Our friends over at N4G.com have come up with the great idea of running an indie month are their website where they showcase 31 different indie game developers over the span of July. We were lucky enough to be given a slot (on the 13th) and as such did an interview with N4G plus 4 blog posts about who we are, why we do what we do, and how we do it. So why don´t you head on over to N4G.com and check out our posts and the 30 other amazing developers that were featured a long side us?
Lumi Games Specific Articles:
Giveaway: $100 with Matching Gift to The Super Selma Project – AND enter to win a PS4!:http://n4g.com/user/blogpos…
Interview Part One: http://n4g.com/user/blogpos…
Interview Part Two: http://n4g.com/user/blogpos…
Developer Blog: A Boy’s Quest: http://n4g.com/user/blogpos…
Developer Blog: Alex’s Story: http://n4g.com/user/blogpos…
Developer Blog: Programming Workflow When Developing a New Game: http://n4g.com/user/blogpos…
Developer Blog: A Game Designer’s Approach: http://n4g.com/user/blogpos…
Mini Q&A by Cathlin at n4g.com:
Answers by Erik Bratli Skjoldha ug, Co-founder
Why do you make games?
We have always had a passion for games. Since we where young, we have always liked to play games, and tried to figure out how they work, and what makes a game good. We would also like to challenge the conventions of game design and try to innovate and push new ideas forward.
Why should people play your games?
We focus on gameplay, good experience and beautiful graphics. We also donate parts of our revenue to charity. So the more you play, the more you help the ones who need it the most.
What element of game design do you hold above all others?
As I said, we focus on making good and easy gameplay. Our games are fun to play, entertaining and beautiful to look at.We do our best to make unique but recognisable games that are simple to understand.
Lumi Games Interview: Starting Out and Building Up
Is that a bear or a game developer? Lumi Games, forged in the wilds of Norway, is an indie development studio in its nascent phase. With a couple titles under their belt and a development strategy in revision, Alexander Presthus and Erik Bratil, Dungeonmasters at Lumi Games are frank about the learning curve and realities of starting out with an idea and seeing it through to the finish. They spoke with Cat about their background, founding Lumi, and their strong commitment to charity.
CAT: Who is Lumi Games and how did you all come together? What is your background in game design?
ALEX & ERIK: Lumi Games consists of two people, Alexander Presthus and Erik Bratli Skjoldhaug. We met while studying 3D Design and 3D Animation at Idefagskolen in Tønsberg, Norway.
After finishing our education we only sporadically kept in touch until we one day decided to meet up and watch a football/soccer game. During the match we started to talk about developing mobile games and software, and later that day we started our first prototype of a game called “Polly the bird” – a flappy bird-like game long before that ever saw the light of day.
The same day Lumi Games was born.
At this point in time Erik worked full time in a kindergarten, and Alexander worked as an IT-Technician for the municipality, but was heading off to England to study Forensic Science and Criminology.
ALEX & ERIK: In addition to the aforementioned education at Idefagskolen, Erik has studied Multimedia Design and worked as a Texture artist, compositor and render artist at Filmkameratene in Oslo, Norway.
We have both always had a passion and interest for video games and games in general. Not just playing games, but also looking at the mechanics of what makes a game great, entertaining and challenging. We had both dreamt of working within the games industry in some way, as we feel it is a platform and a medium where we can develop our ideas and share them with others in a fun, exciting and challenging way.
CAT: With a background in kindergarten education and Forensics and Criminology, the game design options seem both varied and a little terrifying. Do you see using your professional and educational background as inspiration? The next Forensic edu-app, maybe?
ERIK: When working at a kindergarten for 5 years one gets a lot of inspiration and ideas that can be used both to make games or write books.
I actually worked on a children’s book before starting Lumi Games, and that may be a project for the future, maybe as a digital e-book with animations and interactive storyline. I also got the kids to help me write stories, so we often had sessions together where we told a little bit of a story each, to get our imagination going, and it clearly worked, hehe.
We have about 15 different game ideas that we really want to create, everyone unique and original, no clones.
And who knows, maybe we will make a game where you play as a Forensic detective or something in the future.
CAT: What is the process of choosing a game concept?
