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Vlad the Angry Viking Voyager: Building a Hero That Lasts

May 13, 2014 — by Mariia Lototska

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Releasing over 30 titles in the app stores such as Vlad The Viking: Barbarian Run, Turbo Train (an Indie Prize nominee), and Tesla Boy, Dream Bot Studios is an independent game studio founded by Markus Skupeika. They believe they must design games to enlighten and free people from the hidden agendas of the powers that be, using stories and experiences that empowers gamers to live a life with purpose. The studio’s latest hit, Vlad the Angry Viking Voyager, was developed from all the data collected from the company’s other titles to produce what they consider “toilet time gameplay”. Markus talks about the game’s development.


Time to Build Anew

After launching multiple titles in the App Store and getting some great player data, we felt we could make some better decisions on our next game. Along with this, it was time to create a new game engine, which Dream Bot Studios could use to build a collection of branded games around. These branded games would focus on one core character, a character players could feel connected to and hopefully invest in. This is when we began thinking about Vlad, our cute little chubby viking.

During the process of choosing our viking theme. I would role play around the office as a viking or pirate. Yes, a goofy-like grown man thinking he was a viking, yelling around the office. Oh the joys of game development! It’s like acting for a movie script. I get into character, then draw some silly designs to see if it fits the way I’m acting. Character development is crucial because if you can get those players to connect to the main character, this can turn into more in-app purchases, higher retention, and revenue for the studio. Plus, who doesn’t like being a viking, especially a cute chubby one who bounces around his viking town?

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Who doesn’t like being a viking, especially a cute chubby one who bounces around his viking town?

Toilet Time Gameplay

When we first developed mobile games, we totally forgot people were playing these games mostly with just one finger. We were creating far too advanced gameplay or controls when in reality, people are playing mobile games while commuting, waiting, or what we like to call “toilet time gameplay”. Players usually use only one hand and finger to play mobile games.

In order to make a dent in the App Store, we wanted a casual type game to attract a larger audience. Since we are dealing with $0.99 in-app purchases, at least 20,000 downloads would be required in order to get the studio’s money back on the game. The way we did this is with a casual, easy-to-pick-up game.

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In order to make a dent in the App Store, we wanted a casual type game to attract a larger audience.

After the many mistakes we learned from publishing our games, we had to come up with a system to make a great game. During each iteration of developing games at Dream Bot Studios, we always ask these questions for each game mechanic:

+ How can we have players want to continue playing? (retention)
+ How can we have players become our apostles? (downloads)
+ How can we have players want to spend more? (revenue)

Keeping Players Playing

The first thing in our game development process is getting controls to feel right. Making things feel right increases game retention. In Vlad The Angry Viking Voyager, we decided on drawing a simple platform to bounce our hero throughout the level. It was an endless level, so we could cut level design and simply increase the difficulty as players advanced through the game.

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Making things feel right increases game retention.

This was initially difficult at first simply because our character was at first created with as a normal human body, but bouncing a full body around the screen using physics was a horrific experience. So we made him into a cute ball-like character, animating his arms and facial animations.

We really wanted our players to connect to our hero, so we focused on creating really big eyes for our character. When players connect with the hero, the retention is always increased. A great tip for those who are building such characters is to look at Disney and DreamWorks’ characters. All the characters show personality through their eyes. So we did just that and gave Vlad an eye-bulging makeover.

Bouncing Just Right

After getting our character model into a little cute round cannonball shape. We now had a bigger problem getting the bouncing mechanic right. We decided to create bounce strength variables from the start to allow us to change the velocity and height of our hero. This allowed our team to balance our bounce mechanics more easily and also was strategically planned for in-app purchases for players who wanted to bounce Vlad into space. By having our hero use the bounce velocity variables to increase the height of his jumps, we could easily build upgrades later, which players could purchase with in-game currency. This proved to be beneficial and helped the studio receive more in-app purchases.

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This allowed our team to balance our bounce mechanics more easily and also was strategically planned for in-app purchases for players who wanted to bounce Vlad into space.

