Video Coverage

FDG Entertainment’s Philipp Doeschl on the Challenges of a Creating a Business and the Importance of Cross-Promotion

January 9, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton


FDG Entertainment’s Philipp Doeschl became fascinated with video games at a very young age. From the time he was given his first Nintendo system when he was four years old, he realized he wanted to be involved in making video games. That became a reality when he went on to co-found FDG Entertainment at only 19 years old.

The Challenges of Starting the Business

Doeschl tells us that because he and his co-founder Thomas Kern did not have a technical background they faced many challenges during their first few years in the industry. Although they had many ideas, finding ways to realize these ideas was very difficult. They had to learn everything about running the business, making good use of the people, and how to make games.

One of their first challenges was finding people they could rely on who had the necessary technical knowledge – Doeschl was a sound engineer and Kern was a Product Manager of Games at O2 Germany for three years. A second major challenge was the limited money they had available to invest in making a game. They solved this problem through finding people willing to work with them on a revenue share basis. Once the first sales of games began and money was being generated, the situation changed, but it took several years to realize the success they were hoping for.

The FDG Entertainment team checking out a new mobile phone in 2006

Doeschl describes most of the early mistakes they made with the company as a result of their lack of experience and the fact that they had to learn everything from the beginning. Their greatest difficulty was finding the right people to trust. When they discovered they had relied on the wrong people, they began attempting to run more and more of the business by themselves. Ironically, this was also an error; the games they were attempting to develop simply were not being made when they had been promised. It took until the beginning of 2004, approximately 2 years after founding, until the company was profitable and successful.

Moving to a New Platform

“You have to open your eyes and be thinking of new ways to interact with this new input which is touch.”

Moving into the production of iOS games also took longer than expected because it was so new. As Doeschl says, “This cool new touchscreen interface was excellent matter, and we had to play with some limitations. It was a totally different approach and quite a challenge to work without the hardware buttons.” Their first iOS game was an import of their successful mobile game, Bobby Carrot Forever, chosen because they already knew the game and only had to renew it, not create a whole new game. But Doeschl discovered that it was particularly challenging to adapt a game from one platform to a totally new platform.

With what they learned with their first iOS game, they were able to rapidly develop their next game, Parachute Panic. As Doeschl says, “You have to open your eyes and be thinking of new ways to interact with this new input which is touch. It’s a totally different way of creating games and thinking up games.” He also emphasized, “What we learned was you have to make the best of the technology you have. So if there is touch, use it wisely; don’t try to take old controls schemes into the new world because it won’t work.”

Philipp in front of the “garage”, the shelf that ended up hosting almost 150 different mobile phones in 2007.

The Importance of Marketing

When Doeschl speaks about the challenges of developing a successful game, he emphasizes the importance of marketing. The biggest mistake a developer can make is thinking marketing is unnecessary; that all you need to do is upload the game to the app store and everything will be fine. Without good marketing, it will be impossible to find the game. “That’s where the publishers come into play. It’s harder and harder for devs to get visibility, so marketing is very important inside the app store and outside the app store. It’s important everywhere.”

Doeschl asserts that cross-promotion has now become very important. “It’s the easiest way to tell people about your game and the other games from you as well that people may like. If you can present to a user apps with cross-promotion, they may enjoy it and everybody wins.” He feels that it makes the user base stronger because their background awareness increases. When FDG Entertainment first began using cross promotion, they had difficulties, including technical difficulties. He discovered that it is important to find the company that can provide the cross promotion services that you want. Every cross promotion provider has advantages and disadvantages, so you may have to work with more than one.

FDG Entertainment has several social freemium games in development, to be released within the next few months.  They also have several other games in development, including a Japanese action/adventure, Across Age 2.

Video Coverage

ReignGames’ Matthew Mayer on Designing the Perfect Touch Control Schemes, Tapping vs. Slicing and Creating Games That Fit Today’s Lifestyles

January 4, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton


Melting Pot of Ideas

The whole ReignGames team on a company outing to a Pixar exhibition in Shanghai.

ReignGames’ goal was to create games that would appeal to as many people as possible. They decided the best way to do that was to create a casual game that could be played for a few minutes at a time. Their first game, Pig Rush, was not immediately successful, but, as they received feedback from players who downloaded the game, they added additional aspects to the game and launched updates and new versions. The game became increasingly popular in countries around the world. “It gave us the chance to work on something that could make people really happy, and reaching people around the world is what drove us,” says Mayer.

