Meet the Devs
Such is the case of the Copenhagen-based developers at Reign Bros, the creators of the multiplayer game Stikbold, which took its first steps during Nordic Game Jam 2013.
The team worked together to produce a weird experimental multiplayer game for 2-10 players, which ended up winning the “Most Fun” award at NGJ13. The original game was a fun, last-man-standing experience that mixed a traditional ball game with lots of crazy events, such as the arena breaking down into a platform floating on the sea with huge whales jumping out of the water and crushing unsuspecting players while trumpets fall out of the sky for the winning player to annoy the rest.
With such a success in their hands, the 5-person group formed by Jacob Herold, Anders Østergaard, Lars Bindslev, Martin Petersen and Simon Engelsted Vestergaard decided to apply for other awards and funding opportunities, beginning with CREATE, organized by OUYA and KillScreen Magazine. It won the “Best Game in Unity” award, putting them one step closer towards the realization of a game studio.
Thanks to funding programs such as Nordic Game Program and the Danish Film Institute they were able to officially start the company and work full time on Stikbold, as well as focus on some of the bigger players in games distribution like Sony and Microsoft, so their current focus is consoles and PC.
Since then, the game has been gaining a whole host of new features. Perhaps most notably since the game’s inception (besides making the multiplayer even more fun than the original NGJ prototype) is the addition of a story mode for both single player and 2 player co-op. This was born as a way to let players experience the crazy universe of Stikbold and meet the colorful characters that inhabit it.
The company believes in creating the games they find interesting to play and work on, something they are confident will give the best results rather than making the same type of game over and over and letting that become the company’s identity. There’s also a high degree of freedom in the team to work on different projects as a way to keep everyone inspired.
The biggest difficulty for them so far has been making people notice their game in order to establish the company properly, though they consider themselves fortunate for being picked for various showcases at Nordic Game Conference, IndieCade East, A Maze Berlin and more. Something that definitely helps the team gain the necessary attention to attract distribution deals.
Their advice to newcomers to the games industry and those looking to establish a games studio? “To start as small as possible and scale the project up according to budget. After all, scaling up is always easier than scaling down”, says Martin Petersen.
|Founded: 2013Location: Copenhagen
|Stikbold (Under development – PC and consoles)|
Logic Artists, a game studio based in Copenhagen, is an exemplary case of how a small group of students can get together to start something big.
Formed by a group of three students from ITU while they were working on their Master’s theses, the company that later on launched a successful Kickstarter campaign and released a game both in physical format and as a digital download started in 2011 as a way for these three students to not be unemployed upon graduation.
The CEO and Producer Ali Emek had an entrepreneur spirit in him and got together with Game Director Jonas Wæver and Technical Director Juan Ortega and made good use of an office space they had available. While original they intended to do work-for-hire, the lack of an established network and previous experience made it hard to find clients. So the next step was obvious: to create a game of their own instead.
Their first release was the mobile game Conquistador, released in 2012 for Windows Phone. But while the game got good reviews, the genre was perhaps better suited for bigger screens and for a bigger audience than the still low market-share Windows Phone platform. The core game idea was then expanded and repurposed for PC gaming. But a bigger, more beautiful game with 3D graphics means a bigger budget, and for a small up-and-coming company this can be quite an obstacle. Enter Kickstarter, which allowed the team to find the niche audience for their game that could allow them to reach their goal. The game became a heavily story-based alternative history turn-based RPG.
The mobile version of the game was adapted and expanded for PC gaming as Expeditions: Conquistador
During the development of Expeditions: Conquistador, the company grew to 7 people and, at the time of this writing, Logic Artists is now 3 years old and has 15 employees in the office, with full-time developers and a half dozen more auxiliary staff and freelancers.
Their philosophy is to make videogames for major niches – mainly the RPG communities – though their current project is an old-school stealth game titled Clandestine. While they did not set out to make mainstream games, they still need to cater to relatively large groups of players who aren’t particularly well served by the mainstream in order to keep the company functioning.
About their currently under development title, Clandestine, it’s a 90’s spy thriller stealth/hacking game. In this 2-player co-op, one player controls a field agent on missions across Europe and North America, and the other player serves as the voice-on-the-radio hacker who has the grand overview of the mission. This mechanic requires close and accurate communication between the players, but the hacker also has plenty of ways to affect the state of the levels directly. Of course the game also features a single-player experience.