The longest part of development was the bouncing mechanics. This took quite some time to get right. Players could change the angle of the platforms and would create weird results. So after a month of testing internally and with friends and family, we finally got it right. Once we were feeling comfortable with the main mechanics, we began thinking about how we could make playing Vlad more fun. Keeping the idea in the back of our mind of toilet-time gameplay, we started coming up with new silly ideas.

Adding More Fun

We started thinking of cool power up bonuses with which players could upgrade their character. As we came up with ideas for the power-ups, this also sparked some imagination for our enemies in the game.

We started slicing up the new mechanics in mini salami-sliced iterations, like peeling the layers of the onion. We took one mechanic at a time to check if it would work. If it did, then we would check if we could use this mechanic to increase retention and build more revenue from the game. Each mechanic added followed the same process: does it make the game fun and how can we increase retention or create revenue from this mechanic?

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Each mechanic added followed the same process: does it make the game fun and how can we increase retention or create revenue from this mechanic?

We onion-layered in cool dragons, UFOs, coins, and power-ups. Each object in the game has its own cool way to make the game more enjoyable. Finally, after putting these new objects into the game, we had to test the game’s difficulty. Initially, it was too easy, and in my opinion, still is. But we will be updating the game to increase the challenge on our next iteration.

After each iteration, we would always ask the same questions as before, so our next step was how to get more downloads for this game without spending a huge bundle on marketing until we knew our numbers.

Transform Gamers Into Apostles

We came up with some really cool ideas to find ways to have players share the game with their friends and the world. We are indie developers, so we have to be creative. We created a super-cool viral mechanic leveraging Facebook’s huge user base. We didn’t hide it on a menu, but instead placed it right inside the main menu when players start the game. We ask them if they wanted to play with their friends.

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We ask them if they wanted to play with their friends.

If they choose yes…

They will see their top three friends score during the game. Then they will also have a chance to invite friends or brag to their friends on Facebook.

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They will see their top three friends score during the game.

The opportunity to share happens on each end-of-level screen. This means free marketing and more downloads without having to pay for those expensive $2 to $7 installs. We let our users be our apostles and spread the word! This is something every game developer should consider when creating their game.

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We let our users be our apostles and spread the word!

Another cool mechanic we did was our Kingdom of Coins. We want gamers to brag about the game or their achievements. So what better way to do this then giving a player his or her own castle to fill up using coins? After players collect coins, they turn them into diamonds. After every level, we send players to this Kingdom of Coins to collect diamonds and build their Kingdom, so they can share with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

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After every level, we send players to this Kingdom of Coins to collect diamonds and build their Kingdom.

Psychologically, players now are:
+ Collecting: (Gather as many coins as they can – increasing Retention)
+ Competing: (Showing Off – Whose Castle is Bigger?) with friends on Facebook and Twitter

Also, players are free at any time to purchase more coins, which increases their collection and size of castle! It was a new piece of the game I really wanted to add, to have a player invested into achieving more in the game and having some visual feedback to prove it to themselves and their fellow gamers.

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It was a new piece of the game I really wanted to add, to have a player invested into achieving more in the game and having some visual feedback to prove it to themselves and their fellow gamers.

What Is Game Without A Boss Battle?

Another layer we decided to push into the game was a cool boss battle. It was hard to think of a way to battle a boss while bouncing. We had one idea of a viking carry a long stack of bricks and the player had to bust through the wall of bricks to advance, but this proved to not be that fun.

As I was playing, I got to the part of the game where you can start bouncing over water. I thought about a fish jumping out of the water like I’ve seen in other games. So I took this idea and ran with it, making the fish really huge. This turned out to be our boss battle, as well as another way to allow the player to break from the usual gameplay while collecting more coins to upgrade their hero.

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So I took this idea and ran with it, making the fish really huge.

Now we had to answer the question of how to have players spend more in the game.

Creating Revenue

When creating the upgrades and in-app purchases, we didn’t want to break the action, so we strategically placed our store as a part of the gameplay. Upon starting the game, players were immediately introduced to the upgrade area and then onto playing the game. It was not just to buy stuff, but really to upgrade your character with the coins you collect from the game.

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Upon starting the game, players were immediately introduced to the upgrade area and then onto playing the game.

