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DevelopmentExclusive InterviewsIndie

Paweł Gajda: Casting New Spells with The Wizards

March 13, 2018 — by Catherine Quinton

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Carbon Studio will be bringing their game The Wizards to Casual Connect Europe 2018 to compete at Indie Prize. They won this opportunity through Respawn, an Indie Prize Partner event. They are excited to be with developers from all over the world where they can exchange experiences and be recharged with fresh ideas. Recently, Paweł Gajda, the Business Development Manager at Carbon Studio, answered Gamesauce’s questions about the studio and developing The Wizards.

Participating in the History of Virtual Reality

Carbon Studio was founded by three friends who had been working at The Farm 51 (known for the game Get Even) and go out on their own. They came to this decision after learning of the Oculus Rift Development Kit and discovering a desire to create games for this new platform from its earliest days. They wanted to take part in the history of virtual reality as it was being written. And the games they choose to develop are those they would like to play – a common motivation among game developers.

Carbon Studio has its office in Gliwice, Poland and all the team exceptPaweł work there; he works away from the office. The majority of the team members are from the Gliwice area, which is part of a larger metropolis in the culturally and industrially rich region of Upper Silesia, and others have moved their families there. Most feel lucky to work close to home.

Paweł came to Carbon Studios after working in the film industry as a set manager. A director who knew of his passion for video games and new technology invited him to join a meeting with the owners of Carbon Studio, and he came out of it with a strong desire to work as a VR game developer. Not long after he joined the studio and his first task was to write the story for their first game, Alice VR. He also designed one of the puzzles for Unreal Engine 4. Currently he is responsible for communication and managing business development.

Total Focus on VR

Carbon Studios decided to focus entirely on VR games since players with VR headsets usually stop playing traditional games. “When you try VR once, there’s no going back,” Paweł claims. They expect VR to become more and more popular, so they treat developing for VR as a long term investment. As Paweł said, “I don’t believe it will replace traditional games in the future, but I think it may become as popular as console games, with millions of units sold.”

They began working on The Wizards shortly after the Oculus Touch controllers were announced for the Oculus Rift headset. The idea of seeing and using your hands in a natural way in virtual reality was something they found deeply inspiring. At Carbon Studio they didn’t just want to reproduce activities from ordinary life; they were determined to create something that was possible only in the limitless world of VR. So they decided to fulfill a dream of becoming a powerful wizard and casting spells. Both Dr. Strange and Harry Potter were useful inspirations in their direction.

The Wizards has something no other game can claim: the ability to cast spells with hand gestures. Traditional video games make motions by pressing buttons. In contrast, in The Wizards the player learns specific hand motions to summon spells. Once they are mastered, the player uses them intuitively in a way that is unlike any other experience that simulates magic. As Paweł explains, the gestures are easy to remember and perform and the functioning of each spell is realistic; throwing the fire ball, aiming the bow and deflecting with the shield all are familiar mechanics that feel lifelike.

Unexpected Turns

The development of The Wizards took a few unexpected turns along the way. The game started out as a simple wave shooter that could be completed in less than an hour. The idea of the game was to have the player stand on a platform and prevent the enemies from reaching the village behind. As they were developing the game, they realized it would be more interesting if the player could teleport between many platforms. It still felt too limiting, so they added free movement and free teleportation. The Wizards turned from a simple wave shooter to an action adventure with a lot of exploration.

As they were developing The Wizards, Carbon Studio decided to test at a very early stage of development. They organized alpha and beta testing, each time using the VR community, with testers filling out a beta form. It was extremely useful and gave them many outstanding ideas, but the results turned out to be a bit misleading. The feedback on the movement scheme was overly positive. Once the game was released, players who had paid for the game criticized Carbon Studio’s choice to stick with node-based teleportation. Apparently the beta testers were happy to have been chosen to test the game and were unwilling to criticize too much. This is something the company will keep in mind for the future.

On the other hand, some of the testers gave much more than they were asked for. One not only filled out his survey, he also provided several hours of videos of him playing the game, finding bugs and giving feedback. He then pitched the game to his boss, owner of a VR arcade, and has become one of the game’s most avid fans. When someone on the internet suggests the game is similar to another, he responds that it is, but better. He has now become one of Paweł’s personal friends, and Paweł says, “It was worth organizing the testing just to meet this guy.”

