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ContributionsDevelopmentIndie

Mushroom Wars 2: Concept to Release

May 3, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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We are proud to introduce our best mobile game finalist Mushroom Wars 2 made by Zillion Whales! As a winner at the GTP Indie Cup event, Zillion Whales has been given the opportunity to compete at Indie Prize Singapore at Casual Connect Asia 2017. The winter season 2017 of GTP Indie Cup has received more submissions than ever. Our jury board was excited about growing professional level of games from CIS indie developers and Mushroom Wars just proved this growth.

This year at GTP, we continue gathering best talents at our event and the summer season will be more helpful for developers not only by a variety of nominations and prizes but also with new Critic’s Choice award from CIS game press critics and journalists. We hope this story about our finalist will encourage you to take a part in the next Cup.


By Ksenia Shneyveys,  Marketing Communications Manager at Zillion Whales

Mushroom Wars 2 is the newest game of a popular RTS series with a rich history.
Back in 2009, inspired by good old Galcon, the original Mushroom Wars was released. We polished this gameplay mechanics to a luster, added signature fungal setting, introduced morale notion and different types of buildings for greater depth.

Mushroom Wars 2 preserved the features that made Mushroom Wars so enjoyable and supplemented them with MOBA elements such as hero characters with unique sets of skills and co-op 2 vs 2 mode. The game is out on iOS and Apple TV. It is coming to Android, Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next year.

Tel Aviv 2016Video Coverage

Alexander Nasonov: Why Free-to-Play is the Future of Children’s Apps | Casual Connect Video

April 1, 2017 — by David Radd

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Art is unpractical, but still is the most valuable thing in our life. - Alexander NasonovClick To Tweet

Premium kids apps sales have decreased drastically: even using Dinotrux or Shrek didn’t help Fox and Sheep to achieve planned sales volumes. Bobaka’s Green Riding Hood as well didn’t sell well even through it was named iPad App of the Year by Apple in 2015. Why out? Transform your creation into a free-to-play children’s educational service with episodic content and parents-friendly microtransactions, suggests Alexander Nasonov, co-founder and executive producer at Bobaka in his Casual Connect Tel Aviv session, explaining it on the case of Green Riding Hood. 

Tel Aviv 2016Video Coverage

Nick Gawne and Communicating with Young Users | Casual Connect Video

November 20, 2016 — by Orchid

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We want parents to be reassured kids are having the right kind of fun! - Nick GawneClick To Tweet

Nick Gawne is Chief Operating Officer for eOne Family, with responsibility for digital biz dev, app publishing, finance, business affairs and brand protection. eOne owns, distributes and brand manages leading pre-school brands like Peppa Pig, PJ Masks and Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. Tune in to Nick’s session from Casual Connect Tel Aviv to hear of the lessons learned by the eOne Family team when they took the leap and decided to do their own publishing strategy. “If you have good IP that is resonating in the store, you need to look beyond the store to support your business model”, Nick pointed out. To learn more, see the full session below.


Exclusive InterviewsIndie

Roque Rey: Power to the People in Okhlos

November 1, 2016 — by David Radd

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Roque Rey is a member of Coffee Powered Machine, an Argentinian development studio. The indie developer created Okhlos, which won Best Game at the Awesome Games Awards in Córdoba, Argentina and will be shown off at Indie Prize Berlin 2017. The game was published by Devolver digital.

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Roque Rey

“On a personal level, its a huge achievement,” said Roque. “We were approached by a few publishers, and even then we wanted to remain independent and do self-publishing. Eventually, the Devolver option simply made sense and the pros outweighed the cons. Also, Devolver has a proven record, so for our first big game, it made sense to launch with them.”

“The Indie Prize was a complete surprise,” Roque added. “We weren’t expecting to win it. We weren’t even sure if we were gonna be able to attend the main event. Happily, we ended up deciding to make some time and go. I personally have never crossed the Atlantic ocean, so travel to Berlin to the Casual Connect will be a completely new experience.”

ContributionsDevelopmentEurope 2014Game DevelopmentIndieOnlinePostmortem

Darklings: A Successful Game From a Second Attempt

March 7, 2014 — by Mariia Lototska

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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.