Our players come to the upgrade menu each time the game starts and the player begins a new level. It works very well, as it is not intrusive and players view this store as more of a upgrade area, rather than just a store. We took weeks to design the menu and make sure it was easy to navigate. I believe it was a good investment, considering the more players visit the store, the more likeliness to increase retention and revenue.

Quick Development

The team at Dream Bot Studios learned a ton from this game. We used analytics to see what users were doing and this proved to be valuable to help us see our exact numbers. Eugene, our lead programmer on the project, did a fantastic job of taking the ideas in the game development doc and collaborating with the team to make sure the game ran smoothly. It was a large project for us; we learned so much and we will continue to iterate new versions and test them to see what works best for our players.

We learned so much and we will continue to iterate new versions and test them to see what works best for our players.

I would have to say it’s important to develop games quickly, especially being a self-funded studio. The team at Dream Bot Studios now takes game development in really small pieces, trying to create polish in each piece of development. And we really stick to our three important questions when creating new mechanics and recommend other game developers to ask the same questions.

Listening to Players

After launching Vlad the Angry Viking Voyager on the Apple App Store, we got great reviews from players. We published a free version and paid version. Both did well, but we had some hiccups with our free version, as it was crashing for some gamers.

I really wanted to help our gamers, so I spent time in communicating directly with them and found they were initially upset of a free game crashing on their device. But after discussions with them, they were super happy to just know they were being listened to. We fixed the bugs and released an updated version within seven days.

Vlad the Angry Viking Voyager is only one instance of the collection of games we plan to release with Vlad as the hero.

Vlad the Angry Viking Voyager is only one instance of the collection of games we plan to release with Vlad as the hero. This game will lead to other games to help us keep our development cost down and produce higher profits by using winning mechanics that worked and adding more cool features to the world of Vlad. Again, it comes down to making small iterations.

Dream Bot Studios is happy with our release, although we are still working on making a large dent in the App Store and looking to win more rewards for our unique titles. Until that time, we will continue to iterate and make some really cool PC, mobile, and console games in 2014.

Markus Skupeika is always looking to connect with other folks in the industry. While spending most time developing games and running the studio, he feels there is always time to connect on the web. Feel free to tweet him, Facebook him, and like Dream Bot Studios on Facebook and follow them Twitter.

 

DevelopmentExclusive InterviewsGame DevelopmentIndieOnline

Matthew Hall: The Challenges and Rewards of Working as an Independent Game Developer

May 7, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Matthew Hall, Founder and Developer, Klicktock

Matthew Hall, Founder and Developer of KlickTock, describes his career as the childhood hobby that never went away. He decided on his career direction at a very early age. He was five years old when he watched a news piece on Atari with some footage of the factory floor. He turned to his parents and said, “When I grow up, I want to be an electronic engineer.”

By eight years old, he was making his own games. Recently, he took out a 30-year-old cassette of these games and was impressed to discover that almost all of them were complete. “These days,” he admits, “I have a lot more half-finished games lying around.” Hall began working as a professional game developer in 2001 and now he can’t imagine doing anything else.

A Hard Choice

Starting out as an independent developer is not an easy choice to make. When Hall decided to start KlickTock, he tells us, “My wife and child moved back to the family farm while I toiled away there on the original Little Things. When the original launch of that title didn’t go as well as I had hoped, it was a pretty dark time.” The problem was not that he had made a bad game, it was that he had made it for the wrong audience. When it was eventually released on tablet, it was very successful. Fortunately, he was able to move on quickly and found a niche for his unconventional products on the App Store.

Video games have always been a source of inspiration for Hall. Zelda: Link’s Awakening was the first Nintendo game he purchased. “I was completely captivated,” he says. Luxor by Mumbo Jumbo inspired him to leave his day job and start KlickTock. Recently, he has been playing Forget-Me-Not by Brandon Williamson and Nuclear Throne by Vlambeer. He claims, “They are the two most inspirational games I’ve played and remind me just how much I have to learn about writing games.”

