Distortions, the creation of the game studio Among Giants, is an unusual game that combines music with a journey of self-discovery in the making. CEO Thiago Girello describes the experience as “a piece of our lives during the past eight years.” Among Giants is the winner of the Best Brazilian Game at BIG Festival 2017, an Indie Prize Partner event, with their game Distortions. They competed at Indie Prize and Casual Connect USA in Seattle.
A Process of Experimentation
Distortions began with a group of close friends learning to express themselves through the media of games. They shared a love for games and experimentation but each of them brought a different background, including movies, literature, design, and photography. Their variety of backgrounds had the advantage of allowing new and fresh insights into their game project. As a result, the making of Distortions was a process of experimentation and talking about subjects rarely seen in games. And throughout the eight years they never gave up on the project because making the game was always a fun time with friends, although Thiago does admit that they often say he gets too excited and should choose less ambitious projects.
Meet the best and the brightest from Paraguay, China, Brazil, Estonia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Colombia and USA. Indie Prize, an international scholarship program created by Computer Games Association for independent game developers, announced the winners of the 19th Indie Prize Awards during Indie Prize Seattle at Casual Connect USA 2017 – representing the best of the best in independent game design and innovation:
Matthieu Burleraux is the Business Development Director at Pocket PlayLab. The company is helping to provide mentorship on different matters to developer Cupcake, which the company invested $1 million into.
“We are helping them understand how to work around game KPIs, including in user acquisition, using these KPIs to optimize the game as well as their marketing campaign,” said Matthieu. “For example, we are focusing a lot on the daily cohorts, the LTV45 associated to them, the CPI, retention numbers, etc. We are also starting to help them on producing visual assets for UA and provide mentorship regarding developing the game on new platforms.”
“Before making the decision to work with Cupcake, we looked at the basic KPIs (ARPU, ARPPU, retention, virality, DAU, etc.) and their evolution over time, but we also looking into UA KPIs such as the CPI they had, ROI on UA, etc.” Matthieu continued. “The goal was for you to see if the game was sustainable and if we could grow it.”
Developers from Brazil, Canada, Paraguay and Iran will come and showcase their games at the international Indie Prize showcase during Casual Connect Asia 2017 in Singapore!
Game Title:Lila’s Tale Developer: Skullfish Studios Platform: VR mobile Website:www.skullfishstudios.com Country: Brazil
Immerse yourself in a fantastic and artistic experience, inside a dungeon crawler, crafted for Virtual Reality. Explore the mysteries lying beneath the dungeon, solve chain reaction puzzles and keep Lila safe to find her lost little brother.
The game was selected to Indie Pitch Arena during GMGC Beijing 2017 and will be released in 2017.
With over 31 million downloads, Mad Skills Motocross 2 has continued to be a success for developer Turborilla since its launch in 2014. This is primarily due to a loyal player base, many of which are involved in real-life Motocross, as well as partnerships with the likes of RedBull for exclusive events. Looking to drive more community engagement, Turborilla decided to up the ante in October 2015 by introducing real-money challenges via Swedish skills-based esports platform, Gumbler.
Based purely on a player’s skill, Gumbler brings esports to mobile games by enabling players to win real cash through placing money on their abilities. After integrating Gumbler, Mad Skills Motocross 2 saw players win upward of $900,000 in 2016 – with some individual players earning as much as $6,000 per month.
Having seen the high levels of engagement from the Mad Skills Motocross 2 community, Gumbler worked with Turborilla to host its first World Championship at the beginning of 2017 with a prize pot of $20,000.
For Gumbler, the goal was simple as its Head of Esports, Simon Sunden explains:
I wake up after a night of binge coding to a dawn awash in the song of the muezzin. I am on the 27th floor of a glass tower in the midst of a modernist mountain range that is Bangsar South. Below me is all of Kuala Lumpur incredible in the fading night.
Three weeks ago, I received a message asking if I was interested in applying to GameFounders. I said, “Of course.” To my mind, GameFounders is the modern equivalent of the Sculpture Garden of the Medicis. Sculpture not involving marble, chisel and hammer, but interactivity, pixels and code. GameFounders calls digital talent from all over the world to come to Kuala Lumpur to build the future; accelerating the process by providing investment, a first-rate workspace and a three-month mentorship by masters of the various disciplines that comprise game development.
