’re just fun. “Winning IGJAM 2016 in mobile game category was a truly great award! People appreciate our work while we had tons of fun – for what more could you ask for?”

IGJAM 2016 Best Mobile Game – Masky by Digital Melody.

Be Yourself, Work Smart

The devs explain that working as a team can be compared to a factory. To keep it productive, everyone needs to focus on their job: “that’s why we need to understand each other clearly. This kind of experience improves our everyday work. Especially process management and we improve our work as a team.” 

They call their studio their second home. “We spent a lot of time together and from the start our goal was to become leaders of the mobile game industry. Good design, original gameplay and high quality are the things that makes us stand out. We have a mission to engage players in our games on a world scale”.

When asked what they’d suggest to other devs, Digital Melody’s response is simple: “Be yourself, work smart.”

A Dark Carnival

“At the beginning we have focused on intuitive controls and interesting design”, the developers explain.  “One of the first graphic concepts was pretty dark but in this particular cartoonish way. Somebody mentioned that the mood is like taken out of Tim Burton’s movies. The atmosphere is a little bit gothic but characters are dancing. That was the recipe for our funny, yet creepy game.”

“Somebody mentioned that the mood is like taken out of Tim Burton’s movies.”

The developers created over 15 concepts of the game before making the decision to base the mechanic on balancing. At this point they knew what they wanted to achieve – a dark carnival with dancing masked characters. And one of the most important things in dancing is balance.

“One of the most important things in dancing is balance.”

When asked about inspos for different worlds of Masky, the devs say: “We know that players like to be surprised. That’s why we decided to literally turn things upside down.” They explain that every 10 points something changes in the surroundings of your masked heroes. While the worlds were inspired by the books, movies and other media, the team points out that the idea came from their graphic designer – Wąsaty Czeslaw.

“We knew that in order to complete our creepy theme we achieved with graphic we needed music that would fit this style. Luckily we had our great music composer – Michał Stalewski on board who has created music for every character in the game”.

Inspiration comes when you least expect it, according to the devs of Masky. “Taking a shower, playing LEGO, watching a movie or doing sports. Ideas come and go, so you should carry a pen to capture them.”

Inspiration comes when you least expect it.

More resources? Not always good.

How to finish a project on time? The Digital Melody team tells that working with a limited budget is what mobilizes to finish the project in time best of all. “Having more resources doesn’t translate to a better product, but a bigger one. I love my work because I can materialize tons of ideas one after another. Enthusiasm for work is like iron – you need to strike it while it’s hot. More time isn’t necessarily an advantage.”

There are many people involved in those projects, and projects have many stages. That’s why it is so important to have this one person with a vision of a game as whole, so everyone else can focus on their tasks, the devs advice. “Each game has it’s own leader who manages it. The man who listens to everyone, makes decisions and takes responsibility for the project”.

The development process for games by Digital Melody is simple and repetitive.

“Our studio has plenty of space to embrace the creative energy of our team. We respect each other and understand that everyone has their own way of coming up with ideas. We always create several versions of a game design and choose the one that is most unique”.

The development process for games by Digital Melody is simple and repetitive. “We create game prototypes and test them. After each test we are having a company meeting where we share our thoughts about this version of the game”, they share. “During this meeting the project manager of the game makes a list of errors to fix and features to add in the following build. And then the process starts all over again”. The team is using Unity, as well as Adobe software for graphics, Spine for animation, “and a lot of mineral water”.  🙂

The Digital Melody team tests their games at every stage. They suggest fixing errors as soon as possible, as on later stages the game becomes more complex and harder to fix.

Test early: on later stages the game becomes more complex and harder to fix.

Despite the all-successful image, Digital Melody have had their fair share of painful experiences. “Our first games didn’t do pretty well and our morale was going down”, they recall. “Instead of throwing in the towel we have focused on the bigger picture and worked even harder. The foundation for success is learning from our failures.”

Ads, fixed price and giveaways

“Never borrow money to develop your game.”

While the Masky devs mainly target the mobile market of iOS and Google Play, they add they’re always eager to try something new. Four of their games (Timberman, Surfingers, Fly O’Clock and Masky) are available on Steam, and they have their very own arcade machines with Timberman and Fly O’clock. “This year we will test our skills on PS4, Xbox One and 3DS”, they share.

When it comes to monetization, Digital Melody’s games are available on mobile platforms for free but with ads. “There is a possibility of getting rid of these ads by supporting us with a small fee. You can also check out our games on Steam, where you can compete with other people in multiplayer mode”. The games have fixed price for an online experience, but every now and then Digital Melody are giving away free Steam codes for the purpose of user acquisition.

What one should NEVER do as an indie dev? Digital Melody’s answer is short and concise again: “Never borrow money to develop your game.”


Industry Contributions