The games have been seen and played; the judging is now complete, and Casual Connect is happy to announce the winners of Indie Prize at Asia 2018. There is something for every taste and you are certain to find games you will enjoy playing.
The winner of Best Game Audio is Bushy Tail created by Fuero Games Sp. z o.o of Poland. This story-driven game, in which Little Fox searches for his lost parent, is told by three different children, who relate the story from their own perspectives as they process their own experiences, and, as a result, the story differs each time it is told.
Games from around the world will be shown at Indie Prize at Casual Connect Asia 2018. And there is plenty of variety in this group of games from North America, LATAM and Australia. When you play these games you may be the hero your town needs or the hero your kitchen needs. You could visit space as a Martian cockroach or visit distant planets as part of a game of dice. There are intense strategic games and relaxing golf games and even a cooperative battle game.
Game Title:Hamsterdam Developer:Muse Games Platform: iOS, Android, Desktop Win, Desktop Mac, Console Nintendo Switch, other consoles Country: United States
Hamsterdam is an arcade brawler with you, the player, as the Hamster-fu Master trying to save the town. Will you be able to defeat Chinchilla Marlo, the whisker twister in chief? Will you be the hero the town needs?
This game was a finalist at 2017 Big Indie Award and a nominee at 2018 IMGA. In 2017 and 2018 it was a runner up at Big Indie Pitch for E3 and Reversed. In 2018 it was selected for the MIX showcase for E3, EVO and Pax West.
The participants in Indie Prize at Casual Connect Asia always show amazing creativity and diversity, and this certainly true of these entries for Indie Prize Asia 2018 from Western Europe. From creative learning apps to complex puzzles to adventure games, and even some filled with horror, there is something here for every kind of gamer.
Once upon a time there was a magical game studio named KARIZMA. They were known across the land for developing games, and one day a glorious castle emerged from the studio. The castle was filled with magic and gold so it attracted every looter in the world. Eventually the castle became known as Looters.
An astounding number of games by Indie Developers from China are participatng in Casual Connect‘s Indie Prize in Asia 2018. There are so many that we split the games into two articles. This will be part 2. You can view part 1 here. In these games, you have the chance to journey into the underworld, voyage the oceans, explore a juicy realm, and many others, Do not be fooled by the fact that these games all come from the same country. They are full of adventure and intrigue. There is something here for everyone to enjoy!
Game Title:Annie Developer: PixelRice Platform: Desktop Win, Console PlayStation 4, Console Xbox One
Website: Country: China Video: https://bit.ly/2yOKvU2
Annie is a third person shooter game in an eschatological genre. Annie lost her lover to save his lover during a corpse crisis caused by a biochemical disaster. Annie has no survival skills. How will she deal with this disaster that will test the environment and human nature? What is the conspiracy behind it? Follow Annie on her journey to the end of the world.
The game Annie features a unique art style, destructive gameplay, diverse weapons options, exquisite game design and battles full of fun and challenge. And it has the most moving story you will find in a shooting game.
An astounding number of games by Indie Developers from China are participatng in Casual Connect‘s Indie Prize in Asia 2018. There are so many that we split the games into two articles. This will be part 1. Here is part 2. In these games, you have the chance to journey into the underworld, voyage the oceans, explore a juicy realm, and many others, Do not be fooled by the fact that these games all come from the same country. They are full of adventure and intrigue. There is something here for everyone to enjoy!
Game Title:Wonder Blade Developer:PuppetDepotGames Platform: iOS, Android, Desktop Win, Console Nintendo Switch Country: China
Wonder Blade takes you to a world of thrills, mystery and surprises. Will you be able to rescue the princess from a maniac and his enormous pet golem? You have killer moves and devastating magic abilities. Your costume makes you a one-of-a-kind adventurer. Will you choose to be a sneaky ninja or perhaps a raccoon with a light saber? You may encounter zombie hordes, high-tech soldiers, a fishing competition in the ocean or even a high speed cart chase through the forest. You might ride a pig, or a battlebot, or a fire-breathing dragon. As you level up, you unlock and upgrade your skills.
Wonder Blade was in the US Appstore paid games Top 20. It reached Top 10 in a variety of countries, including France, Germany, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It was also TouchArcade game of the week.
