Today, the global game market is $100 billion USD. Given this fact, publishing your game globally is a particularly compelling proposition. That said, it can also be quite a daunting concept. At Casual Connect Asia, President and CEO of LAI Global Games Services David Lakritz described how you can know which markets are the best fit for your game and where are you more likely to achieve a higher ROI. He highlighted some free tools and strategies to address these issues during his presentation. For the full session see below.
If something’s bothering people’s mind, it’s just a matter of time till there’s a game about it. Fake news have been trending for a while, and resulted, among other things, in HEADLINER: a short adventure game about media bias and how it affects the society, families and careers. The Seattle-based developer Unbound Creations has worked with teams up to 6 people on their previous titles, but HEADLINER has mostly been just Jakub Kasztalski.
“I had some brainstorming help from one of my friends in the early stages, and also hired an editor for the texts. In the last two months I also worked with Hashbang Games on marketing”, the developer comments. Friends have also been involved in the initial conception about a year ago: “The idea was actually given to me by a friend and over some beers we fleshed it out a bit more”, Jakub recall. :The direction of the game was a bit different initially, focusing on racing the clock to approve the articles in time and then getting home before a curfew started while avoiding paroling guards”.
However, as prototyping went on and Jakub observed what was happening around the world, the design shifted towards the narrative and media bias. “Here’s an article I wrote that goes into more details of how I mined Facebook and Google data to stay relevant to today’s issues”, he shares.
Try Before You Decide
“I started with free/public domain 3rd party assets and simple scenes built in Blender to nail down the look/feel/setting”, the developer recalls. “I went through 2-3 iterations before arriving at the final look. Overall, that wasted a lot of time, but not being an artist myself, it helped me figure out what “felt right” and what I wanted to really communicate. I’m very “try before you decide” when it comes to visuals”.
“I settled on Vector Art as I realized it’s the one style I could actually do myself. I researched a lot of references, the biggest being the awesome Lyft commercial.”
The street scene remained a 3rd party pixel artwork, but Jakub had upscaled it and did a lot of post-processing. He also used the baseline sprites to create new variations, such as police or rioters.
Music was also public domain/creative commons, but again the developer spent a lot of time researching: “I’d just play different tracks in the background while coding and testing, until I found ones that felt right”.
Someone Might Get Offended
When asked how not to offend anyone with a game on a touchy subject, Jakub confesses: “Honestly, I just follow my gut feeling. I’ll admit I used to be really socially awkward when I was younger (as many geeks are), but through great friends and few years of freelancing I learned where the social boundaries lie. I just apply the same skills to my work instinctively I suppose”.
“I also listen to the feedback I get. For example, many testers asked me why your spouse was always of opposite gender – why you couldn’t have same-sex marriages in the game? And I realized there really isn’t a good reason not to, so I added that”.
“There are some ideas I am trying to communicate in the game so it is inevitable that someone might get offended. And honestly if they do – well, that’s just what I stand for I guess. You can’t please everyone”.
Learn From Others'(and His Own) Mistakes
Learning from others’ experiences is what Jakub fully uses in his dev practice. Being inspired by titles like Papers, Please and Westport Independent, he read through Steam and press reviews. “I really tried to find what worked and what didn’t, building on the formula instead of simply copying”, he explains. “For example, in Papers, at the end of the day you might get a white text on black screen telling you your wife died. Well, that’s not very engaging. That’s why I wanted the whole street and home section – show, don’t tell. Make the player care about the world he’s building (or destroying).
“There are many pitfalls I’ve learned and still need to learn. Brevity is very important I realized, as most gamers don’t want to be reading a book while playing (purely text-games and interactive fiction aside). Secondly, players want to really feel the impact of their actions, even if it may feel like over-explaining at times (I tend to be overly subtle). Lastly, fleshing out the world may seem wasteful, but it can do a lot for immersion – all my games have been praised for creating a believable sense of space (even if you only see a fraction of all the research and backstory I wrote)”. Jakub hints there’s a ton more lessons he could come up with, “but that’s probably a whole different topic in an of itself”
Looking back, Jakub says he’s pretty happy with how things went. “All the significant improvements I would have liked to add at this point would have taken several months and considerable investment. However, for various reasons, I did not want to go down that route, instead preferring to spread the additional effort and lessons learned over future episodes and new games”. If he still had to pick one area to improve, it would be artwork: “it was a big learning experience for me and I think it shows”.
Meanwhile, a fresh wave of fake news is coming up. “I’ve got a few ideas brewing in my head right now, but two of the major changes would be a bit randomized newspaper system for more engaging replays, and more personal interactions with various characters you meet”, Jakub shares. You can also join the world domination through news planning through the game’s official Discord, and keep track of updates on Twitter.
