The Story of Real Welders and the Sky Haven Kickstarter

The Story of Real Welders and the Sky Haven Kickstarter

The Story of Real Welders and the Sky Haven Kickstarter

Kickstarter Story

Evgeniy Gatsalov

Evgeniy Gatsalov

Lead Designer

Sky Haven

An airport tycoon game

🇱🇹 Vilnius, Lithuania

📅 Founded 2017

💵 Monthly Revenue = NA 

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Who are you and what game did you create?

We are Real Welders – a small studio located in Vilnius. Our office employs 5 people: three programmers, an artist and a game designer. And one more 3D artist who works remotely.

We are working on Sky Haven – an airport tycoon game where the player begins to control and build/manage an airport in 1910. And with the course of the game and progress, it all evolves and grass airstrips are ultimately turned into modern international hubs.

This is the most difficult project our team has ever worked on. To control the process, we adhere to the Agile Scrum methodology in terms of daily workflow. As it often happens, our Scrum implementation is very different from the one described in the books. But we do not miss daily standups and sprint planning. After that it’s just a matter of spending the whole day together with everyone trying to get their tasks done and often going over different aspects of the game trying to come to common decisions. Sometimes it gets heated of course when opinions clash which can be a time waster, but it’s probably an unavoidable aspect of game development.

Walk us through the process of creating Sky Haven.

We have been working on Sky Haven for 2.5 years. None of us had worked on a project for so long. We have all been in the industry for a long time, but before that we were all mainly engaged in mobile games. Although there is one bearded nerd in the team who worked on VR at EA.

The idea came almost impulsively – we didn’t even spend too much time thinking about the kind of game we wanted to make – just during the last game we were making someone suggested it and we just knew that that would be the next thing we would make, but then it’s just been a challenge after challenge in every aspect from game design to visuals, etc. To this day we constantly hit roadblocks that we need to figure out how to overcome, but we feel that it’s heavily due to the nature of this type of game genre where a single change affects most of everything else in the game so we always keep having to fix everything.

What are some of the most effective ways that you attract people to your game?

Sky Haven is a pretty niche game. During the development, we have created a small but very cool community. During all this time we have been sharing development news on Twitter and on discord. By the way, the discord server was launched and is managed not by us, but by the community.

Now we have started a kickstarter campaign to gather everyone who is interested in the game and to involve them more in the development process. We plan to distribute builds among backers, receive feedback, share plans with them and together choose which features to implement in the first place.

What are your sources of inspiration?

All of us have our own different sources of inspiration, but as a team we can all agree on inspirational people like Jonathan blow whose insight into the gaming world is just fascinating and deeply inspiring, Sid Meier whose types of games are a big inspirational part to the game we’re currently making as well as many other similar games from other people like Cities Skylines, Sims, Factorio, etc.

We also like to keep in touch with the gaming world by listening to Youtube channels like: Get indie gaming, GDC / GDC Vault, The Quartering, Sebastian Lague etc.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far creating Sky Haven?

As for many teams – the main challenge for us always remains the underestimation of deadlines. We are working on it, trying to be flexible to minimize fails. Nevertheless, the development of some features gets out of control and takes much longer.

It’s difficult to deal with it, because when you love what you do and want to do it as well as possible, it’s very difficult to deal with time constraints. We constantly try to fight with this, discussing features, we decide together what we plan to finish, and what we will postpone, etc.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or game creators?

Make a prototype that is fun to play. It sounds banal, everyone knows it, but very often it is neglected. Making a good game is much easier if you have a good prototype. Moreover, finding a good publisher and even getting financing is easier if you have a good prototype.

Do not be afraid to spend time on a raw ugly looking prototype. Game development takes a huge amount of time. You will definitely redo the game more than once. But if you have a good prototype – if you have a good foundation, then you might be able to remake the game significantly less times and hit the bullseye much faster. Perhaps, to make these decisions, experience and development pain are needed. We have already accumulated enough of that, so next time we will invest much more time in a prototype before moving forward.

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

Our immediate goal is a successful kickstarter. Then we release an alpha version with gameplay that covers the 1910-1940 period. Next, we plan to regularly release updates according to our roadmap. And as a result, by August 2020 we are planning an Early Access release.

Each new time period in the game will include new mechanics, new features. By releasing these periods gradually, receiving feedback from our backers, we can improve stability and gameplay and make the game that will appeal to us and the community.

On an additional note – in less than a week we have collected more than 40% of our kickstarter goal and received warm support from the players. This is very inspiring and gives strength to work on the game.

ROADMAP https://bit.ly/2Xd51IX

Where can we learn more?

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The story of Jandê Saavedra Farias and the team developing Sky Racket

The story of Jandê Saavedra Farias and the team developing Sky Racket

The story of Jandê Saavedra Farias and the team developing Sky Racket

Startup Story

Jandê Saavedra Farias

Jandê Saavedra Farias

Art Director

Sky Racket

A colorful and zany space tennis adventure, Sky Racket is the world’s first Shmup Breaker.