As an independent developer, Hall especially values being in charge of his own destiny. He believes the best thing about his work is never having to convince anyone that his idea is a great one. But the most difficult thing is convincing himself of its value. He has discovered, “Without perspective that you can rely on, the only way to properly judge your own game is to take a few months off, come back later, and play it again. This obviously makes development quite slow!”

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As an independent developer, Hall especially values being in charge of his own destiny.

A Change in Indie Development

Hall points out that independent developers have been around since the birth of computers, but recently game development has changed in ways that benefit them. Unity and UDK have given independent developers the opportunity to compete with the big studios. Previously, they had to write their own 3D engine to release a 3D game. Now, any major problems can be quickly solved with a search, especially with Unity, since it has such a large development community.

The rise of portals such as Steam and the App store has also benefited independent developers, allowing them to make money, sometimes in significant amounts, from their hobby. Unusual games that were once played only by hobbyists can now find an audience.

Getting Noticed

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Hall has been working on Age of Solitaire, and expects to release it soon.

The biggest challenge developers are facing, both in the indie space and in the mobile space, according to Hall, is getting noticed. Building a great product doesn’t guarantee success. He states, “For the indies, a cult of personality has emerged. Not only does your game have to be remarkable, but your personality also is a factor.”

In the mobile space, he has seen that the issues of a crowded marketplace have existed since the early days of the App Store. He emphasizes, “It’s important not only to build an amazing product, you also have to be ready to pick yourself up and try again if things don’t go well the first time. Building a profile as a reliable and interesting developer takes time.”

He gives this advice to independents starting out: “Build titles! Take a small idea, prototype it to prove it’s worthy of completion, then complete it.” He has noticed that developers are often overly invested in their ideas; playing them can shatter preconceptions of the game in a good way.

Preparing for the Future

Hall sees huge changes coming to the electronic entertainment industry with the advent of virtual reality via Oculus Rift. The original Oculus Rift dev kit has a profound effect on anyone who has tried it. Hall believes, “With the new technology, new genres and new opportunities will emerge. I’m very excited about making VR games, even if it isn’t the wisest business move at the moment.”

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Hall is currently in “development hell” working on Deck War

And the future of KlickTock should be just as exciting. Hall has a wall covered in game ideas ranging from the esoteric to potential top grossing titles. For several months, he has been working on a new title called Age of Solitare, which he expects to release very soon. He also tells us he is currently in ‘development hell’ working on a collectable card game called Deck War and hopes to release it later this year.

Hall will be sharing tips to getting featured on the App Store at Casual Connect Asia 2014! Read more about his session on the conference website.

 

ContributionsDevelopmentGame DevelopmentIndieOnlinePostmortem

The Eschalon Trilogy: Surviving in a Niche Market

March 24, 2014 — by Mariia Lototska

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Located in the US, Basilisk Games is an independent game developer with the mission to produce old-school computer RPGs. They have been working on the Eschalon trilogy since 2005, and released the last chapter in February 2014. Thomas Riegsecker, owner of Basilisk Games and Lead Developer of the Eschalon Trilogy, shares the story.


A Dream Project

Way back in 2005, I decided to take my notes from years of developing role-playing game ideas and turn them into a computer game. Originally called Under a Riven Sky, the game was going to be a trilogy based on secret societies, the end of the world, and an enigmatic race of creatures so advanced as to appear to be alien to the player. The game would feature pen-and-paper-like game mechanics, an open world, and a genuinely unique turn-based combat and movement system. Before I knew it, I was living off my savings account and working full-time on the game that would eventually be renamed Eschalon: Book 1.

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Before I knew it, I was living off my savings account and working full-time on the game that would eventually be renamed Eschalon: Book 1.

Encouraged by an ever-growing fan base who had seen screenshots and read about the game mechanics, I worked night and day for two years to complete the first game of the trilogy. In November 2007, I released the game to the world and was genuinely surprised by the response. The game earned back my full investment in three months and made enough in six months to fund the second game in the series. Not to mention, I was officially a successful indie game developer. Working from home, earning a solid paycheck, and making games was a dream come true.