After Carbon Studio released The Wizards on Steam Early Access, they had many players criticizing the movement scheme and soon there were “mixed” reviews on Steam. This was totally unexpected because of the positive reviews from closed beta testing. They responded three days after the release by announcing that they would add free locomotion, a less restrictive way of moving in VR, which the players had requested. As soon as this feature was promised, the positive reviews on Steam began. Now that the free movement update is out The Wizards is a much better game. There have been even more positive reviews and a significant increase in sales.

The Virtual Reality Revolution

Carbon Studio wants to be part of the virtual reality revolution and provide the people willing to buy expensive headsets with even more interesting games. With The Wizards they wanted to make a game that allows players to feel like they are really casting powerful spells, a game that lets them experience something that might have been a childhood dream but was impossible to fulfill before VR headsets were invented.

Carbon Studio’s monetization method is the premium model, releasing their games on Steam and the Oculus Store. The user base for VR is not yet large enough for freemium to be a workable method.

Inspirations for their games can come from anywhere. For example, Alice was influenced by Alice in Wonderland but the plot of the game is original. However, characters, themes and mechanics do have references to the book, such as shrinking and growing, or the Hatter’s riddles.

Carbon Studio’s projects are led by one of the three founders of the company, supported by the other two. Each of them has different skill sets and specialize in different areas of production.

How the Project Grows

A project usually begins with a brainstorming session with the entire team. They want to be sure they are working on a project that is relevant, interesting and completely understandable for everyone. After establishing this basis, most of the decisions will be made by the leads, but they are always open to ideas and suggestions from all team members throughout the development process. And, of course, changes are made all along the way.

Carbon Studio team photo

As their experience in game development grows, they put increasing importance on alpha and beta testing. With The Wizards, they turned to Reddit and active users on the platform for their users. They were reaching out to future potential users and building a fan base. The choice was not quite as good as they anticipated, with the results more positive than was seen in users after early release. In the future, Carbon Studio will find more impartial testers as well as using the VR community.

When designing the visuals for their games, their basic principle is to minimize the compromises involved in designing for VR. They are fascinated by mega-scans and realistic assets, but there is a certain amount of unavoidable stylization. Although compromises are unavoidable, constantly improving optimization on UE4’s end mean the options for visuals are also constantly expanding.

The humor of The Wizard comes from the narrator played by Jason Marnocha, who leads the player through the world and its story with flair and sass. As well, the designers hid curios and Easter eggs for those who explore the levels in detail. And the developers are particularly proud of the first encounter with the dragon.

Six weeks after the early release, Carbon Studio introduced a Free Locomotion Update. The update allowed the players the choice between free movement and free teleportation which were both new ways to explore the world. There were also new map areas, item pick-ups, and new interactive world elements, each crafted to encourage and reward thorough exploration. Last November they released Arena Mode in which players can face off with endless waves of enemies, testing skills and spells they have learned in the campaign. They also added another new region and new chapter to the story called Shrike’s Desert, concluding the commitments to the Early Access and marking the full release of the game.

On March 8th, Carbon Studio had a full release of The Wizards. The full release of the game comes with epic boss fights, new story chapters, and empowered spells for the ultimate experience in wizardry. Paweł reflects, “We are grateful to everyone who trusted and supported us with invaluable feedback during Early Access. We are humbled that so many players joined us on this exciting adventure and we hope that the new content will meet our players’ expectations.”

Feedback!

If you are an indie developer, Carbon Studio reminds you that it pays to iterate fast and fail early. Don’t be afraid of criticism; feedback is incredibly valuable throughout the development process. Share an early demo on a platform with many users. If the feedback is negative, you will save months of working on potentially unpopular features; if it is positive, you have the beginnings of your fan base. Similarly, it is useful to create a Steam page and social media profiles to spread the word about the game, allowing people to observe it and add it to their wishlist.

You should never release a game without gathering feedback during production. And never tell someone who gives you negative feedback that they are wrong. If you are selling a product it won’t help to antagonize anyone.