🇧🇷 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

📅 Founded 2013

🏆 4 Founders

💵 Monthly Revenue = NA 

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Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Jandê Saavedra Farias, and I am a Graphics Design bachelor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. I worked as an Art Director on Sky Racket, an arcade-inspired game that mixes the action from Shoot ‘em ups with the fun of Block Breakers, as if Gradius and Arkanoid had a colorful, crazy, fun, nonsensical, cartoonish baby. We’re calling it a Shmup Breaker. Sky Racket was heavily inspired by the games we played as kids, from Sega, Nintendo and Arcades, and cartoons, old and new.

Double Dash Studios was founded as a four people ensemble. Kim Kaznowski as our Programmer, Lucas Thiers as our Game Designer and me and Luiza Shimura as Artists. As our scopes and projects grew we added more people, with different skills and background. Double Dash now has 10 people plus a few frequent collaborators. As the team started to expand so did our responsibilities and ways to tackle everyday tasks. Nowadays, the first thing I do when arriving into office is writing my “Daily”, which is basically listing everything I did the day before, what went right and what went wrong, then making a to-do list for the day. We then share each other’s dailies and complete whatever new tasks came up from this conversation. From there on, I start doing my tasks, checking possible emails, talking about main and future projects and doing whatever comes up that might need my input. Nowadays, after we released Sky Racket, it’s a bit rare for me be that much hands on creating art directly, I’m mainly giving feedback to the other artists, looking for references and, well, doing my job as an Art Director. But from time to time something always comes up that allows me to draw or design something.

We’ve been working since 2015 on personal projects, commissioned games and some other more specific art and programming jobs. We’ve worked with some different brands, from international brands like Cartoon Network to more regional companies from Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. We’ve worked with a lot of different genres throughout the years. Counting comissioned, work, gamejams, personal projects, we’ve touched on adventure games, puzzles, puzzle-platformers, run-and-gun platformers, casual mobile, shoot ‘em up, shmup breaker (as we call Sky Racket), runners, arcade-style maze chasers, you name it. It doesn’t matter what we do, we always try to imprint the Double Dash style into the games: maybe through the mechanics, or the art, or even the humor. We really like exploring well established mechanics and applying a new twist to it – that’s how we got to Sky Racket, for example. I think it’s important for the player, or the possible client, to feel the quality and notice our games are thoroughly planned and made with a lot of care.

Walk us through the process of creating Sky Racket.

Sky Racket took approximately 2,5 years of development. It’s a bit hard to be precise because the first prototype for the game was made during a gamejam in 2015. We did this 72-hour gamejam called Indies vs Gamers, at the GameJolt website. We created a very well-polished infinite version of Sky Racket (named RacketBoy, back then): it was basically a rough version of the first level in a 4:3 aspect (to reference the Arcade theme of the gamejam) with infinite waves of enemies coming at you. That prototype actually got first place in the gamejam, which got our game to be played by a lot of youtubers during that time, including the three sponsors of the gamejam: Pewdiepie, Markiplier and Jackscepticeye, and that’s when we thought we had a possible winner in our hands. For the next few months we worked on it, trying to do some new content, testing mobile porting, we even tried doing a (unsuccessful) crowdfunding campaign. But inevitably we had to work on something else to make money, so we set it aside for a while and started to make the company grow. We never stopped taking the game to events or even mentioning it in our social media, because we knew we’d go back to it one day. A couple of years later, in 2017, we had the opportunity to apply for a government grant from the Brazilian Film Agency (ANCINE). It was the first grant of its kind, and no one knew quite what to expect. We sent the project and after a few different judging phases, we won! We had to wait until 2018 to receive the money and that’s when the newly-named Sky Racket (because we added RacketGirl to the game) went into full production.

As I said before, we had quite a few experiences creating games. During game jams, for clients, working for other gamedev companies as individuals, but Sky Racket was our first experience creating a big game, something that took more than a year to complete. We had to learn a lot more about team managing, time managing, cutting the fat, prioritizing, and a lot of other things that you really only get to know through experience, and might just make or break any project.

How did you launch?

We launched Sky Racket in October 22. It seemed like a date far from other big games, and it was a Tuesday, when pizzas are a bit cheaper. 

Well, we had to learn how to market our game, and that means starting a whole new relationship with the press. We did try to reach out to a lot of youtubers, websites and other different regular channels, but I believe what gave us a lot of return were the Steam Curators. A lot of them are also small to medium sized youtubers and journalists, so as we looked into getting good reviews by curators, we also ended up getting quite a few videos and articles. We are a little bit known in Brazil, so we could reach out to some gaming media here, which helps a lot. We did build our own website. We have a website dedicated for Sky Racket (www.skyracket.com) and one for the company (www.doubledashstudios.com).

What are some of the most effective ways that you attract people to your game?

We’ve been talking to a lot of streamers on Twitch as well, inviting them to play the game and encouraging them to recommend the game to other streamers which has been working really well, especially with brazilian streamers. We are also usually have a very good presence in events here in Brazil: Sky Racket was often invited to shows and even nominated for a few awards. We are also slowly building a community through Discord (which has steadily increased in membership and participation since we released the game) and our social media pages under the name @DoubleDashStu.

We tried doing a crowdfunding campaign back in 2015, trying to ride the youtuber attention we got from winning the game jam, but we couldn’t reach the goal. We were very inexperienced back then, and those things take time to be done right.

What are your sources of inspiration?