Over the Holidays, I faced a series of interviews. The first was with Christina Begerska, GameFounders Program Manager, sharp as an adamantium blade and kept fresh – no doubt – by the tears of failed applicants. Next was Reinaldo Normand, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur, investor and author. And finally, Kadri Ugand herself, Co-Founder and CEO of GameFounders.
I was sleepwalking throughout the long wait for The Decision. Then I was told, matter-of-factly, that we were in. It took a lot of staring into space before it finally sunk in – our studio, Moocho Brain Interactive, would be in GameFounders Spring 2017!
This cycle is made of nine teams selected from a growing pool of more than a thousand applicants. Three teams are from South America, two are from Europe and four from Asia. Meet the teams of GameFounders Spring 2017:
The international Indie Prize showcase for independent developers will take place on Nov 1-3, 2016 in Tel Aviv. Sixty games from 21 countries were provided with Indie Prize scholarship by Casual Connect and will be showcased at Habima Square during three days from 9 AM to 5 PM.
Three games will represent from Argentina and Brazil were selected by Indie Prize judges and provided with the Indie Prize scholarship to attend Casual Connect Tel Aviv.
Joymasher is the developer of Oniken and Odallus, two pixel-art titles inspired by various NES action games. The developer is based out of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The studio is led by Danilo Dias, his wife Thaís Weiller and their friend Marco Galvão. When they started out, Danilo confirmed that they weren’t operating under the mentality of making an “indie” game.
“Well, to be honest at the time I started making Oniken I didn’t even knew what an indie game was!” said Danilo, laughing. “I just wanted to make a fun action 8-bit game, like the ones that I used to play as a kid. Every time that I think about making a game, I ask myself, ‘Hum… I think that I want to make a Contra-like game, or a Castlevania-like game’ and so on. I know that this isn’t something refined or creative but I really love games from 8/16-bit era and I want to make games like these.”
'We adopted a new business model based on partnerships with athletes'. - Wallace MoraisClick To Tweet
Hermit Crab is a game studio based in Porto Alegre, South of Brazil, founded in July 2014 by Wallace Morais. He expanded the studio inviting Guilherme Goncalves in 2015 and Matheus Vivian in 2016. With 9 games launched and one in beta, the studio has now focused on a new business model as they have gone more indie. Wallace sheds more light on their newly discovered direction.
The Global Game Jam post-mortem series covers the experiences of various Global Game Jam (GGJ) teams from all around the world. We ask teams from various locations and GGJ editions to look back and tell us about their experiences, share learned lessons and offer advise on creating something beautiful and fun in less than 48 hours.
This is ship’s log for ARK-II, mission 2301.A.NULL, written by captain-in-charge, NoahX02.
Our mission will begin shortly. It will be our last mission before departing the solar system.
Preparations are complete. The estimated hour for execution was, unfortunately, imprecise.
NoahX01 is MIA as of the last hour. Our current measurements indicate that temperatures have reached critical levels, and we must depart at once.
The storage system is functioning properly, and is ready to receive the specimens. I fear that the early arrival of the sun’s thermatmosphere will render most of the remaining life in the system extinct before our current plan can be executed. It is for that reason that we have ultimately agreed upon adopting plan C.NULL to mission 2301, at our own expense and risk. That plan does not exist in your archives. It is as follows:
ARK-II will follow the designated route of the planets as of plan A.NULL;
Each landing will be the beginning of an approximately 1-minute search mission, instead of the 3 hours designed in A.NULL;
We will deploy as many NoahX units as we can, but only one at a time, to guarantee the success of the mission;
ARK-II will depart the planet when that time has elapsed, regardless of NoahX units that are in the surface of the planet;
The times are calculated for every planet to maximize our orbital jump’s effectiveness;
Upon leaving the last planet, the ARK-II will enter phase 2, and launch into hyperspace as expected.
All NoahX units have agreed on this.
All our hope are belong to you.
It begins now.
Cheers everyone! We are a team of independent game developers who participated in Global Game Jam 2011 from Curitiba, Brazil (with PUC-PR – one of the biggest jam sites in 2011) and created the game Planetary Plan C.