Of course not everything was easy-going for Logic Artists and like every other newcomer to the game development scene, they faced a series of obstacles on the way. According to Game Director Jonas Wæver, even though “Denmark isn’t huge on the bureaucracy, you can’t avoid running into problems if it’s your first time. We had racked up quite a pile of tax fines by the time we hired a freelance book-keeper.” The important thing for them is to plan ahead for investments and having the next infusion of money lined up well in advance, and actual financial stability is still a ways off.
But as a company with a successful game in the market, Logic Artists can now claim to have quite a few good pieces of advice to give to those looking to find a job in the games industry. Jonas has the following gold nuggets to give:
Make sure you have some actual development skills. Too many people think they can just be designers and get a job having ideas and telling other people what to do, but there are maybe 10 jobs like that in all of Denmark, at most – and usually they’re taken by people with tons of experience. Most game studios in Denmark are about our size or smaller, and if you work for a company like that, you better be able to do some actual work on the game – if you can code, model, animate, or at the very least draw, you’re in a pretty good position. Otherwise you better start learning. In more general terms, getting a job is all about your network. This is much more true in creative industries than other lines of work, and the games industry is no exception. Half the people on our team were hired by a friend who’d worked with them before, usually during their education, and only one of our team members was hired through an actual job post.
You can learn more about Logic Artists and their games at Logicartists.com.
|Conquistador (2012 – Windows Phone)||Expeditions: Conquistador (2013 – Windows, Mac, Linux)|
|Clandestine (under development)|
Taking your game to Kickstarter is not easy. Today’s official stats show that more than 65% of the games-related projects never get to be successfully funded.
But then on the other hand you have A Hat in Time, a Kickstarter project that, with the promise of bringing back the gameplay and magic of the classic Nintendo 64-era titles such as Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda and Banjo-Kazooie, has managed to secure its funding in a really short amount of time.
Actually, scratch that. It hasn’t simply secured it’s funding quickly. In just 12 hours after the Kickstarter page went up the project was already 50% funded. Less than two days later the game had reached its goal of $30.000. And the counter keeps going up with over $95.000 at the time of this writing and still 23 days to go before the project is closed and the developers Gears for Breakfast get the money. And with every new donation the project gets closer to more stretch goals such as extra chapters in the game, full voice acting and even a song by music composer Grant Kirkhope of Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong fame.
And while the developer is composed of members from the UK, US and Australia, the founder and director of the project is from Aalborg, Denmark.
Jonas Kærlev is a 22-year-old software development student juggling between his 4th semester of studies and developing A Hat in Time. A year ago he decided to start working on a new project that he could put on his resumé and that fueled his determination from the very beginning, but according to him it was not until December of 2012 that he knew where he was heading with it.
Starting the project wasn’t easy either. His biggest obstacle at the beginning was “art assets, definitely!“, says Jonas, “it’s difficult to sell your idea when it’s all boxes moving around, haha!” Luckily he knew Trey Brown, who two months after the project started helped create the vision with his 3D assets, which drink from the influence of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.
One quick look at the game’s current alpha build and it’s clear where the game is drawing inspiration from. Jonas makes it very clear that he has always been a fan of Nintendo and the classic Rare games and some of his past projects, such as his Team Fortress 2 mods, try to reenact the experiences of classic games. On the Kickstarter page for his game he claims he is trying to push (but cannot promise) the game for the Wii U console. “We all wanted to have [A Hat in Time] on a Nintendo console because the genre’s root is so close to that company. But it never really evolved to more than wishful thinking until the Kickstarter campaign exploded!“, he explains.
One of the biggest hooks of the project that is helping it gain such a massive amount of fans is the promise of bringing back that Nintendo-styled magic. What did those games have that are missing in today’s AAA titles? “It’s fun to explore areas instead of just running through them“, clarifies Jonas, “and I think the N64 did contain a lot of exploration due to its limited ability to render larger scenes. There is a lot of charm to exploring an area in depth and becoming familiar with all corners of it!”
We asked him what advice he would give to other indie developers looking to take their game to Kickstarter. His reply: “If you’re going on Kickstarter, make sure to have something presentable! Have made significant progress on your game before you show it, and not until then is it time to show the world what you’re capable of!”
You can see in-game footage of the game as well as Jonas’ Kickstarter presentation below:
|GEARS FOR BREAKFAST|
Location: Aalborg / Worldwide
|A Hat in Time (Under development)|