We continue interviewing remarkable developers, either for their surprise success story or for having become a reference for anyone in the trade. We’re sure that users will love to know who develops their favorite games and developers can learn a lot from their fellow colleagues.
Although early this month we had the honor of interviewing Wikitude’s Chief ARchitect Mr. Wolfgang Damm (read it here), which was a brief master class about the present and future of Augmented Reality, today we bring you a completely different kind of interview. We’ve had a great time with Ian TheCleric, co-founder of The Pixelizers, an indie French study who released on October Open Sea! (Go down, Mo!). Although they as developers aren’t swimming in money, their game allow us to prevent that those little cute characters that form Mo’s tribe need to start swimming to save their lifes. In fact, Open Sea was a blast when it appeared on Market, as both its design and gameplay were awesome. In case you have been warding the Holy Grial in a dungeon beneath for the last three months and you haven’t played Open Sea! yet, go through your pockets or rummage around, look for 2$ and click on the link at the bottom. Open Sea was one of the best indie games last year, not just because we said so, other specialized websites have said so, so do the users. It was an unanimously acclaimed game and now, we thought you’d like to meet those who are behind the cool stuff. We’ve had a great time making this interview, so we hope you have it, too. Don’t ask us why, but we do like fables about large company workers who leave their jobs to raise their own little studies and, at the end, release a great game that puts the Market upside down.
So, therefore, without further ado, here’s the interview. He has a funny accent, but who hasn’t one these days?
- Ian, How did all get started? Did you wake up early in the morning and thought “wow, I feel like I’m going to develop Android games” or it was something more sophisticated? In other words, where do The Pixelizers come from?
Actually I have always been making games: I worked for a decade in design and creative roles in mainstream videogame industry. Eventually I really wanted to get independent, and in 2009 I started developing Flash game projects on my own.
The Genesis of The Pixelizers begins when, late 2009, I met Frank Desfours (co-founder along with Ian) who had a background of Java developer, notably in web casual gaming. He also nourished the project of developing indie games.
He being developer, me being designer and somewhat graphic artist, and both of us attracted by all-new app-based Android, which seemed – and was – the Promised Land for indie game makers… Looked like we had a deal for the future!
Yet it was only at the turn of 2011 that Frank and I actually teamed up, forming The Pixelizers.
- Then you release Open Sea! We’d like you tell a story about you playing in the bath and splitting the water with a sponge, but it may not be that way.
The Genesis of Open Sea! is from another Book: in 2010 I stumbled upon an ad on Kongregate.com (a great Flash gaming portal) for a Flash mobile game contest they were organizing. I was a bit late since the deadline was just 30 days later, but I decided to take a chance anyway. I needed, quickly, a concept which would be: simple, designed especially for smartphones, totally original, both in terms of gameplay and graphics.
Then comes the part I don’t remember well: I’ve heard a potent voice from above vociferating “Thou Shall Part The Sea With Thy Almighty Finger!”… I went to my upstairs neighbor and required quiet since I could not think; but he swore he hadn’t said anything.
Anyway… What’s for sure is that, only 30 minutes after having learnt about the game contest, I was starting coding Open Sea! in Flash.
It was the very first Open Sea! game, and it eventually got a prize!
When Frank saw this game – looking back it is more a prototype – he was enthusiastic about developing a native Android version, which would feature a little more content and would be a bit more polished. And because the awarded prototype was a proof of concept that set the basis for gameplay, art, and atmosphere, this would take us three months, at most.
Then, from his office at home, Frank started writing the game engine using Open GL and all the cool stuffs, while from my place, I started designing additional mechanics and audiovisual content. And we kept working online for all the project’s development course. One says God rested the seventh day… Lucky He!
We The Pixelizers, were busy adding and polishing features… a lot more than initially scheduled!
…Therefore, nine months later, Open Sea! was ready to be released on Android Market.
- Was launching the game a relief or a headache?
From the very beginning user feedbacks were great, we were happy, yet we were selling almost no unit… Actually we weren’t prepared at all with market new rules: for a year Android game market has grown a lot, marketing strategy has established itself as the mandatory key to success. Outstanding user ratings are no more enough to make a game visible, and are of no practical benefit if the world does not know this game exists. Getting in the light, and staying in it long enough so that it spreads, is a totally different task than developing a great original game. It’s an interesting task, but one that’s exhausting, moreover when you are just a team of two unfunded developers.
Piracy is also a pain in the Ark: we ain’t Big Brother and each unit we don’t sell is truly harmful to us.
But I’ve heard that The Last Shall Be Firs… err… that long-term success still depends on game’s quality, that’s why we are confident. Actually Open Sea!’s value is leaving its marks on minds, such as AndroidZoom Editor’s, and this kind of recognition helps building a reputation.
Even though Open Sea!’s game system is cohesive, there is always room for gameplay-related improvements. Albeit I won’t disclose any idea now, because a sequel, extending Mo’s journey past the Promised Land (okay, for that part we need to rewrite the Book a little) is not planned yet. Actually since we released Open Sea! we have been kept really busy with it, fixing the defects and improving tutorials, polishing difficulty (yes I’m a bit fussy), adding an opening video and online scoring, making it tablet-compatible… Furthermore, Mo and the People haven’t discovered all places of the land yet: there are still leftover rivers and lagoons to be crossed for fun at the risk of life, Hallelujah!
We had limited means and the entry level to Android development was lower than iOS’… Simply put, we were both equipped with PCs and shiny Android smartphones! But in the end, we were just eager to try our luck on an app market that was still friendly to the Davids and rather free from Goliaths.
Anyway, according to press critics and user feedbacks, Open Sea! might have what it takes to face Goliaths, but for the time being, let’s perform exclusively for Android users. And if the Book speaks the truth, we have God on our side, don’t we?
- Do you. So shall it be (smile!) You’ve been very kind. Thank you!
Thank you Peter*; Thou Shall Be Blessed For Shedding Thy Light Upon Open Sea!
*This interview was conducted by Peter, our Editor-in-Chief, as he walked through the Valley of Shadow of Death while fearing no evil.