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Our team started to look for the right tools by joining all our experiences and getting help from friends

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.

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We didn’t give up on the game. We were the ones keeping faith in the idea from the beginning

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.

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The game might have been released earlier if all decisions were made right in the beginning

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.

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We tried to learn from our mistakes and not follow the wrong path again.

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.

UI redesigned from scratch: we made a unique fight for each boss
UI redesigned from scratch: we made a unique fight for each boss

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. 🙂

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We couldn’t wait to see Darklings in the AppStore

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.

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Our brand started building up by itself

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.

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The amount of work has nearly doubled after the launch of Darklings

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!

 

ContributionsPostmortem

Numberheads: Even If You Build it, They May Not Come

August 20, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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Benign Games is the tiniest possible game studio – one person – located in Princeton, NJ, USA. There isn’t any team to speak of, although graphic assets are outsourced. The founder is Jeff Sasmor, who wrote his first game on a Commodore PET and saved it on a cassette drive. But he’s not a game industry veteran. Numberheads is the first game he’s developed since the Star Trek game on the PET, yet it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

Inception

Before Numberheads, I had been working on a different game project. Numberheads was just a weird idea that arose while I was recovering from Achilles tendon surgery. The person who smashed a shopping cart into my ankle had no idea what she did. To be sure, she launched me into a world of pain. Post-surgery, I was lying around feeling spacey from pain killers, playing Bejeweled and Chuzzle. I was thinking about how hard it was for me to play most Match-3 games because of my partial colorblindness. I loved the gameplay, but the colors drove me nuts and gave me eyestrain!

The proverbial light bulb appeared over my head and the word bubble exclaimed, “Why not use numbers!” I was going to create a prototype just for fun, as I was already at work on something else. At first, I was thinking of matching numbers that are the same, like 1-1-1 and so on. Then I latched on to what turned out to be the two key features of what eventually became Numberheads: Use number sequences to create a match and Pieces can move in all eight directions and not just up-down-left-right.

Another Match-3?

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It’s pretty easy to become proficient, and it’s fun to get in the zone while playing.

My whimsical metric for a great Match-3 is one where you can get so into the zone while playing that you actually fall asleep for a few seconds. I surveyed all the popular Match-3 games of the time: Bejeweled, Chuzzle, Montezuma, and many others. I also looked at many of the cookie-cutter clones to see what made them substandard.

Match-3 games are popular because they’re easy to play and mindless in the sense that the player doesn’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about what they’re doing. It’s pretty easy to become proficient, and it’s fun to get in the zone while playing. There are more than 1200 of them on the App Store. In retrospect, it’s such a crowded field that making yet another one might have been a bad decision. But that’s in the past.

Complicated Development

With no team or real schedule for this project, it developed entirely organically from the bottom-up. Frankly, it was approached at first as more of a software engineering challenge than a product.

Frankly, it was approached at first as more of a software engineering challenge than a product.

The software itself turned out to be quite a bit more complicated than I’d expected. It’s not that hard to create software to match three things that are the same, as you can tell from the huge number of matching games on the App Store and elsewhere. There are even kits available that provide the underlying structure prebuilt for you. But number sequences are another matter, and it took a long time to get it right. Allowing moves to be in eight directions made the development of software to find hints a lot more difficult, especially to find hints in a reasonable time without affecting touch screen response time.

Of course, games also need to interact with a player. Fortunately, Benign Games is a Unity3D shop. There’s a rich set of plug-ins for user interface creation, sprites, effects, tap/swipe recognition, and so on. No need to reinvent the wheel; what a time saver! But although there’s a lot to love about Unity, there’s also a learning curve. There’s no question that it’s easy to throw a prototype together using Unity. But there’s a lot to learn and explore before getting to a responsive product ready for a mobile platform. But that’s a whole other article.

Making it Simple and Outright Mistakes

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The initial game play design turned out to be too confusing and difficult for most of the testers, so the game had to be redesigned.

Unfortunately, the initial game play design turned out to be too confusing and difficult for most of the testers, so a lot of effort was spent redesigning the game’s structure. At first, the game allowed for multiple number sequence matches radiating out from the two pieces that the player would swipe. That turned out to be something that I found cool, but everyone else found really confusing. This took about two months to redesign successfully.

