Ukrainian games. What are they?
The introductory version of the Ukrainian game Tukoni, based on the series of picture books by Oksana Bula, will be released on Steam on November 17, 2020. the demo version of Point-and-click adventure Tukoni, developed with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, will appear on Steam on November 17. Now you can get acquainted with the game on the Android platform and on the service Itch.io.
Tukoni is a two-dimensional children’s point-and-click game based on the picture books of Lviv artist Oksana Bula, published by the Old Lion Publishing House. Now in the fictional world of Tukoni, the events of such books as: “Tukoni is a forest dweller”, “Bison looking for a nest”, “Christmas tree’s birthday” and “Bear doesn’t want to sleep”take place. The game tells about the adventures of the book hero Tukoni, a traveler who helps forest animals. You will need to explore locations to find the right items, craft and solve puzzles. Visually, the game is somewhat similar to the famous adventures of the Czech studio Amanita Design.The Tukoni project was financed by funds from the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, and the development is carried out by a team of specialists working in various Ukrainian Studios. So, the game designer of Tukoni is Alexey Furman, the author of the documentary VR project dedicated to the revolution of dignity-Aftermath VR: Euromaidan. Now Alexey is working at the Frogwares studio in Kiev on their next big game – Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One. The main developer of Tukoni was Alexey Sysoev, one of the co-founders of Tobto studio, which deals with VR projects. Oksana Bula herself is responsible for the idea part, script and drawings.The game is being developed on Unity using the adventure Creative plugin. The artist makes all her drawings in Procreate on her iPad Pro tablet. Textures are drawn live with watercolors and then scanned. On the official Tukoni YouTube channel, you can read the developer diaries.
Now you can download the demo version of Tukoni on the website Itch.io, and on Google Play. On November 17, 2020, the game will be available on the Steam page. The trial version is available in seven languages at once: Ukrainian, English, French, Spanish, German, Czech and Polish.
When the full version will be released, and how much it will cost is still unknown. Tukoni is the first game project created with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.
Our games. Maxim Zasov, Game-Labs: about working in small teams, finding hits, communicating with the community, old and new studio projects
Founded in 2013, the Kiev Game-Labs studio has three released games to its credit – Ultimate General: Gettysburg (2014), Ultimate General: Civil War (2017) and Naval Action (2019); two projects in Early Access – This Land Is My Land (2019) and Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail (2020); plus another game, Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts, should appear in Early Access during 2020. But that’s not all, now the seventh Game-Labs project is in the initial stages of development – the sea simulator Sea Legends. Impressive performance! We decided to talk with one of the founders of the studio, Maxim Zasov, about the games that have already been released and plans for the future.
Game-Labs studio has three founding fathers. Denis Khachatryan, former technical director of EA DICE, who worked on Battlefiled 3, among other things (Denis started his career in game development in the 2000s at the Kiev studios Abyss Lights, Symphony Games and Vogster Entertainment). Alexander Petrov, who came from the Videobet / Playtech software company, where he held the position of R&D Director. And Maxim Zasov, who was responsible for business development in Wargaming.net, including for the acquisition of Day 1 studios (authors of MechAssault and F. E. A. R. 3) and BigWorld (the creators of the engine on which the flagship Wargaming games work). As the founders themselves say: “Game-Labs is a professional laboratory that is looking for a working formula for finding and replicating hits. The formula that HBO and Netflix have already picked up for TV.”
The first game of the newly formed studio, the unusual wargame Ultimate General: Gettysburg, dedicated to the key battle of the Civil War of 1861-1865 in the United States, was released a year and a half after the company was founded, in October 2014. The tactical strategy was liked by journalists and the public: Metacritic-84, Steam-rating-83, rare unanimity. Since then, Game-Labs has been working on several projects at once.
The second game of the studio, Ultimate General: Civil War is a sequel to Ultimate General: Gettysburg, only dedicated not to one main battle, but to all the battles of the Civil War in the United States. The game was released in July 2017 and again collected very positive reviews from players, the Steam rating is 88. But something broke down in working with the press, the project did not even score the four reviews necessary to form a Metacritic rating, although the three reviews that were released were generally positive.