We are a very diverse group, so we take inspiration from a lot of different things: games, movies, cartoons, books, comics, music… I think it’s pretty obvious, as a lot of people pointed out, how our game takes inspiration from 60s anime (RacketBoy’s Astro Boy-esque hair, for example) as well as more recent cartoons such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe. Personally, I grew up playing Sega games in the 80s and 90s with the Sega Master System and Mega Drive, that’s something that had a very strong influence when trying to emulate that era. Fantasy Zone, for example, with its colorful pastel visuals and cute enemies was a big reference when first designing the crazy world of Sky Racket. The parallax effects of some early Mega Drive games like Sonic and Arrow Flash also always amazed me and was one of the first things I wanted to do when creating the backgrounds.

Double Dash Studios is also a founding member of RING, the Indie Game Developers Group in Rio de Janeiro. We’ve met a LOT of great devs throughout the last few years, exchanging experience, knowledge, opportunities, success and failure stories. This kind of unity between devs is fairly new here in Rio, and has been doing great things for the scene here. We try doing monthly events, sometimes even bringing people from the outside for lectures, or reaching out to the public to playtest our games and get to know a bit more about game developing.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far creating SkyRacket?

Well, everything non game-related, I believe. Learning how to deal with contracts, managing people, looking for office space, dealing with clients (good and bad), dealing with money, payments, salaries, banks, creating a company, talking to lawyers and accountants, maneuvering around bureaucracy… I think a lot of indie devs never take these things into account when thinking about creating a videogame company, but, well, it IS a company. We were lucky to know a few people that already had walked that path before, so we had someone to ask for guidance, but still, it’s kind of scary to have all these responsibilities suddenly falling on our shoulders.

Now, being a company, we need to survive financially, and every new day, week, month, year is filled with little decisions that might impact not only on our future, but also on people that work with us. We learned that being transparent can be a very good thing. We try to be very open with everyone, always explaining the risks and situations we are getting into so no one is surprised by sudden changes or if something hits us. It also helps a lot when thinking about solutions for possible problems that might come.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or game creators?

Well, I believe first of all, you have to make games. People often ask “how do I begin to make games?” and I always answer “Look for a game jam”. Some devs like working alone, having their finger in every single aspect of the game, and that’s great, but some (like me) prefer working on a few aspects of the game and having other people do other things. Game jams are a great way to begin because you can create on your own, you can create with a group of friends, you can create with complete strangers, but you have to create. Having a finite amount of very focused time is a great way to gather experience in a lot of things: brainstorming, prototyping, creating art, programming, music, learning to prioritize, learning to let things go. It’s not by accident that so many great indie games are a product of game jams (such as Super Hot, Goat Simulator, Gods Will Be Watching and, well, Sky Racket!). It’s a great way to let creativity flow and do something crazy and experimental, and learn new stuff. There are a lot of companies that do their own internal game jams in order to dish out new ideas, experiment, and a lot of gold can come out of that.

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

Right now we are on the post-launch phase of Sky Racket. We’ve been doing a lot of marketing efforts, talking to people, streamers, youtubers, doing interviews (like this one!) and trying to get the game in as many hands as possible. All of that while still doing some commissioned work. Our monthly revenue is very unstable since we still don’t have any kind of regular income. Sky Racket is our first commercial release and we hope that might turn into a nice source of income in the next few months, especially after we port and launch it on consoles next year. The majority of our sales are still from Brazil, but we’re trying to branch out. We’ve got some attention from the US, Russia and Japan, and because of that we made efforts to localize the game for those regions, but we still need to really reach that public.

We’re on the talks now about our next game. We have a lot of projects in the drawer, some more developed than others, that we would love to do. It’s all a matter of finding out which one makes more sense for us right now. Even though Sky Racket is and will be our main game for a while, we want to try something different, new mechanics, new genres (our projects vary from puzzle games to metroidvanias and other more experimental ideas) and a whole new universe of characters.

Where can we learn more?

We are on nearly every major social network, and we are very approachable! We love giving and receiving feedback, talking about games and anything else. We are always present in our Discord server as well to whoever wants to talk to us.

Sky Racket: https://store.steampowered.com/app/994500/Sky_Racket/

Discord: https://discord.gg/doubledashstu

Instagram: @DoubleDashStu

Twitter: @DoubleDashStu

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DoubleDashSTU/

Website: www.doubledashstudios.com

www.skyracket.com

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The Story behind the Survival Horror game Reading in the Dark

The Story behind the Survival Horror game Reading in the Dark

The Story behind the Survival Horror game Reading in the Dark

Find it on Steam

Leonardo Delafiori

Leonardo Delafiori

Founder

Reading in the Dark / Aspects of Change

Story-driven Survival Horror with unique visuals

🇧🇷 Based in São Paulo, Brazil

📅 Founded February 2019

🏆 1 Founders

💵 Monthly Revenue = NA

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Who are you and what game did you create?

My name is Leonardo Delafiori and I am a college student from Brazil. I have lived around video games ever since I can remember and my dream was always to create and work in the industry. Now I finally released a commercial product on steam and started development on a much bigger project.

At the start of this year, I started working on a strategy casual game called Aspects of change after my teacher asked my class to create a game based on the word “Horoscope”. This game helped me understand the basics of the Unreal engine, as well as 3D modeling. Now I am feeling comfortable on solo developing my dream game,  a survival horror game with a heavy focus on item management called “Reading in the Dark”.

