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Europe 2014Video Coverage

Yoeri Staal: Reaching a High Level as an Indie | Casual Connect Video

February 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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At Casual Connect Europe, Yoeri Staal showcased their game, Wild Ride West. This game is designed as a trilogy, with three episodes to be released on many platforms, something which has not been previously attempted by any indie.

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Yoeri Staal, founder and producer at StaalMedia, tells us the most fun part of being involved in the games industry comes from the constant stream of new materials. He says, “As I’m working on a project, any day at any time, I can receive a message from an artist, a composer, a programmer, or any other team member telling me they added a little piece to the huge puzzle that is my new game. It’s like finding a present under the Christmas tree at any random moment.”

Wild Ride West
Yoeri Staal showcased their game, Wild Ride West.

As founder of StaalMedia, he started the company making games by himself. Then he began hiring the right person for the right position inside many projects, a modus operandi he is still using today. He is also a teacher of computer science, and finds understanding children, what they want, and how they need their information shaped, highly advantageous skills when designing games for this particular audience.

Doing What We Love

His passion for the industry comes through clearly when he insists the proudest moment of his career came at the Speaker Dinner at Casual Connect USA when he realized that a “silly piece of software”, which he only planned to entertain people without any thought of commercial success, had brought him and a few other game designers to an elite location. He emphasizes, “It was confirmation that we indie developers could reach a very high level while doing what we love.”

Perhaps it is no surprise that this game developer spends any free time playing games. He considers his PSP as the favorite platform he has ever owned. Its strong processing, for the time, and its ability to store a multimedia library made it his personal treasure before the age of smartphones, so much so that he gave it a custom skin and matching wallpaper. But now, of course, it is completely outclassed by his smartphone. Last year, he did buy a PS3 simply to play GTAV, so he sees no need to move to PS4. And he prefers to keep his use of Microsoft products to an absolute minimum.

Yoeri Staal
A Knight to Remember is another game in StaalMedia’s portfolio

What is Fun vs. What is Valuable

Staal recognizes the dichotomy between what is fun for the player and what is commercially valuable for the publisher as a huge challenge for the games industry. He notes, “The company that creates a really fun game, without constantly bullying the player into buying in-app purchases, could easily rise to the top of the charts.” At StaalMedia, there is an entirely different focus. All games are completely free for players to use, with no in-app purchases, no paid unlocks, and no “silly” premium hats. Instead, sponsors are the clients, and they pay to have their logos in the game.

Because touchscreen is the latest trend on all tablets and smartphones, StaalMedia designs all games to support touch controls. Staal believes the coming trend will be even more sophisticated ways of control, such as motion control combined with virtual reality. When smart watches and glasses have sufficiently penetrated the market, he will be designing for these technologies.

ContributionsPostmortem

Post-mortem: Playlogic’s Fairytale Fights (PS3 & Xbox 260)

March 18, 2013 — by Bart Eijk

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Released in November 2009 for the Xbox360 and PS3, Fairytale Fights is an action hack-and-slash platform game supporting up to four players. The game combines cute looking fairytale characters with over-the-top slapstick violence. The game was developed by Playlogic Gamefactory, the in-house development studio of Playlogic. The studio previously had worked on titles like Xyanide (Xbox), Cyclone Circus (PS2) and Xyanide Resurrection (PSP, PS2). The studio also worked as first party developer for SCE London Studio on titles like Eye Pet, Mesmerize, Aqua Vita (Aquatopia in North America), Tori-Emaki and Pom Pom Party. In this post-mortem, Martin Janse tells the story of Playlogic’s game Fairytale Fights.

Instead of a making a game for children, we wanted to create a game that would appeal to an adult audience by using over the top slapstick violence and comical gore

The game started as concept for the PlayStation 2 Buzz controller party game. Gradually, the concept started to evolve into something bigger that could only be developed on the Xbox360 and PlayStation3 platforms. In Fairytale Fights, you play the part of a used-to-be-famous fairytale character on a personal mission to regain his/her lost fame by going on quests throughout the kingdom. A quest could be rescuing princesses (and princes), fighting wicked fairytale characters or finding magical treasures. The fairytale world consists of cute characters and vivid animations as seen in many 3D animation movies, but instead of a making a game for children, we wanted to create a game that would appeal to an adult audience by using over-the-top slapstick violence and comical gore that also can be seen in cartoons like Happy Tree Friends or Itsy and Scratchy from The Simpsons.

Since the game was targeted for Next Gen-consoles, we felt the game should include some unique features. One of the programmers had been working on a real-time fluid system and we wanted to incorporate this technology in the game, not just for creating all kinds of liquid effects, but also for the blood that would cover the whole scenery and drip from objects. Another idea we had was that the player should be able to slice enemies and objects dynamically so in theory, the player could slice everything he wanted in any direction he would choose.

In early 2006, a team was assembled. They started working on the high-level game design and creating a short animated movie showing some of the core gameplay mechanism and general visual style of the game. After a couple of months, the team of animators, visual designers, modelers and a game designer produced a stunning short animation that convinced everyone that this had the potential to become a fresh and fun game.

