What does it mean today to develop independent video games? What does it mean to go from idea, to realization, parading through fundraising, the ability to keep the team motivated and cohesive (when there is) and the need to show your game to those who could potentially buy it and make this passion become your job?
Questions with many possible answers, especially when they are given by Antonio Farina, Mauro Fanelli and Pietro Righi Riva, three Italian developers with a completely different history and path behind them who intervened in a debate that was held in these hours in the frame of ‘Apple Store in Milan, at the same time as the start of the Milan Games Week.
Farina represents the historical memory of the videogame in Italy, he was the developer who kept Idea, pioneering software house that in the 90s churned out video games related to Cattivik and Lupo Alberto, but also Bomber Bob and Retee! (If you are of a certain age you have probably felt the bite of nostalgia) but above all he founded Milestone, probably the only true example of high-level software house in Italy for a long time and now he deals with Rortos , a specialized studio on computer simulators. flight.
Mauro Fanelli and the managing director of Mixedbag , was born as a videogame journalist but today he heads one of the most interesting Italian realities born with the explosion of the indie phenomenon. To Mixedbag we owe some very interesting games for the Italian scene such as Futuridium , The Wardrobe , Forma.8 and Wheels of Aurelia , which was developed by Pietro Righi Riva and by Santa Ragione.
Santa Ragione is a completely different project compared to the experience of Rortos and Mixedbag, it is something more oriented towards artistic performance and serious gaming. In addition to Wheels of Aurelia , which traces the years of lead, he developed a collection of games for the Triennale and Final Candidation , a 2013 game about the electoral campaign of the time.
Three completely different experiences that agree on one point, however, the current situation of the videogame market, especially on mobile, is dominated by uncertainty. The mobile gaming industry is voracious and fickle, it creates fashions that often do not exceed a year and are copied right away. Although it is much easier to obtain a series of data than in the past, it is much more complex to understand what will be the fashion of the moment and how to get in the wake. “Ours is a creative sector, therefore the magic formula does not exist – explains Farina – for this reason there are many sequels and the problems are identical for all sizes, whether it is a small studio or a software house with hundreds of people”.
For Righi Riva «the relationship with the public depends on what you want to achieve, for example I sometimes wonder not who I want to reach, but who I don’t want to reach. iOS gives us the possibility to go where consoles and PCs don’t, so I don’t want an audience of experts, but of people who don’t know video games ».
The problem of a small developer, or in any case of a software house that relies more on ideas than on a commercial idea, is also knowing how to close. “It is thought that with the revolution of indie titles and with easier access to development tools, video game development has become easy, but that’s not the case. Because development is only a part and often you end up falling in love with the game more than you should, continuing to add without ever closing. The truth is that you have to know how to “abandon” your game and get it out, sooner or later ».
However, often when a game is on the market things do not end, rather they begin, because there is then the whole phase of support and expansion. “Today the launch of the product is a beginning – explains Farina – after the patches, the additions, the feedbacks, the expansions arrive that maybe make a small game something much bigger over time”.
“The important thing – underlines Righi Riva – is to know that with the release of a game, depression will inevitably come for every negative opinion while every positive review will take a back seat because you are still there asking yourself why that bad comment”.
But how has the way of making video games changed over time, especially mobile games? «From year to year there are more and more video games – says Farina – conquering space on the stores between competition, copies and big titles is increasingly difficult, but the positive side of mobile development is that it is more democratic. There is no waiting for the super famous video game and this benefits the little ones ».
For Farina “Kickstarter can be a good way to lower business risk, but it is still a complex platform full of pitfalls in which if you are small it is very difficult to excel, unless you have a very strong idea or are in the right trend ».
«I think it is important to stand out with a good artistic direction, collaborating with the right people – underlines Righi Riva – I often ask myself: what will appear on the screen at all times? How can I make this element stand out? How can I link art direction and game mechanics with the storyline? But above all, what is the current trend that I have to be good at grasping? ».