In my day to day workflow, I generally spend way too much time developing and planning what i’m going to do. Now with the addition of my youtube channel that I just created, I seek to not only build hype around my game, but to also build a community of people to talk about game design and study what the great games of our generation did right.

Walk us through the process of creating the game.

When I first started developing Aspects of Change, i had no idea how the Unreal engine or 3D modeling worked, but I had some experience with Unity and Godot. I ended up studying Unreal as i went, learning more and more how to create the game mechanics. Blender was hard to learn at the beginning but now I’m feeling very comfortable with both of the platforms, thanks to the development of Aspects of Change.

A really valuable thing that I learned is that organization is key to having a big project. Now, with Reading in the Dark, i have a big and growing game design document that details all of the features. Also, i have google sheets for: Chronogram on activities that i will do in the month, budget spent and control, sound design checklist and 3D model creation checklist. Trello is also a must have for day to day work.

Where did you get the word out about your new game?

Aspects of Change was launched around September, on Steam. The launch process was a bit overwhelming, with contracts and a lot of bureaucracy, but it was definitely worth it.  At the time, I had nowhere to promote my game to a larger audience, so I sent it to friends and family. The launch was surprisingly smooth. I had about 12 friends play it and none of them reported any glitches or crashes.

What are some of the most effective ways that you attract people to your game?

For Aspects of change, I’d say that the game has a different concept and is put together well. You can experience a fun strategy game for about 2 dollars.

With Reading in the Dark, I hope to bring a bone chilling experience with unique visuals and story. Gameplay-wise,  the game takes inspiration from a lot of the big horror games of our generation with my spin on it.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Currently, my main sources of inspiration are horror games like Amnesia: the dark descent, Outlast, Resident Evil and Silent Hill. These games were incredible horror experiences that I lived through growing up, and I am doing my best to dissect what made these games great and bring that essence over to Reading in the Dark. The level design and item management from Resident evil, the storytelling from Outlast, the fluid gameplay and good pacing from Amnesia and the terrifying creatures from Silent Hill.

Movies also help me out in terms of pacing and storytelling. Films like Jeepers creepers and Sinister. They help me to build the world and characters in a more convincing and creepy way, adding a lot to the experience of the final user. 

When it comes down to producing and enduring anxiety and fear of being bombarded with dislikes, my dad is my biggest inspiration. He is a man of focus, commitment and sheer will, like John Wick. He helps me keep going after the euphoria is gone.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or game creators?

This might be the most important tip that I learned. 

Never stop being organized, this can save a big project from failing. Keep track of chronograms, deadlines and checklists. Never hesitate to spend extra time in the planning phases.

Another important one is that you must find ways to keep yourself excited for your project. Since we only get paid after investing hours of hard work, we can easily lose ourselves and give up on projects that could take years. Being excited about a project when you just started it is easy, but after a while it starts to get increasingly hard. That is why you need to know yourself and what you can do to not lose this grip.

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

Things are looking very bright. Right now I am working hard on developing Reading in the Dark, managing my Youtube channel and studying sculpting in Zbrush. In the future I am planning on creating more character models using my new found knowledge of sculpting, combined with the knowledge I have from rigging and animation in blender.

Where can we learn more?

You can find me on my Youtube channel: Krimson Koala, here’s a link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY9q7Cr9g9hcdrWLLrVFQ0A?

There, I show what I am working on for Reading in the Dark, as well as discuss game development and study good game design from the big successes of the industry.

Also, here is a link for the Aspects of Change steam store page:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1136470/Aspects_of_change/

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The Story of No Ewe Productions

The Story of No Ewe Productions

The Story of No Ewe Productions

Find it on GameJolt

Isle of Ewe

You play as a Shepherd whose mischievous flock has wandered too far into the dangerous world that surrounds your family’s farm. You must venture out and bring them back home safely. You recover your flock by stacking them on top of your head and can use them as tools to solve puzzles, defeat giant golems and traverse the beautiful game world.

No Ewe Productions

🇦🇺 Based in Brisbane, Australia

📅 Founded February 25th, First day of semester 1 at university

🏆 7  Founders

💵 Monthly Revenue = Our game is not currently monetized, however there may be plans for commercialisation in the future.

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Who are you and what game did you create?

No Ewe Productions consists of 7 people, Harry, Miles, Samuel, Helayna, Zac, Will and Shell. We are all third year students studying Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments. We all specialize in different disciplines such as design, programming art and animation. Our team consists of 3 artists, 2 programmers and 2 game designers. We have just released our first game, Isle of Ewe.

We have a very open workflow. All assets, bugs and QA were tracked using a Google spreadsheet that was viewable and tracked by everyone in the team. We have a Google drive that contains our work for the project, organised into folders. Anyone in the group is able to add and edit any documents within the drive. All communication is done through Discord. Our Discord chat is categories into different channels for each different topic (i.e. we have a separate channel for organisation, game design, programming, models and art). 

On average, we spent about 12 hours a week into making this game. There are no other employees working for us. This is our first game as a team. There are no future plans for us in terms of projects yet.

Walk us through the process of creating the game.