The initial graphic designs for the playing pieces had too much visual detail. This made it difficult for players to visually recognize the pieces’ numerical values. The extra few milliseconds that their human brains took to recognize the image of a “5” as the number 5 made some people “bounce off” the game and not want to play. This was really unexpected, but easy to remedy. Prior to initial release, the artist recreated the designs using simpler lines.

The initial game release was targeted exclusively at Apple’s iPad using the landscape orientation. This turned out to be a huge mistake based on an assumption that iPhones were just too computationally weak to handle the algorithms. After the release, testing on iPhone showed just how stupid an assumption that was. The biggest bottleneck is the graphics performance on the older iPhones, and not the CPU capabilities. The result was a three month complete visual redesign using Portrait mode to become an iOS Universal app.

The other big mistake was forcing players to tap on two pieces in order to swipe them. This was a complete oversight. The redesign had to include the ability to swipe. There’s no question in my mind that these and other mistakes were due to two things: inexperience with the platform and no co-contributors.

What I Learned

The “If you build it, they will come” method may be a good movie plot, but it’s not a good business model.

I’ve been developing software for a long time, so I always expect things to take about twice as long and cost twice as much as I estimate. But in the end, rewriting and tuning the second version created something that I found myself addicted to playing; and, more importantly, others felt the same way. Of course, almost no one knows about Numberheads. It’s almost insanely difficult to get noticed on the App Store unless your company already has a following or has a budget for a lot of marketing.

I’d say that the most important lesson that I learned wasn’t about development at all, but about marketing. I have to wear the marketing “hat” as well as the “designer/developer” hat, which led me to realize that I should have looked for a publisher instead of self-publishing.

On the business side, Benign Games has plenty of capital to create more games. But not wanting to have a “marketing department” will inevitably lead me to try and contact publishers before doing more than creating a playable prototype. The “If you build it, they will come” method may be a good movie plot, but it’s not a good business model.

Video Coverage

Ken Asakura on Party Track | Casual Connect Video

August 20, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

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At Casual Connect in San Francisco, Ken Asakura opened his presentation on Asia Expansion: Mobile Trends and User Acquisition Strategies in Japan and Korea by exclaiming, “Self publishing in Asia is possible!”

DOWNLOAD SLIDES

Opening Doors and Finding Gamers in Asia

Ken Asakura is General Manager of Adways Interactive, specialists in mobile app distribution and user acquisition with 80 percent of their clients in the gaming industry. Adways Interactive’s home company, Adways Inc., runs the largest CPI ad network in Asia. Adways has a proven track record of helping Western developers succeed overseas.

Announcing “Party Track: User Acquisition Analytics for Games”

Aside from distribution, Adways Interactive has been hard at work developing a powerful analytics platform. At Casual Connect USA, they announced the launch of Party Track, a user acquisition analytics tool for games. Party Track enables game developers to discover where their most valuable players are coming from. Utilizing a single SDK and reporting dashboard, Party Track enables developers and advertisers to accurately track, attribute, measure and compare all of their UA campaigns and their impact on user acquisition, retention, in-app engagement, ROI and life-time-value(LTV).

Party Track has been in closed beta, working with the likes of Square Enix and Namco Bandai, and is now officially ready for launch. Ken is responsible for all business decisions for Adways Interactive, including product management for Party Track.

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Adways’ app UA measurement tool, Party Track.

Change is the Constant

In terms of mobile user acquisition, I think it’s impossible to predict the future because the industry changes so quickly. Who knows what’s next?

As Ken looks toward the future in the gaming industry, he contends, “In terms of mobile user acquisition, I think it’s impossible to predict the future because the industry changes so quickly. 2011 was the year for Tapjoy and incentivized CPI networks. 2012 was the year of non-incentivized CPI networks such as Chartboost. Now it’s all about Facebook. Who knows what’s next? I believe when the mobile industry matures, it will become more like PC.” He considers that OS will become 65 percent Android and 25 percent iOS, as iOS takes their share of premium users and the remainder use Android. He also sees this becoming the most accessible global market ever, with content providers from South America shipping contents to Asian consumers within hours of release. Why? Because mobile is affordable and Apple and Google have become a global gateway for all. In his opinion, the primary internet interface for 95 percent of people will be on mobile sooner than expected.

