Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Platformines.
Magiko Gaming is a 2-man team:
Cedric: code, design
Ludo: art, music, design (shared with Cedric)
How did you get started in developing PC games?
We first developed for Xbox Live Indie Games and Windows phone. We decided to develop a PC game when we realized that selling a bigger (and more expensive) game on Steam could be a way to earn enough money to live from our creations (what XBLIG and Windows Phone did not bring us…).
Where did the idea for Platformines come from?
Before Platformines, our best appreciated games where “Platformance: Castle Pain” and “Platformance: Temple Death”, 2 old school brutal platformers. The first idea was to reuse the platformer engine we made for these games. The second idea was to offer a HUGE map => We thought of procedurally maps, with lots of traps and enemies. Mines were a logical choice.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Platformines?
- Randomly generated maps
- Quintuple jump to reach each zones
- Character customization
- Weapons stats
Recycling enemies and traps is often disliked by the gamers => We should have created (if we had time and money…) more enemies and more traps. Visibility of the game is not sufficient (even with the support of a famous distributor…) => Having a great game (in our opinion) is not enough, you need to spend as much energy in promoting your game than you needed to make it!
In its current form, how close is Platformines to your initial vision?
Platformines initial vision contained a build/delete blocks feature and crafting… But the design made it too complex, so we focused on exploration, shooting and looting. Other than that it’s pretty close to what we had in mind.
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 Platformines and if you faced a similar challenge.
We worked on an algorithm to balance the difficulty: The challenge was to let the gamer go far from its base, die a lot, realize that he had to farm to earn money and buy upgrades (energy belts notably) and come back in this zones to kick enemies. Then we had to set up the difficulty and it is true that our skills was too high => We also let friends play and listened to their comments. We did this mistake on one of our past game, so this time we made sure we had a lot of tests done before release. Having an open beta helped a lot.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Platformines would run on the various PC system configurations?
Not really. But we had to work with our distributor to set up the minimum requirements. We also worked to offer a Steam “Big Picture” compatible version.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Platformines.
We wanted to have something close to old games we loved, mostly the 16 bit area of computers and consoles. Hence the chip tunes and the retro look. But also at the same time, use the technology we have today. So there is a lot of little subtile things in the art and music that use today techno while looking or sounding retro.
The first step to setup the level design was to develop an algorithm able to generate different mines configurations: mazes, spaced islands, corridors, etc…
We made it! Then we customized how each stratum was populated thanks to a huge array (allowing to setup the number of traps and enemies of each kind)
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
Money is the key problem. You must finance your development, hoping that sales will get your money back! Quite mad… Some people succeed, (lot more) others never reach the amount of money they need to continue the adventure. It’s tough really. One advice, don’t expect to make money, do it for fun if you really want to do indie. Even though you might make it, don’t expect to.
How did you go about funding Platformines and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
We thought about funding Platformines once we had already spent 8 months on it. It was too late, since funded projects must be in progress. Mostly we funded with some of our savings. Family and friend support was essentially emotional.
Tell us about the process of submitting Platformines to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
Resistance is a weak word…
Once our game was finished (in July 2012), we met Valve at GamesCom to release the game on Steam. They told us Greenlight process was about to begin and they invited us to wait for it. When Greenlight released, we directly submitted Platformines (September 2012). Then we waited for 14 months (!!!) before being greenlit (November 2013) In the same time, we had contacted Namco Bandai to make a distribution deal with them (the main interest was to benefit from their press contacts)
Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
We studied the prices of indie titles and asked advices to our distributor.
Can you tell us why you chose to release a demo for Platformines?
In July 2012, one of our unique way to make gamers know about our game was to release a Beta version => We made a special demo build. When the game released, we thought demo was a good way to let gamers taste our game before buying it. We do not really know if it was a clever choice as some people can get enough from the demo and not buy the full game. Or start the demo and forget about it, etc, etc… Today, gamers have access to so many games that it’s hard to keep them on your game for a long time.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Platformines from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
Listening to gamers when the work is in progress is strictly obligatory! In this way, you can update the gameplay. We made that thanks to our friends, and thanks to our Beta, Beta2 and Demo versions. Once the game is released, it is also really important to listen to the positive and negatives comments, especially for future games.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Platformines professionally?
It depends on the arguments they use. The main drawback we had for platformines is a “lack” of variety. We agree with that to some extent. But some reviewers don’t take enough distance from their own taste and can do reviews that are not very honest (in both ways, good or bad).
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?
Sure, it is a good way to gain visibility. Bundles are a great way to get the game to a lot of people. It can pay off.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
No way to prevent a game from being pirated. Maybe most of the people that pirate the game would not spend the money in the first place, but it still suck that a lot of developer miss on some money to keep doing what they’re good at. DRM are annoying as they annoy mostly people that buy the game (having to log, or be online or whatever) and not the pirates which gets versions stripped of the DRM.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos and receiving monetization of Platformines?
No problem with that. If they need games like ours, we need them too, to gain visibility…
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
We are 40 years old and grew up with hard games that you bought once for all => It is difficult to adapt our gameplays to DLC and modern monetization, but we need to learn the ropes since the old way is now obsolete…
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Platformines?
It is a fantastic way to upgrade your game. But to be modded, your game must have been thought for that as soon as you start its creation. And we did not do that
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Making a great game is ‘only’ 50% of the entire work! You need to spend energy promoting your game (Youtubers, Facebook, Twitter, distributor contacts, bundles, crowdfunding, etc…)