The entire production timeline for this game was 8 months through the 2 semesters of university. The design phase of this game was rather extensive, which took approximately the majority of the first semester (3 months). As a group, we stumbled across very different ideas. Isle of Ewe was originally going to be an open-world adventure game, where players control the four elements (earth, wind, fire, air) instead of using sheep. Because the main character has always been a Shepherd, we changed the abilities to fit into this context. 

The entire second semester was focused solely on production, playtesting and QA of the game. Towards the end of the semester, the development process picked up during the production phase. This is the phase where a lot of changes have occurred in the game. This was due to fixes being made to the game after playtesting and QA. We found that players often did not do the things we intended them to do, thus, a lot of changes had to be implemented to deliver the gameplay experience we wanted the audience to receive. 

All members of the team has experience in creating various different types of games. We chose Unity as our game engine, which was the software that was familiar to everyone.

How did you launch?

Where we got the word out about our new game: we tried our best to make an impression on the internet across various different websites and game forums. We emailed game journalists and reviewers. We built our own website, which is a hub for all the information and artworks about the game. We also have an official YouTube channel, which we have used to upload various game trailers at different development stages.

We launched our game on October 23rd on Gamejolt, IndieDB and Itch.io. First we started off by emailing a large number of various game journalists, reviewers and publishers with our press kit. After our release, we tried to post about it across various different indie gaming forums as much as we could. We are on various social media platforms (primarily Twitter and Facebook). We have also been updating our official YouTube channel with various versions of the trailers at different development stages.

Our website is built using WordPress, which was created by our animator and is monitored by everyone in the group.

What are some of the most effective ways that you attract people to your game?

We believe having a strong presence on social media is important for promoting indie games like ours. Posting to various forums such as r/indie gaming, Unity forums (a forum of the game engine that you used to build your game). We released our game on three different platforms to reach a wide range of audiences. We do not have a crowdfunding campaign at the moment. We also have a website of the game and a social media account (Facebook and Twitter) that we use to post constant updates about our progress and artwork etc.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Originally when the game was very early in concepting we had compared the open world of exploring to Journey. But overtime we started to think of the gameplay more towards LoZ Breath of the Wild, as it was an easy point of reference when we were discussing ideas as a team. We wanted to achieve a similar sense of adventure with hints of puzzling elements and various challenges. In addition, the animator took a ton of inspirations from the game A Hat in Time. Using that game to inspire the animations, characters, environment and overall feel.

As we are all individual creators, we take inspiration very personally, allowing each of us to help add a special flavour of content towards Isle of Ewe. (Personally I follow hundreds of Animators on Twitter and LinkIn and use their work to inspire me -Samuel) We love keeping up to date with other indie games that are introduced on the Playstation channel, on various forums r/indie gaming and Gamejolt, itch.io etc.

What’s been the biggest business challenge you’ve overcome?

We are very fortunate to have most of our costs were covered by our university, giving us access to special tools such as Maya. Although we have still personally funded parts of this project for example, paying for music licencing, assets that we couldn’t make ourselves (the waterfalls) and marketing assets (such as banners for our showcase). Although since we are working with the student version of Maya it does leave us troubles for monetization, as we do not have proper licensing over the models/animations we produce. Our aim is to release the game on Steam, we are currently discussing about enquiring for funding from the university foundry to support the Maya licensing fees.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or game creators?

Don’t be shy to reference work, ask questions and take inspiration. 

Communication is a key role for a group of 7, as people need to have clear roles/tasks. Without this people will start to lose interest and slow down.

Aim for the moon, if you have a good concept, take that idea, and try your hardest to make it the best thing possible. This is something our group followed throughout production and would say it benefited us greatly.

Don’t be sad when things don’t make it into the final product, especially with a deadline. You can only work on the game for so long, so try your best to wrap up features, mechanics and ideas, otherwise you’ll be disappointing yourself.

You need the ability to keep working on your original concept, there may be flaws and issues you don’t see at first, get friends, family or professionals to give their opinions!

Our original ideas was horrible, but at the time we thought it was fine until we got outside opinions and we had to change our concepts fast.

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

As of right now our short term plans are to continue to patch and fix remaining issues with the game, that players have discovered and noted in comments. Once this is done we aim on releasing Isle of Ewe on Steam.

Beyond that our plans are to split up and work elsewhere. This game was a great opportunity for us to practice our skills and give us some strong portfolio pieces, so we’ll be taking that into the industry.

Where can we learn more?

https://noeweproductions.wordpress.com/ 

https://noeweproductions.wordpress.com/meet-the-team/ 

Here you can find all our personal contact details and any further information relating to our game. Since we are splitting up after this many of us will be looking for jobs over the summer holiday, while others will be continuing their studies at university. We plan on using this project to find jobs in the industry and using our knowledge and skills gained from Isle of Ewe to make an impact in the digital world.

 

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The Story of Oliver Joyce and Swords and Sandals Spartacus

The Story of Oliver Joyce and Swords and Sandals Spartacus

The Story of Oliver Joyce and Swords and Sandals Spartacus

Find it on Steam

Oliver Joyce

Oliver Joyce

Founder

Swords and Sandals Spartacus

A 1980s inspired combat platformer

🇦🇺 Based in Sydney, Australia

📅 Founded 2013

🏆 1 Founders

💵 Monthly Revenue = NA

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Who are you and what game did you create?

I’m Oliver Joyce. I run my own (solo) games business, Whiskeybarrel Studios and have been working professionally as a game dev for about sixteen years now.

