As I enter the studio, I see the typical workplace of a small developer. Several boxes lay here and there, some ideas scratched onto a flipchart, an Oculus Rift, three PCs and way too many desks.
On the screens there are wallpapers of the studio’s first game, Inner Voices.It had started as an Epic Games Jam project and, much like another Polish video game, Superhot, made it to Steam as a full release.
However, Inner Voices, released on Steam in May, 2017, wasn’t as big a success the team had been hoping for. It wasn’t a bad game, it just didn’t sell that well. Yet it did give the developers something far more valuable than money: experience and insight as to what not to do with their next game. One of the lessons they learned was that playing video games doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to make them.
“At first we thought that, being raised on video games, we wouldn’t have a problem making one ourselves,” says Marek, “and that’s the biggest trap a rookie developer can fall into. You don’t think about, you don’t even know, that there are so many aspects to game development. But they’re there, and when they come out, they punch you straight where it hurts.”
One example is the non-skippable intro in Inner Voices. The game was fun and people loved playing it, but having to wait three minutes watching the same cut-scene over and over was quite irritating.
Time for something smaller
Their next game is Rig or Skill: PC Brawl which will hit Steam Early Access in the first quarter of 2018. The game is a small, yet fun brawler in an air hockey style with a twist: it’s a duel of virtual gaming computers whose owners compete for the PC Master title. You send your minions to destroy the key components of your opponent’s computer and drain its health, which is represented by one of the most important characteristics of PC gaming – frames per second.
You can choose your rig, do a bit of customization and then fight with either an AI or a real opponent. And even though the PC Master Race is strong with Rig or Skill, you will be able to cross-play with other gamers using the Android version.
If it sounds simple, it is! There’s nothing wrong with simplicity. The team concluded after Inner Voices that the next project would be on a smaller scale. They want to train their skills and they actually plan to continue the Inner Voicesseries, which, as it turns out, is to be a 5-part saga.
A project of smaller scale does not mean fewer problems in its implementation. Despite the simple graphics, there are some problems with optimization, not to mention finding an artist capable of drawing everything in the style the developers want. You also need to properly determine the gameplay balance, which is pretty important since Rig or Skill allows for cross-platform play.
To make this possible, an appropriate online service provider was needed, and because Steam does not have such functions, the choice fell on GameSparks, which both supports the servers and handles the microtransactions.
Don’t give up, devs
Rig or Skill: PC Brawl is to be a free-to-play game, which is a risky decision nowadays, for two main reasons. First of all, the recent controversy around loot boxes can potentially deter players, especially as Rig or Skill is a competition title. The second problem is the fact that the market, especially the mobile market, is saturated with these kinds of games.
This, in turn, puts a challenge in front of the team, as they must balance everything so that the game does not reach into our pockets too often, though at the same time earns enough to keep going.
“We plan on selling cosmetic items and nothing more,” assures Patryk. “We’ve already got quite a few skins, many of which are based on pop culture and gaming in general. However, with the exception of some limited skins, the player will be able to buy everything using in-game currency.”
That’s a good approach, the more so because it is very easy to spoil the game’s economy with excessive microtransactions or sell items that make gameplay too easy. The bigger issue is how to deal with the saturation of the mobile and the Steam markets, where in 2017 alone, more than 7,000 games were released on the latter.
Don’t Bite Devs has a simple plan for their game – be agile. It isn’t meant to be just a quickie to pull as much money out of gamers’ pockets as possible. Rig or Skill: PC Brawl will spend its first months in Steam Early Access and after leaving, the game will be consistently updated and molded to fit gamers’ needs.
What’s interesting, even if success seems a long way off, the team won’t give up. “We know of games that had had a bad start, but over time they became quite a hit,” says Marek. “The worst thing you can do is to give up too quickly.”
Written by Bartosz Stodolny for Fat Dog Games