“We all love tech, we all love games, so that brings people together from different cultures. And I think that melting pot helps create more interesting ideas, and more interesting design aesthetics.”

As part of ReignGames’ effort to appeal to the greatest number of people, they have hired people from around the world. But Mayer emphasizes, “We, of course, all share common loves. We all love tech, we all love games, so that brings people together from different cultures. And I think that melting pot helps create more interesting ideas, and more interesting design aesthetics.” Mayer believes an important aspect to generating these exciting ideas is the fact that they are a small company, together in one office.

One Chance at a First Impression

Mayer asserts that players’ first time experiences with a game are vitally important because that influences their ongoing opinion of the game. Pig Rush, for example, attracts casual gamers because it is simple to learn and becomes more challenging as the player progresses through the game. It starts out with a lot of flexibility and retains player interest by increasing the difficulty with moving platforms, larger gaps to jump, and bonus items, but the game stays basically the same. The simplicity of the game is the primary reason for its popularity. Mayer emphasizes that using a touch screen well is important in creating a game that people will enjoy playing. The advantage of the touch screen is that the player can interact directly with the game with a simple touch and drag. The screen can also allow additional ways of interacting with the game by using different motions on the screen. These motions include pulling and releasing, tilting the screen (Doodlebug, Labyrinth), slicing (Fruit Ninja, Slice It), and swipe and flick (Mirror’s Edge). This allows more feedback than a simple tap. For example, in Angry Birds where you pull and release, you can adjust the strength and power of your control before you release.

Testing a new level in Flockwork for iPad with designer Shinae from South Korea and developer Tuo from China.

New ways of interacting with the touch screen will continue to be developed. Dual-controlled systems will be developed, and voice controls are already beginning to be used. Mayer believes that voice controls are particularly exciting, essentially allowing a gamer to play with a third hand. Mayer points out several aspects of casual games that contribute to their continuing popularity. As he says, “They just really suit the lifestyles of most of the people who are going to have smartphones and tablets.” The growth of social games on Facebook has more people than ever playing games. Games are now readily accessible on tablets and iPhones, so people will continue to want games that use these to their best advantage. These will be games that have short play sessions and that are easy to pick up and play.

ReignDesign are working on a follow up to Pig Rush called Pig Rush 3000, as well as bringing Flockwork to iPhone.

Video Coverage

GameHouse’s Matt Hulett on the evolution of successful social game development, monetization, discoverability and the tools you need

November 21, 2012 — by Clelia Rivera


Matt Hulett’s passion for games led him to this industry. He has successfully built profitable companies from scratch and has helped businesses throughout a variety of stages. His experiences eventually led him to his current position as the President of GameHouse, which has provided him with a deeper view on the industry.

Gamesauce: So what made you interested in this industry?

Matt: I am a life-long gamer and have a huge passion for the industry.  The industry is in such a rapid stage of growth that the opportunity to be a part of the social/mobile sea change has a huge appeal, too.

But this is a new time for the video game industry. It’s no longer dominated by console games played by teenage boys, but by women on Facebook or their mobile phones who are just as passionate about gaming. We have new players, emerging platforms and growing businesses—all of which are taking the video game industry into the future.

I, along with many others in the video game industry, want to be part of this transformation and make a mark on history. As the President of GameHouse, I plan for us to continue making our mark on the casual game space.  Thanks to our talented team of developers, our growing catalog of titles, and our loyal gamer fans, we are one of the leading casual games companies across the PC, social and mobile.

I’m excited about this opportunity for GameHouse. We’re expanding our games business into social and mobile and have already become one of the top 20 developers on Facebook. We’re in a good position, and we are continuing to scale our business and our market lead.

GS: What past experiences have you been most helpful to you as President of GameHouse?

During my 20-plus years in the consumer tech and dotcom arena, I’ve experienced the challenges of launching a startup as well as turning around an entire global business. I’ve seen hundreds of companies rise and fall, and even rise again from their ruins to become leading companies.

I’ve learned to listen to my gut over the years. You need commitment to be successful in any industry, including social games. When others tell you that you can’t, you work harder to prove them wrong. You stay the course.