I’m best known as the creator of the indie gladiator game series Swords and Sandals, which to date comprises of 5 core games and 5 spinoffs and remakes.

The latest, Swords and Sandals Spartacus is an action game that tells the story of the legendary slave rebellion led by the famous gladiator of the same name. 

Spartacus hasn’t launched yet but I’m aiming to get it up on Steam around Christmas this year.

Swords and Sandals Spartacus

What does a typical day look like for you at work?

Honestly, a typical day is a blur. I work from home on the games which I find a true joy, I love the ambience and quiet. I drop my son off at daycare at 8am, race home and then churn out code until 4pm. There are never enough hours in the day. Once my son goes to bed, my wife and I will have dinner and spend some time together, then from maybe 9pm until 11pm I work some more on the game – not every night of course, that’s how burnout happens! Most weekends I don’t touch the game, it’s important to recharge.

Like many solo game devs, I tend to work on many things at once. An hour of level design, tweak a few sprites, hunt down a few bugs etc.  I tend to plan out my day while in the shower, the aspects of the game I want to tackle.

Do you have any partners or employees?

I work with a business partner in New York, eGames. They handle the marketing / customer service side of the projects and also hold the rights to the Swords and Sandals IP.

What type of games do you make?

In my career I’ve made hundreds of smaller games of all genres but the Swords and Sandals series is primarily a role playing game series. I’ve heard from many people RPGs are amongst the most complicated games to make but I feel like I know the genre so well they are much easier than, say, a physics puzzler.

Walk us through the process of creating the game.

Most of the games I make take around a year to build. I’m finding that despite the further along in my career I get and the more I hone my craft, this time frame doesn’t shift too much – I can just pack more content and polish into that year.

I’ve been building games since I was maybe 8 or 9. Way back in the 1980s I was given my dad’s old PC ( no hard disk, just floppy drives!) and I started coding up Choose Your Own Adventure style text adventures, learning to code from a book on BASIC. These were magical days, you’d type out each line one by one, then hope it worked. Eventually you’d get the confidence to edit the original game and make it your own. From that early age I was hooked and made little games all through my teenage years.

I’ve been working professionally making games for about 16 years – mainly smaller Flash games and mobile games, some client work and so on. About 6 years ago I set out on my own, founding Whiskeybarrel Studios in order to make more significant games. All up, I think I’ve made over a hundred games of varying sizes and scopes.

Swords and Sandals 2 Redux.

Where did you get the word out about your new game?

Primarily social media. Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Discord are all useful to varying degrees. The other Swords and Sandals games will promote the game on their main menu when Spartacus goes live.

Interestingly, the major boost for previous games has come through YouTubers doing ‘lets play’ videos. The games have a large presence particularly in Eastern Europe and with each of these videos the games sell more and word of mouth spreads – particularly more than any particular promotion I could do myself just because of the huge subscriber base of these YouTubers.

What are some of the most effective ways that you attract people to your game?

Personally, I am not that well known. I have a few thousand followers on Twitter and about 5k Facebook fans for Whiskeybarrel Studios, but the Swords and Sandals brand itself is a lot more popular.

I’ve never done crowdfunding, though it’s something I am considering for the next game in the series, Swords and Sandals VI , a game I think will be the biggest and most ambitious project I’ve done so far.

My business partner at eGames runs weekly ad campaigns for the game through Twitter, AdWords, Facebook, Reddit. They have proven to be fairly effective in translating to consistent sales for the game.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Richard Garriott (creator of Ultima)’s book Explore / Create , Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design and Scott Rogers’ Level Up! , three books that I constantly find myself reading and re-reading for inspiration and advice. Reddit’s gameDev subreddit is also another hugely useful source of ideas and knowhow.

Primarily I follow and engage with other game devs via Twitter, but Gamasutra is also a great resource for game developers. I am a member of IGDA Sydney and follow a few YouTube channels but more just to keep an eye on industry trends than for any real inspiration.

I think the greatest thing about the wealth of information out there is that no matter where you are in your game dev career, chances are someone else has been in a similar situation and has documented it. You can learn so much from others successes ( and failures ) just through following other game developers and their journeys.

My wife has been a constant source of support and inspiration over these years, encouraging me to keep working on the games even when I felt a bit hopeless about it all. I have a few close friends who are also game developers, Silas Rowe of Smashtastic Cricket fame and John Stejskal, developer of Blood and Mead. I talk to them on a regular basis about their projects and their lives.

What’s been the biggest business challenge you’ve overcome?

For me it was starting out on my own after working for the one games company for nearly a decade. I didn’t have the rights to Swords and Sandals, nobody really knew who I was, so I really had to work hard to make a name for myself.

I had to hustle for a few years with freelance jobs, building up a new social media presence, releasing new games of varying sizes, letting the world know that I was the creator of Swords and Sandals etc. I was fortunate that the old company ended up selling the rights to S&S to eGames, and I was able to do a deal with them to revitalise the series once again.

The biggest lesson of my career. Never give up your IP. Not for any reason, unless it’s Disney offering you a billion dollars (and even then!) . When I was a young and naive developer I sat back and did nothing when the company I worked for at the time decided to trademark the games and game world I’d created.