ALEX & ERIK: We start by coming up with a basic idea of what we want to create, in the beginning this was rather challenging since we were both new to the process and the field in general. We had little practical knowledge and experience when it came to going from an idea to a finished product, and we also had very little concept of how much time the process would take. Like many others before us, we went into the trap of starting projects that were simply too ambitious and advanced for us at the time instead of starting with a simple and small idea. We started ParticleBOOM! approximate ly 2 years ago, and we are STILL not finished!
We realized as time went on that we had to also start some small projects in the meantime, while we worked on a larger project, so that we could both develop and release games faster, but this also prevented us from being ineffective if we were stuck on a problem in one of the projects, as we would just work on another in the meantime.
When we start new projects now we try to base them if possible in something we have already made, be it a mechanic or an entire concept. This allows us to reuse parts of our code so that we can save time and resources; we are only two/three people after all.
When starting a project we ask ourselves some of the following things:
• Which elements are there in ParticleBOOM!, PAX HD or TETRA which we can reuse?
• How can we make this project unique and explore new possibilities?
• What would we like to play?
• How long will this take to finish?
• Is there some idea, mechanic or game concept that we feel are currently not used in games today or that we feel have not been utilized to their full potential?
As mentioned we have a large main project and up to two smaller ones going on at the same time. We have called this workflow “The 80% 20% method”. We spend approximately 80% of our time on the large project, whilst spending 20% of our time on the smaller projects. Sometimes we flip this around and concentrate on the smaller projects more as they near completion.
This is our production pipeline when developing a game:
• Idea / Concept phase
• Sketching and draw ups
• Figuring out which elements we need for a basic prototype of the game and which components or chunks of code we can reuse.
• When the prototype contains all the basic elements we start by implementing some graphical features and fine tune the experience more.
• Optimize the code for performance, this is especially critical in mobile games development, as memory on such devices are a precious thing.
• Add animation, effects, sound and music to add further polish.
• Send the game to HAVA media for testing and feedback during the entire phase of development.
CAT: Tell us about ParticleBOOM!
ALEX & ERIK: ParticleBOOM! is a chain reaction game, in which the player taps the screen to detonate an explosion, which impacts particles on the screen and starts a chain reaction.
We have implemented power-ups, awards and a in-game currency system, 100 levels or waves and 33 bonus levels/waves, not to mention 40 different particles to unlock!
We want ParticleBOOM! to be a pleasant game to pay and experience, we don´t want the player to feel forced into buying their way to victory in the game, but instead the idea is that you should be able to earn up enough in-game currency by simply playing the game. We have structured the game so that there are many factors that can contribute to your survival or demise in the game. What style you choose to play is up to you. We are also critical of the trend we see in many mobile games now a days where the game holds your hand through the entire game, and makes you feel less empowered and gives the entire game a feeling of simply being a drawn out tutorial. To go against this we have tried to design the game such that it will trigger the players curiosity an d make them want to explore all the possibilities in ParticleBOOM! For example to ask themselves “How can i play to earn the most time” or “What is it that gives me the most bonuses?”.
ParticleBOOM! is at its a core a relaxing gameplay experience, but we try to give the players a feeling of constantly having to watch out for the time running out, creating a element of stress in an otherwise serene game. It is also important to us that our games can be played by all sorts of people, in all ages and regardless of gender. We also want to a create a distinctive and visually appealing look to all our games to hopefully set us apart from the fray.
CAT: Why mobile?
ALEX & ERIK:
• Since we are only two to three people at Lumi Games working on each project, we have to limit the scope and size of our projects somewhat. Mobile is a platform we feel lends itself well to smaller and more concentrated gameplay experiences.
• We have to be able to go from idea to finished product in a relatively small amount of time.
• The process of releasing a game is generally easier on mobile platforms than it would be on for example PlayStation or XBOX.
• Our current concepts work best with a touch interface and controls rather than a traditional game controller.
• The market is quite large and diverse, and you are able to reach a wide demographic of people, and not just hardcore gamers.
CAT: What are the challenges of developing for iOS and Android devices? and the current app market?
ALEX & ERIK: There are many challenges involved in developing for Android, as there are almost 5000 different models of phones and tablets. Which is why we have decided to mainly focus on iOS in the near future, and look to port only the projects that do well over to Android.