Game Title:Behind the Screen Developer:18Light Game Ltd. Platform: iOS, Desktop Win, Desktop Mac, Console Nintendo Switch Country: China
Behind the Screen is a thoughtful game inspired by actual events in Taiwan. Its element include puzzles, stealth modes and fighting. The player investigates deeply into a murderer’s life to find the truth. They will experience how social media bullying can destroy a person’s life.
Behind the Screen received top ratings in the iOS App Store Paid-Apps in Taiwan and Macau. It reached more than 200 million page views the App Store in two weeks. It received Best Indie Game at the Taiwan Original X Award.
Game Title:Pirate Code Developer:Codex7 Games Platform: iOS, Android Country: China
Pirate Code is an exciting and innovative game that take multiplayer mobile to the oceans. The player chooses a boat, finds a captain, and launches immediately into 5 v 5 naval battles. Be ready to capture and escort.
Pirate Code won Pocket Gamer Big Indie Pitch in Shanghai. In November, Pirate Code will join G-Star Korean for the world wide indie game competition.
In Untouchable 2, a doll with a soul is separated from the master by the separation of the magical world from the technological world. The owner connects with the doll through the mobile phone to give it a chance in a beautiful but dangerous world. This is a platform-like action game that features a large number of agencies, seven world maps, touching plots, exploration elements, achievement systems and leaderboard systems. Players will enjoy this game filled with fun.
The Last Messages is a minimalist mobile phone project with a central subject of life and death. The player enters new chapters of the game through difficult scenes. Each will have a different experience and feeling while playing.
In the world of The Last Messages, there is no heaven and no hell. But the dead soul comes here to find its final destination. Each soul has the opportunity to leave a final message to the world, but the letter must be delivered in person through a series of tests. Only after the message is delivered does the soul have the right to die and become a speechless star. Or it will continue to wallow in the endless cycles.
Game Title:Dash Crashers Developer: Lezard Han Platform: iOS Country: China
Dash Crashers is an auto runner game. Its unique gameplay is enhanced with smooth controls and cute heroes. Completing each levels requires the player to dash and fly with just the right timing. As players complete missions they unlock new heroes. And as they collect coins they get different costumes.
Dash Crashers was nominated for the 14th IMGA Global.
Underworld is a role playing game that incorporates musical rhythms and strategy and is filled with magic color. Players click on the screen button to the rhythm of the music to use different commands such as forward, retreat, attack, defend as they direct roles and achieve goals in their battles. But they will still have to overcome a variety of obstacles.
Players can win battles faster and more effectively by improving the strength of their heroes. They should also carefully match the right lineup with the right operational instructions. Break the darkness of the world and create a bright future!
Game Title:We Happy Restaurant Developer:ChillyRoom Platform: iOS, Android Country: China
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to run a sketchy restaurant? In We Happy Restaurant you can find out. This restaurant simulator game allows you to run a restaurant with no moral standards; make abominable food yet still attract many customers; then watch your customers develop new bodily features; and expand your unsavory business practices.
At the We Happy Restaurant Mega Group Inc. you have the chance to run your own restaurant while becoming a profitable member of the corporate family. The Mega Group has a killer product, green essence, that keeps the customers always hungry and wanting more. With this incredible weapon, there is no need to bother improving the food – instead, focus on the difficult task of doing nothing.
Game Title:Beat Dash 2 Developer:Can Games Platform: iOS Country: China
Beat Dash 2 is made by the same team who made the original Beat Dash, a rhythm action game. Beat Dash 2 brings an entirely new evolution of adventure and beats combined. Be the monster; put on your headphones and get ready to start your beat adventure.
This game is easy to learn and exciting to play with original music, fabulous beats and interesting level design. There are plenty of cute suits to dress your exquisite pixel style character. Then find all the Easter eggs and post your record. For more challenge and more rewards, compete with your friends. This game is just waiting for you to explore.
WOVE is a music-based puzzle game that has the player solving a logical puzzle in an artistic scene. To solve the puzzle, the player must listen to the music the level provides. They feel the rhythm and melody, and watch the sequence the white dots (notes) provide. When the player taps the screen, an expanding wave, called WOVE, is generated from the tap. When the WOVE touches a note, it triggers a sound. The player must figure out where to tap so the notes will reproduce the music from the beginning of the game.
WOVE is a sequel to Soundwave which was a participant in Global Game Jam 2017. The aim of the game is to give players a relaxing experiment within a simple art style.