The major issue was I’d come up with these games long before I even started there, and when Ieft, I had no rights to the Swords and Sandals name, or anything I’d created – even though these were games and concepts, characters and places I’d been working on since I was a kid. A similar thing happened to Richard Garriott with Origin and EA, (on a much bigger scale – eg he can’t ever make any new games called Ultima, for example.) 

I vowed never to make the same mistake again. It’s all worked out fairly well now with a business partner who is excited about the series, but I will never again allow any new IP to get out of my hands.

As the old saying goes, the key is to learn from your mistakes - make new ones, sure but don’t keep making the old ones.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or game creators?

As I mentioned above, never give up your IP. Number one rule. Some other advice I might give off the top of my head would be to don’t follow the trends. If there’s a game that’s taking the world by storm, don’t instantly think “I should make my own version of that” because that’s what a thousand other devs are thinking at that exact same moment! Look for niche and untapped markets where possible.

The other (well trodden) bit of advice is to start small, make simple game loops but add an interesting meta game around your game. If you have a little endless runner, add upgrades and unlockables between each play, earned by collecting coins or whatever etc. It’s the meta game that keeps people returning!

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but I feel like the main thing I’d do differently in my career would be to go out on my own a lot earlier – it took me until my mid thirties to find the courage to go full indie.

I’ve never looked back, never been happier and never been in more control of my own destiny.

I will, hopefully, never work for another company again - the fruits of my labours should be my own. I guess that’s the indie dream, and I’m very close to realizing that!

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

What’s your monthly revenue? 

I can’t say exactly, but it’s enough to sustain me and my business partner – not quite enough to hire other developers or artists on a permanent basis yet but it is something I’m aiming towards. The margins are fair but not amazing yet – a lot of hours goes into games. We have a good back catalog of games that have a remarkably consistent ‘tail’ when it comes to sustained sales. I feel like if I can produce a game every year.

Where do the majority of sales come from?
Steam, by a factor of about 5 to 1. Apple and Google Play sales are consistent but never reach the heights of the big Steam sales where the games sell really well.

Are there any other metrics you can share?
The mobile games have had about 2 million downloads in total since the first one was launched in 2016. We’ve had over 50,000 downloads on Steam but the price for each game is obviously higher so it’s more lucrative.

Are you launching any other games?
As I mentioned earlier there are 10 games for sale in the Swords and Sandals series both on mobile and on PC. I’m aiming to get started on the next one, S&S VI, right after Spartacus launches. No rest in this business!

Are there any causes or charities that your business supports?
Nothing in particular – as a solo developer and private citizen I give to charities at my discretion but there’s no official tie in with a charity as a business yet. Hopefully when the business grows enough to support me full time and others, it can be something I will consider!

Where can we learn more?

Great to chat today – look for me on the links below. I am always keen to talk game dev and anything Swords and Sandals related!

Swords and Sandals Spartacus on Steam

Oliver Joyce on Twitter

Whiskeybarrel Studios on Facebook

Whiskeybarrel Studios on YouTube

https://whiskeybarrelstudios.com

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How DrunkQuest Launched a Drinking Card Game on Kickstarter

How DrunkQuest Launched a Drinking Card Game on Kickstarter

$2-3K Monthly Revenue 🔥

Funded on Kickstarter

How DrunkQuest Launched a Drinking Card Game on Kickstarter

$2-3K Monthly Revenue 🔥

Funded on Kickstarter

Jasn Painter

Jasn Painter

Founder

Loot Corps

We make awesome games.

🇺🇸 Based in Las Vegas, NV

📅 Founded in 2012

🏆 2 Founders

💵 Monthly Revenue = $2-3k

Built with WordPress

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Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Jasn Painter, I started Loot Corps in 2012 so that I could release my first game DrunkQuest! I went to school for Game Design and have been passionate about games my entire life. I got into game design pretty early in life. I used to spend summers at my grandmas working on boardgames for the two of us to play. She still keeps a scrapbook of all my old designs (none of them were good but I was learning.) I started Loot Corps fresh out of college with my then girlfriend Athena Cagle. She remains the lead artist for Loot Corps and helps define what aesthetic we create for each game. 

We both still work regular 9-5s. Athena works for a slot game company and I work for the Casinos doing UI/UX design. The dream is to have enough good games in our library that it can support both of us full time so we can focus completely on the next release. 

For me what makes Loot Corps games unique is the philosophy behind them. For DrunkQuest, at the time, there wasn’t anything like it on the market. Drinking games were more like excuses to drink then actual games. “Oh you flipped a 6 of clubs, drink 6 drinks!”. 2 years after we released I remember going to Gen Con and seeing 4-5 new drinking games. I walked around and spoke to the designers it was really neat hearing them mention DrunkQuest by name as inspiration. It made me feel like a legitimate game designer.

What inspired you to create the business?

My house was the hangout house. We used to get together every couple weeks for a boardgame night that usually revolved around drinking beer, smoking cigars and playing whatever new game I’d bought. 

After a few months of watching the night devolve because of the booze I started looking for more and more low barrier games. One’s I knew could be learned quickly but offered depth and strategy. That eventually led me to start looking for drinking games that offered the same. I was surprised to learn there were none.

