Published on January 9th, 2015 | by Patrick Garde0
Interview with Scott Boyd of Blazing Griffin
Luckily, Scott Boyd (@TheRealBoydo), the marketing manager of Blazing Griffin, carved out some of his time to answer some of our questions about their studio, their goals, their recent acquisition, their thoughts on in-app purchases, their future, their preferred game engine, and what’s next for them.
May we know the story behind Blazing Griffin? How did you arrive at the name?
The company was founded by Peter, Stephen and Trevor (who brought with him the 4x game, Distant Star, which we’ve just redeveloped into a roguelike RTS game for PC). Shortly after this, the company bought over the rights to The Ship:Murder Party with an aim to developing a sequel, although the Kickstarter campaign for this was unsuccessful.
The name was Peter’s idea and was based on his family crest.
The game studio was founded in 2011 and your goal is to revive intellectual properties (IP) and develop new games in different platforms. What is harder between the two, reviving or developing new games?
There are challenges with both approaches. There’s always a degree of uncertainty when developing a new title – you never know how it will be received by players until you launch, so it can be risky. Redeveloping an existing IP reduces that uncertainty, but with an existing player base and expectations, there is a lot more pressure to ensure what you are doing lives up to its predecessor.
You are based in Edinburgh, Scotland. As an indie game studio, do you think location plays a role in developing games?
Scotland has a strong games industry and Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh all have a lot of talent available which is important. It definitely helps if you based in a cool location where people want to work and there’s lots going on.
You have several games under your studio and you have recently acquired two (2) IPs from Lucky Frame, including The Nightmare Cooperative. What were the reasons for the acquisition?
Lucky Frame were based in Edinburgh as well, so we had an existing relationship with them. When they decided to close down, their artist came to work for us and shortly after that we talked to them about taking on the games. We felt they were a good addition to our portfolio and as our team has been growing over the past year, we’re in a good position to support the games and look at how we can expand on the franchises in the future.
For the sake of our readers, could you do a rundown of The Nightmare Cooperative?
The Nightmare Cooperative is a fun roguelike puzzle game where you take your small team of adventurers through different dungeon levels. It’s very simple to pick up, but as these things usually go, difficult to master!
The gameplay concept of The Nightmare Cooperative is really innovative, combining a number of genres into one. It enjoys a favorable review in the Play Store (4.3 out of 5 stars) and Metacritic (83/100). We also named it as one of the best RPGs for Android released in 2014 in our recent top list. Did you expect to receive this warm reception from the games you revived and/or developed?
We don’t really have expectations of how these things will go, so they usually are a pleasant surprise for us! For games that we’ve bought over, such as The Ship, we knew there was an existing fan base there, so we really just looked to understand their expectations and try our best to meet them. For new games we develop, it’s difficult to predict how the review scores will go. As a developer, we are quite deeply embedded in the game for a long time before any players get their hands on it, so you never know what people will think the first time they play it.
You have decided to price your game at $3.99 in the Play Store with no in-app purchases (IAPs) or in-game advertisements. What made you decide to go in this kind of route? What are your thoughts on IAPs?
Well, that decision was made by Lucky Frame, so we can’t really comment on their thoughts behind this.
In general, IAPs have some benefits for developers as they can offer a good return if a game really takes off. However, you really have to balance potential revenue with the impact on the experience that the player has. We’ve all read horror stories about developers getting this wrong and this kind of goes back to what we said earlier about review scores – you don’t know how players will react to something until they start playing it. Having a one-off fee for a game is good as it lets players quantify what the cost is very easily before they decide to play.
What do you think the future holds for independent game developers?
I think it will remain challenging, but many of the major barriers of development (cost and getting the product to market) are becoming less of a problem. Small businesses can get a lot of support these days – there’s lots of information available on the Internet and communities willing to support newcomers with advice and tips. I think discoverability will be the main challenge in the future, with more and more games available to players (and as a result them spending less time on a single title) – helping players find games they might want to play is tough and something even the big players like Valve are struggling with.
What game engine do you prefer to use? Can you give us an idea why you choose it? What are the pros and cons?
At the moment we are using Unity for several of our projects. We love that it is multi-platform and that it allows us the flexibility to develop for as many platforms as we have time for (although it’s never quite ‘free’). We love the Unity Asset Store, it’s a time saver and makes a lot of sense for a small company as ourselves not to have to re-invent the wheel every time. Unity has a particular way of doing things in its component model and prefabs that takes a bit of getting used to, and is not as friendly as it could be when working in a team of coders, artists, designers all working in the same places. You just have to have procedures in place to handle these conflicts when they arise and try to organize the work to prevent people from stepping on each other’s toes.
How was it like developing for a number of different platforms (PC, Android, iOS) at the same time? Do you find it challenging to make games for Android as you need to support various screen sizes, operating systems, etc. as compared to iOS?
Developing for multiple platforms is always more of a challenge than developing for one. You have to take into consideration input methods (keyboard vs. touch screen vs. game pad vs. mouse), screen resolutions (not only for different platforms, but for the same platform – we’re looking at you Android manufacturers!), user interface scaling and layout and then setting up the gameplay to make the best of each platform – which may mean a small redesign here or there. There is also an overhead in making the builds and deploying the game to the many stores, each has its own process and specific set of requirements to be able to get your game seen by the customer.
Using tools like Unity can mitigate a lot of the problems with difference between platforms as a lot of the hardware specific details are hidden by the technology – but it is never as simple (yet!) as writing the game once and then deploying it on each platform. There are always specific wrinkles for each platform that you have to iron out to make the game as good as it can possibly be on every platform.
In which platform do you think is easier to promote your game? How are the sales coming along so far?
In terms of market size and marketing options available, PC is certainly the most flexible and where the majority of our revenue comes from, although there’s much more work involved. However, the companies behind mobile platforms are really good at offering support for developers and the simplicity of launching on a single mobile platform (from a marketing point of view), means it’s a really good option for developers of all sizes.
What’s next for Blazing Griffin?
We’re currently working on Distant Star: Revenant Fleet. We launched alpha in November and the game was Greenlit after 13 days and is now in Early Access on Steam, as well as being on Itch.io and Desura. We’ve still got a fair bit of content to be released for this, so the team is concentrating on this just now.
We also have a couple of people beginning work on our next project which is going to be pretty big – certainly by far the biggest project we’ve worked on to date. I can’t say any more than that just now because it’s ultra-secret, but keep an eye out on our social channels for updates. 🙂
Lastly, what do you want to tell our readers?
Take some time to check out indie games. You really have to go looking for them because they generally don’t have big marketing budgets behind them but there’s loads of really fun games out there and it really helps support indie developers who might go on to make more great games.
Thank you, Scott, for giving us the opportunity to take a little peek behind the curtain.