ContributionsDevelopmentIndiePostmortem

Ruya: We’re All One

March 11, 2018 — by Industry Contributions

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Founded in 2016, Miracle Tea is an independent game developer made up of Bradley Smith, Tom Andrews, Enrico Ercole and Gav Amante. Based around Ipswich, they met at the University of Suffolk and Brains Eden game jam. The team aspire to make games that tap into deeper emotions to touch players in meaningful ways. Ruya was their first release. Bradley shares some insight.

Tranzfuser Days

Tom and I were both freelancing on the same project together. He showed me an old prototype he built from Uni. I had just competed in the Indie Speed Run and produced some artwork that I thought had some potential, so we pretty much combined two. Our goal was to re-imagine match style games with positive vibes and bring elements into the genre that you might not normally see.

Ruya team at Tranzfuser 2016

We submitted the original prototype to the Tranzfuser programme back in 2016 – it’s a national funding scheme for graduates in the UK. We were fortunate enough to be one of the teams selected with a successful pitch for funding. This floated a chunk of our development. The team that rxun it have been lovely to us and amazing to work with.

DevelopmentExclusive InterviewsIndie

CyberCoconut: Creating With Passion

March 9, 2018 — by Catherine Quinton

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The game that won Best of the Show Award at Codemotion 2017 in Milan was The Way of Life Definitive Edition from CyberCoconut. This is the first game from CyberCoconut, with release expected during the first quarter of 2018. They will also compete at the upcoming Indie Prize competition at Casual Connect Europe in London.

Founding a Company with a Shared Vision

CyberCoconut was founded by Davide Caio and Nicolò Azzolini, who met at the 2014 Global Game Jam in Milan. Although they didn’t know each other at all, they quickly discovered they worked very well together. After the game jam they began working together on small projects. Then they released on Steam the prototype of The Way of Life, which they had made during Game Jam. In the first two weeks it had 100,000 downloads, and the community was very enthusiastic, asking for more. Suddenly they were motivated to start their own company and continue working on the game.

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Pressed Escape: The Making of Path Out

March 7, 2018 — by Industry Contributions

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In 2015 a young Syrian artist who had just arrived in Austria bumped by accident into a game designer that had somehow specialized in political games. He joined the designer and his team first as an apprentice, but soon after they decided to embark on an adventure: to make an autobiographical adventure game about escaping from the Syrian Civil War.

The project in a nutshell:

Path Out is an autobiographical narrative adventure, that allows the players to follow the journey of Abdullah Karam, a young Syrian artist that escaped the civil war in 2014. In the game, Abdullah is giving insight to his real-life adventure via video comments that appear throughout the game. While looking like an adorable retro RPG the game attempts to draw the players into the harrowing experiences that Abdullah had to endure during his journey. It also wants to function as an empathic connection between the player and the all too real protagonist. The first chapter of the journey was made available for free on Steam, itch.io and Gamejolt in November 2017.

Exclusive InterviewsIndieStudio Spotlight

ALL CAPS and Disco Flip: When Music is a Key Element of the Game

March 6, 2018 — by Catherine Quinton

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ALL CAPS is a startup game studio based in Aalborg, Denmark. They focus on creating exciting, entertaining games that keep players coming back to play again. Their first game, Block Amok was released in early 2015 and has been nominated for a number of awards. Now their new project, Disco Flip, has won the Audience Award at Game Scope, an Indie Prize Partner event and Denmark’s largest games festival. As winners, the ALL CAPS team was invited to Casual Connect Kyiv and Indie Prize Kyiv. Recently Gamesauce enjoyed asking Brian Nielsen, CEO of ALL CAPS, about their indie studio, their experience at Game Scope and, of course, Disco Flip.

Gamesauce: Tell us about ALL CAPS. What was your reason for founding this game studio? What would you say makes it different from other studios?

Brian: Well, to be honest, we hadn’t thought about founding a game studio. We were just four guys who loved making games and who had been working on a prototype for our first game, Block Amok, while we were attending Aalborg University. We didn’t have a plan for exactly what we wanted to do except we wanted to make Block Amok as awesome as possible as we felt a great game would have an easier time attracting attention from both players and the press.

