Hello Daniel! I'm happy that you've agreed to the interview even in during these busy days while you are preparing the Kickstarter campaign. We would also like to interview some of the other guys on your team in the future and get some nasty little secrets about graphics, sounds, animation and all the other activities connected to the Plant Nomads development :-)
It's widely known that you start the Kickstarter campaign today and that the next 30 days will be very busy and hectic,which could provide you with some numbers which will all you to foreshadow the future success of the game. We cross our fingers and believe that this perspective title will make you a new millionaire :-). First, I'd like to ask you few things and because you are the community & marketing manager, we will mainly defer to your job, what is your responsibilities are, and what is not, at Kickstarter.
Could you tell us something about Craneballs Studio, how was it founded and what is its history?
I joined Craneballs in 2012 and arriving at the office for the first time felt like visiting Google. On a much smaller scale of course, but the passion was tangible and I felt like Alice in Wonderland. The studio was founded by three friends in 2009 who wanted to get away from web design to something more creative; it was the year AppStore became a thing and they made a name for Craneballs with Blimp. Through the roof success came in 2011 with Overkill, which became an instant hit and stayed #1 overall app in the US for a few days. Craneballs moved to its current office and gradually grew to today’s 20 members.
What was the initial idea behind the transfer from making mobile games to the full-fledged PC game?
A combination of feeling ready for the final frontier (PC gaming), something we’ve only dreamed about before, and the ever-growing competition on mobile, especially from big studios going the other way round – from PC to mobile. It all started with Overkill 3 being a full-fledged 3D game made in Unity. From there, moving to PC didn’t feel that big of a leap.
How difficult was the change? After all, to create such a big game as Planet Nomads doesn't look like it could have been an easy task. In terms of human resources or even from the financial point of view, how complicated has the situation been, and how have you worked to solve it?
At first it started the usual way, but pretty soon we realized that the scope of Planet Nomads and the amount of game mechanics and things at play will require a clearly set design, and Planet Nomads became not only our first PC game but also the first game with its proper Game Design Document. Petr Růžička, previously from 2K, took the helm as game designer and project manager. Other than that it’s mostly things as usual as we already had good workflow. It’s possible the differences of PC will come to play later in development cycle.
Let's hope that you will take care of the differences easily :-). What are your own experience from previous games? What titles were you working on? Or what studios were you in?
Craneballs is actually my first gaming studio. The guys gave me a chance almost right after graduation, with my main credentials being English and a long gaming history. I’ve learned everything on the go, working closely with our CEO Martin Chamrad and learning what I could from him. So the first game I’ve ever worked on was Overkill 2, and since I didn’t screw up, I was honored to add Overkill 3 and everything we released in between, including the two Gun Masters.
How successful are the previous games made by Craneballs? You said that it was#1 in the US for a few days. And according to the public information about sold pieces it seems that Overkill was the real headshot and a huge success. Or am I wrong?
Overkill was a big one, we hit the right time with the right title. Since then the competition grew a lot, mostly through titles from Gameloft, Glu and MADFINGER games. Overkill sequels didn’t repeat the success on such a grand scale, but they were successful titles, both commercially and by user ratings. On the field of casual games, we had a major success with Super Rope, which became Apple’s Editor's Choice. We haven’t been able to repeat it with Fish Heroes or restarted 33rd Division, but we will be attacking again with our upcoming casual game Splash Cars, in which you literally paint the world a better place riding a paint car.
Have Overkill titles attracted a big fan base during the last years or is it still necessary to actively support sales by other marketing activities?
The previous success of Overkill showed when we were releasing Overkill 2, it was only a matter of reminding people that a sequel was coming and they were eager to discover how it went. With Overkill 3 we were a little worried over moving from the gallery-shooter style to a third person shooter, but it was time to move up. Fortunately gamers accepted it too and a big portion of Overkill 2 players adopted the third one. However, the mobile market is a fast-paced one, and you cannot expect loyalty spanning through years, so while we got close to a hundred thousand gamers from our existing networks, we also had to do user acquisition to boost the launch and make a dent in the charts.
Can you compare the activities and promotions you have made earlier and what should be done with Planet Nomads? With so many more possibilities on how to promote the game is it, by your opinion, a completely different project with much higher budget?