This year’s theme was “Extinction”, and the idea for the game came from looking up the word in a dictionary, where we found the meaning of stellar extinction. After a brainstorm session by most of the team, we came up with the basic ideas for the game mechanics and concept – at this point, it’s difficult to say who had which ideas.
In our basic game conception, the player is able to visit four different planets in succession. In each of them, he is given about a minute and a half to rescue as many plants, animals, people and novelty items as he possibly can, before everything is incinerated by an expanding sun in its Giant Red stellar phase. The game is played as a simple platformer, with the added twist that the worlds are small and circular, so you can walk all the way around it in a few seconds. To add challenge to the quest are natural hazards: lava, water, and volcanic eruptions. Once the time is over, the ship automatically takes off to the next planet, until they have all been visited, and the player is awarded with a sight of everything that he has rescued, on their new home planet.
Determining this basic gameplay took a lot of time. The duration of each world (and of the game as a whole) were also a serious issue, as we needed to decide it beforehand so the music could be composed to match it, but we didn’t have enough gameplay feedback to make a well-informed choice. We went by our gut feelings, and we think that we got it just about right. Beyond that, everything went very smoothly.
With the main idea in our heads, we then proceeded to organize our work process and assignments for each member on the team with what was important to take the most advantage of our time and resources.
The tasks were divided based on the specialty of each member of the team, so the programmer (Rodrigo) and composer (Rafael) worked on their own in their respective areas, and the art assignments were as follows: Santo was responsible for background art, props and audio effects; Amora made the art and animation of the main character, the robot Noah, as well as animating part of our game resources; Irene worked on the design of the game’s visual interfaces, menus and HUD; Henrique focused on concept art, animated resources and Noah’s spaceship – and also wrote the game intro message; and Karen made concept and resources art, spaceship and game introduction screen. That aside, everyone took part in the creation of concept and game mechanics.
“There’s much credit to be given to the classic platforms like Mario, Sonic and Megaman, for their influences on how we perceive platform movement.”
The influences and sources of inspiration for the game were many. There’s much credit to be given to the classic platforms like Mario, Sonic and Megaman, for their influences on how we perceive platform movement. The “controlled jump” and “accelerated move” of Mario and Sonic are seen in the game, as is Megaman X’s dash.
In the case of our composer, Rafael didn’t look for specific game soundtrack references with a thematic similar to our game idea, mostly because there was not enough time for this task. So he focused on his own musical preferences he was used to working with, so he could reach the soundtrack effect he wanted more easily. He took as inspirational sources L. V. Beethoven, J. Brahms, Leonard Bernstein, and music from Banjo-Kazooie, Zelda and especially, Mario Bros. He composed the orchestra as to provide the game with a dramatic atmosphere, supplying an urgent and epic feeling to the task of collecting resources and avoiding extinction. The musical percussion was specially designed so it could give an additional fun ambience to the missions.
The right scale
During the game’s development, several ideas didn’t make the cut, simply because we didn’t have enough time to implement them:
There were supposed to be at least two additional hazards, a lightning bolt and a meteor;
Smoke particles were supposed to be used for the dash and as a notification that the volcanoes were about to explode;
We originally had planned a solar system-wide view, where you could see the star swallowing the planets as time went by.
We tried to deliver the player an experience where he comes upon a situation in which choices are to be made, for he will never be able to save everything from each small planet. These choices per se imply results and responsibilities concerning the influence over the sustainability of a new world as well as the preservation and extinction of species and cultures. We wished this game to provide fun above it all, without trying to stuff the player with moral lessons or cliché preaching. If the player can gather a deeper meaning from his experience or just have a really good time playing, all is well, our mission is accomplished!
“Looking back on our development process, one thing that could probably have been better would be to have more time to balance and refine the gameplay.”
Looking back on our development process, one thing that could probably have been better would be to have more time to balance and refine the gameplay. Particularly, we believe that the final scoring and collectible distribution systems could have been improved. Our programmer’s opinion is also that the game might have ended up being too hard, perhaps due to the unpredictable spawn of volcanoes and the movement (in particular, the unstoppable dash).
