It is the year 2015 and some may be wondering: Where is my hoverboard? In his session entitled “Back to the Future! Gaming Startups Then and Now”, Valdimir Funtikov reflected on the fact that the future is different than we may have expected, but it is still exciting. Join him as he takes a look back at his startup days and examines what it would be like to do it all again in 2015. “If I were creating a startup today, I would still choose to produce mobile games”, Vladimir Funtikov revealed at the Casual Connect Europe 2015 conference in Amsterdam.
In his session at Casual Connect Europe 2015, Fabian Ahmadi explored the opportunities for app developers in the hardcore PC market. Fabian explained, “It’s a very fast growing market and it’s the early days for the apps in the hardcore gaming space. It would be very cool if I could raise some awareness that this market exists. It’s definitely only going to get bigger from where we are today”.
In his session at Casual Connect Europe 2015, Pavel Carpov shared Spooky House Studios‘ experience in designing and developing small games and then bringing them to the top of the AppStore’s charts. One of his favorite practices in development is when they have idea meetings. “It is a weekly meeting of all the team to share their ideas for the new games and also a way for all of the team to participate in game design. You cannot opt out of it. Those with no ideas will be punished”, explained Pavel.
“Make your game easy to play, but hard to master”, explained Mike Swanson during his session at Casual Connect Europe 2015. He shared his experiences with the audience in managing game production and designs while striving to appeal to different player types on Age of Empires Online and the upcoming Game of Thrones from Bigpoint Entertainment. Ease of entry (also known as the funnel) is intrinsic in hooking a player. He states, “Keeping this funnel really crisp coming in is key. It doesn’t matter how big the game is”.
Animoca Brands‘ CEO, Robby Yung, shared his thoughts on leveraging brands in mobile games in his session at Casual Connect Europe 2015. One of the key challenges in his job is to keep brands at the table. “We try really to maintain close personal relationships with the people,” Robby says, “so that they are aware of our schedules, pipeline, and products. The better informed they are, the less likely they will be to look around to better opportunities”.
“Free is an incredibly powerful marketing label, as we all know. Long before casual games came along, in fact long before the internet came along, marketers were using this word free and regulators were looking at how they did so”, stated Paul Gardner during his session at the Casual Connect Europe 2015.
In her session at Casual Connect Europe 2015, My N. Tran showed us how Storm8 brought Castle Story back from the dead and soaring into the iTunes’ Top 100 Grossing charts. A piece of knowledge she offered was this, “When you have a limited number of actions in your game, a compelling narrative is essential for maintaining player engagement”.
If My N. Tran could meet her childhood self and show her what she’s doing now, the two just might high-five. Why? Because Tran is doing exactly what she wanted to do as a kid — designing games.
Even back when she was younger, Tran would create her own games on paper and try to get friends to play them with her. She also played games with her cousins — which didn’t always work out for her. “They would always make me play as a healer, tank, or some sort of meat-shield while they got to be the hero,” she recalls. “Not anymore, now that I am the one designing games!”
Going for it
Getting into the game industry took a little more effort than making paper games and playing with others though. Since she graduated with a degree in Linguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Tran was intently focused on going into gaming all throughout her college life.
When My Tran would tell friends about her post-graduation plans to make a living creating games, many of them were skeptical, urging her to be more serious about her future plans. “I said ‘I (am), this is the plan, and I am going to laser focus on it,’” Tran recalls.
In the Storm
Tran has now been in the game industry for four years and has done work at Red Robot Labs and Kiwi Games. She has deeply immersed herself in start-up culture, donning many hats and learning a variety of skills. Her tireless efforts and natural talent have even earned her recognition — with free-to-play game design legend Scott Foe calling her “one of the brightest young stars” in the game industry.
Currently Tran is a game designer at Storm8, which was a bit of an unexpected surprise when she got the job. “I submitted my resume to Storm8 on a random day during the summer of 2013 and they emailed me back within a few hours. That was really cool to see, I did not expect them to respond to me at all.”
Tran continues to elaborate that the job allows her to be creative every day and gives her the opportunity of seeing her ideas come to life. She particularly enjoys being able to see how players react to new content immediately by looking at game forums. “The most rewarding part (of the job) is seeing people play your game and laughing at all the corny jokes you wrote,” she noted.
It’s clear that people love her work, as all of the games she’s worked on have made it into the Top 100 Grossing Titles in both Apple’s and Google’s App Stores, something she considers one of the highlights of her career and “definitely very cool.”
Among the most challenging aspects of her job are bringing game teams together and getting all the resources necessary to make a game. Tran is also no stranger to creative blocks either, however, she finds that by talking to other people and explaining her ideas to someone else, she can begin to figure out the problems and overcome them.
The Developer Lifestyle
In addition to her work at Storm8, Tran also runs a website she started called the24bit.com — a site dedicated to celebrating the game developer lifestyle. Tran interviews other game developers and does all the writing and photography herself.
As she looks at these developers, her job, and the game industry as a whole, she can’t help but wonder what the future holds. On the horizon, she envisions well-knownintellectual property being made into games and high quality games that could pass for a console title being played on mobile devices.
Throughout any predictions or musings though, there’s one thing she is sure of, “Mobile games are here to stay — and I am excited to see how the industry grows.”
Karel Crombecq is a huge believer that “Game design should not take place in your basement, but out there in the wild, as a social interaction between your audience, your friends and your team!” He told his audience at Casual Connect Europe 2015, “If you listen to other people, to strangers and you really listen and you accept their feedback and their critique, your game will be better for it”.
Tanja Evdokimendo Nika Entertainment COO spoke at the Casual Connect Europe 2015 conference. In her lecture, she delved into the Indie perspective. In explaining how to get into various markets, she said, “It is impossible to enjoy success in the Japanese market without very deep culturalization. What we are used to is just localization. We translate the words and so on and so forth . . . but in Japan, it is absolutely different. You need to add emotions and you need to change the type of art and emotion”. In her experience, the benefit outweighs the cost. To this, she says, “Yes, it takes time. It takes money. However, the deeper you culturalize your game for the Japanese market, the more profit you get”. A new approach to the team formation helped Nika Entertainment work effectively on projects and successfully promote games for different platforms. “We’ve created the Core Team that develops the model system for the whole heap of new products. It helps the Multiple Platform Team to cope with all the tasks on porting to different platforms and successfully fill the roadmap of the project. It teaches how to do it fast and in a proper way. As a result, we have a scalable business now. It works!”, Tanja stresses.
In Dejan Omasta’s session at Casual Connect Europe 2015, Dejan explains what you should know when starting an indie studio, including project management and client communication. He says. “We really try to give 100% of ourselves because this is basically who we are. When you are a small indie studio, you really have to use your strengths”. He further explains, “Splitting between client and indie project is key”.