GameHouse has millions of players that believe in our vision, and they come back to play our games on Facebook or on one of many smartphones and tablets including the new Kindle Fire. They tell us what they want, and we listen to them. We iterate, adapt and change to meet their needs. If they are pleased, then so are we because they are the market – our market, our consumers.

When others tell you that you can’t, you work harder to prove them wrong. You stay the course.

GameHouse has a long tradition, which started out as the first real casual gaming company (as RealArcade).  We’re rapidly changing our business to become the leader in casual gaming on social and mobile environments.  We’re not afraid of companies who currently outperform, outsize and out-finance us.  We’re inspired by the challenge and look to outmaneuver them by expanding into areas where we can win.

GS: Can you tell us more about GameHouse and how it has impacted the industry?

We are one of the leading providers of casual games across PC downloads, social and mobile, and one of the top developers on Facebook thanks to our titles such as Collapse! Blast and Slot-O-Rama.

As a smaller game company, we are far more nimble and tenacious in the industry than others, and have the experience to master social gaming across multiple screens. Our extensive history in the casual games market gives us rich knowledge about game design and mechanics, platforms and devices, and monetization strategies. We’ve brought this wealth of knowledge to the social games industry, along with plans to make social games fundamentally more social, and offer meaningful ways to play with friends, and create a sense of accomplishment, success and achievement in a matter of minutes, not hours. This is a dawn of a new era for the social games industry, and for GameHouse as we expand upon the success of our Collapse! franchise and bring new game experiences to the market.

GS: Which social game is your favorite?

My favorite game is always the one I can’t talk about just yet, but I’m a huge fan of arcade and casino games. I seem to always find time to jump into a game of Bayou Blast or Collapse! Blast. I also love to play titles that sit on the fringes and that may not have effective design but have intriguing game mechanics.

“I seem to always find time to jump into a game of Bayou Blast or Collapse! Blast.”

GS: What social game created this year do you think has been most successful?

It’s a bit hard to say since there has been a tidal wave of copycat games released from major studios this year. I’ve been playing a few indie games that hang on the fringes like the dice game Zilch or the word game Palindromes. I have been playing the Facebook game SongPop quite a bit, too.  These games are simple, yet have so much potential, especially for multiple players on mobile devices, which is why I’ve found myself playing them recently.

Just imagine if we all whipped out our phones to play a quick game of dice like Zilch with friends in the room, or competed against each other to answer the same scrambled word on Palindromes. Now that becomes more social than some of the current games out there.

GS: What qualities do successful social games share to make them successful?

Building successful social games requires having aptitude and attitude around running games-as-a-service.

This isn’t like the console market, where you pay for the complete version of a game upfront. Social games need constant iteration to be successful. There’s no such thing as a final game release on Facebook. Building successful social games requires having aptitude and attitude around running games-as-a-service.  Social games not only need the classic game components of game mechanics, game economy, etc., but they also need to incorporate compelling viral and reward loops to organically grow and retain audience.

GS: What recent trends have you noticed in game development? Do you think they are long-lasting?

The casino-game genre is booming on Facebook’s canvas as well as on smartphones and tablets this year, which indicates that there is plenty of room to go beyond Villes and beyond Facebook even. For Facebook canvas games, there is rapid diversification into casual style games including Match 3, slots, bubble poppers, etc.

Developers have taken notice. We’ve seen a significant uptick in the release of non-Ville games and mobile games in 2012. Game genres across multiple platforms, including Facebook, iOS, Android and Google+, will continue to expand, bringing forth new opportunities for developers.

Take, for instance, Ouya, a startup working on a $99 game console built on an Android platform. Where others saw the impossible, Ouya sees an opportunity to change the game and has raised more than $2 million on Kickstarter in 24 hours. If they pull this off, they will open up game development on the TV screen, dramatically reduce production costs and could instantly have mass-market penetration. This may be the meteor that strikes the console industry in ways that will forever change how people play and produce games for the TV screen.

GS: Where do you see the social game market heading?

By 2015, I predict that mobile games will rise, new platforms will emerge and new gaming experiences will take shape. Those that respond quickly to these market conditions will not only survive these changes, but will likely outperform these current industry beasts who are large, but may move slowly.

With that said, I foresee smaller-game companies leading the next-generation in social gaming, and they will have mastered social gaming experiences and monetization strategies across multiple screens. Meanwhile, those who currently lead the social games market will likely look prehistoric in 5 to 10 years, I believe.