He believes many fragmented rules and standards, and particularly privacy issues, must be settled as this globalization occurs. He sees brands becoming more active in providing content and increasing spends on mobile advertising.

His final suggestion is directed to Google and Android – “PLEASE accelerate UX optimization for GooglePlay!”

Establishing a Company 101: Teamwork is Everything  

“Go with your gut feeling… not what your supervisor says.”

Ken believes the most important emphasis for his company is to build an energetic and motivated team. He has been able to form a well balanced team, which is a critical aspect of meeting their clients’ needs. Leading this team with optimism and a willingness to take action is what energizes him in his everyday work.

Ken tells us the greatest learning curve in his career occurred when he signed a highly lucrative deal which indirectly victimized another entity. He is determined to ensure that this never happens in the future. The most important thing he learned from this unfortunate experience was, “Go with your gut feeling… not what your supervisor says.”

About Ken Asakura

Ken considers his analytical proficiency as his main strength, which is undoubtedly a tremendous asset in his varied responsibilities. However, work is not the only emphasis in his life. In his spare time, he enjoys golf and is currently studying Business Management at UC Berkley. He is also passionate about music and appreciates many different genres including rock, hip hop, electro and house.

Studio Spotlight

Studio Spotlight: Codeglue in Rotterdam

January 19, 2011 — by Vlad Micu

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Codeglue’s CEO Peter de Jong and CTO Maurice Sibrandi recently celebrated the very special occasion of running their studio for an entire decade. The two founders have been friends since highschool and went to higher technical college together to study computer science. Their close friendship led them to create their own game studio in the Netherlands, Codeglue, with a focus on mobile games and applications. We recently sat down to talk with both gentlemen about the celebratory occasion, developing CD-i games, early adopting XNA and balancing passion with need.

The Dutch pride of CD-i

De Jong: "Our collection of hand-held LCD games. Most of from our personal inventory. Yes, we are old-school."
De Jong: "Our collection of hand-held LCD games. Most of from our personal inventory. Yes, we are old-school."

Back when De Jong and Sibrandi were just starting with their technical engineering degrees, the Dutch company DIMA (‘Dutch Interactive Media Associates’, red.) paid a visit to our department and gave a presentation about internships to make games. “Maurice and I had similar interests, so we quickly decided to both do it,” De Jong recalls. “There was no Dutch game industry back then. There were some studios making CD-i games, that was it.” Already making games themselves on their Amigas, De Jong and Sibrandi didn’t have a breakthrough by themselves yet. In 1993 both decided to take on that internship and work on CD-i titles.

After graduating from university, the duo continued to work at DIMA. Back then the company became well-known for producing some of the more popular CD-i games. The studio’s main objective was to produce low-budget CD-i games in relatively short production times. While at DIMA, de Jong and Sibrandi worked on titles such as Family Games, Christmas Chrisis and Christmas Country. The studio would later go independent and rename itself to ‘Creative Media’ after Philips pulled the plug from it’s CD-i production.

Glued together

Codeglue's artist Tom Rutjens hard at work
Codeglue's artist Tom Rutjens hard at work

When CD-i became unpopular, De Jong and Sibrandi spent a couple of years working IT jobs. In 2000, the dynamic duo took the step to found their own company and started working in the evening hours. In 2002, they finally took the step to go full-time with the company and focus on mobile game development. A lot of games were developed in cooperation with Dutch developer Two Tribes, who gained international fame with their Toki Tori franchise.

“We were always lucky that we were allowed to concentrate on the main reference handsets, which were only between 6-12 different types,” De Jong recalls. “The publisher would then deal with the other 380 types.” The number of handsets would later end up reaching far beyond 12, which forced De Jong and Sibrandi to seriously reconsider the company’s direction.

“We spent more time porting and adapting games than working on the gameplay.”