Indie

Insolita’s Martin Fabichak on the Brazilian Game Industry and Taking on Big Challenges (part 1)

February 25, 2011 — by Javier

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In the last decade Brazil’s economy has been flourishing, spawning all kinds of new commercial and creative initiatives. Brazil has a fond love for gaming and a growing industry to match it. We had a talk with the cheerful Martin Fabichak, Technical Director of Insolita Studios in São Paulo, to find out more about him, his company and what makes the Brazilian game industry unique.

After Fabichak graduated in Applied Math with a specialization in Programming, he quickly realized that his true passion was game development, leading him to create flash games. In 2008 he joined Insolita where he recently became Technical Director and a partner of the company six months ago.

Size matters

Martin Fabichak's team at Insolita

One of the characteristics of being a young company in an upcoming industry is that you get to create all sorts of games. Insolita Studios has a diverse repertoire, from serious games to teach management skills, to comedic platformers featuring cavemen and devils.

CaveDays allowed Insolita to get noticed in the Brazilian industry, especially after winning the Jogos BR contest.

While they were making three serious games to encourage entrepreneurship in collaboration with professional experts, they decided to make something less serious, yet important on the side: CaveDays. “This cool platforming game allowed the company get noticed in the Brazilian industry, especially after winning the Jogos BR contest for Best Game, a contest organized by the Brazilian government to stimulate Brazilian game design.” Fabichak explains.

To promote their game CaveDays, Insolita published web comics made with the graphics from the game.

The award was the first step to start more, and bigger, projects. Fabichak likes to describe them in superlatives: “Afterwards we made a huge serious game, LudoPark. Pretty much one of the biggest serious games ever made because it’s a real-time multiplayer management game where 40 players compete to manage their business.” Besides this “huge” game, Insolita Studios joined up with the independent Brazilian game developer Abdução to make something “mini” that turned out quite big.

Freekscape from Brazil

Freekscape was the first 100% Brazilian IP in the world market.

The two companies joined forces as Kidguru Studios to work on the first Sony-licensed game in Brazil for the PSP Minis platform, Freekscape. “We’re the only licensees for Sony.” Fabichak explains. “There is no one with a PS3 license here. It’s really hard to get that in Latin America. Being able to get Freekscape on the PSP Mini platform was a unique opportunity for us.”

Developing Freekscape took Insolita’s international relationships to another level in many different ways. “We developed a prototype with 3 levels and took it to GDC in 2009. There we got in touch with the publisher Creat from the US that gave us the opportunity to work with Sony that was looking for games for its new PSP Minis platform that had yet to be announced.” Fabichak recounts.

Sony was really happy with the way Freekscape fitted their original idea of the type of games they wanted to offer on PSP Minis.

Compared to other PSP Minis games, Freekscape was a big mini. “Out of 40 levels we had in this project, only 15 remained in the game,” Fabichak admits. “We did not know that Minis would mostly be smaller-sized casual games. Most games come down to 1 or 2 hours of playtime, with a lot of replay value, of course,” Fabichak explains. “But Freekscape was disproportionately bigger with about 8 hours of gameplay. We believed and hoped PSP Minis was going to be a platform for small studios with big ideas.” Was Freekscape too big to be a Mini? “Sony was happy with the way Freekscape fit into their original idea of the type of games they wanted to offer on PSP Minis.”

Lessons from the little devil

At the Sony booth at GDC 2010. On the left is Daniel, Founder of Abdução, and on the right is Fabichak's partner, Winston Petty, founder of Insolita. Freekscape was a joint project of Abdução e Insolita as Kidguru.

Fabichak is happy with having an odd-one-out on a platform that has tough competition with delivering bite-sized portable games. He is proud of the game it turned out to be, but especially the lessons and relationships they gained through it. “We learned a lot from Freekscape. Especially in maintaining a relationship with an international publisher and a big player like Sony.” Fabichak says. “One of the things we struggled with was developing for Minis at such an early stage. Developing Freekscape before PSP Minis had even been announced, brought some difficulties, specifically nearing the end of our development cycle because the requirements and features for PSP Minis changed from one week to the other.”

Fabichak does not take his hardships for granted, however. “During this time, we had a great relationship with Vicious Cycle Software, who made the Vicious Engine we worked with. They helped us with a lot of issues. They even made some tweaks to the engine to help us out with some of the issues,” Fabichak recounts. “But when it came to one of the specific requirements from Sony, I spent about a month in the engine’s source code trying to solve it. That was really hard, especially since it came out of the blue, nearing the end of development.”

Now we can approach publishers and companies like Sony with much more ease.

“Despite these problems, we had great help from Sony.” Fabichak admits. It also gave them more confidence to step things up. “Through this project we now talk to others on a whole other level. Now we can approach publishers and companies like Sony with more ease. You can’t reach this level as a company without earning your stripes with a previous project. Now we have the credentials to talk to them and prove we can deliver on what we propose, and our partners know that. We feel like we’re on another level now.” Fabichak says proudly.

The second part of Fabichak’s interview will be published next week, including his views on the Brazilian game industry, Insolita’s current projects, and his effort to inform upcoming talents about the real world of game development in Brazil through his podcast, Doublejump.

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