Game Title:VPER Developer: Koonart&Qibaozi Platform: iOS Country: China
If you are a pixel art enthusiast, you will love VPER. In this game you express your creativity by painting pixels on a real world map. The global canvas is enormous with 17 trillion available pixel spaces for anyone to paint and own as part of rebuilding the world with pixels. Based on your current location, a boundary area is given to you for you to paint. When you move or travel to a new location, a new boundary is set and you have more empty space to express your artistry. Movement creates energy.
VPER was featured by Mapbox as the “most creative map interaction game”.
Game Title:Space Colonizers Idle Clicker Developer:CapPlay Platform: iOS Country: China
Space Colonizers is an incremental idle clicker that also incorporates simulation and strategy. While traveling through the universe in this game, you can also upgrade your spaceship, cast powerful spells, explore beautiful planets, meet all kinds of aliens and build space buildings. You can also create guilds and play with friends and upgrade your space station with friends.
Space Colonizers Idle Clicker has received a 4.9 on the App Store.
Game Title:Frog Run-rush Jump On Helix Developer:Xiamen Yidian Platform: iOS Country: China
Frog Run-rush Jump On Helix is a fast-running, fun and interesting game. It is much different from a game that does not move. The game is divided into endless mode and level mode, with each level a different experience. Slabs may move, obstacles may block the path and the frog must still eat as many insects as possible. Although it may first seem like a simple game, it requires players to use their hands and mind to make fast, accurate decisions. It offers a fun, stimulating way to train your brain and hands.
This developer is dedicated to innovation and changing old gameplay methods. They also want to bring a beautiful aesthetic to their games. In Frog Run-rush Jump, they use a simple and beautiful pixel block 3D mode.
Game Title:Salary Man Escape Developer:Red Accent Studios Platform: Desktop Win, VR desktop/ console, Console PlayStation 4 Country: China
Salary Man Escape is a physics puzzle game in which the player helps the disgruntled Salary Man escape. To solve the puzzles in this game players must leverage physics properties such as weight, balance and force, and each play-through is unique. Each chapter of the game adds a new puzzle mechanic into the mix, so progression becomes increasingly complex and challenging.
The game has a minimalistic, monochromatic visual style and a classic, Japanese 80s inspired soundtrack. Together they make a soothing background to the increasingly intense gameplay.
City of God: Prison Empire lets you build your own gang. First, you must build your prison. Then make the prisoners work for you and enrich you by robbing banks. Now you are ready to take your gang to fight rival gangs and take over the block.
This game was awarded Best Indie Game of the Year and Most Popular Indie Game of the Year by Tencent 2017. It also received Best Sim Game from FHYX.
Game Title:The Con Simulator Developer: DGSpitzer Platform: Desktop Win, Desktop Mac Country: China
If you love comic con, you will also love The Con Simulator. This game allows you to simulate organizing your own comic con. Your role is the convention company owner; the different characters have different abilities. The ultimate goal is to save the Metropolitan by defeating your competitors to become king of the comic con.
The Con Simulators support for MODs allows you to design your own booths and characters. Your creations can be imported into the game or shared in SteamWorkshop.
Game Title:Three Kingdoms: The Last Warlord Developer:LongYou Game Studio Platform: iOS, Android, Desktop Win Country: China
Three Kingdoms: The Last Warlord is a turn-based strategy game. The game world is set in the period of the three kingdoms and is very detailed with its representation of the various cities as well as the abilities and features of the military officers. The battle system includes factors such as weather, land forms and many others that all influence the outcome of the battle. The game is based on the Chinese historical novel by Luo Guanzhong (about A.D. 1330 – 1400).
Three Kingdoms: The Last Warlord was the number 1 Paid App in the App Store in Taiwan; it reached # 17 Paid App in the App Store in Hong Kong, and # 54 Paid App in the App Store in China. It was nominated for Best Game at the Indie Pitch Arena GMGC in 2017.
Game Title:Prank Bros Developer: Rocky Games Platform: Desktop Win Country: China Video: https://bit.ly/2P4lSg5
Prank Bros is a funny multiplayer party game that can be played by up to eight players. It can be played individually or in teams. Players can use up to thirty different kinds of weapons and skills as they try to capture the flag. You might turn down your opponent with an electric wand or a stinky fart. You could use the lift or teleport to get the opposition off the field. Or you could capture the flag and use acceleration to run away with it. And the player or team with the highest score wins.
But winning is not the only enjoyable aspect of the game. You might enjoy throwing your opponent into the sky or the thrill of playing skill combo with your teammates. Or it could be the excitement of winning when you had almost lost. Whatever it is, you will enjoy the party game, Prank Bros.