GS: What can we look forward to from GameHouse?

We love casual games just as much as our players, and we will continue to deliver interactive experiences across the social and mobile arena that give our fans heart-pounding fun, even for a few minutes. We’ve already launched several social games this year, including Mystic Ice Blast and Slot-O-Rama.

We’re working on more arcade and casino-style games, and plan to expand some of our most successful franchises like Collapse! to new devices.

The bottom line – we want to make social games social and give players even more ways to win in minutes, not hours. Isn’t that what casual gaming is all about?


Insolita’s Martin Fabichak on the Brazilian Game Industry and Taking on Big Challenges (part 1)

February 25, 2011 — by Javier


In the last decade Brazil’s economy has been flourishing, spawning all kinds of new commercial and creative initiatives. Brazil has a fond love for gaming and a growing industry to match it. We had a talk with the cheerful Martin Fabichak, Technical Director of Insolita Studios in São Paulo, to find out more about him, his company and what makes the Brazilian game industry unique.

After Fabichak graduated in Applied Math with a specialization in Programming, he quickly realized that his true passion was game development, leading him to create flash games. In 2008 he joined Insolita where he recently became Technical Director and a partner of the company six months ago.

Size matters

Martin Fabichak's team at Insolita

One of the characteristics of being a young company in an upcoming industry is that you get to create all sorts of games. Insolita Studios has a diverse repertoire, from serious games to teach management skills, to comedic platformers featuring cavemen and devils.

CaveDays allowed Insolita to get noticed in the Brazilian industry, especially after winning the Jogos BR contest.

While they were making three serious games to encourage entrepreneurship in collaboration with professional experts, they decided to make something less serious, yet important on the side: CaveDays. “This cool platforming game allowed the company get noticed in the Brazilian industry, especially after winning the Jogos BR contest for Best Game, a contest organized by the Brazilian government to stimulate Brazilian game design.” Fabichak explains.

To promote their game CaveDays, Insolita published web comics made with the graphics from the game.

The award was the first step to start more, and bigger, projects. Fabichak likes to describe them in superlatives: “Afterwards we made a huge serious game, LudoPark. Pretty much one of the biggest serious games ever made because it’s a real-time multiplayer management game where 40 players compete to manage their business.” Besides this “huge” game, Insolita Studios joined up with the independent Brazilian game developer Abdução to make something “mini” that turned out quite big.

Freekscape from Brazil

Freekscape was the first 100% Brazilian IP in the world market.

The two companies joined forces as Kidguru Studios to work on the first Sony-licensed game in Brazil for the PSP Minis platform, Freekscape. “We’re the only licensees for Sony.” Fabichak explains. “There is no one with a PS3 license here. It’s really hard to get that in Latin America. Being able to get Freekscape on the PSP Mini platform was a unique opportunity for us.”

Developing Freekscape took Insolita’s international relationships to another level in many different ways. “We developed a prototype with 3 levels and took it to GDC in 2009. There we got in touch with the publisher Creat from the US that gave us the opportunity to work with Sony that was looking for games for its new PSP Minis platform that had yet to be announced.” Fabichak recounts.

Sony was really happy with the way Freekscape fitted their original idea of the type of games they wanted to offer on PSP Minis.

Compared to other PSP Minis games, Freekscape was a big mini. “Out of 40 levels we had in this project, only 15 remained in the game,” Fabichak admits. “We did not know that Minis would mostly be smaller-sized casual games. Most games come down to 1 or 2 hours of playtime, with a lot of replay value, of course,” Fabichak explains. “But Freekscape was disproportionately bigger with about 8 hours of gameplay. We believed and hoped PSP Minis was going to be a platform for small studios with big ideas.” Was Freekscape too big to be a Mini? “Sony was happy with the way Freekscape fit into their original idea of the type of games they wanted to offer on PSP Minis.”

Lessons from the little devil

At the Sony booth at GDC 2010. On the left is Daniel, Founder of Abdução, and on the right is Fabichak's partner, Winston Petty, founder of Insolita. Freekscape was a joint project of Abdução e Insolita as Kidguru.