2007: A Very Different World for Indie Games

When Book 1 launched in 2007, the gaming scene was very different than it is now. There were no tablets or smartphones back then. Computer displays were predominately 4:3 CRTs, and even the few LCDs that were available were not widescreen formatted. Indie gaming was in its infancy and the market was uncluttered. Eschalon: Book 1 was right at home in this market, and it sold very well to gamers who were tired of the path that mainstream RPGs had taken over the previous decade.

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By 2010, things had changed dramatically.

However, between 2007 and the launch of Book 2 in 2010, things changed dramatically. Many people had dropped their old CRT monitors in favor of a 16:9 wide-screen LCDs, yet others still clung to their old, beloved square CRT displays. This was a problem because the Eschalon game engine (which I was committed to reusing for all three games) used a fixed resolution with bitmap sprites. It was not particularly flexible and trying to make the game look good on these different displays was difficult. Although I did increase the native engine resolution up to 1024×768, I did not adjust it to a 16:9 format which was probably my single biggest mistake at that time of Book 2‘s development.

A Crowded Marketplace

The most dramatic change between 2007 and 2010 was that indie gaming had exploded during this time. When Book 1 launched, we had all the media coverage we could want. The game was featured in mainstream gaming magazines and websites, and not a week went by that I wasn’t asked to give an interview or write an article about the development of the game. But by Book 2‘s launch in 2010, we were just another indie game among hundreds, and our fixed resolution engine no longer looked as good to gamers who were accustomed to seeing high-resolution 3D graphics. I had to work much harder at promoting the second game, which ate into the first year of my development time on Book 3.

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I had to work much harder at promoting the second game, which ate into the first year of my development time on Book 3.

Of course, by the time Book 3 launched in February 2014, the indie game scene had become an out-of-control monster. The market is now over-saturated, with dozens of indie games coming out weekly. This has driven the sale price of indie games to an all-time low, and even then, many customers will wait for the 50 percent discount that they can expect over the summer and holiday sale drives. It seems that as the indie scene grows more popular with the mainstream gamer, “niche genre” games are pushed further out of the spotlight for games that feature tried and true, familiar elements. And remember that mistake I had made in not converting Book 2‘s engine into widescreen format back in 2010? In 2014, many gamers refused to even try Book 3, citing the lack of widescreen support to be too jarring to be able to enjoy the game.

Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

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It seems “niche genre” games are pushed further out of the spotlight for games that feature tried and true, familiar elements.

If I am honest about what has made Eschalon a minor success, it’s because it is a game series that caters to a very narrow spectrum of gamers. Many of our customers are over 30 and grew up on pre-Diablo style role-playing games, and they are looking for a very specific type of gaming experience now. These are the customers I focus on because if I tried to appeal to the mainstream gamer mass, I would be neglecting the customers who have supported Basilisk Games from the start. It’s a challenging path to follow, and more than once I drew the ire of Eschalon fans for trying to add a feature that I hoped might draw in new customers. Catering to this niche market has limited the game’s appeal to the general gaming audience, though it is the very reason for Eschalon‘s successes as well as its failures.

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From the earliest design phase in 2005 to the release of Book 3 in 2014, it has been a long and difficult road marked with many highs and lows.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent nearly nine years working on Eschalon. From the earliest design phase in 2005 to the release of Book 3 in 2014, it has been a long and difficult road marked with many highs and lows. I’ve been asked by many people, “Was it worth it?” I assume that people want to know if the money I’ve made from the games justified the ridiculous, unhealthy number of hours I worked to develop them. I can’t really answer that right now – not until I’ve had a chance to decompress from this final game development cycle. Although, I will give some advice to other indie developers: do not let a large project take over your life. It’s very easy to find yourself working day and night, weekends and holidays, all towards the dream that your game will be loved by all and will sell a million copies in six months. That kind of success is extremely rare and the mental burnout that you experience from such an extended, crushing workload can have long-lasting, negative effects.

Our fans are already asking us what is next for Basilisk Games, and the truth is that the future is more clouded than ever. Everything depends on how well Book 3 sells in the next six months because this will determine the budget of the next game. One thing is for sure: Eschalon is done. There will not be another Eschalon game, and the Eschalon engine will not be used again. Beyond this absolute truth, I am honestly just as as curious as our fans are to discover what is next for Basilisk Games!