With BlockQuest Maker you can create and play your own dungeon in an instant death role-playing game. And you can share your dungeon with the world! BlockQuest Maker is a simple game maker that gives you a chance to play dungeons designed by others and create your own.
Although the game maker is simple and the controls may be easy, the dungeon you create can be as difficult, complex and deadly as you can imagine. But if you are not interested in creating your own, you can focus on playing with the dungeons of other users. It all depends on you!
BlockQuest Maker was in the Top Ten at the Google Indie Games Festival 2018. It was featured in the Apple App Store.
The White Laboratory is a physics-based tower defense and RTS game. When you play it, you modularly build and command robotic structures. You are operating in a facility in the atmosphere of a remote gas plant. You must build ground defenses, send out propeller probes, attract scrap resources and do anything physics allows. Experiment mode explores a wide range of gameplay with robotic component combinations. Survival mode is tower defense.
Game Title:Energy Shock Developer: Meowtoy
Platform: iOS, Android, Desktop Win Country: China
Energy Shock is a puzzle card game. When you play this game, you and your enemies are all standing on a horizontal chess board together. Each round you will randomly draw four cards from the pile of cards to fight. Each time you use an attacking card you get closer to your enemy’s target, but approaching consumes your attack strength. You have to strategically choose your card to defeat an opponent that has a known order of play and to enter the next dungeon and eventually fight the boss.
PC Gamer says about this game, “The makings of an inventive, pretty roguey card-based puzzler in Energy Shock.”
To view all of the Indie Prize finalists for Casual Connect Asia 2018, visit indieprize.org.
An outstanding number of games from Asia are participating in Casual Connect‘s Indie Prize in Asia 2018. These games allow you to be almost anyone imaginable, from a Hollywood movie director to the owner of a virtual pet, to even a prism journeying through crystal caves. You could go anywhere your imagination can take you – a theme park, the demon realm, a developer studio, and many others, even a place to create your own world. And these games will test your skills in so many different ways and in so many different situations.
Game Title:Hollywhoot Developer:Joyseed Gametribe Platform: iOS, Android Country: Indonesia
Have you ever wanted to direct a Hollywood movie? If so you will love being in the director’s chair as you play Hollywhoot. This game offers a perfect parody of movies and TV shows using the “punniest” characters imaginable. You can achieve Primetime awards and continue raising your prestige as a director.
Hollywhoot won Comfest 9 Game of the Year and Comfest 9 Art awards. It has been featured in the App Store and globally in Google Playstore. It achieved 200K downloads in one month and was nominated for most promising game in Popcon 2017 and in IMGA SEA 2017.
Would you enjoy making first contact with alien life? Perhaps you would prefer farming as a devil harvesting souls? Or would you crush enemies and destroy evil? In some games you must hone your skills and solve puzzles to win. Whatever your preference, you will find opportunities to enjoy it in these games from Eastern and Northern Europe at Casual Connect‘s Indie Prize in Asia 2018.
Game Title:Hopply Developer:Clayburger Platform: iOS, Android, Web Country: Czechia
Hopply is an endless jumper game with clay-like graphics. Its original music and sound effects were created using only the human voice and body.
When playing this game you are trying to jump over the pond and get to the other side. As you go you collect golden nuggets and try to avoid poops and bombs. But you must also avoid your enemies, Doggie, a peaceful, shy lily pad destroyer and Badass, a slow, slimy betrayer.
Tim Teh told his audience at Casual Connect USA 2014 how KANO/APPS was able to stand out and be different from their competition. “Instead of viewing being small as a disadvantage and hiding behind our brand, we humanized ourselves by showing that we weren’t a 3,000 person company, that actually, when we started, we were four guys working out of a condo,” he explained. “Players related to us better, and they were also more forgiven with some of the mistakes that we made. By giving players a direct access to our developer teams, we were able to build trust and loyalty.”
Tim Teh is co-founder of KANO/APPS, but as CEO, he wears many hats. When they first started the company, everyone was developing their first game. As the company grew, he transitioned out of that role. Some of the skills from his software background were transferable, but he had to learn many things on the job, by reading, or from mentors.
The enjoyment Teh finds in his work comes from the creativity and the people involved, not only the team he works with, but also those who play the games. He says, “It’s awesome to work with passionate people on a project and then release it to the masses.”