The third project, the MMO strategy / simulator of the sailing fleet Naval Action, was developed according to a different scheme. The game was released in Early Access on Steam in January 2016, even before Ultimate General: Civil War, and was brought to mind for three and a half years. The release of Naval Action took place on June 13, 2019, and so far the game has unexpectedly low ratings, as for Game-Labs projects – 63 points on Steam. The gaming mainstream press missed this strategy altogether, too hardcore.
Having three games released in 7 years, which is already quite a lot, Kiev Game-Labs is currently working on four (!) different projects. The first of them is the single – player naval strategy Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail, which combines elements of Naval Action and the Ultimate General series, was released in Early Access on Steam quite recently, on March 4, 2020, and it seems that players still like it. The studio plans that Early Access for this game will last about 9 months and two story campaigns from 80 historical and alternative sea battles will be available to the public at the release.The fifth game of Game-Labs is unlike the previous projects of the studio. First of all, this is not a strategy… This Land Is My Land is a stealth / action game in an open world where you have to get used to the skin of an Indian fighting against colonists who are trying to survive his people from his own land. Quite a bold and unexpected concept, in a sense, contrasting itself with all the games about the Wild West, in which we, as a rule, fought against Native Americans. The game was also released in Early Access on Steam and collected good reviews.
The Kiev studio has two more projects in its “portfolio”. The armored deck version of Ultimate Admiral-Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts, will appear in Early Access in 2020.. Well, the seventh game of Game-Labs, Sea Legends is a simulator of the life of a sailor of the XIX century, in fact a single-player version of Naval Action in the Northern Seas and the Mediterranean.
So, let’s torment Maxim Zasov with questions.
Good afternoon, Maxim. Tell us, how many people are currently working at Game-Labs? How much has the studio increased since 2014?
The number of employees has even decreased since 2014, we have learned to make games with less effort. The company now has three studios with varying compositions, depending on the projects.
In general, the core of the team needed to produce a game with a circulation of 100-250 thousand copies is 2-4 people. You can make a successful game with a staff of one developer, but such geniuses as Markus “Notch” Persson (Minecraft) or Lucas Pope (Papers, Please), who are able to do everything alone, are already busy with their projects. A good game allows you to manage with small forces and not inflate the team; an ideal game continues to bring money when developers are no longer doing anything with it, resting or doing something new. In this regard, single player games have an undeniable advantage, since they do not require long-term support.
Many modern games with millions of copies grew out of the projects of small teams: PUBG – from the mod for DayZ and Arma; Minecraft was made by one person; Counter-Strike-two, Min Le and Jess Cliff; DotA – three people; Garry’s mod / Rust-one person. The list goes on. All our games are made by teams of 3-5 people. If there are plans for expansion? Do you outsource a lot of work? And in general, how are your employees distributed by offices, cities and countries?
We do not have mass production, as in large studios, so we do not work with outsourcing very actively. The company’s employees work from 10 countries. We have very successful projects in which the designer, programmer and artist have never seen each other live, communicating exclusively online.
About the extension. Hits for small teams are only possible in niches, and large teams are not needed for niche games. In films, the stars are actors, they “make” or spoil the film and get a share of the fees for this. In games, the stars are programmers and artists. Therefore, we do not want to expand for the sake of expansion. Our goal is to create hits and profit that can be shared with the team. The smaller the team, the greater the share of profit.
Now the company has three self-sufficient studios, but we are ready to create new ones, teaching people our principles of work. If this article, for example, is read by self-sufficient or ambitious artists and programmers who want to make good games and earn good money from them, but do not have the opportunity to gain independence within their company, let them write to us.
How do you manage to maintain such a good pace of game release? And in general, how difficult is it to manage four projects in development at once?
Our first two games were managed centrally (development was going on at the same time), but we didn’t like this scheme. Perhaps it worked for the Cohen brothers or Ilf and Petrov, but it was hard for us – there was too much friction. Now all studios are independent and each employs from three to five people. Since everyone is interested in the result, and the teams are small, the work is disputed and everything turns out.
