Founded in October 2014, Gemcraft Games has a goal to ‘craft our games into gems’ by making good quality mobile, tablet and desktop games. They recently released their second game Connectum, so we talked to its founder and game developer Agis, as we wanted to learn about the obstacles they came across and how they overcame them.
What does a game developer need to make a game?
Wow, that’s a deep discussion! I think the most important thing is to have a strong and committed team with clear roles. Since making games requires many skill sets, from game design and art to marketing and QA, the biggest trap is coming up with a game idea that everyone loves, but the skills aren’t at the level they need to be for it. Not being realistic on your team’s skill level could bring up obstacles during the development that could be demotivating to everyone, risking the project altogether. Which, truth be told, is something common in our industry.
You have to have a marketing person! This is something I’ve learned while creating Connectum. One person has to be committed to being active on social media, creating a landing page, writing blog posts, reading gaming articles, all from day one.
In general, just keep trying. Quitters never win, winners never quit. You may do everything perfectly, but your game might not be successful. Don’t give up because it’s all part of the process – it’s all about learning from each project and evolving as a developer and loving to make games.
How do you find a team?
That’s hard. Of course, having a budget makes things a lot easier, but hiring opens up another can of worms. It’s important that everyone on the team, whether they have an equity stake in the game or they are an employee, believes in the game idea. This is the challenge for game developers without a budget to find team members. With the gaming industry being so saturated, convincing another game developer of the potential is becoming more and more difficult.
Tell us a bit about Connectum.
So, it all started last year. I wanted to make a mobile game that would combine fast gameplay and easy mechanics in a graphical environment. I started experimenting on paper; I drew several circles and wanted to make them part of a game. I ended up with a pile of small pieces of paper with circles and lines in random patterns – that’s when it hit me. Funny how that happens…I thought of having visible paths from the very beginning and the goal was to try and find the sequence of numbers with the highest sum before the time runs out.
My next step was to find a team. I kept in touch with Adam, my artist, after having taken a game design course that he taught. We had created Blits (our first game) together, so I pitched him the idea for Connectum and we got to work on the game design and the art. Then I met our programmer at a gamedev meetup here in Athens and the team was fulfilled.
What were some of the difficulties you came across while making Connectum?
Well, the main problem was that we didn’t release the game when we said we would, but what’s new in game development. Since we didn’t have a budget, like many indie developers nowadays, everyone was with an equity stake. Some of the members had to work other jobs at the same time to cover living costs, which is what delayed us. As a result, I also had to learn some programming so I could help out.
How did you feel about having to learn to code?
I didn’t like it, but it was a necessary evil. I realized that when you get into programming, you can’t work on anything else. With only basic knowledge, I had to study A LOT to get going. It’s not something that I’d like to do again, but it’s likely not going to be the case, until Spark comes out, of course 😉
So, once you finished with developing, what was next?
Well, it was a relatively easy game to make and it was done quickly. But all the nice extra features we wanted to add (leader boards, ranking system, social media sharing, notifications, friend list, economy, etc) were very time consuming. What we did first was release a beta for testing. We got feedback from players and started iterating. It was great to have people who love the game take the time to help us improve. The ranking system came into the mix after we realized that people wanted it to be more competitive. We based it on ELO algorithms and we’re quite proud of it.
Now, we’ve released version 1.4.0, it’s available on Google Play for the moment and we are making updates to it regularly. People are enjoying the game, we have quite a few regular players and great reviews!
What’s next now that you’ve released?
Well, since we didn’t start marketing Connectum from day one, we’re going to be doing a bit more of that so more people can play it. We’re soon going to start another game which will be a revival of an old retro game (not saying which) with some extra features. It will bring back memories to many of us old gamers.
What will you do differently?
Marketing from day one, no doubt about it. We need to get organized from the very beginning. The rest of the process will be the same for the most part; I’ll be doing more programming, for sure. Since it will also be a free game, we have to really work on the self-promotion system so that we give our players more incentive to share the game. I think it will help greatly.