Another challenge is to compete with the thousands of apps and games developed for iOS and Android each day, so you need contacts and to be smart about your marketing, and of course have a good and solid product to release which people actually want to play. Unfortunately getting noticed in todays market is not an easy task, and there are many good games that go unnoticed and gets swallowed in the sea of games and apps in the App Store, so getting noticed is paramount. We try to combine making a game that we would enjoy playing ourselves with looking at and researching what is currently in demand in the market space. There is a reason other companies have been quite successful at creating clones of other popular games. We try to always stay original and innovative and not be too much like Zynga or even King, but then again, you can compare their profits with ours.
CAT: Do you ever see Lumi doing console development, and what do you think of the current generation of consoles?
ALEX & ERIK: We have talked about developing games for Steam, but have not talked about console development yet. We have a couple of projects that we are creating prototypes for that appeal to a more traditional gamer audience, some of which we think would offer completely new gameplay experiences! More on that later As we grow as a company and hopefully can hire more people we are naturally going to expand the scope of our projects as well.
We are also like many others excited by the recent advances in VR technology and think that this brings possibilities for previously unknown experiences in gaming. The possibilities are endless both in terms of visual, technical and story aspects in the VR space.
CAT: Can you talk more about VR and your vision for the technology? Thoughts about FaceBook and Oculus?
ERIK: When it comes to VR technology I have always had a vision that this would be reality in the not to far future, so of course I’ve had a few ideas for games using VR. Hopefully some of them will come true.
I am not sure if Lumi Games will ever work on VR games, but who knows.
When it comes to Facebook buying Oculus we are generally positive. It’s going to be exciting to see what Facebook and other companies will do with the technology.
CAT: You’ve made charitable donations a part of your business model, can you talk about how that works?
ALEX & ERIK: Personally we both care deeply about helping people realizing their dreams and enriching their life in some way, and we often discuss ideas and ways of bettering society, of course it is only natural for us that Lumi Games is a part of this.
The reason for starting with this so early in the companies history is that a mutual friend of ours, has a son with leukemia. During his treatment his father got to know other parents whose children had been affected by cancer. One such pair of parents started a foundation called “The Super Selma Project”, where they collect empty bottles and in other way raise money to create “experience days” for children with cancer and their families. This is absolutely something Lumi Games wanted to be a part of, so we came up with the idea of the “Play for Charity” model, and decided to start by donating 5% of the total revenue (not just profits) of PAX HD and ParticleBOOM! to “The Super Selma Project”. We want this to always be a part of the company and will continue to donate a percentage of the revenue of each game we make to a charitable cause.
We are also developing and app in Norwegian where you can read about the project and donate money directly to “The Super Selma Project”.
CAT: How do you decide which charity to benefit?
ALEX & ERIK: Play for Charity is still in an early phase of its development, so we have to sit down after the completion of ParticleBOOM! and devise a more concrete plan and strategy on how to pick organizations a nd charities.
Our primary goal is to help those that need it, and that we are sure that the money we donate are actually used for the intended purposes.
CAT: Is there a way for players to suggest a charity for consideration?
ALEX & ERIK: As mentioned, we have to make a well thought out plan and strategy for how we want Play for Charity to develop and work, so that we can look at alternatives where players can suggest and support different charities.
It is important that we get familiar and know the charity we are donating to, so that we know that the money being donated are also used for its intended purpose. It is naturally easier for us to follow up and support Norwegian organizations or foundations than it is a foreign one. But as we grow we want to look for even more possibilities.
CAT: The Super Selma Project sounds like The Make-A-Wish Foundation – friends of ours are on a family trip to Oahu, Hawaii right now as a result of Make-A-Wish! Are you familiar with that organization?
ERIK: I haven’t heard about that foundation, but it sure sounds like the same idea that is the foundation of the Super Selma project. And that is something we really want to help bringing forward both through donations and through the media.
CAT: What does being an independent developer mean to you? What are your thoughts about the current indie scene?
ALEX & ERIK: This is something we always dreamt of doing, so it means a lot to us both. We don’t look at making money or getting rich as our main motivation, neither do we identify that as the only criteria for success.
To be successful for us is to be able to do what we love each day, together with great colleagues and friends. Success is knowing you are playing an important part and contributing pos itively to peoples life, to help make peoples day better, not just through our games but also with Play for Charity. We also look at the mobile platform as a platform that deserves a mature selection of games, as we currently feel that it is suffering from the same “childhood problems” as video games did in the past, with some games almost being designed as a drug to make the user fork over their money, or give them a false sense of progression rather than a meaningful and unique experience pl aying a game on their mobile device. We want to help change that as both the platform, medium and we grow as a whole.