Each project has its own head-creator-usually it is either a leading programmer or a main artist. All managers have a related specialty and do something on the project with their own hands.
About the pace of development. The pace is not as important as the direction of movement. In our industry, only two or three leaders earn in most segments, while the rest receive almost nothing. A properly made game will earn most of the profit in its segment, even if it lost its pace and came out later.
Pace is just one of the lines in the expense column; it does not guarantee the creation of a beautiful work of art. After all, all game development is based on the dualism of the creative nature described by Jung. In the case of games, this is the dualism of money and art.
Money both conflicts and helps creativity, and vice versa. This conflict and simultaneous symbiosis allows you to create something more than art for the sake of art (art without fans), and something more interesting than just money. Of course, there are purely polar directions: slots or online casinos are only about money, and for example, Nikolai Dybovsky (author of ” Pestilence (Utopia)”, “Turgor” and “Tuk-tuk-tuk!” – ed.) seems to be only about art. But it is very cold and lonely at the poles. Games that are located in temperate latitudes are better, brighter and warmer.
What game engines do you use for your projects?
Unity. But we can also use other tools if the project quality level (production value) requires it. In the meantime, Unity pulls everything we need, including large levels in our open-world shooter. As soon as it stops, we will switch to another one. The engine is just a tool, a brush, what will happen in the end, the master decides.It seems that Game-Labs slightly neglects marketing and communication with the press. All your games were released without too much noise, there are almost no reviews in the big media, even the last two projects have no ratings on Metacritic. Why?
We do not neglect marketing. We initially focused on building a community of fans and communicating directly with them. Fortunately, modern marketing tools, Facebook, Google, etc., allow you to reach the user, bypassing the press, which recently often prefers to trade negativity. Because of this, the press and reviews ceased to play a major role in the sales of games. But we are always ready to communicate with the press that is interested in us or our games.
Metacritic also does not affect sales and is gradually turning into a tool of pressure on developers. But we are there. Our first game got into the Top 25 games according to the Metacritic rating in the year of release, but we did not notice any difference in the financial result between the game that is on Metacritic and which are not there. In general, we have received a lot of awards. Ultimate General: Gettysburg – Best Wargame of 2014, Best Wargames of All Times, Top 20 Strategy Games of All Times, Top 25 Metacritic Game of the Year, Steam Select 2017. This Land Is My Land – Indie Cup Winner (2019), Valve – Best New Rrelease 2019. Naval Action – Indie MMO of the Year (2016), Valve – Best Early Access Graduate 2019.
Now in the gaming industry, a certain war of exclusives has broken out within the framework of one platform. Epic Games Store conducts an aggressive marketing policy and “buys” projects. Are you not planning to change the store?
Good wine is sold in popular stores, so our games will be present in all popular stores. While Epic oversees the release of projects and chooses games itself, you can only get there through casting, we have not yet understood how to pass it. Last year, we started experimenting with our own store and now we receive a significant percentage of sales from our site, having only the positive aspects of Steam and not having the negative ones.
All your games were released only on PC, plus Ultimate General: Gettysburg was ported to iOS. Are you happy with the release on iOS and are there any plans to expand the list of platforms in the future?
Yes, we are planning to, but we don’t have any specialists yet. If there are teams or specialists with experience who want to earn money by transferring successful ideas to the iOS and Android platforms, we would talk to them.
You created the studio in 2013, during a rather difficult period for the country, was there not a desire to move to a quieter place in 2014-15, to start from the beginning? Some Ukrainian companies have followed this path.
And who will raise the country? Create jobs? Teach young professionals? During the same period, we brought specialists from the largest gaming companies from Europe directly to Kiev.
Ultimate General: Gettysburg and Ultimate General: Civil War
The first two games of Game-Labs were very well received by the players and they are still being played. Is it true that such hardcore projects have a very long tail of sales and they can be sold for years, and in exceptional cases for decades?
Good niche games have a really long tail of sales. We have already talked about this above: the ideal game is the one after the release of which the team is already engaged in other projects, and the money from the previous ones is still coming in.
