Orsolya Toth from NeocoreGames speaks about her role as PR & Community Manager at NeocoreGames, developers of the ARPG, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. You will learn about the development process, the struggles and achievements involved and much more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing.
I’m Orsolya Toth, PR & Community Manager at NeocoreGames since 2009. My job includes a lot of testing and playing computer games that are quite similar to ours. I keep contact with journalists, answer questions, give demos and interviews at gameshows like E3 and Gamescom.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
I’ve been a gamer since the age of six but still, it was out of sheer luck that I ended up in the gaming industry. I knew my bosses from earlier, back in the days when they were publishing books and we used to play poker together. I also helped them test their first two unreleased games and when they offered me a job at NeocoreGames I did not hesitate to say a big YES! So I joined the team and love my job ever since.
Where did the idea for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing come from?
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was one of four game design plans that our world designer was working on six years ago. He chose Van Helsing because he liked the strong character in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula and he says Van Helsing was a good choice because it is a familiar concept for a lot of people. And finally last year we could start working on the game with full team.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing?
There were quite a few ideas that didn’t make it into the game after all. For example we thought other classes would not fit into the game world so well, and a deeper questing system would impact the fluency of the gameplay. So we went for a single but bigger and branching monster-hunter class with various different skills and a simpler story and quest system. Looking back now, these might not have been the wisest decisions as a lot of fans were missing these features from the game, but this is something we can learn from and we really want to listen to the feedback of our fans while creating the sequel.
We wanted The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing to be a fast-paced hack ‘n’ slash but at the same time we also wanted to spice it up a bit so we implemented a lot of humorous conversations and quotes and put more emphasis on the role of Lady Katarina, your companion. Based on fan feedback, this addition turned out to be very successful.
In its current form, how close is The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing to your initial vision?
Interestingly, the game we released is totally different from our original plans. The base idea of the game was born many years ago, but its development was put aside as we were working on other projects. Therefore, the game’s development was running in the background for years and it was like a hobby-project for us. The atmosphere and the target audience of the game was very far from what they are now. After Van Helsing was picked up by our team again, the whole concept was rebuilt. Probably the only thing that’s left intact from the original idea is the fact that the protagonist of the game is Van Helsing’s son.
Some devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game. Talk about setting the difficulty levels for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing and if you faced a similar challenge.
A lot of testing can indeed result in such things. After a while the testers usually do the hardest parts of the game within a heartbeat, and they do not feel the challenge anymore. We have made this mistake in our earlier games too, so we gave it a much deeper thought this time. We solved this problem by using some testers who never saw the game before, so we got more accurate feedback and we could fine tune the game’s difficulty based on their experience.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing would run on the various PC system configurations?
Such challenges are always awaiting PC game developers, and we can’t say that there were none of them during the development of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Thankfully, we were able to grow up to the challenge
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing.
The process usually starts with the narrative design, which is basically building the story and the world. Then, our designers create a design concept and plan the basics of the levels. After this, the idea gains shape and the actual levels and graphics are designed. Of course, it goes through a lot of polishing, and the music and sounds are implemented at this point as well to fit the atmosphere. Lastly, quest elements are implemented to the new world that’s shaping up in our hands and then we play it a lot to see where to add some extras like humorous banters or easter eggs.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
Being an indie developer is very much like the theory of “risk versus reward”. It is awesome if you can make a breakthrough as an indie developer and it has great benefits but if something goes wrong, it can mean the end of an indie company.
How did you go about funding The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
We funded the game on our own, which can be a huge risk but it turned out to be the perfect decision. A few weeks before release the pre-order campaign also helped us a ton not just because of the financial support, but also because it was great to see how many fans were eager to play the game’s closed beta. They also provided a lot of feedback which was really helpful. Of course, the emotional support of our families and friends meant a lot to us, and helped us through the toughest days of development.
Tell us about the process of submitting The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
We were very lucky in that regard, because we managed to establish a very good and beneficial connection with Steam and GamersGate during the development of our previous games. Therefore, we did not encounter such obstacles in the process.
Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
Of course we have made our research, but the pricing of the competition was only a minor factor when we decided upon the launch price.
How important is it to get instant feedback about The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
Gamer feedback is of utmost importance to us. We feel that it is crucial to monitor all kinds of feedback and process it as soon as possible. We are constantly monitoring both the Steam and the NeocoreGames forums as well as e-mails. We have a 7/24 customer service up and running since release and it paid off really well as gamers like to see almost instant responses to their questions and requests.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing professionally?
Critic reviews are very useful to us, we always read them thoroughly and take the suggestions and the pros and cons into consideration. Criticism is a key element of improvement, and it is always helpful to receive some.
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
Even though it is an interesting concept, we haven’t given it a thought yet, so we’ll stick to the traditional way for now.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
Sadly enough, DRM usually causes the biggest headache to those who have bought the game legally. We believe that making a game that people can buy without regret is the best way to deal with piracy. As it was mentioned in one of our previous answers, involving the community as much as we can is also important: caring about our players and communicating with them encourages gamers to support us by buying our games.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing?
We think it’s great to see gameplay videos and walkthroughs all over the internet. If viewers will like the game based on such a video, we can only benefit from that. Also, it takes a good amount of effort to make and upload a video, so the high number of videos means an equal number of enthusiastic fans, which is awesome.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
DLCs can be great if they really add value to the game. For example, they are great to keep the attention of players while a sequel arrives, and this is the case with Van Helsing. We always liked working on a project even after it was released, so we also tend to create extra content for our games, in many cases we use the feedback of the community and the critics to find out what they missed from the game and if we can, we add it. Van Helsing is no exception either, it has both free and paid DLCs available, and more of them are on their way already.
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing?
Our games usually do not support modding, because most of the time they are made with tools developed by NeocoreGames. For example, the entirety of Van Helsing’s graphic engine was developed by our team. While we understand that mods are very important to extend a gamer community or to keep the current one close, we couldn’t establish a modding support for our system yet.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Be creative and never say never. If it seems impossible, just find a way around. -End
We would like to thank Orsolya and everyone else at NeocoreGames for their efforts and wish them unlimited success in the future. You can grab Van Helsing via Steam.