Published on June 7th, 2014 | by Patrick Garde0
Interview with Michal Stepien of Jujubee Games
Jujubee has been making games since 2012 and they recently released a sequel to their mobile hit FLASHOUT 3D with FLASHOUT 2. We got a chance to chat with Michal Stepien (@michalstp), CEO of Jujubee, about their latest game, game development in Poland, pricing, simpler platform to develop games, differences in working with mobile versus PC, and free-to-play gaming.
Could you share with us some background info on Jujubee?
Jujubee is a studio founded in 2012 by former CD Projekt RED and Infinite Dreams crew members: me, Arkadiusz Duch and Igor Zielinski. We wanted to do something of our own and to take profit of our experience that we’ve gained when we worked in these companies. We are also big fans of mobile gaming and consoles, so our goal was to make console-quality games for Android and iOS, but of course we are also focused on other platforms.
How’s game development in Poland?
Very good actually. There are a few quite big and important companies, such as for example CD Projekt RED, Epic Games Poland, Techland, City Interactive or Infinite Dreams and Vivid Games if you look at the mobile market. There are many talented artists and games development is a bit cheaper than in UK or US, so the gaming industry is not only big but also quite strong and with good perspectives for the future.
FLASHOUT 2 is the sequel to your popular racer FLASHOUT 3D. What can players expect in this latest installment?
FLASHOUT 3D was our first bigger project and we simply didn’t have the time or resources to polish every little detail. In the case of FLASHOUT 2 we wanted to do something much more interesting and I believe we achieved this goal because the new game is better rated on Google Play than the first installment. We also wanted to push the series a bit forward, this is why we added the Online Multiplayer feature as well as new gameplay modes, such as Destruction or Elimination. Graphics got also improved I believe and the game is much faster, but at the same time easier to play. Of course we have even more ideas, but these can be expected in FLASHOUT 3 if we make the decision to develop it, obviously.
How did FLASHOUT come about?
We’re all big fans of such classics as F-Zero and Wipeout, but also of electronic music. The idea for FLASHOUT came quite naturally, because this is the kind of games we love to play ourselves. On the other hand our game offers more of an arcade-like approach and in some way it is an audiovisual experience, because music plays a big role in the FLASHOUT series as it affects the look of the visual effects in the game.
What made you decide to bring your games to Android and other platforms?
If you’re a small studio and you want to succeed on the market you need to bring your game to as many platforms as possible – plain and simple. The competition is really tough and without big marketing budgets it is almost impossible to get noticed. If you want to stand a chance you need to make multiplatform games. Besides let’s be honest – mobile gaming is getting more and more popular, there are like hundreds of millions devices on the market, so ignoring this would be a huge mistake.
Do you have any particular games that served as your inspiration?
Actually many games inspired us and to be fair some players think that there was only Wipeout in the anti-gravity racing genre. But this is far from truth. There were titles like Powerdrome, Hover Ace or F-Zero, there were car racing games like Megarace or Motorhead that shared similar style and tracks design, etc. It is worth adding that Motorhead featured simply superb electronic music composed by Olof Gustafsson and even though it is a game from 1998 it is still amazingly fun to play and I encourage you to Google for the soundtrack.
FLASHOUT 2 has an average rating of 4.1 on Google Play. We have a positive review too (3.5 stars); did you expect to receive a warm response from gamers and critics?
It is always great when your hard work gets noticed and appreciated by the players and the press. We were happy with what we have achieved with FLASHOUT 2 during the development, but you can never be sure how it will turn out until the game gets released. Nevertheless FLASHOUT 2 is in our opinion a bigger and more polished game than its precedessor, so we were hoping for positive feedback. Of course it doesn’t mean that there’s no room for improvement and we have many great ideas for the next game in the series.
What feature of the game you think the players like?
I think the best addition to the game was the Destruction Mode. In my opinion this is something different and unique, because in this mode players need to focus on the fight only and the number of kills determines who wins the race. There’s no doubt that this mode is all about weapons and action, so it is really fun to play and engaging. Another great feature is the Online Multiplayer mode, because it is always fun to play against your friends, especially if you’re the one who’s the first to cross the finish line. 😉
How did you come up with $0.99 price tag?
We did a small promotion and currently the game is indeed being offered for as little as $0.99 on mobile devices, but the price is subject to change. On the other hand the mobile market is a bit different and low prices aren’t something extraordinary which is a good thing because if you’re making games you always want them to be played by as many gamers as possible. We want our games to be affordable and popular, so basically this is how we came up with this price tag.
You have developed games for various platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, PC, Mac, and OUYA). In which platform do you think it is easier to develop games?
To be honest I think iOS is the best platform for developers. The reason is quite simple – there are just a few phone and tablet models, so it is much easier to test the game. In the case of Android and PC you need to take into consideration many configurations, many resolutions, but also many system versions (especially in the case of Android), so this makes the whole process a bit more complicated.
What are the main differences in developing games in mobile as compared to PC / Mac?
First of all you get much more raw power, so you can make better looking games. But better visuals equals higher budgets. This is why mobile platforms are currently our main focus and in the case of PC/Mac versions we simply make some improvements to the graphics. Another important aspect are obviously the controls – the game needs to be fun to play on the keyboard and on a gamepad. In our case there are no many more differences because we’re using a multiplatform engine, so we can easily support many platforms, even home consoles.
You’ve made games for OUYA. How was your experience with that Android console?
OUYA was very fun to develop for, but sadly this console isn’t a big success, so we’re not sure if we will release more games on it in the future.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of developing games on the Android platform?
What’s great about Android is that you get access to probably the largest gaming market and to many stores, such as Google Play, Amazon or Samsung Store. But let’s not forget that in Asia, especially in such countries as China and Korea, there are dozens of Android stores and Android smartphones and tablets are extremely popular out there. The biggest problem with Android is the variety of devices because it makes testing the game extremely difficult.
What are your thoughts on free-to-play game with ads and/or in-app purchases? Do you think it hampers gameplay experience?
We are not big fans of F2P games and to be 100% fair with you I personally hate F2P gaming. I have nothing against in-app purchases if these offer you some kind of shortcut in the game, but if you need to buy stuff to compete with other players or you need to buy stuff to unlock new gameplay modes and to progress in the game, this is something I’m against. You’ll find iaps in our products, but you don’t need to buy them to fully enjoy the game and most importantly you can complete our games and unlock everything without buying any single iap and I think this is a fair approach. Actually a few months ago I wrote a blog post with my thoughts on F2P gaming on Gamasutra, so feel free to check it out: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MichalStepien/20140218/211078/I_do_not_believe_in_F2P_games.php
What can we expect from Jujubee in the coming months?
Right now we are porting FLASHOUT 2 to other platforms – PC, Mac and Windows Phone. We are also working hard on Spellcrafter, our story-driven RPG title which will feature a unique spell system. You can expect more info on this game quite soon especially that we plan to release it in a few months. We are also taking into consideration the development of FLASHOUT 3 and we started to work on our completely new and biggest project to date but it is too early to talk about it. 😉
Do you have any plans to update FLASHOUT 2 soon?
Sure thing – updates are coming and you can expect them to hit Google Play and the App Store very shortly!
What are your final words to our readers?
Thank you very much for this opportunity and for getting through my answers. Hope you’ll enjoy FLASHOUT 2 and our other games and as always all your feedback is very much appreciated. Also make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for latest Jujubee news. Cheers!