According to our estimates, Ultimate General: Gettysburg sold about 100 thousand copies on Steam, and Ultimate General: Civil War-150-200 thousand. Are you satisfied with the sales? Is this a lot for a fairly hardcore wargame focused on a narrow niche?
We do not comment on game sales.
The Ultimate General games were warmly received by the public, do you plan to return to this series in the future? Maybe we can transfer to the European Theater of military operations in the era of the Napoleonic Wars? Or, on the contrary, to move away to the late Middle Ages?
Many people dream of becoming generals in order to meet representatives of other countries and cultures on the battlefield and defeat them in a fair confrontation. Yes, we plan to cover all historical settings in which our engine and artificial intelligence will be able to provide a reliable picture of the tactical battle of that era. So once again, yes, Napoleon, the Middle Ages, Japan, and Cromwell are planned.
Naval Action and Sea Legends
Naval Action was developed according to a completely different scenario than your first games, and went through a very long, about 3.5 years, period of Early Access. Did this approach to development help you? What did he teach you?
Development together with the community carries certain risks. A long, prolonged period of Early Access causes user fatigue. The problem is compounded if you had a good game from the very beginning. Naval Action started on Steam from the first place in the world sales chart, and with a very high rating. Then we started experimenting with the elements of the game and adding new features. And, unfortunately, they did not calculate it. Borscht, perhaps, did not need to add olives to it.
If your game is good from the start, any changes to the gameplay, new features, reworking of the interface, etc., can be very painful, since players who already like everything already think that the developers are only spoiling the game. If you listened to them and returned some old elements, it will spoil the game for those who liked the new implementation already. As a result, the product falls between the hammer and the anvil.
At that time, we had other games in Early Access, and A/B testing was not in favor of active attempts to improve. “It works – don’t touch anything” won on all counts. It is clear that this comment applies only to good games. If the proper level of quality was achieved immediately, then” try this again ” should be eradicated and changes should be made only if they solve specific problems, for example, they will give an audience growth of 10 times. If there are no specifics and the planned changes are only “moving the toilet bowl”, then you will achieve more by simply doing nothing.Unlike the games of the Ultimate General series, Naval Action currently does not have a very high Steam rating, a lot of users are dissatisfied with a number of decisions in the development process. What is the reason for this?
We are a game laboratory, we conduct experiments in order to learn how to make games better. In this case, we conducted two experiments. At Ultimate General, we did not make any sudden movements in Early Access and communicated with the community only on very important issues and purely on business, working closely with a narrow group of testers. On the contrary, at Naval Action, they did not allocate a special group of testers and experimented a lot and communicated with the entire community at once. The final rating is the evaluation of these experiments.
Active communication with the community has its drawbacks. It gives a group of players the feeling that they are the ones who “rule” the game and can change something in it. If some of their proposals do not end up in the game, a negative appears – “they are not listening to us”. Answering someone on the forum, you create an expectation for another player that he will also receive an answer, but with the growing popularity of the project, this becomes simply impossible. Other risks of active communication with players are different wording and problems of the cultural barrier.
An important point for developers is that ratings are not correlated with sales, and games that have sold tens of millions of copies sometimes have red ratings on Steam. There are even suspicions that a lower rating reduces the expectations of players and, with a fundamentally good product, actually leads to a larger number of satisfied users. That’s why there are so many games on Steam where the overall rating is quite average or negative, and the latest ratings, on the contrary, are positive. Sales of Naval Action on Steam, it seems, were quite good, in the region of 220-250 thousand. Are you happy with how Naval Action is being sold and what kind of community the game has gathered? How many online players are there now?
Again, we do not comment on sales. According to the number of players online, Naval Action is in the Top 200 Steam and in the Top 10 hardcore MMO games. According to the average time spent in the game, Naval Action is in the Top 10 Steam along with AgmaA and Rust (figures from the Steam Spy service before the closure of Steam’s personal data). Now the average time spent by people in the game is more than 153 hours, which is really a lot.