He also loves the feedback loop of online games. He points out that when you push a new feature out, you know right away if people are engaging with it the way you expected them to, or if they are not. Because you get these results immediately, you can take whatever action is needed quickly.
Pride in Accomplishments
Teh takes great pride in what the company has accomplished as a profitable, self-funded indie developer. Although there have been many factors contributing to their success, the most important part of it to him is the rewarding feeling he gets from putting in hard work and long hours with a group of like-minded individuals. And seeing that pay off!
But even with that success, he is constantly aware that there is still much left to do.
The Trouble With Discovery
He realized that a major challenge in the games industry today is user acquisition and discovery. There are so many products available in the market today that indie developers or anyone without a huge marketing budget will find it hard to get a game in front of an audience. It is especially hard when competitors do have a much larger marketing budget.
KANO/APPS works to mitigate this situation with two focuses. First, they use technology, in their case, HTML5, to allow them to write once and still release to many. They gain exposure because they can deliver and maintain games with smaller teams across many platforms. Secondly, they ensure that every player they bring into their network has a good experience and is retained as long as possible. This results from high-quality customer support, community development, and accessibility to the game development teams to close the feedback loops between the company and the players.
The Emergence of User Generated Content
Teh sees user-generated content becoming an important trend, especially when dealing with games as a service. He insists, “Providing players with good content that they can play with their friends is what keeps them coming back. Being able to crowd source and surface good content really kills two birds with one stone.” He cites their game, Free Rider HD as an example.
When Teh is gaming, he generally has only a little time for long gaming experiences. So he jumps in on his iPhone or iPad Mini. Although there are consoles at the office, he rarely has time to play them.
The game he is most often playing these days is the one they developed: Free Rider HD. He enjoys it because, “There are so many user generated tracks that each play session feels new and unique, and it’s very rewarding to beat co-worker times and share that online.”
Since Teh lives on the west coast in Victoria, B.C., he is very involved in outdoor hobbies, saying hiking is great year-round. And, with more restaurants per capita in North America than anywhere but San Francisco, and awesome craft beer and coffee, social eating is another of his hobbies. He also loves to cook, so he feels it is fortunate that he enjoys being active.
At Casual Connect USA, Teh announced that KANO/APPS has released the F2P version of Free Rider HD to Facebook, desktop, and mobile. By this fall, they will release Free Rider to the iPad. The game is available at www.freeriderhd.com.
Team Pesky is a British game studio based in York, founded by Andy Gibson in 2012. Their first game Little Acorns was picked up by Chillingo for iOS, then got featured by Apple and went on to hit Windows Phone, Xbox Indie, Sony Vita and Xperia, and Nintendo 3DS. A few years ago, Andy came up with an idea of Kraken Sleepeth– something he wanted to play as much as to make. He shares the story of creation of his second game, where the player submerges into the deep seas to discover the awful forgotten secret. As he goes deeper, the lights go down, and he has to fight evil creatures on the way to the final discovery…
Community Creation Before Release
This whole idea started because I wanted to create something with a core mechanic of torch-lit shooting, a feeling of exploration in a period setting, and Hammer House of Horror aesthetic. A tester described it as “Jules Verne meets Lunar Lander,” which feels about right.
The success of Little Acorns allowed me this chance to make a small, polished, original game – very much the mantra of Team Pesky. I wanted to experiment with a game that could be quite short in length but very replayable and extensible with updated versions. I also wanted to try building a community before release, engaging with players and exploiting the successful elements of the game. By showing Kraken Sleepeth at conferences like Casual Connect and IGF, at local game stores, and to friends and colleagues, I’m constantly testing the game for that elusive ‘just one more go’ factor.
Tools like TestFlight and Dropbox and sites like Kongregate allow quick and easy focus testing. After the alpha, I’ll be using third party QA, and all these elements improve not just stability, but the overall experience for the player. I’d like to actually start a public forum to seed clues and hints for the game, building the myths around the games central premise with hooks into the game itself.
Development with the simplest prototype started around August last year. The procedural level creation came together quickly. I added the torch light slowly depleting, but as soon as I made enemies suck the battery power with their touch, I felt like the ‘heart’ of the game was beating. Kraken Sleepeth was a little more than core controls, a few key features and art direction, but showing it around publishers, other developers and studios brought positive initial reactions, and I felt encouraged to make the game. The most common reaction was “I love the atmosphere!” followed by “the controls feel really good”, and then the inevitable “…but it’s way too hard!”.