Fabichak is happy with having an odd-one-out on a platform that has tough competition with delivering bite-sized portable games. He is proud of the game it turned out to be, but especially the lessons and relationships they gained through it. “We learned a lot from Freekscape. Especially in maintaining a relationship with an international publisher and a big player like Sony.” Fabichak says. “One of the things we struggled with was developing for Minis at such an early stage. Developing Freekscape before PSP Minis had even been announced, brought some difficulties, specifically nearing the end of our development cycle because the requirements and features for PSP Minis changed from one week to the other.”

Fabichak does not take his hardships for granted, however. “During this time, we had a great relationship with Vicious Cycle Software, who made the Vicious Engine we worked with. They helped us with a lot of issues. They even made some tweaks to the engine to help us out with some of the issues,” Fabichak recounts. “But when it came to one of the specific requirements from Sony, I spent about a month in the engine’s source code trying to solve it. That was really hard, especially since it came out of the blue, nearing the end of development.”

Now we can approach publishers and companies like Sony with much more ease.

“Despite these problems, we had great help from Sony.” Fabichak admits. It also gave them more confidence to step things up. “Through this project we now talk to others on a whole other level. Now we can approach publishers and companies like Sony with more ease. You can’t reach this level as a company without earning your stripes with a previous project. Now we have the credentials to talk to them and prove we can deliver on what we propose, and our partners know that. We feel like we’re on another level now.” Fabichak says proudly.

The second part of Fabichak’s interview will be published next week, including his views on the Brazilian game industry, Insolita’s current projects, and his effort to inform upcoming talents about the real world of game development in Brazil through his podcast, Doublejump.


Gamesauce Challenge Announces Global Game Jam Winners

February 2, 2011 — by Vlad Micu and Javier Sancho


The GGJ2011 Poster by Sjors Houkes

We have announced the ten winners of the Gamesauce Challenge for the IGDA Global Game Jam!

The ten winning games were selected from the 1487 games that were developed last weekend during the Global Game Jam 2011. Each winning team has been awarded the opportunity to showcase their game during Casual Connect Europe on Thursday, February 10, 2011 in Hamburg, Germany and all-access passes to Casual Connect Europe and three nights of accommodation.

Submissions were judged based on the potential of their teams to create commercially viable projects and meet with publishers during Casual Connect Europe. Each Global Game Jam site was given the opportunity to nominate their very best project for the contest.

The Rhythm of the Stars team from Finland
The Rhythm of the Stars team from Tampere, Finland

The Winners (in alphabetical order)

Death Pizza
Turku, Finland
Sabastian Jakaus, Tatu-Pekka Saarinen, Arash John Sammander. [email]

Hamsters and Plague
Oulu, Finland
Mika Oja, Teemu Kaukoranta. [email]

The Last Fleet
Capetown, South Africa
Marc Luck, Luke Marcus Viljoen, Rodain Joubert. [email]

Ned, You Really Suck the Life Out of a Room
New York, USA
Team NED: New York, USA, Randall Li, Chris Makris, Ben Norskov, Matthew LoPresti, Roger Cheng. [email]

Planetary Plan C
Curitiba, Brazil
Henrique Schlatter Manfroi, Pedro Medeiros de Almeida, Amora B., Karen Garcia, Rafael Miranda Gomes, Rodrigo Braz Monteiro, Fernando Su, Ne Sasaki. [email]

Rhythm of the Stars
Tampere, Finland
Pekka Kujansuu, Olli Etuaho, Juho Korhonen, Aki Jäntti. [email]

Bremen, Germany
Kolja Lubitz, Jannik Waschkau, Carsten Pfeffer, Jan Niklas Hasse. [email]

Snobli Run
Kajaani, Finland
Veli Vainio & Ilkka Leino. [email]

Manila, Philippines
Marnielle Lloyd Estrada. [email]

Ultimate celebration
Rochester, New York, USA
Lane Lawley, Brian Soulliard, Devin Ford, Lawrence Jung, Kevin MacLeod. [email]

The Somyeol2D team from Bremen, Germany
The Somyeol2D team from Bremen, Germany

The Runner Ups (in alphabetical order)

Dramatic Extinction
Hamar, Norway
Stig-Owe Sandvik, Kenneth Aas Hansen, Andreas Fuglesang.

Utrecht, The Netherlands
Jan Willem Nijman, Rami Ismail, Jonathan Barbosa Rutger Muller, Paul Veer, Laurens de Gier.