Sea Legends is, in fact, an answer to the requests of players to make a single-player version of Naval Action, because not everyone is ready to play online. Is that true? How will Sea Legends differ from Naval Action, what new features will the player have? Will the game also go through Early Access?
Sea Legends is the next step in sea adventures. No one makes sea games better than us, and here we will find a way to surprise the players, to make them feel like the sea wolves of the Mediterranean. You can’t describe all the innovations in one paragraph, so you can read the description on the game’s website in more detail. Sea Legends is still at an early stage of development.
Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail and Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts
At first glance, Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail looks like a hybrid of Ultimate General and Naval Action. Tell us a little more about this game?
It was interesting for us to reveal the topic of complex infantry and naval combat of the XVIII century – the birth of the modern marine corps. This is one of the first games where you can control frigates, land infantry on the shore and, covering it with artillery fire from ships, capture bridgeheads on land. Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail was very positively received by fans of war games who are interested in just such a gameplay. In Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail, you promise more than 80 real battles of the late XVIII – early XIX century. It sounds like science fiction. Why this maximalism, do you think the players will appreciate it?
Fantasy or maximalism-let the players decide for themselves after the release of Age of Sail, but everything promised is implemented by a team of four specialists and most of the 80 declared battles are already in the game.
As a rule, all studios that launch their projects in Early Access deceive themselves about the development time. You’ve planned 9 months of Early Access for Ultimate Admiral, haven’t you?
Deadlines in the gaming industry are always approximate. There is such a table with the name Valve Time, which clearly shows that when developers say “it’s about to be soon”, then in reality this or that function appears only after 2 years.
The game will be released from Early Access when it is ready. Deadlines affect the cost of development and, of course, they are important, but not critical with the size of teams of 2-4 people.Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts is already a game about battleships. Is it a mix of Naval Action and Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail or something closer to the classic Fighting Steel (1999)?
The whole essence of the game is perfectly conveyed by the video below. The player decides for himself what his ships will look like, and leads them into battle.
In Dreadnoughts, it is planned to link to real technologies, but the player will decide for himself how to use them within the budgets allocated for the construction of the ship and the limits on displacement. In general, it will be possible to recreate any historical ship, and have fun with the capabilities of the designer. In the planned Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts campaign, will there be real wars of the late XIX – early XX centuries or some conditional conflicts between the leading nations?
The campaign, which is still being worked out, will cover the period from 1880/90 to the end of the 1930s. It depends on the player’s decisions exactly how they will pass and in what battles his fleet will participate.
This Land Is My Land
A completely different genre, unusual for Game-Labs, a completely different scale. Why did the studio decide to change the role? I remember that back in 2013, there was an announcement of a certain shooter in a post-apocalyptic setting on your site, but then it disappeared. This Land Is My Land-the heiress of that game?
We wanted and still want to make a game in the setting where the Earth was captured by artificial intelligence, which drove people underground. However, there were a number of projects from other studios that submitted a similar setting quite well. We will return to this idea when we can say something new here and do it better than others. If there are people, programmers and artists who want to join this development, it may happen sooner. It seems to me that the first mention of This Land Is My Land appeared about six months after the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, and this looks like a kind of response to the Rockstar Games game. How much has RDR2 influenced the concept of the game?
This Land Is My Land was announced back in 2017, yet before the release of RDR2. But, of course, popular or interesting cultural content, such as RDR2 or GTA, can influence our games in one way or another. RDR2 creates a kind of gravitational information field around itself, which attracts fans of the Wild West and provides us with some support, because some of the players who have tried Red Dead Redemption 2 will probably want to see other points of view for this time period and will buy our game. The idea of showing the development of the Wild West from the point of view of the losing side looks very interesting, why did you choose an Indian as your hero?
Because we are interested in this period of history, all of us in childhood read books and watched films about heroes who, in the most terrible danger, “not a single muscle twitched”. The name is taken from a song that one of the Game-Labs employees was forced to learn at an American song contest at a school with an in-depth study of the English language.What engine does This Land Is My Land use and at what stage is the development now?