Overall, everything went incredibly well. Some great ideas surfaced, like Henrique’s idea to use a “surface map” to indicate the hazard areas of the map. With a combination of Notepad++ Macros and Photoshop trickery, he could create a long string of 0s and 1s indicating which segments of the surface of each world was safe to step on, and Rodrigo hardcoded that into the game as C strings. Without that, it would have been impractical to implement this concept, at least given the time that we had with only one programmer. It was very surprising to see that all surface maps were very accurate, and not a single one required tweaking!
The team is very proud of all the polish that we were able to give the game, including finishing a reasonably complex game with relatively few bugs. We also managed to complete the GGJ-2011 Achievement Playing the Music: The game’s duration is matched to that of a song. When the song ends, the game ends. No loops allowed.
For events like the GGJ, where you only have a weekend to develop a whole game, the most important thing we can say is: THINK SMALL. Games are always more complex than they seem at first. In particular, we strongly recommend making a 2D game, since not only does 3D add extra difficulties in both programming and asset development, and given the time constraints, they are rarely worth the effort, and are more likely to look “amateurish” (it’s unlikely that you’ll have time to make professional-looking models and textures).
“There’s no “write the whole game first, program the whole game later” – and some questions are better left unanswered, too!”
After the first concepting phase, when you know what kind of game you want to make, you will have tons of gameplay and feature ideas. You will also get that paralyzing feeling of “we have to decide everything that would be in a game’s design”. We really think it should be avoided as much as possible. Think of all the questions on your mind, but don’t decide on anything beforehand – instead, think of the smallest subset of the game that you can build fast, and then as you build it you will feel the answers coming. We tried defining that smallest subset as early as possible, and work on it right away: “some platformer guy who is running around on a 2d planet with lots of hazards and a spaceship he has to return to. He collects things.” Whether the guy was a robot, a dragon or a human, whether the things he picks up are rocks or books or people: it didn’t matter at that time. There’s no “write the whole game first, program the whole game later” – and some questions are better left unanswered, too!
A tip we would like to give is that care should also be taken when picking your tools: pick something you’re familiar with; you already have enough on your plate, don’t try to learn new technologies as an added difficulty! Try to prepare in advance, setting up a blank workspace/project can save you a lot of time. When you’re trying to get a game done in 48 hours, you don’t want to spend a few of those tracking down dependencies and writing boilerplate. And finally, have fun! Otherwise, there’s no point in joining.
Finally, we wanted to say that having such a positive feedback about our work is without any doubt the best kind of stimulant we could get. It’s definitely an incentive to keep working hard and makes us value our work as a team and individuals, as game developers. We want to keep producing games and giving it our best.
We are sure that this positive response to Planetary Plan C is the result of an incredible teamwork, full of talents that not only complement one another, but are capable of communicating well and sharing a harmonious view of the whole.
Amora B. has a career in Animation, having worked in productions such as “The Princess and the Frog” (Disney), “Chico y Rita” (Estudio Mariscal y Magic Light Pictures), and other films and commercials. She’s a co-founder of MiniBoss.
Fernando Su is a friend of the team. He helped us as a Beta Tester, cooking-planner and moral support.
Henrique Schlatter Manfroi majored in Game Development. He has worked for Southlogic Studios and Ubisoft as a 2d and 3d artist, and is now co-owner of the independent developer Sulistas.
Irene Sasaki Imakuma majored in Architecture and Urbanism, and works in a retail architecture office. She also works with graphic design, animation and project management as a member of MiniBoss.
Karen Garcia Teixeira has majored in Visual Arts. She works as an Illustrator and is a member of MiniBoss team.
Rafael Miranda is a pianist and studies composition at Alcântara Machado College in Brazil. He composed the soundtracks for the games Jules: unboxing the world, Talbot´s Odyssey – part one and Planetary Plan C. He is a member of MiniBoss team.
Rodrigo Braz Monteirois the game’s programmer. He works for an online casual gaming company, where he is the lead programmer.
Santo, a.k.a. Pedro Medeiros, has majored in design and works with illustration and concept art. He is a co-founder of MiniBoss.
Find out more about Studio Miniboss team on their blog.