Separating the First Flush of Excitement from Evaluating Risks and Work Amounts
That initial excitement and drive needs to carry everyone involved through to release. But it’s a natural part of the creative process to trim, rationalize, iterate, test theories, and have random ideas in the middle of the night. Taking a reductive approach results in a leaner, more focused experience.
So if an idea doesn’t work out, it is removed. For instance, I had ideas about the Professor’s sanity being shown in some kind of meter, camera cuts and pans, and lots of left-field stuff. None of these were ‘bad’ ideas per se. In fact, I still have them noted in my version 2.0 list. The current result is very much in line with the original direction, but the feature set developed as the project went on. Rationalizing my initial ‘brain dump’ of ideas has never been a strength, but I’ve learned to separate that first flush of excitement from the second step of evaluating features in terms of risk and work. The aim is to balance wild creativity with getting a project finished whilst fulfilling its potential. This is where agile independent developers can run rings around larger studios. This is where I want Team Pesky to be, chasing that line, making original games quickly and efficiently. That’s our best chance of commercial success to support making more games. The intention is to continue that approach to develop future versions through a more open-ended process.
Do Not Undervalue Sound
The best games are that perfect mix of interaction, mechanic, and theme – all working together in the moment. Audio is often undervalued and I always placeholder music and sound from day one. Beyond contextual information, they add so much to the ‘vibe’.
An initial exploring theme escalates to the main theme, and then a third section for level climaxes.
Having worked with Ben McCullough previously, I contacted him to ask if he’d be interested in coming on board with Kraken Sleepeth. His music brings such a ‘movie feel’ to the game that I can’t imagine Kraken Sleepeth without it. We used three levels of tension: an initial exploring theme which escalates to the main theme, and then a third section for level climaxes. The themes vary over the game and really add a lot of flavor as the player progresses.
Every Aspect Inspires Another
While coding, I can get an idea about music, so I quickly note it down without following the distraction. Working on particle effects inspired a new enemy behavior, as it reminded me of pictures of plankton. The association made me think of a predator darting out of rocks.
Every idea gets noted, then later I go back and rationalize them, consider how much work is involved, where the risks are, then pick the quick wins and the things I’ll get the most return from. In this way, music can influence animation phrasing, platform budgets push new ways to visual fidelity, enemy designs inspire sound effects. Every aspect of the game supports another.
Remember the Data
While working in another studio, I watched a focus group test where a designer screamed “You’re not supposed to play it like that!” as he watched the frustrated players.
Focus groups provide useful insights. But only metrics give you the thousand of bits of raw data to capture patterns and trends.
Focus groups can provide useful insights: do players know where the fun is? What are they reacting to? When do they stop playing and, critically, why? But only metrics give you the thousand of bits of raw data to capture patterns and trends. We built in analytics pre-beta, and they provide critical data for planning subsequent versions. The amount of analytics we get pre-launch is not enough to make specific changes, but post-launch, they influence balancing, etc. in subsequent releases.
Also, showing and sharing regular builds keeps the momentum going. These sessions can be done remotely, but it’s best to do it in person. Recording each play-through should be done and all criticism is welcome. Suggestions are considered in the context of the game direction. If the player particularly enjoys one aspect, we need to fully exploit that. For example, the game is essentially a shooter, and players enjoy the narrow passages and route choices, so I built more of these sections. They give the game a change of pace and an additional challenge. One passing comment from a player led to an addition of a small ‘servant’ that appears later in the game. For relatively little work, the little chap adds a lot of appeal!
Missions According to Players’ Preference
At its heart, Kraken Sleepeth is a twin-stick shooter, so, if the shooting is not fun, the game has failed. One of the biggest challenges of making the game has been fighting the urge to end the game on a climax. Instead, I wanted to encourage a sense of exploration, which may contradicts the central shooter theme. The game polls how the player is progressing and players picking ‘kill monster’ missions have a higher chance of seeing more of those.
Similarly, a player finishing more ‘collect these’ missions gets more of those. There’s always a choice, but I’d hope the game reacting will ultimately increase players’ enjoyment. I guess I’m asking players to have a little faith and trust they’ll be rewarded down the line.
Indie games: From Experiments to Polished and Rewarding Experiences
Making indie games should be experimental, while the aim should be releasing a polished, rewarding experience with the tease of something more. We’re taking risks developing and releasing Kraken Sleepeth, but an indie developer needs to take risks. Then it becomes a journey, shared between Professor Eldritch, the player, and the developer. And if players are enjoying the ride, Team Pesky will have succeeded.