“We spent more time porting and adapting games than working on the gameplay,” he added. Codeglue would also start focusing on mobile multiplayer games. “We tried it together with a publisher, but the market clearly wasn’t ready for it. The operators had a lot of problems between them, communication went wrong, problems. The attempt did show a lot of promise.”

In 2007, the Codeglue team started working on Rocket Riot, their award winning XBLA title. “We spent the first half year trying to make it a mobile title, but it didn’t really fit with the concept,” De Jong recalls. “So we decided to turn it into a Xbox Live Arcade title.”

The team continued to build a prototype, pitched it to several publishers and Microsoft. “After the third time we talked to Microsoft, we were green lighted and received a slot on Xbox Live arcade,” At that time, we could’ve just published the game ourselves, but we needed the money to develop the game in the first place. We talked to publishers such as Ubisoft, THQ and Konami. All three were interested in the game, but also because we scored a slot with Microsoft. THQ was the fastest and most concrete with their contract. Their conditions were ok, so we partnered up with THQ.”

The XNA early adopter

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The original Rocket Riot team standing inside the Microsoft booth during a Dutch game event. Rocket Riot was playable on 8 displays. Gears of War 2 only had 2.

When Codeglue actually started working with XNA, the toolset was barely out of it’s beta stage. “It’s a very cool technology and we had no problems making the game, but we experienced some serious delays during development.” Riot eventually took two years to develop.

Due to the delay, the project also became a financial challenge for the studio. With a full focus on Rocket Riot, alternative revenue streams were also found in making iPhone games. “Apple changed the market in one blow,” De Jong argues. “Offering fast mobile Internet made it a common thing with a flat fee.” Tackling the upcoming market, Codeglue used it’s mobile game know-how to dive into iPhone development. “While the industry was in a heavy dip, developing for the iPhone helped us get through that gloomy period.”

“While the industry was in a heavy dip, developing for the iPhone helped us get through that gloomy period.”

Codeglue currently spends a hefty portion of their office hours working on Playstation Home assets. “This also was the result of the financial crisis at first,” De Jong explains. “It became more serious and we’ve developed more things in Playstation Home.” Codeglue recently also received their own store inside Sony’s online service to sell their assets. The plan is to continue with developing for PS Home while it is still generating a satisfying revenue rate.

One would think that there is no real market for micro transactions on Home, but Codeglue has proven otherwise. The service packs quite the crowd. “Very few numbers have been made public,” De Jong admits. “We can’t tell you anything about the ones we know, but you’d be amazed how many people use it.” For Codeglue as a small developer, the hundreds of thousands of monthly unique visitors is good enough to keep developing for Sony’s virtual world.

“We’ve always worked with the publisher/developer model.” De Jong says. “But small developers like us have to focus on reaching the consumer directly instead.We have to start making sense of marketing and other things to go from developer to developer/publisher.” The Playstation Home store one of the first baby steps that is bringing the company closer towards that goal.

Balancing passion with need

One of Codeglue's special Playstation Home items for Christmas was the popular 'Santa on a Reindeer' costume
One of Codeglue's special Playstation Home items for Christmas was the popular 'Santa on a Reindeer' costume

The work on Playstation Home has changed from a financial supplement into a creative output for Codeglue. “We’re in the phase of going back to devote ourselves to developing what we want,” De Jong confirms. “It’s been a tough period. We’ve talked to the entire team about the need to sometimes work on things that are less fun than developing your own game. Everyone knew about the situation and the financial crisis. I’m just happy we were able to keep everyone together and avoid any problems.”

De Jong sees Codeglue’s future in expanding the studio’s horizon to other platforms, creating separate units that focus on either PSN, XBLA, mobile and Facebook. “Our ambition is to develop a cross-platform game,” De Jong admits. “Not something stand-alone on the iPhone, but something that really connects.”

“Having one successful XBLA title in their pocket sadly isn’t enough to give any publisher enough confidence to work with you.”

Codeglue second step towards becoming directly connect with their consumers is their development of Ibb and Obb in cooperation with the small Dutch indie studio Sparpweed. “It’s our first project on PSN, so it will be quite the learning experience,” De Jong admits. “Having one successful XBLA title in their pocket sadly isn’t enough to give any publisher enough confidence to work with you.”

