Recently, Ska Studios announced that the PS Vita port of their title Salt and Sanctuary has been delayed. It was originally released for PS4 and Windows PC in March. The game is being ported to Vita by Sickhead Games, while Ska Studios (a team of only two people) ports Salt and Sanctuary to other regions.
While this seems normal enough, the developer James Silva (in explaining the delays as being a result of middleware issues), attempted to cut off any toxic reactions. “Sanity policy: I’m going to delete any post berating us for not having the Vita port done,” said James on Facebook. “Another studio is working on the Vita port. Yelling at either studio isn’t going to speed up anything.”
Not only does it really turn a good mood sour fast, but I just hate to see the industry becoming such a toxic place. – James Silva
“As a general plea, I wish everyone could be civil to developers. In my nine years of professional indie game development, I’ve seen attitudes go from 95 percent supportive/5 percent meh to 50 percent supportive/50 percent angry, impatient, and downright hurtful,” they added. “Not only does it really turn a good mood sour fast, but I just hate to see the industry becoming such a toxic place.”
“I never imagined that I would work at an IT company,” Nevosoft’s PR manager Julia Lebedeva admits. Before joining Nevosoft and making her first plunge into the games biz, Lebedeva was a radio talkshow host at the Europe Pulse radio station in Tomsk, Siberia. “But now I’m here, I feel like it was my fate. I loved radio, for sure, but games are another field of entertainment. Like with listening to radio, people who play our games feel better, feel happier.” We sat down with the lively miss Lebedeva to talk about her creative PR work, reviewing games and making games for women.
When Lebedeva joined Russian casual game developer Nevosoft as a public relations manager, she was fresh out of her job at the radio station and looking for a new challenge.
”I have experience in another entertainment sphere and it let me bring ideas from another angle, a completely new perspective than what they were used to.”
”I didn’t have much experience in this sphere, but they hired me because they wanted a creative person,” she recalls. ”A person with ideas. That’s the great thing about Nevosoft. I have experience in another entertainment sphere and my job let me bring ideas from another angle, a completely new perspective than what they were used to.”
Catering to a very broad demographic due to Nevosoft’s casual titles, Lebedeva made sure she took every opportunity to come up new ideas that appealed to the developer’s loyal customers.
The game reviewer
“The greatest thing about working at Nevosoft is that the guys, the bosses, the directors, they are really open to all ideas,” Lebedeva admits. Most recently, Lebedeva started making reviews of the games that are launched on Nevosoft’s own game portal, partially returning to the ambience of her old radio studio. “It was just an idea, I offered to do it and they said, ‘Ok, do it’. It has been pretty successful.” Lebedeva’s reviews not only turned her into a popular figure within Nevosoft.ru’s own community of approximately 600,000 Russian speaking registered users, but has rewarded her with hundreds of comments about her work by the community and thousands of views on her reviews on YouTube.
“People appreciate this honesty.”
Aside from purchasing professional gear and building a small studio in the Nevosoft office, Lebedeva takes her reviewing work very seriously. The reviews consist of a weekly top three of the four games Nevosoft releases each week, which she plays extensively to write up the biggest pros and cons of each project. “I try to show it from different angles,” she says. “People appreciate this honesty.”
The Nevosoft.ru website Lebedeva publishes her reviews on has turned into a full-fledged social network of players in the past couple of years. ”They write really great reviews of games,” she adds. Her reviews have proven to not only maintain that level of engagement, but spark a lot more in the process when Lebedeva sometimes quotes users on their reviews. “They’re happy that they are appreciated, valued and it even makes them want to write better and better,” she admits. Users can blog, play and do other activities that other users can give points for, resulting in a constructive community that Lebedeva has to deal with. “I think it’s important that they have this opportunity to give each other plusses or minuses on their activities.”
“I’m trying to make people know us and love us.”
Like any creative person, Lebedeva is not a fan of routine work. Talking to press and writing press releases are an acceptable part of the job, but hasn’t stopped her from looking for something that makes her proud of her work. Since her first game review video in June, the effort required to make her reviews hasn’t lost it’s flair. According to Lebedeva, one of the reasons it hasn’t become boring is the positive responses she’s received from the Nevosoft.ru community, closely reminding her of her own days at the radio station. The number of comments Lebedeva receives on her reviews and the Nevosoft development blog are easily comparable to any popular international game website. “I’m trying to make people know us and love us,” she admits.
Most PR people would be surprised by the directions Lebedeva has taken in her job as a PR manager. But after seeing the results of her work, the success of her engaging and personal approach to PR is undeniable. “There’s always something new,” Lebedeva argues. But that’s not all. Lebedeva combines her PR work with being the partner relations manager at Nevosoft. “I’m looking for non-Russian developers who want to explore the Russian speaking market,” she says.
”Russian users really hate badly translated games.”
Her work with foreign developers doesn’t stop there, since Lebedeva also does the localization for projects that need to be translated into Russian. Her love for languages and a job as a translator during her last year of college took care of that for her. “Some people just translate the words, but the context is the most important thing,” argues Lebedeva. “To localize a game, you have to play it and like it. For me, it’ a matter of honor. Russian users really hate badly translated games.” Because of the expense of professionally localizing voice-over tracks for casual games, Lebedeva is currently also considering taking on this task. “I have my own microphone, I can do it,” she says. “It wouldn’t be for the money, I just like it.” Lebedeva can’t be happier about her job, which she feels was made for her.
Developers from Mars
“How do you guys, who do not understand our logic, thoughts and needs, make games for us to enjoy?”
When Lebedeva sat down to talk with us about her work at Nevosoft, she had just given a talk at Casual Connect Kyiv appropriately titled ‘What Martians Don’t Know? Mistakes Made by Alien Invaders.’ Her talk was the result of asking herself who actually made the games she was reviewing for the Nevosoft community. As an experiment, Lebedeva counted the game credits from 50 games. She found that 95% of the developers working on the casual games for the Nevosoft.ru portal are male, while more than 83% of Nevosoft.ru’s users are female.
Based on John Grey’s famous book, Lebedeva concluded that she was dealing with developers that truly came from Mars, while all the players come from Venus. So she asked herself “How do you guys, who do not understand our logic, thoughts and needs, make games for us to enjoy?” With a strong sense that this has lead to mistakes in some games, Lebedeva decided to prove her thesis by interviewing a large group of female Nevosoft.ru community members. “I took a camera and went to the streets to interview girls,” she recounts. “Then I invited some users from our portal to our offices.” She ended up spending three full weeks conducting interviews and making videos at the office, teaching herself how to operate a camera and edit videos.
Lebedeva presented her findings during her Casual Connect Kyiv presentation a couple of weeks ago. Most of the games directed at girls that Lebedeva looked at ended up being largely based on female stereotypes and had some design mistakes. In real life blonde girls turned out not to love pink, male characters could look more cute and hidden object games could use objects which are more familiar to women instead of wrenches or other power tools. Lebedeva also stole the show at Casual Connect when she turned the tables on all the male developers by showing a video where she asked the same female community members what the game developers looked like.