Our tiny studio was born out of the wish to make games in this very specific team. We’ve worked together for a while at Uni, usually being the last ones to leave the campus.
In this time, we’ve learnt a lot about making games, but mostly about making games together. The experiences we’ve made in that time still guide us throughout our daily work life at the studio.
It seems everybody is finding out one or another way, communication is one of the most important things in video game creation. Making a game is in most cases a group effort. Either you are few people enough for seemingly flat hierarchies, or as a giant developer you have to employ and enact strict structures, that give people security and in some cases replace things like trust.
Striking a balance between these extremes isn’t easy. Initially, we failed at a lot of our communication. Things were either discussed way too much or not at all or with the wrong people.
Building a base for everybody to be involved in exactly the parts of the creation that they need to be part of is really complicated. But in the end, it all has to do with trust. Trusting your colleagues they will ask for your opinion on things if they need the input. Having faith in their ability and scheduling. Being open to criticism, being able to give constructive feedback and request it has to do with trust.
For quite some time, ridiculing faults and blaming was part of our daily routine. Luckily, at some point in a group effort we identified this and are still becoming better at it, step by step.
Why we make games
I’m going to be honest here: Klonk has been a practical solution for most of us, not a life-long dream. After graduating in Gamedesign(Code or Art specialization), we had a promising prototype and an established team structure. Sure, some things were not perfect, but it worked for everybody involved. At that point, we applied for a funding for Shift Happens and received it.
So at that point, with a kind of financed prototype at our hands, we founded the company. As stated before, this wasn’t purely a choice out of our thrive for artistic expression or similar, but rather a very practical choice: There were not too many open jobs around, often even not very well suited for our skill-sets. Adding to that, we often did not identify with a lot of the companies that were looking for new staff. As a result, Klonk was founded, the work on a vertical slice for Shift Happens started and in general we were very happy.
Now, making this game finally happen wasn’t easy at all, as the time it took to finally hit the stores may tell you. Our expectations of the “industry” often were not realistic, but I think we did a good job dealing with the realities of the industry and its dynamics.
For example we were pretty sure, at some point we would be able to secure a deal for Shift Happens with a publisher. We’ve had many meetings with many publishers and we’ve had our fair share of rejections. Up to a certain point, we kept working on the game until it was far beyond a vertical slice. Still we could not find a publisher, willing to risk money on our first title. (I do not want to make this a sob story, so here we go:)
We fully understand that these publishers did not want to sign anything with us at that point. Really.
As a very young team with no real track-record whatsoever, nobody was able to tell if in the end we would deliver on time, budget and quality.
Adding to that, Shift Happens is no hype-product you’d be foolish not to sign. It is not standing out of a mass of video games, it isn’t super remarkable. It is a very polished, enjoyable and friendly video game, suited for kids. And that’s what we are very proud of.
For our first title, delivering a quality product was the most important thing. The game has a focus, that it fulfills every time we see people engaging with it: Enjoyable local co-op gameplay for two people. That’s what it is supposed to be, what we designed it to be from the first minute on. It may not sound overly ambitious, but remember: This is our first full-fledged game, hitting a simultaneous launch on three major platforms.
Again: Nobody is blaming anyone for not signing this game then. We are perfectly aware of the risk that comes with financing a game that is aimed at a middle-ground that may not exist made by a young team, that you’ve never heard of before.
The team of Klonk took this project on, finished it, and along the way we paid for a big part of the production ourselves. We have a small amount of investors, who trust our abilities, but these did not cover the whole development. For the past three and a half years we have been working on other projects to finance Shift Happens. Again: This is no sob story, I’m proud of this accomplishment and the work that we did for Shift Happens and our clients.
This is our story and our approach to making games. We love games, we work hard on them and we’re pretty sure this will go on for quite some time in the future. Our focus will always be on quality, not the market need. If we think a game idea is worth our time and it sticks with the team, we’re convinced it will probably also stick with an audience. We certainly learned some lessons while making Shift Happens and are looking forward to incorporate them in the next games.
That being said, it takes some time to mature as a studio and team. I am pretty sure this one step more that we have taken out of many, coming closer to our identity and more games.
Hard work lies behind us and hard work lies before us. You would be foolish to think anyone or anything will magically make these obstacles disappear.
One additional note: The commercial success of our first game is not that important to us. Yes, we want to cover our costs and to pay back our investors. But more importantly, we want the game to resonate with actual people, players. It is about making a little dent in the entertainment world, providing an enjoyable experience, rather than making X amount of money.
Looking at this team, I’m pretty sure new games will follow. We’ve gone through some good and bad times, but we’ll always agree on making quality games is the most important thing to us.