How to Kill Pandas
Pelitalo Outokumpu, Finland
Antti Piironen, Anssi Pehrman, Tuuka Rinkinen, Salla Hakko, Heikki Koljonen, Hannu-Pekka Rötkö, Lauri Salo, Juho-Petteri Yliuntinen, Lari Strand, Henry Härkönen, Sina Aho.

Johann Sebastian Joust!
Copenhagen Game Collective
Douglas Wilson, Nils Deneken, Lau Korsgaard, Sebbe Selvig, Patrick Jarnveldt.

Córdoba,  Argentina
Ezequiel Soler, German A. Martin, Carla Soledad Corcoba.

Make sure to participate in the IGDA Global Game Jam next year for your opportunity to win!


Indie Prize USA 2016: What to Expect

June 30, 2016 — by Yuliya Moshkaryova


One of the developers has just contacted me (yes it is 2 am 🙂 ) and has asked me to give him some information to persuade his investor to make his trip to Indie Prize USA possible as his investor doesn’t think it is a good idea to fly from Australia to San Francisco just to visit the conference. This article is my reply to those who are still hesitating whether to showcase their games or not.

First, let’s highlight WHO WILL VISIT INDIE PRIZE USA 2016.

  • Color Switch (75 millions downloads)
  • The infamous Liyla & the Shadows of War (a game based on the story about Palestinian people and rejection from AppStore)
  • The Forest Song (based on the Ukrainian folk novel, created by an American with Ukrainian roots)
  • Choices: Stories You Play which was #35 on the App Store’s Top Grossing Games list the first week after launch
  • Winners of local games’ contests from our Indie Indie Prize Nomination Partners
  • Up to 20 VR games in the showcase, as well as the opening of a new nomination genre Best VR Game!


Europe 2015Video Coverage

Andy Sum: Making Games People Want to Share | Casual Connect Video

June 19, 2015 — by Catherine Quinton

'I had an itch nagging away at me to work on my ideas…I just had to try and build them.'–Andy SumClick To Tweet
Andy Sum
Andy Sum

At the Casual Connect Europe 2015 conference, Andy Sum and Matt Hall revealed their processes, influences and key decisions made during the three month development cycle of their hit game Crossy Road. “Our goal was not to make money; our goal was to make something popular,” says Andy Sum.

Europe 2017Video Coverage

Vera Velichko: Succeeding with the Visual Novel | Casual Connect Video

September 19, 2017 — by Catherine Quinton

I make something beautiful and teach my team to do it. It makes me happy every day. - Vera VelichkoClick To Tweet

User Interface is the connection between the customer and your code. The CEO and Art Director of Owl Studio has a passion about what makes User Interface good or bad. In her lecture at Casual Connect Europe 2017 discussed this and how to build effective interfaces as well as how to direct the user’s attention to the right place at the right time. This presentation will help you whether you are an artist or not to design better layouts that help increase user engagement and retention.
One tip Vera shared was: “Passive and active colors for user interface UI needs a good balance, using gentle shades that won’t tire the eyes.” To learn more, see the full lecture and slides below.


Vera Velichko is CEO and Art Director of Owl Studio

Vera Velichko, CEO and Art Director of Owl Studio, has always been determined to have a company of her own, but for many years it seemed like a distant dream as she continued working as an employee. But finally, two years ago, the time was right. “I realized that there is no time like the present, and if I wanted to achieve my dream, I had to do it there and then.” So, with some friends, she began working on her first project, a visual novel called One Day in London. The company has developed into a team of twelve and they still work with this visual novel (an episodic project) as well as doing outsource artwork. During the past year they have completed seven projects together.

Doing Something that Really Matters

Today Vera firmly believes that the work she is doing means something; it really matters. This year Owl Studio’s online school for artists begins. Each day brings interesting tasks; each new project brings new challenges for Vera and the team. She revealed, “I can make something beautiful and teach my team to do it. It makes me happy every day.”

Almost all her life Vera has been working as an artist. While studying fine arts, she started accepting what it would be like to live on the salary a painter could make. But then Vera discovered that the game industry offered a brilliant opportunity to make real money doing what she loves. So she made a portfolio of her work and began doing freelance work as a game artist. At first she were working for almost nothing, but the work allowed them to continue improving the portfolio. And as the portfolio became better and better, the more opportunities it generated.