As technology evolves and tools become outdated, such changes can leave developers in the dust and struggling to convert to mobile. Join Doug Pearson, Co-Founder and CTO of FlowPlay, for a technical discussion on how and why FlowPlay tackled these challenges firsthand by transitioning Vegas World from a Flash codebase to Haxe. Doug will also discuss the cost/benefits of making the move, lessons learned, and future cross-platform strategy. This session took place at Casual Connect USA 2017 in Seattle. See the full session below.
In the beginning it wasn’t too difficult to make a profitable business making games on app stores. In recent years, however, app stores have become flooded with games. The market now demands that game designers fine tune their design skills to a high level. At Casual Connect Asia 2017, Color Switch LLC Game Designer David Reichelt discussed what it takes to make it in this industry as a game designer and what every designer should focus on in order to make games that stand out in the market. “Work on being an inspired person because what you produce will be inspired and people cannot copy or clone your inspiration.”
As a developer, you constantly notice the changing dynamics of the app stores. How will the changes affect business models? How will they affect you?
At Casual Connect Asia Tarush Agarwal, Business Director at Toca Boca, gave insights into how you can successfully navigate this constantly evolving ecosystem. Tarush is responsible for managing and growing Toca Boca’s digital presence and revenue with global strategic partnerships. Before joining Toca Boca Tarush worked for the Walt Disney Company in LA and New York.
Using Toca Boca’s method for creating high quality apps for children as an example, Tarush demonstrated how leveraging partners and diversified business models can reach new customers globally. He described the best practices for developers to find creative solutions that will add customer value. To learn more about this important topic, be sure to watch the video of Tarush’s session at Casual Connect.
They call themselves The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, and they’re four guys based out of Seattle. “I started the company years ago, during the development of my previous game, The Bridge, says the company’s founder Ty Taylor. “I met the artist of The Bridge, Mario Castaneda, in university, and we’ve been working together since (he made the art for Tumblestone as well). For Tumblestone, I brought on two engineers, Alex and Justin, who I met while working at Microsoft”. Working on the current projects, the team doesn’t abandon their previous creations: The Bridge is getting released for Nintendo Switch, while Tumblestone is becoming a competitive game.
In order to compete in this overly saturated and ultra-competitive mobile gaming landscape, having a compelling brand along with good creative ideas is key. This emotional connection is needed for both user acquisition and user retention. Justin Booth-Clibborn, Head of Business Development at Psyop explained during his session at Casual Connect Europe that simply showing fun gameplay only goes so far. He stressed that “connecting people through storytelling emotionally with your own tone of voice and personality” is extremely important in building and sustaining your brand.
As the fastest growing social casino company, Huuuge Games is innovating through relentless focus on a real-time social multiplayer platform. At Casual Connect Asia, Wibe Wagemans spoke about how Huuuge Games has already achieved category leading monetization (ARPDAU) and has seen success with TV and digital ad campaigns and how Huuuge Games is going after new market segments and demographics. He reflected, “The funny thing is there are a lot of players in social casino who play slots solely alone. What we’ve discovered is if we put them in the same room room with other players, you can drive the ARPDAU for even 50-year-old players.” Keeping on top of updates is crucial to user retention. He explained, “I cannot emphasize enough how important speed is for a startup. We have cycles where we do updates every two weeks – which allows us to innovate way faster than anyone else in the industry.”
Marc Hale is the Head of APAC at Liftoff where he oversees partnerships with mobile app advertisers and agencies across the region.
“We offer CPA-optimized mobile app install and retargeting campaigns to performance marketers looking to acquire and re-engage high-value users for their mobile apps,” said Marc. “Mobile ad tech is a dynamic and rapidly changing industry, and over the last 10 years I’ve been fortunate to have worked at some key players at the forefront of those changes. With its data-driven approach to user acquisition and retargeting campaigns, Liftoff particularly interested me.”
A hero named Black, an ice-cold mercenary and hired gun, wakes up to discover he has lost memory. Under the guidance of his anonymous captor, ‘Red’, Black embarks on a form of treatment, facilitated by a unique technology – a headset that allows the user to relive their memories and experience them again in the present. This is how the creators describe the Get Even game, that will be out on June 23rd. As the sound in the game is tied to gameplay, and makes a great part of it, in charge of the soundtrack was Olivier Deriviere, known for music for Assassin’s Creed IV: Freedom Cry, and Remember Me. The Farm51 team of Get Even’s devs went even further to create an immersive experience, and used the Auro-3D plugin of the Audiokinetic WWise engine. This audio format delivers a full three-dimensional sound spread capable of reproducing natural acoustic space. Their director of Creative Entertainment Division of game Iwan De Kuijper explained more on the technology, while the producer for Get Even Lionel Lovisa shared more details on the game’s production, and Olivier Deriviere told more about his vision of Get Even soundtrack.