The Eschalon Trilogy is available on Steam, GoG.com, Mac App Store, and on their website. Stay up to date with Basilisk Games by following them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

ContributionsDevelopmentGame DevelopmentIndieOnlinePostmortem

Entertainment Forge: A Formal Deal Turns Into a Team

March 17, 2014 — by Mariia Lototska

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Entertainment Forge was a Serbian-based one-man indie studio founded and run by Darko Peninger, the programmer and game designer. Darko later joined forces with Gilbert De Vera from the Philippines, the studio’s artist who also shares game designing duties. They’ve recently launched their second game for PC, How Smart Are You?, where the player happens to land on a planet with some intelligent civilization whose history arises as the visitor solves their puzzles in a pyramid. At the same time, the player’s IQ is being measured for some reason… Darko, with help from Gilbert, explains how they got to working together and how they’re going to conquer the world.

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Darko Peninger, the founder of Entertainment Forge

First Choice: Less Money, More Work

I started working on my game-making career as soon as I finished high school on the 1st of July 2011, though I should have totally left school and started earlier! Back then, I didn’t know much about game design, knew almost nothing about programming, but had a big passion for making games – as I still do! So I just thought out and did everything myself, including artwork. Oh boy, was I bad in art! In about a year and a half, I made a game called Mystery IQ Test. It was my first game that got sponsored.

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“Oh boy, I was bad at art!”

I got two sponsors fighting over the game. One offered more money, and the other one promised less money and some additional work. So, logically, I chose the latter! It was actually a good decision, because this is when I met Gilbert. The chosen sponsor from YepiRoy Tzayag, suggested paying an artist and working together to make the game even better. This could have been a valuable experience for a newbie, so I decided to give it a try.

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Improved graphics by Gilbert

Since then, the story goes on around a new game with a similar idea, called How Smart Are You? and presented at the Indie Prize Showcase at Casual Connect Europe 2014.

From Call Center Trainer to Game Artist

Gilbert De Vera has been a game artist since 2010. He started it as a part-time job, while still working as a trainer in a call center of a company.

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In 2011, Gilbert quit his day job and became a full-time game artist.

“Like everyone else who’s starting a new job, I didn’t have all the things I needed to make art: no tablet, printer, scanner and not even a good computer,” Gilbert explains. “I used my camera and took photos of my art in paper, and then transferred them to the computer for digital coloring. What is more, I was using a crappy old PC. That was really hard, but turned out a great challenge.”

“In 2011, I quit my day job and became a full-time game artist,” he recalls. “I’ve worked with different clients, garnered a lot of experience in game development and finished plenty of games. One of them was a game made by Darko. A client who happened to be his sponsor asked for help to improve the game’s visual aesthetics. After we finished that project, Darko planned to create a sequel to the game he made first. And How Smart Are You? appeared.”

Puzzles Make a Game Fun, Even With Little Mechanics

The game’s puzzles were designed with the help of my friends. They used to come to my place or we just sat in the park brainstorming puzzles. There were at least 200 ideas, but I picked the 40 I found most suitable for the game. Many of these still didn’t appear to be good enough, so only 30 ended up in the latest version of How Smart Are You?. I think figuring out puzzles was the hardest thing, cause the game itself doesn’t have much of a mechanic. And then Gilbert joined the team to do his magic and make art! We started creating games together with a 50/50 percentage deal.

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There were at least 200 ideas of puzzles, and only 30 ended up in the game.

“I didn’t have any problem doing art on this game, since Darko explained all the details he needed pretty well,” Gilbert says. “At the start of the project, I always ask what kind of character is needed, to make sure to create two or more so that there’s a choice. Darko told me to draw a spaceman that looks like a human, while it’s actually an alien. There is a puzzle room where the character needs to put boxes behind an X-ray machine to see what’s inside. It also shows the character’s skeleton that should resemble a human one. This is the tricky part: making players believe that the character behind the spaceman suit is a human being.”

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“Darko told me to create a spaceman that looks like a human, while it’s actually an alien,” Gilbert recalls.
This is the tricky part: making players believe that the character behind the spaceman suit is a human being.

