HomeBearStudio is an indie team based in Breda, Netherlands. “Just two! You Miichi, the artist, does all the art. I’m in charge of everything else”, says project lead Joshua van Kuilenburg. Right now, this is a full-time job for them, and trying to keep it this way is one of reasons for their Kickstarter campaign. The debut game NAIRI is a cute point-and-click adventure where you follow Nairi, an abandoned upper-class girl, and a rugged scholar rat named Rex, as they uncover a dark mystery within the exotic oasis city of Shirin. In addition to adorable visuals and challenging puzzles, there’s a strong narrative. So the developers say it would appeal to both casual and hardcore players. Joshua sheds some more light on the development experience and some future steps.
Vicens Martí is the President of Tangelo Games. Tangelo Games was formed through the acquisition of Diwip and Akamon Entertainment and was formerly Imperus Technologies Corporation. While their time in the gaming industry includes being the Managing Director at Cirsa Gaming Corporation, Vicens has also been CMO at Vueling (a Spanish low-cost airline) and CEO of Custo Barcelona (a fashion label).
Cirsa is a notable casino company in Spain, Italy, and Latin America, helping to operate table games and casino slot machines. Vicens says that the experience in real money gambling was beneficial. “I did so much at Cirsa… You learn by doing,” they said.
While Vicens says they had the childhood dream of being an astronaut, they have no difficultly imagining what they’d be doing if they weren’t at their current position. “Oh, that’s easy. I am a simultaneous entrepreneur,” they described. “I have invested in a company called Appeth. I have interest in electronic music. Fintech is another company that I have going too. I have many projects going at once so if I wasn’t in the industry, I have plenty else I could be doing.”
Dave Bisceglia is Co-Founder and CEO of The Tap Lab. At this mobile game studio, based in Cambridge, MA, Dave focuses on game design, product management and business development. During the past two years, since Gamesauce last talked with Dave, The Tap Lab has transitioned from self-publishing their own IP to working with major publishers and third-party IPs. Dave’s role as CEO now is concentrated much more on business development and relationships with publishers and IPs. They emphasize, “We’ve been fortunate to work with some great partners on projects we’re passionate about.”
The Ukrainian team of Pinokl Games team was working on a huge ambitious project of Mecha Titans and some other casual and family-friendly games… and then got tired of that all. They unleashed their darkest thoughts and participated in Kanobu Game Jam with Party Hard, a game of a bloody massacre at a noisy neighbors’ party at 3AM, or “third-person urban conflict simulator” as they describe their creation.
The bloodthirsty theme found a response in the hearts of Casual Connect Europe 2015 critics, having brought the team the Critics Choice award in Indie Prize. The team recently celebrated the 1st anniversary of Party Hard launch, having scored numerous other awards and gaining a massive creative fan base. Pinokl Games’ marketing manager and producer Alina Husevyk shares the most noticeable learnings of the year.
Christopher Natsuume is the Creative Director for Boomzap. He helped co-found the studio in 2005, though he has been working in games since 1994 on console, PC and mobile platforms. Christopher calls running his own studio a fulfillment of a dream since he worked with his co-founder Allan in Scotland.
“I have been a game developer most of my adult life – starting as a level designer, then lead designer, then producer,” says Christopher. “The truth is – nothing prepares you for running a game dev studio like working in game dev. I had the benefit of making a lot of my worst mistakes when I was working for other people – and that’s the best way to learn: on someone else’s dime.”
Still, Christopher was dreaming of being a game designer since grade school. Back then, he was designing Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, creating modules and the like, but regarded it all at the time as just a hobby. “Later on I discovered that you could actually make games as a career,” said Christopher.
“A bunch of my friends also happened to work for a game company and when they broke off and started their own company, I used to play with them at their offices every week,” Chris detailed. “I didn’t work for them but I was their dungeon master, so they asked me to join and I got a job as a Level Designer, which was my first stint in the game dev industry.”
the love of making games
Christopher is definitely living the dream by being a game developer. he says that it was his dream as a child, even if he didn’t know he could make money doing it. Christopher notes that since entering game development, it’s occupied most of his time and he is happy for it.
Despite this, Christopher is quick to say that game development is not for everyone. “You should think very carefully before pursuing it. Most people want to develop games because they think it’s about coming up with great game ideas and making fun decisions. It’s not. It’s 5 percent that and 95 percent ‘figuring out how to make it work’. Be a game developer not just because you love games, but because you love MAKING them, and whatever type of game it is.”
Along those lines, Christopher notes he has very little free time for hobbies, though it is a sacrifice he is willing to make. “In all honesty, essentially all I do is develop games and exercise to prevent the physical decay caused by a life at a computer,” Christopher notes. “I run, swim, bike, and do a good bit of climbing. Depending on how things are going with the company I am either very fit, or very unfit. The size of my gut is inversely proportional to the current success of the company. I also do some work with a charity organization that builds schools in the mountains of Nepal.”
Making the Legends of Callasia
Christopher’s creative process is one of iteration, looking at different games, whether made by him or someone else, and trying to find something that he can improve. “Our strategy game Legends of Callasia actually started as a trading simulation game, but you couldn’t fight anyone,” noted Christopher. “We decided it was boring, so we redeveloped it into a fantasy-themed multiplayer world conquest game.”