That started me down the path of creating DrunkQuest. About a year later I had 3 prototypes that were being “checked out” by my friends for weekend parties and events. That’s when I knew it was ready! We launched the campaign hoping to make enough to produce a thousand copies. We hoped a couple hundred would sell during the campaign and the rest we’d take to conventions for the next couple years. I was under the impression that nerds who drink would be a niche group. But I was thankfully very wrong.

How did you launch the business?

We launched the company and the game through our first Kickstarter. A friend helped me build our website and create an email sign up so I could send out the Kickstarter link when it was live. We went into the campaign hoping to make the game and a shotglass. By the time it was all said and done we had DrunkQuest, T-Shirts, Coasters, Stickers, Shot Glasses, Coozies a Bottle Opener and even a custom Stein! It was an amazing experience and something I can still hardly believe happened.

What are some of the most effective ways that you attract your customers and keep them engaged with your business?

I do have a Social Media presence for DrunkQuest but honestly most of our customers are gained through word of mouth. Luckily for us DrunkQuest is a social game that a lot of people take to parties. It kind of acts as advertising when someone introduces it to their friends and then those friends want to bring it to share with another group.

When we get close to a new release (like Wastedlands) I tend to ramp up how social I am as well. I go out more and interact more to help get the word out. I also start posting art and card designs to our Social Media feeds. Marketing is something that has been hard to figure out. I’ve spent thousands on adds from Board Game Geek for very little return and they’re the premiere boardgaming site! On the flip side of that coin, I was featured in a Blog during my first campaign called The Drunken Moogle that it drove hundreds of new backers to the campaign. And the blog was free. I’ve tried a little bit of everything but from what I’ve found, there is no quick fix strategy that just works. It’s a combination of your products appeal and finding the market that connects with it.

Which Apps or Tools are most important to your online business?

Photoshop/Illustrator are probably tied for number 1. Unless you have a dedicated designer who can quickly get out the creative you need for all the weird banner sizes out there you’ll need to pick up some basic layout skills. For me, its almost always where I start when I’m looking to market. What is my Call To Action message? 

Facebook has become the Social Media platform of a *ahem* slightly older crowd. But it’s what I know so it’s probably my main tool I use to communicate with customers. Along with Instagram and Twitter of course.

Lastly I’d say the main DrunkQuest page is how I get new orders from retailers or people from other countries.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Everything. Other games being number 1 of course but I get ideas from everywhere. Cartoons, TV, Movies, Books,  I follow other art blogs, I watch YouTube videos to see what other people are making. I also look at different social groups and think “What kind of game best fits those interests?”

The idea for my second game Tavernin (coming 2020) came after being invited to a poker night at a friends and being frustrated by the high barrier of entry for beginners and the game itself not really being fun on its own. It’s fun to gamble, it’s fun to toss chips into a pile and its fun to outplay your friends. So I took that inspiration and turned it into my second game.

What’s been the biggest business challenge you’ve overcome?

Its gotta be a tie between Shipping and Manufacturing. The first time I ordered products from China I remember getting a call from the Port Authority in CA. They asked “Do you have your agent number and import ID?” And I was like “My what and what now?” I had no idea what they were asking and it wasn’t very googleable either. The company offered to take care of all of it for only 1800 dollars. Which at the time seemed reasonable next to the 1500 a day it was going to cost me to dry store it at the dock while I figured out how to get the credentials they needed. Going into 90 Proof Seas (DrunkQuest’s first expansion) I’d figured out how to fill out the paperwork and get the IDs they needed, to the tune of $120. A considerable amount less than I had paid the dock company just a year prior. 

Manufacturing was another big hurdle. When you order from overseas they generally assign you a customer service rep that speaks your language. The challenge is that those reps don’t speak the english we use. There are so many slang words or just words we use with pop-culture context tied to them that you don’t consider until you tell someone “cool” and they ask about temperature. During the first printing of DrunkQuest I tried to tell the manufacturer that I wanted to include 2 custom dice with the game. They said no problem and I sent over the design for them. An unwrapped dice design looks sort of like a cross, with the six sections all linked together. Well the first 1500 copies of DrunkQuest had 2 cards cut into a cross shape because they thought I was asking for Die-Cut cards. Which is a manufacturing term I am now very familiar with.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?

For me I’d say think about what you’re trying to produce and ask, does this fill an empty space or does it compete in an existing one? Knowing that can help you set the tone of your engagements with potential customers and I think really prepare you for the type of feedback you’ll be getting. 

Also don’t worry if you don’t know things. I went into making games with only a passion for gaming and gamer culture. Everything else I kind of stumbled through until I figured it out. And lessons learned first hand stick with you harder then lessons someone else tries to teach you.

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

Things are at an interesting intersection right now. We’d partnered with Ninja Division for a few years hoping they would take DrunkQuest and run with it while we worked on Tavernin. But that company grew too big too fast and lost focus resulting in DrunkQuest all but dying on the vine. Now that it’s back in my hands I really want to get it back into production and polish it until it shines. Wastedlands will hopefully allow me to do that. 

As for the future, I hope to release Tavernin next year. The game is finished and I got some really great feedback from Comic Con last year when I premiered it but DrunkQuest is my first child, I want to make sure it’s doing ok before I introduce a new sibling to the Loot Corps family.

Where can we learn more?

www.DrunkQuest.com or our Facebook Page at /DrunkQuest.

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