Going the digital way

Ibb and Obb are actually named after two characters in Jasper Fforde’s “The Well of Lost Plots”.
Ibb and Obb are actually named after two characters in Jasper Fforde’s novel 'The Well of Lost Plots'.

The adventure to build their first XBLA title with an unfinished XNA toolset brought about some wise lessons for Codeglue. “Next time we’re working on a project and a fancy new technology strolls by, we’ll make sure it’s proven before,” De Jong says. “We could’ve chosen to use the Unity engine to make a PSN title, but something like that hasn’t come out yet. I’d like to wait see one or two Unity based games come out first, so I know for sure that the worst wrinkles in the software are dealt with. Somebody else will have fixed it, saving you a lot of time and money in the process. My advice to other small devs is to wait and use technology that is already proven. If you’re the first and can experience the marketing push from Unity as well, it might result in something positive. Then again, that’s not a luxury we can all enjoy.”

“I’d like to wait see one or two Unity based games come out first, so I know for sure that the worst wrinkles in the software are dealt with.”

The Rocket Riot project ended up teaching their technical staff a lot as well. “It was very stimulating for our programmers,” De Jong admits. “They were able to work directly with the technical staff from Microsoft, you’re involved both technically and innovatively with the toolset. But if you have to run a company, it’s not the wisest of decisions.”

Over the hill

Co-founder and CTO Maurice Sibrandi enjoying some coffee from his 'limited edition' Rocket Riot mug.
Co-founder and CTO Maurice Sibrandi enjoying some coffee from his 'limited edition' Rocket Riot mug.

After ten years, it becomes clear the way De Jong and Sibrandi shaped Codeglue was strongly based on the ups and downs they’ve had in their personal working experience after they spent their initial entry in games within small multimedia studios with small creative teams. “We even ended up rolling into IT for three to four years,” De Jong recalls. “We had a company phone, car and laptop, the works. The environment simply didn’t fit us.”

With founding Codelgue, De Jong and Sibrandi strived to have a fun workplace where creative people would feel at home. The original Rocket Riot, published by THQ, sadly did not receive a very big push by the publisher itself. As a result, De Jong and his team decided to connect with the game press themselves. With success. Rocket Riot ended up attaining critical acclaim, a solid 8.0 on Metacritic and very positive reviews by media outlets such as IGN, Gamespot and Giant Bomb.

“We tried to connect with the game press ourselves, arranged a lot of reviews and competitions,” De Jong recalls. “We were lucky to also receive great reviews.”

The experience with THQ have given De Jong a solid idea of how he would do it himself. In this day and age, a direct connection with the consumer isn’t that hard to attain anymore, even for a relatively small studio as Codeglue. The consideration to self-publish has culminated into the development of Ibb and Obb. “We operate very openly and show our audience the first prototypes on Facebook, trying to get people to follow us,” De Jong says. “With Rocket Riot, we were relatively late with this and tried to still hype the game after launch.”

Self-publishing

De Jong and his colleagues recently moved to a cosy new office
De Jong and his colleagues recently moved to a cozy new office in the center of Rotterdam.

Pitching the original prototype for Rocket Riot and building up a relationship with Microsoft in the first place wasn’t a typical walk in the park for the studio. Luckily, the deal with THQ allowed Codeglue to keep the rights to the IP and resulted in Rocket Riot coming to Windows 7 Mobile and an upcoming version for the iPad.

“We walked around with the prototype for almost a year.”

“We walked around with the prototype for almost a year,” De Jong admits. It took us quite some time. Do visit the big international events like the GDC, E3 and Gamescom. Approach the publishers. That’s where you get the most business, especially if you want to work with a major publisher.”

De Jong simply reached out to different publishers by e-mail, with success. “It always works,” he says. “There’s always someone at an event looking for a new project. It’s never impossible to end up with the right person there.”

With the desire to take over publishing themselves, the need for Codeglue to find the necessary funds and internal structure to facilitate that is higher than ever. De Jong hopes that the sales on Playstation Home will fuel that desire significantly.

Codeglue is currently working on Ibb & Obb for PSN in collaboration with Sparpweed.

Image credits:  Else Kramer assigned by the Rotterdam Media Commission

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