An indie developer needs to take risks.
If the game absolutely bombs, I will still have learned lessons and hopefully get to make another independent project. I’m already designing another Little Acorns game, but don’t expect a simple sequel with just a few more levels. Taking risks keeps it fun. And fun is king.
Kraken Sleepeth will be available for Windows 8 in August 2014, supported by Microsoft and Creative England.
MildMania is a Turkey-based, self-funded game studio founded in May 2013 by Burkay Ozdemir and Emre Canbazoglu. Their first title Darklings barely made it in the end of November 2013. Making the game was “especially hard in Turkey, where the gaming industry is very small,” Emre recalls. Darklings is a mobile game with “truthfully” unique gameplay where light meets darkness like in epic tales. You control Lum, the face of light, to beat darkness and bring the light back to the Universe. Emre gives us the tale of making the game and beyond.
The Beginning: A Poster of a Games Incubator
It all started with Burkay seeing a poster of the only known (at the end of 2010) incubation centre focused mainly on games. He gathered two of his local friends to apply there. With that team, we submitted a project called Icons, a social board game totally unrelated to Darklings. That same year, Burkay got accepted to the Game Technologies Master Program, which I was also studying. For our term project, we submitted a game similar to the Harry Potter PC games (where you cast spells by drawing), and the Z-Type HTML5 game (where you write letters to blow up asteroids), with the difference that our game was mobile and perfectly adapted for touch screens.
But before we could go on working on Icons in our first months with the new team at the incubation centre, there were some precautions to take care of. First of all, no one in the team had game development experience other than a couple of educational projects which were far from polished enough to be commercial games. So our team started to work on finding the right tools for the process by joining all our experiences and getting help from friends: professors at the program, fellow game development teams, and industry experts from the incubation center.
Later on, we put the project submitted to the centre on hold, and started working on a draw-to-kill game, since it felt like it could be finished in few months, under a temporary name of Monstiez.
A Break-Up for the Better
The ready prototype of Monstiez drew the attention of Chillingo and the Startup Turkey 2012 event. Our team was selected as one of the 15 best startups in Turkey, and we got a chance to talk to a lot of investors. Everything seemed to be going well. After we started working with Chillingo, we got a lot of advice on how to make the game better, and also changed the style to black and white – since Limbo and Contre Jour became pretty popular, getting sales and awards at that time.
We changed the style to black and white – since Limbo and Contre Jour became pretty popular, getting sales and awards at that time.
However, after some time, the development process got stuck, because everyone around thought that the game was too monotonous and shallow. As the whole design started to change too frequently, moving forward became frustrating. That and some other things brought the team to the verge of splitting. We weren’t able to work together anymore, and our points of view seemed too different. After long discussions, the team came to a total disagreement, and the break-up was inevitable. The designer decided to leave and take all of his visuals.
However, Burkay and I didn’t give up on the game. We were the ones keeping faith in the idea from the beginning, believing it had the potential of making a huge difference in the market. We tried to learn from our mistakes and not follow the (seemingly) wrong path again. One last time, we started to design the game, thinking everything twice to make sure the new edition was much better.
We found Juan Pablo Casini for art and visual design and David Stanton for music and sound. What is more, we founded MildMania LLC and worked with Contrast8 to create our corporate identity. As a result, decisions were made much faster than before. It was all exhausting, but we were finally enjoying what we were doing, just like in the beginning.
Teamwork is Business, Friendship and a Relationship with Girlfriend/Boyfriend
One big mistake we made was sticking too much to certain people and the number of team members, and believing issues can be solved and we could go on working as the same team without any problems. Since we started with three people, we had the feeling we should still finish the game with three people.
Splitting up is not easy for anyone. But looking back at it now, we see things going much better: from external relationships, connections, important or trivial decisions, and people we have worked with, to satisfaction we get from the results of our work. We understood we could have released the game much sooner and better-planned if we decided to break up and make it with our current designers earlier.
Every company should find out whether they’re able to get along with their partners and work together seamlessly.