Still the same Unity. The game can already be bought, and it was even in the Top 10 Steam sales, getting into the best new products of 2019 according to Valve. We expect This Land Is My Land to be released from Early Access in late 2020 or early 2021.
Do you listen to the opinion and criticism of the community when developing This Land Is My Land?
Everyone knows that about 50% of the reviews are really constructive and high-quality, and the remaining 50% are more emotional and not too constructive. We try to listen to high-quality criticism and positive reviews, this allows us to sell more copies, while staying in a great mood. And finally, a question about the current situation. How did the COVID-19 epidemic affect the studio? Will this affect your releases?
No one can predict the long-term consequences of a prolonged quarantine. While people are sitting at home and playing games. But if all this drags on? No one knows what will happen when people simply run out of money. Capitalism in its modern form has no answers to this.
Thank you for the answers, Maxim. We wish you and the Game-Labs studio new successful releases.
About Ostrov and not only: interview with the mysterious developer of the Ukrainian urban planning strategy about the ambitious Ukrainian urban planning strategy “Ostrov”, developed by only one person, ITC.ua I wrote it back in October 2017.. Unfortunately, he was busy first preparing the alpha version of “Island”, and then releasing regular patches for it, he found time to answer only now. Evgeny diligently keeps his incognito, and we were not able to find out at least anything about his personality, but he talked a lot about the principles of development, which are significantly different from those adopted in large game studios. But first, let’s remember what we are talking about.
The development of Ostrov, an economic strategy dedicated to the development of a 17th-century Ukrainian settlement, began in the spring of 2014, and the choice of topic was largely due to the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. Even now, the game has a natural layout of the city and construction without reference to the grid and corners, dynamic change of seasons with melting snow and changing leaves, agriculture, animal husbandry, trade, production chains, etc. The author plans to implement a story campaign, religion, education, entertainment, crime and Justice, dynamic weather, more production chains, sea and river trade, negotiations and much more. More information about the development process and plans of the game creator can be found on the project’s website. Right now, the alpha version of Ostrov is on sale, and the game is planned to be released on Steam in the future. But let’s move on to the questions.
Hello, Eugene. Everyone who reads your messages on ostrivgame.com they know that you were fond of Half-Life, created your own maps and mods, independently studied programming languages, developed your own tools and dreamed of making your own Ukrainian Fallout. But we still don’t know who the author of “the island”is? His last name, age, education, place of work? Are you connected to the gaming industry in any way? Tell me about yourself, if it’s not a secret, of course.
Little Zhenya grew up in the nineties and noughties in the cozy town of Lozovaya, Kharkiv region. As the classic would say,”zabatsane is a place where culture goes.” As the years passed, potatoes crawled out of the Black Earth with resignation and doom, adults mumbled something about how much they didn’t want to build a new state, and somewhere beyond the horizon a factory hummed desperately like a dying whale. With the advent of the first computer in my life, everything became clear and there was no turning back. Today’s Evgeny is a very mysterious figure of Ukrainian society, an underground figure of ukrofuturism. One day I’ll probably write a book about it, but now we’re talking about the “island”.Who finances the development of the” island”, which has been going on for three years? You yourself? Do you have any partners, any agreements with platforms and publishers?
I would like to take this opportunity to refute all rumors about the funding of my project by the United States State Department. In fact, when a sufficiently motivated person is engaged in a business, a lot of money is not required, no matter how much the developers on Kickstarter deny it. For the first three years, I had enough of a salary close to the minimum, and a few hours after work. This, of course, is quite slow, but it creates excellent conditions for careful consideration and crystallization of only the best ideas. I have never had the desire to contact any publishers or investors for reasons of preserving my own creative independence and nerve cells. Although, some of the offers were quite funny and could at least cheer you up, such as an offer to sell the rights to the game for a thousand dollars (probably the editors even know who it was from. – approx. Ed.).Do you develop the “island” completely independently, alone (engine, tools, art, 3D graphics, sound, interface), or do you still attract freelancers for some work?
Yes, that’s exactly what happened in the first few years. But recently, I started working with a few people on 2D art and music design. I think players will soon see our collaboration in future updates.