“The best experience for me is when a player loves the game so much that we receive fan mail and good feedback,” the artist confesses.

“Sometimes we disagree about the design, but the good thing is that we respect each other’s opinion, value each other’s reasons, and eventually end up using the best version (that are mostly my suggestions),” Gilbert says. “But I really commend Darko for being one of the fastest coders I’ve worked with (or maybe I’m really that slow).”

“It took us almost 2 months to finish the game,” Gilbert recalls. “The main challenge for me was keeping up with Darko’s deadlines! Since I was working for several projects back then, my attention was split, and I wasn’t doing things fast enough. However, I learned one thing here: better to do one project at a time and focus on it, in order to finish it much faster. Never really expected that Darko and I will continue doing games in the future, but I really admired his efforts on finishing a project, and that’s why I suggested to him to make more games together.”

Currently, we’re working on smaller games to get more experience and build up some budget – Physics, Launcher, Action/Adventure games for Web (and planning to go mobile soon) platforms. We’ve noticed that making a small but fast to finish game is the safe way to earn money in this line of business. Risk is much lower compared to creating a game that we could finish in a few months.

Darko's goal: to make awesome games that will rule the world
Darko’s goal: to make awesome games that will rule the world

Plans: Rule the World and Beat Bill Gates’ Fortune

I have plans for bigger games (most likely web and mobile). From the very beginning, my goal was to make awesome games that will rule the world (Muahaha!!). To be serious, it’s creating really engaging and meaningful game experiences for players. And I will accomplish these goals, cause I strongly believe that I can and will give everything I’ve got to achieve them!

Gilbert wants to top Bill Gates' fortune
Gilbert wants to top Bill Gates’ fortune

“My future plan is to top Bill Gates fortune and be able to donate half of it to charity,” Gilbert smiles. “Kidding aside, my real plan is just to top Bill Gates fortune.”

Right now, How Smart Are You? is available for web only. In the meantime, Darko and Gilbert are thinking of some new games, both similar to the previous one, but, at the same time, totally different. 

Video Coverage

Kuyi Mobile’s Erick Garayblas on the Challenges of Being an Indie | Casual Connect Video

May 30, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

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The most challenging aspect of being an indie game developer is becoming financially stable and independent. Erick Garayblas is an Indie game developer and founder of Kuyi Mobile, based in the Philipines. He has created a number of casual games, including the very successful Streetfood Tycoon, which became the #3 overall App, with over 30,000 downloads in its first week. He tells us, “As an indie game developer, it’s a huge fulfillment for me to see people playing my games on the bus, train or while waiting for the doctor, etc. However, last year was a milestone when Streetfood Tycoon hit a couple of million downloads worldwide and became the #1 game on most countries in Asia and abroad. I released a sequel, and it also became a hit, especially on iTunes.”

Streetfood Tycoon
Streetfood Tycoon: World Tour, the sequel to the original Streetfood Tycoon

Wearing Many Hats

Erick describes himself as a one-man team, something which requires him to wear many hats. He does everything himself, including product design, graphics, programming, logistics and marketing. His previous experience as an artist, entrepreneur and game developer has been invaluable.  As he says, “Apparently, I’ve learned that ‘experience points’ are just as important in life as being inside a game.”

Erick Garayblas
Erick and his trusty old Macbook.

The most challenging aspect of being an indie game developer is becoming financially stable and independent. Erick insists that it is essential to be financially independent in order to create games as an artist and gamer rather than as a businessman. His goal in overcoming this challenge was to stick to a two-year time frame to learn the business and to make enough games to support it. He says this was a huge learning experience, especially the business side of mobile games. One of the most important things he discovered was that the business model applies to each mobile game and not just to the business as a whole.

At Casual Connect Asia, Erick gave a sneak preview of the upcoming games audiences can expect from Kuyi Mobile this year. The emerging trend that he believes will affect both the games industry as a whole and his business in particular is the free-to-play business model. He reminds us that the games industry is booming in Asia, especially with the rise in mobile revenues in China and Japan. An additional emerging factor is augmented reality for smartphones, something he is already experimenting with.

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