This is how we learned that every company should find out whether they’re able to get along with their partners and work together seamlessly, without making every small thing a problem. Any individual should ask themselves if his/her vision or expectations is the same as his/her partners’. This is not just business or friendship, it’s a bit of both, and very similar to the relationship with your girl/boyfriend. 🙂
How to Protect Your Game From Getting Lost in the AppStore
For nine months, we worked with three designers, one audio designer, and two programmers. Three people in this team were freelancers we had been working with for a long time, which meant a relationship good enough to (if necessary) move in an office together and go on working from scratch: from corporate identity and new names to the game visuals. The main reason behind redesigning was not just the break-up, but ultimately the quality: we saw it needs to be much higher than before. We’ve worked with our team members and other people from the industry to modify and change the game to meet the expectations of AppStore users.
While the cost of eight months of redesigning might seem too much for a casual game, we couldn’t let it get lost in the ocean of thousands of apps after sacrificing so much to the project.
Testing Results May Lead to Complete Redesigning
We believe that we made Darklings more enjoyable by adding a lot of content (environment setups, tactical boss fights, objectives and achievements), customization options, and modifying the gameplay mechanics. Testing involved hundreds of people, including development, design, and business managers throughout the world. We performed all tests using TestFlight and beta test subscriptions that were made available after the teaser was released. We invited all people who showed interest to the game, and also our friends from Turkey, who are both game developers and gamers. Hundreds of people from lots of countries have contributed, and we also added an in-game feedback receiver along with some analytics to get all data possible. Darklings right now is nothing like the game we had been working on for a year and a half. All collected feedback helped us fix a lot of bugs.
For instance, the UI happened not to work well with mobile phones – some buttons were too small, and players got bored from boss fights. So the latter was redesigned from scratch: we made a unique fight for each boss.
Instead of Getting Sucked into a Public Argument, We Tried to Focus on the Product
We planned the launch date for the 27th of November. After such a long time of waiting and development, we just couldn’t wait to see Darklings in the AppStore, and were very excited to get our first app published, to see “Ready For Sale” instead of test builds. 🙂
But publishers were cautious towards us, considering the project too risky because our team split up before the game was published, and there was a blaming campaign held both publicly and privately by our former designer who was utterly speculating twisted stories and unfair things to stain the name of the game and company. We didn’t really react: instead of getting sucked into a public argument, we tried to focus on the product. Being sure that almost all stories from our old designer were lies, we could go to court and fight for our rights, but that would take years to accomplish. So, instead, we focused and got a different reward: the launch day and the day after. Both were amazing! Darklings was featured in US and Canada AppStore! Forum threads were being started by other people, great reviews came from media, and we received tons of support mails we instantly answered. Watching the Darklings spread over the world was a part of our dream, coming true at long last!
The Brand of Darklings Started Building Itself
Unexpectedly, self-publishing brought us to the new seas. Just a week before the game got to the AppStore, we met with Ajay Chadha, the founder of B27, and agreed to join efforts with them. It wasn’t a publishing deal, more like that of business development and marketing for US and Europe. It helped us self-publish the way we wanted.
With additional help from Ajay, we started some really good relationships in the industry, getting recognized for both the quality of our game and our friendship with B27. Our brand started building up by itself. As of now, we’ve made an agreement with Unity Tech Japan and Kakehashi Games for Japanese local publishing, Joygame – for Turkey and MENA publishing, and we’re still negotiating about moving on to the Korean, Chinese, and other markets. We’re also trying to raise some money to grow the team and work on parallel projects without losing quality, and this is where our good relations with investors from the whole world can be useful.
The amount of work has nearly doubled after launch. We’ve discovered that what you do afterwards also matters in making the product successful. A whole different world is there behind the gates of development, and we’re trying to adapt ourselves to it while having a lot of fun.
A whole different world is there behind the gates of development
The business side of the industry, making relations, finding local publishers, giving interviews, getting reviews from press, seeing the game loved by industry veterans, planning the business a year ahead to make the game bigger and stronger – all this is new to us, since we were so focused on development before! Even though the creation process was a total headache, I believe we have proven ourselves that if we managed to enter this industry, we’ll make even better products in the future.
Right now, we are about to announce Season 2 of Darklings, which could actually be Darklings 2. But we decided to make it as an update because the game is only three months old. On the other hand – it’s something different to the core! This means we’re not going to throw this game to the attic, and will make sure that Darklings is fulfilling its potential.
Darklings is now available in the iOS AppStore. It’s going to be released on Google Play, Samsung Apps, Amazon, LeapMotion and for PC & Mac. The MildMania team says they have more surprises in their pocket, including exclusive releases and new titles, which they will announce soon!