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