Oh, absolutely. Two different worlds. The mobile world is a super fast-paced one, with thousands of quality free to play games attacking from everywhere. A world in which users spend virtually seconds to evaluate and decide whether to play further or move on. On PC, it seems players follow the development closely, analyzing every picture and everything you say… heck I even saw people citing our devblog on the internet. They are well versed in marketing, and are more into relevant and descriptive information rather than flashy marketing gimmicks. They also seem to evaluate very well how much potential a game has and are cautious about raising their hopes too high. We are learning all these differences and adopting, trying to provide as much relevant information as we can, whereas on mobile we would have the “just make it short” mindset. So far we only spent money on a couple post boosts on Facebook. Rather than money we are investing time to cater to our growing community of interested players, with the building demo and regular updates on development.
Is the Kickstarter campaign a big thing for you? What happens if you don't meet the goal and collect the needed money? Will it threaten any further development?
We are aiming at a moderate sum of $100K. What we are asking gamers for is to show they believe in Planet Nomads and our ability to deliver the promised experience. Truth be told, we are too emotionally invested in Planet Nomads to back out of the project at this point, so we’ll do all we can to keep working on it. Fortunately, there have already been offers of external funding, but ultimately we hope that through Kickstarter, gamers will allow us to stay independent and in full control of Planet Nomads future. So we can focus all our energy on bringing the game to its full potential.
How long have you been preparing for the Kickstarter? How many people had to be involved in the preparation and will be involved while the campaign remains active? Some bigger (also indie) companies often have a big team and require months of preparation. What is your situation?
Works on the campaign started in summer, with research first, then setting the shape and form of the page. Most of the work was done in September to November by Martin and me, but the Kickstarter page would look nowhere near as good without the help of our graphic artists who prepared the amazing content shown there. Not to mention the programmers who created the Sandy engine, implemented physics and made Planet Nomads come to life. Now that the campaign is live, I will be making updates, working closely with whoever has great new content to show.
In what way do you plan to communicate with the fans during the game development? Will you have a devblog, dedicated forum for fans or backers, weekly newsletters etc.? There are studios which keep the secret until the very end while others who show everything and nothing is hidden to the fans. They even let the fans cooperate in the development, either just with new ideas or even making some mods and other stuff. What can they expect from your part?
As mentioned before, close collaboration with the community is key to growing Planet Nomads. By sharing everything that’s been happening with Planet Nomads from the get go (started the webpage with a few concept art pics), we have been able to get people on our side and they enjoy seeing the progress as much as we do (OK, most likely more). Definitely recommended to any developer out there who’s not Bethesda or EA. We have been writing a bi-weekly devblog detailing the progress, moved to a new, better-working forum, we’re sending monthly newsletters with major milestones achieved. The collaboration is going to shift to second gear once we get down to implementing and balancing game mechanics, especially with people who choose to get the closed-alpha of Planet Nomads in summer.
Do you plan to give the fans other possibilities how to support the development? For example on your website after the campaign when the Kickstarter ends?
We are planning to have alternative methods of backing (and preordering) Planet Nomads outside Kickstarter when the campaign concludes.
There is one thing I simply must ask. What does Planet Nomads have in common with No Man's Sky? Everyone who follows gaming news and likes sci-fi and sandbox in general must find it very similar. For example the graphics seems to me almost identical, at least from the screenshots (we will cover the graphics in the next interview). I think you won't be against having someone like Sony covering your back, right? :-)
We are really looking forward to play No Man’s Sky, that’s for sure. I guess we can’t escape the comparisons, after all players are going to explore procedurally generated alien planets in both these games. We are putting equal focus on building and survival as well though. I think the vibrant colors is what makes the graphics seem similar. But NMS is more stylized whereas with Planet Nomads we are aiming for a rather realistic look. Ultimately it’s for people to decide themselves. How Hello Games collaboration with Sony is going to pay out remains to be seen, but for us, as long as we have money to keep working on Planet Nomads, we’re happy.
We also have one bonus for all of you who have read to the very end. You can win 300 medals for Overkill 3 worth $9.99! Just write down in the comments what you would like to see in Planet Nomads and why you are looking forward to it. And add your Overkill 3 username. That's all!