A pelf portrait by Vera

Building a Business

With the creation of Owl Studio, Vera entered a new stage of her career. Suddenly she must be involved in business development, networking, team building, setting up process, and many other aspects of building a business that she had never done before. Their motivation to succeed comes through seeing a goal and moving toward it. When she looks to the future and see there is something still needed, Vera just keeps moving on.

The biggest challenges she has faced recently is making decisions for the company. Vera reveals, “How can I find out that my decision is right? How can I be sure it doesn’t hurt my team?” She has realized that, although there is no way to be sure something is the right decision, it is still her responsibility as the leader. This continues to be the most complicated aspect of running the company.

Building the Team

For the members of the team Vera searches for those who can combine creative talent with responsibility, but it is a rare combination. This is because the art that Owl Studio makes is much more than a job or a way to make money. She explains, “We are trying to make a graphic with soul and spirit, that will take a user to a new world. It’s impossible without talent. And we work with customers and abide by deadlines, and this would not be possible without responsibility.”

The most difficult positions to fill are the team leads. This employee must have the very unusual ability to be a leader while also being a team player. And next most difficult to find are the UI designers.

Vera has discovered that there are no standard methods of how to work with the team members because everyone is unique; an individual approach is necessary. So she tries to find a way to connect with every employee, but recognize that is also important to know the moment to let them go.

Her commitment to team members is evident when Vera relates the proudest moment of her career. It was when she realized what an apprentice had accomplished, something more than Vera could do alone.

Developing and Testing a Visual Novel

Owl Studio’s first project: One Day in London

When Owl Studio began working on their own project, they used play tests of their first demo to form the final vision of the project. They were testing UI, storytelling, sounds and perception of the image, and as a result of these tests they made changes and adjustments. As they tested this visual novel, the most interesting results came from seeing the differences in feedback from the different story lines. The choices the users made changed their perceptions of the entire story. It was a very important discovery.

Now there are no longer significant changes to the project mechanic from episode to episode, so Owl Studio is no longer doing play tests. However, they do get feedback from users on a daily basis and use this information to constantly improve the project.

The monetization method Owl Studio uses for One Day in London is premium. This is simply a result of the visual novel genre; there is no opportunity to monetize within it for using the free-to-play principle.

Vera has seen dynamic growth in mobile games, as well as hearing many colleagues talking about new trends in this sector of the game industry, and expects this to continue over the next few years. In response, she is teaching the team and students to understand the specifics of mobile art.

The Essential Skills and Attributes of Good Interface Design

There are two essential skills to the basis of good interface design. The first is understanding the features of the project and the target devices. The designer must be able to imagine how the user will use this. The second is understanding the topography and visual design. As Vera points out, not every artist can understand how to work with texts and infographics.

Vera describes the difference between UX and UI design this way: “UX design is the process of establishing the logic system that controls the application. UI design is the process of making this system beautiful.”

Casual Heroes by Owl Studio

The software to design good graphical user interface will vary depending on the artist’s habits and preferences. Some possibilities include Photoshop, Illustrator or Animate. The only essential is providing a portable network graphics set.

For someone who is considering UI design as a career, Vera emphasizes the importance of playing games while thinking about how you do it. Also, study the topography design. These are the two most significant steps toward becoming a UI designer.

Europe 2017Video Coverage

Petri Ikonen on Designing Games, Creativity and Putting Players First | Casual Connect Video

September 15, 2017 — by Catherine Quinton


Petri Ikonen, Creative Director at tracktwenty, joined EA in 2012 when they opened their mobile game studio in Helsinki, Finland. With responsibilities that include supervising the studio’s design team as well as doing many hands-on design tasks, he is vitally involved in developing tracktwenty’s creative culture and processes. At Casual Connect Europe 2017 in Berlin, Petri discussed the challenges of creating SimCity BuildIt.


Soar: Lessons in Building a Game for Mobile & VR

September 13, 2017 — by Industry Contributions


By Karyn Murray, COO, eLearning Studios

In 2014, eLearning Studios was invited to be a partner in a European partnership project called Stay Active which was a project looking at reducing stress in older workers in the workplace. As part of this project we worked collaboratively with Dr. Gail Steptoe-Warren, Occupational Psychologist and Principal Lecturer at Coventry University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences and Nigel Wilson Principal Lecturer at Coventry University to research and explore ideas for the development of a new game designed to reduce stress for those over 45. This initial project was later to evolve and develop into Soar: Tree of Life.