What engine is used in the game? If this is a proprietary development, then why didn’t you choose one of the alternatives available on the market, such as Unity?
By the time free or cheap engines became commonplace, I already had a lot of experience and a lot of my own developments. In addition, the experience of working with the Half-Life engine reminded you that one way or another, one day you will certainly face certain limitations, or technologies that simply no one calculated for your individual case. What makes the game unique will still have to be written by yourself, and developing trivial things like data serialization is sometimes easier than learning these things in someone else’s code. I can’t say whether I recommend this path to others, because I have nothing to compare it with. But probably in the later stages of development, when the project is wildly inflated, you feel more confident if you remember every path in it. This is not to mention the unique feeling of satisfaction from how your creature lives its own life and brings joy to the world. We know that the development of” Island ” was prompted by the game Banished, also created by one person. Plus the old love of Caesar III and Pharaoh. What other games have become a source of inspiration? “Cossacks”, Cities: Skylines?
In fact, when you live something, you just can’t help but get inspired. New ideas flow into the mind from everywhere in rapid streams, not only from games, but even from everyday life. Many of those who haven’t been involved in development feel that developers don’t have enough ideas. But, perhaps, more often there is not enough courage to give them up in order to achieve the final goal.
Judging by the list of things that you plan to implement in “Island” – this is a kind of Dream game in the genre of urban planning simulators. But, as we know, the desire for the ideal has lost a lot of good ideas, delaying development. Aren’t you afraid that bringing “Island” to perfection will take you the next ten years and the game will never reach release? Maybe you should limit your own ambitions?
Sometimes dreams, when they lose touch with reality, need to be abandoned, but I am too clear about my vision of the final product. What I have achieved so far may have once seemed impossible, but I have even expanded the horizons of the project. I don’t see any reason to give up. The game brings a stable income, the community is active and grateful.
Usually, developers of urban planning strategies choose the most neutral, familiar European setting for their games. You deliberately chose Ukrainian. Aren’t you afraid that this will limit the audience or the expectation that players will be attracted to the exotic?
I don’t understand why our developers give up their own preferences in order to satisfy some spherical Western buyer in a vacuum. And the buyer, on the other hand, believes in honest projects in which the soul is invested. CD Projekt created The Witcher based on their own well-known culture and for some reason the whole world plays it.What models did you use to design huts and houses in the game? Have you visited open-air museums in Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, Kiev and other Ukrainian cities?
Since the development has been going on for several years, of course, I managed to visit many cities, museums and document numerous landscapes, which could not but affect the development process. For example, in early versions, only construction on two-dimensional space was planned, but after visiting the Carpathians, this decision radically changed. All textures in the game are based on photos taken during these trips. As for the building designs themselves, they are mostly fictional, because from a gambling point of view, it is important to recognize the purpose of each building. But all fictional designs generally rely on existing architectural traditions and consist of parts of real buildings.
The game now has English and Ukrainian localizations. There is no Russian, which you have already been asked many times on the same Steam. Is this a fundamental question, or will the Russian translation still appear in the final version?
The peculiarity of the Russian-speaking community is that it has a very high level of vocality and at the same time a very low ability to pay. According to Steamspy, Russians make up only 3% of the owners of Banished (the closest to the “island” in the spirit of the game). If you remember that their prices are usually three times lower than the base prices, this is about 1% of the profit. So this is clearly not a priority localization. Actually, it is already quite difficult to support the two available languages, because the game is constantly changing and being supplemented, and the profitability of localization is rather doubtful. When German YouTubers started playing Ostrov, there was a noticeable increase in profit, and Germany rose to the first place in the geography of sales. Later, the island was picked up by Russian-language channels. Then the game finally appeared on numerous torrent trackers and sites “download without registration and SMS”. This almost did not affect the profit.
Does the project have any business plan? What are your sales expectations? How are sales from the game’s website (tens, hundreds, thousands of copies)? If it’s not a secret, of course.