Exclusive InterviewsIndie

Joyseed Gametribe: Creating a Winning Game

March 2, 2018 — by Catherine Quinton

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Joyseed Gametribe is a game development company based in Jakarta, Indonesia and founded by Bernardus Boy Dozan and later joined as co-founder by Joseph Putra Wibawa. The founders’ dream was to spread the joy of gaming throughout the world, to offer people the opportunity to enjoy and learn from this media. Locally, Joyseed has become known for the high quality of the execution of their games; they won’t release any game until it is fully finished and polished. Compared to other games, the art of Joyseed’s games is quite graphical.

Focus on Surviving

Despite their mission to spread the joy of gaming, Joyseed Gametribe quickly discovered that there are a lot of business decisions necessary as they work to find an effective way to distribute their products. So their short term focus is simply to survive in the very tough game industry, and then to expand, growing bigger and better.

The company now consists of three people. Boy Dozan is responsible for the business direction, the office and production and is involved in everything else the company does. Joseph supports all of these functions but focuses mainly on production. They also have a programmer involved in productions as well as web back end coding. With only three people they must all be very flexible, working as a team and supporting each other even if what they are doing is not technically the area they are responsible for.

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Indie Prize Winners at Casual Connect USA 2018!

January 18, 2018 — by Catherine Quinton

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The Indie Prize competition at Casual Connect USA 2018 featured many exciting and innovative entries. Casual Connect is now announcing the nominees and winners.

Best Game Audio

The winner of Best Game Audio was Floor Kids, developed by MERJ Media from Canada. Floor Kids is a break dance battle game that rewards musicality, originality and style. It can be played in solo freestyle mode or in two player battles.

Also nominated for Best Game Audio were Stack & Crack, a 3D puzzle game by Jambav from India; Orbit – Playing With Gravity, a game that has players launching planets and attempting to get them into stable orbits around black holes, by HIGHKEY Games from the United States; and Rumble League, a real-time, action packed strategy game by Lorraine Studio of the United States.

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Indie Prize Participants During Casual Connect USA from Europe and Asia Part 2

December 31, 2017 — by Catherine Quinton

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Europe and India are bringing a fascinating variety of games to Indie Prize during Casual Connect USA at Disneyland® Hotel. This group of games include beautiful puzzle games, games requiring skills, learning fairy tales for children, games of suspense and, of course, games of competition. Indie Prize is seeing amazing innovation and diversity in these new games.

Game Title: Stack & Crack
Developer: Jambav
Platform: iOS
Country: India

Stack & Crack is a 3D puzzle game with beautiful levels. There is no tutorial; the levels are designed in a way that makes a tutorial unnecessary. But it is not an easy game. Each chapter introduces a different creative element that makes cracking the game a challenge to the brain.

Stack & Crack was shortlisted in the “Upcoming Game of the Year” section of NGDC 2017, Hyderabad, India.

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Announcing the Indie Prize at Casual Connect USA Participants from Europe and Asia Part 1

December 27, 2017 — by Catherine Quinton

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Europe and Asia are bringing some exciting participants to the Indie Prize during Casual Connect USA 2018 at Disneyland® Hotel. The games bring a variety of worlds and experiences, imaginary, realistic and even historical. The story lines are as varied as the environments, and challenge, adventure and learning are involved in all of them.

Game Title: Bushy Tail
Developer: Fuero Games
Platform: Desktop Win
Country: Poland

In Bushy Tail, three children are processing their experiences when refugees and foreign cultures suddenly arrive. They dive into the fictional world and tell the story of their hero, Little Fox, who goes through, adapts and overcomes the challenges of change. The game is constantly transforming, depending on which child is telling the story, giving the player the sense of influencing the plot.

EventsNews

Introducing the Finalists from Latin America for Indie Prize

December 22, 2017 — by Catherine Quinton

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The entries for Indie Prize during Casual Connect USA at Disneyland® Hotel from Latin America cover a number of different genres, although the majority emphasize some type of fighting or battles: brawlers, warfare, battling monsters for treasure. But there are also games that have a lost character trying to return home, a game with a character trying to find the way along a forest trail before it grows cold, and even a game to teach children with cancer about the disease.

Game Title: Manzana Misteriosa
Developer: Estudio Escabeche
Platform: Desktop Win
Country: Argentina

The central character of Manzana Misteriosa is Nina, a woman lost inside the Parque Neighborhood. She can only find her way out by interacting with other characters she meets, but the type of interaction she chooses alters the course of the game.

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