Along those same lines, playing old games is also a huge inspiration for Christopher. He claims that his experience in making games for a long time is less relevant than his time spent playing different games. “There’s value in the fact that I have played a metric ton of games such as Ultima Online, Wing Commander: Privateer, and Zork. I was into tabletop games such as Axis & Allies, D&D, and Diplomacy before I became a computer gamer,” said Christopher. “I get a lot of my inspiration from games I grew up playing with, and when we built Legends of Callasia, I wanted it to look like the traditional fantasy games.”
Legends of Callasia is a game that is near and dear to Christopher’s heart, so it’s not surprising that he would love to expand on the idea if he had unlimited resources. “I have always loved playing strategy games like Crusader Kings, but I never have enough time play that anymore,” said Christopher. “Legends of Callasia is the answer to that. It has all the fun of grand strategy games condensed into one to two hours, and it’s the game I’ve always wanted to make. Maybe one day if I do have unlimited resources and time, we’ll make an MMO of it? That would be the ultimate project.”
Unfortunately, financing is the hardest part of making games, between getting a publisher and paying everyone. It’s very rewarding in the end, though, especially since there are always new ideas to explore in new games. “The time between having an idea and implementing that idea is too long,” Christopher says. “I have more game ideas in my head that I can ever make in my lifetime.”
you have to leave the nest to grow
Christopher is very proud of what the company has built over at Boomzap. The studio being virtual is a huge convenience for him and other members.
“I get to see so much of my family, and be part of my family life so much more than other people I know, especially in the game industry,” said Christopher. “I work where I want to. I don’t waste time or money commuting. I don’t have to spend a fortune going out to eat. And in the winter I work every day in a very comfy pair of fleece pants and a Japanese hanten jacket… it’s like I never got out of bed.”
Managing a studio is always a challenge, and can often involve people leaving to pursue their own ambitions. When that happened at Boomzap it was hard for Christopher, but eventually that feeling was replaced with pride over what the former team members accomplished. “Two years ago, three of our senior staff left our studio. At the time, I was pissed off, but over time I realized that it was a dream they had and one they could never achieve while at my studio,” he said. “I’ve been watching them develop their games and some of the processes they use are from what we did together in Boomzap. It is fascinating to watch them build their company and go their own direction.”
FlowPlay has appointed Joshua Granick to be scientist-in-residence. Joshua will help FlowPlay’s platform grow and change, though will remain with OpenFL as managing director. FlowPlay is in the process of transitioning Vegas World to OpenFL and plans to do so with its games that are present and future to the engine.
“Thousands of games, technologies and industries are already using OpenFL, and it’s a perfect fit to enable FlowPlay’s future development plans,” said Joshua. “By transitioning to OpenFL, FlowPlay has increased the versatility of the company’s multiplayer platform while accelerating development times and freeing up more resources to focus on new innovation. I’m eager to become a part of that process and help raise awareness on how OpenFL can help other developers in the casual games industry.”
Part of OpenFL’s appeal and reason for its rapid expansion is the fact that it’s open-source software. Joshua says they want to make the world a better place using OpenFL. They feel like making OpenFL a paid product would work against that goal.
I recently went to Berlin to prepare for the upcoming Casual Connect show there in 2017. While there I spent several days visiting a few game studios and other companies in the industry, and I would have to say my visit to GameDuell was one of the highlights of my trip.
I remember my first exposure to GameDuell; they were a Platinum sponsor of Casual Connect Europe. They had a really fun setup with very colorful cube chairs, a projector, big banners labeled “GameDuell is cool” and very eccentric people. If you are lucky enough to visit their office, you will probably agree with me that GameDuell is definitely very cool.
Liyla and the Shadows of War is a game that wasn’t made with profit in mind. It’s a free mobile game, and one that has a serious message to it about the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.
The game was recently the winner of Reboot Develop Indie Award in category of “Visual Excellence”. It was also nominated for Best in Show & Most Innovative Game and Best Game Narrative for Indie Prize at Casual Connect Asia 2016. But talking to Rasheed Abu-Eideh, the creator of Liyla and the Shadows of War, it was not a easy road to the game’s release.
In order to test Defold on “outside” devs other than King, their team gave early access to a Swedish indie developer Johan Hogfeldt and his team of Hammarhaja AB, whose game is called Hammerwatch Coliseum. King’s CTO Thomas Hartwig says this developer helped them define the community they wanted to build around Defold. While working on the game, Johan was sharing his feedback, and his game has already been released on iOS. After the show Gamesauce reached out to Johan to check out his impressions from the engine.
Leveraging Community So People Care About Your Game: 4 ways to generate interest in your game outside of traditional news
by Kenny Johnston of Pocket Gems
Getting people excited about your mobile game is hard work. Whether it’s press, streamers or some unlucky bystander that you’ve cornered at a bus stop, people often just don’t care. This can be a sobering experience for someone who’s poured their blood, sweat and tears into a game only to see it fall on glazed eyes and deaf ears. This is also the main reason why so many developers you meet have that haunted sporadic eye twitch that’s usually reserved for DMV workers and bomb squads.
But you know what’s 100 times harder than getting someone to notice your game when it launches? Getting someone to care about your game after it launches. Even if you have a roadmap chalk full of updates, nerfs, buffs, new characters and customizable skins, pitching a game that’s already launched often feels like trying to get Miley Cyrus to go to prom with you (but with less press coverage). Without product updates, this gets even more challenging. Most PR will generally tell you to focus on momentum like revenue, downloads, and in-game metrics. However, in today’s landscape everyone outside of your competitors will still usually receive this with a symphony of yawns and eye rolls.