In total, the development was supported by about 8,000 players. Current sales are no longer as active as during the first release, but on average 30 copies are sold per day, which is quite enough for bread and a little lard at the time of development. And this is without any marketing effort on my part. In general, I think that if people don’t come to your game themselves, then something is probably wrong with it. And when a project is really interesting and necessary for people, the word about it travels the web and attracts new customers. There are already numerous examples of games for which ordinary organic products worked as well as an expensive advertising campaign. I don’t know very well what a “business plan” is, but I do know that the final version of “Island” has no reason to sell less than a million copies.
You planned to release “Island” on Steam in the spring of 2017. that deadline has passed. When should I expect a game on Steam? What other services and platforms will it appear on?
Back then, when I was planning this, I still didn’t think about early access outside of Steam, which I think was a very good decision. The Steam Early Access system itself has been very much distorted by developers who use it in bad faith, and players who do not understand it. In addition, you need to go to Steam with a product that will be evaluated as something finished, although not brought to the ideal. The island, in turn, is not yet a product, but rather an approximate vision of the future product.Game development is usually a team effort. Why did you decide to do everything yourself? After all, there are enough game studios and talented developers in Kharkiv, and in the internet era it is not difficult to find like-minded people from at least another continent.
For some reason, I am not at all attracted to remote cooperation. This is possible for music, but definitely not for code. Indeed, there are Game Studios in Kharkiv, but they are engaged only in “social networks and mobile phones” (Evgeny is mistaken, there are Studios in Kharkiv that develop big games. – approx. Ed.). I’m too old for this. By the way, one of these great studios recently improperly used a video from my game to advertise its next “browser super hit”. I usually ignore such cases, but I was not too lazy to write to my neighbors. It turned out to be useless. I wouldn’t want to work with such people. If any of the Kharkiv readers also do not want to, and even know C++ and OpenGL, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, let’s make the Ukrainian gamedev great again.
Thank you for the conversation, Eugene. Editorial board ІТС.иа I wish you inspiration and strength to finish development and look forward to the release of “Island”.
The Ukrainian game Ultimate General: Gettysburg on Steam Greenlight Real-time strategy Ultimate General: Gettysburg from the Kiev Game Labs studio, appeared on Steam Greenlight.
The Game Labs team is known for working on one of the most popular mods for Empire: Total War – DarthMod. Now the Kiev studio is working on three projects at once, two of them are already at the final stage of production – this is a strategy of the American Civil War Ultimate General: Gettysburg and a naval project dedicated to the battles of sailboats-Naval Action. Ultimate General: Gettysburg is a historically accurate simulator of the famous Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the Civil War in the United States. The game will recreate in detail the map of the area, the units participating in the battle and their commanders. At the same time, the authors promise an advanced AI that will not cheat and the ease of managing large groups of soldiers. Plus, the game will have a realistic visibility zone and many factors that affect the morale and combat capability of the troops.If the community approves, the Ultimate General: Gettysburg project will be released in early access on Steam. The multiplayer mode will appear a little later. Given the use of the Unity engine and the manner of management, it is likely that the game will appear on tablets.
You can support the Ultimate General: Gettysburg strategy on its Steam Greenlight page. We vote for our people!
Kiev Frogwares develops the game Call of Cthulhu Kiev studio Frogwares together with Focus Home Interactive has announced its next project. It was a game called Call of Cthulhu, which is based on the tabletop RPG of the same name.
A game is being developed for a new generation of PCs and consoles. This is not the first time that the creators of the Sherlock Holmes quests turn to the mythology of Howard Lovecraft. The Ancients have already appeared in the Sherlock Holmes adventure: The Awakened and the gloomy first-person puzzle game Magrunner: Dark Pulse, which the people of Kiev released in June last year. Frogwares defines the genre of Call of Cthulhu as a horror investigation (a mystical detective, a detective with horror elements), but the game is in no way related to the survival horror Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth from Headfirst Productions, released in 2005. For some reason, something like a mixture of Outlast and Don’t Starve comes to mind.
We are waiting for more details in the near future.
We should be proud of our Ukrainian game development companies, their developers and high-quality products.