Recently I got the chance to have a talk with Sharan Balani, the founder of Quickfire Games. Their studio recently introduced an interesting Kickstarter for a game called Wild Season, which Sharan and I talk a bit about as well as touching on other gaming (and Vita) aspects.
Yuuki: You’ve stated that you drew inspiration from games like Harvest Moon, but are there any other games that you’ve taken inspiration from?
The obvious ones are of course Rune Factory and Animal Crossing – but we’ve also drawn inspiration from lots of other places. In terms of features, we actually got a few ideas from GTA; believe it, or not! In their approach to “add-ons” and the lots of little details that they build into their world such as in one of the last GTA titles (I think it was San Andreas) you could find an arcade machine and actually play mini-games (like a Pac-man rip-off or their use of cell-phones to progress story and build relationships).
Those little touches have definitely had an influence in our feature-set.
I’d say we’ve also drawn inspiration from a lot of dating games out there, ranging from those old-school flash dating games to more recent ones such as Catherine. Considering building connections and relationships is an integral part of the game, we have researched, and are continuing to do so, by playing as many relationship games as we can, to see how we can improve the way players connect with npc’s.
FFVII is another one that we’ve also drawn some influences from. Particularly the Chocobo side-game, the whole process of raising and breeding and eventually being able to race them or bet on them in the golden saucer.
So those are the main ones off the top of my head.
Yuuki: Catherine is an interesting choice. Speaking of Catherine, the game gets life from its well-written story; so how big is the focus on the story in Wild Season?
The idea to develop the game actually stemmed from the story. Although I love playing Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, more often than not I’ve felt that there could be something deeper. Personally, I keep a notebook just filled with game ideas (I probably have enough ideas to make games for at least 5-7 years if we can make money on most of them :D), so I took one of the ideas I had, which is centered around the town’s mystery and realized it would work great with a Harvest Moon-type farming game, particularly due to the contrast it brought in.
In addition to that, after the Kickstarter we brought on-board an additional writer. Whilst I’m great at coming up with ideas and fleshing out stories, I’m not the greatest writer, or have strengths with dialogue. However; with our new artist on board, she’s not only really helping us flesh out the stories, but bring ing an added level of dimension to the story arcs we have planned out. So yeah, you could say the game pretty much revolves around story and character development. We wouldn’t have been able to bring her on board without the Kickstarter, so we’re incredibly thankful for that because we think what we’re producing is now better than ever!
Yuuki: Which is good to hear, since while the game play of Harvest Moon is fun and works really well but it gets repetitive very fast so you need something to hook the gamer to it.
Sharan: That’s always been my own problem with Harvest Moon, so I’m making sure that we put a strong focus on it.
Yuuki: As far as I understand your company is based in the Philippines, isn’t it?
Sharan: Mostly yes, although we’re a global company, our writer is from Texas, our composer from Brazil, the rest of the development & art team is based from around the Philippines. I myself reside here, but also spend time in the UK & Spain.
Yuuki: It isn’t that often that you hear from game developer from the Philippines, how would you describe the gaming industry there?
Sharan: From a consumers perspective its HUGE! Filipinos LOVE to game. From a developers perspective, its small but passionate and set for incredible growth! The level of support is increasing very quickly, and we have a pool very able & passionate developers.
Yuuki: So you suggest that we could see more games from the Philippines in the future?
Sharan: Most certainly!
Yuuki: Good to hear, variety is always a good thing! But speaking of variety, I’m sure you’ve heard about the rise of social games on Facebook, especially games like Farmville which gather huge crowds. How do you feel about this?
Sharan: I don’t really have an opinion to be honest…it’s a completely different type of game, with a relatively different target demographic. Farmville is also a F2P game, with a strong focus on farm development, and monetization. We have specifically chosen to stay away from the F2P model for this game, because we don’t want “casual” players. We are selling an experience, and such our gameplay is designed to tell a story along with the development of the farm, as opposed to a competitive experience, that is often found in these Facebook games. I’m not saying that they are bad, just that the goals are completely different.
Yuuki: So the target demographics are more towards the core gamer, but that’s still a big mix of people. So who do you think should play Wild Season once it’s done?
Sharan: Well we’re aiming for a PG13 market for starters; specifically the type of people that enjoy story, character and relationship driven games as well as those that enjoy Harvest Moon and Rune Factory. Particularly those who have grown up with the franchises, and want something a little more mature.
Yuuki: Like you already stated before, your team is multicultural. How did you meet each other and were there any problems because of the different cultures?
Sharan: Well from our core team in the Philippines, half of them are guys from my previous company. My partner Harry and I decided to venture forwards with Quickfire and two of our programmers, and our now lead artists joined us. We also had some additional artists who helped us put the Kickstarter together but they are no longer with us. As for the rest of the team, we found them through job applications, either by us reaching out to them, such as our composer, who actually posted an AMAZING video on the indie game developer group on Facebook.
Kelsey, our writer found us through the Kickstarter and the rest of the team through our social media posts. As for our interns I know the course leader for the game development course from one of the top colleges here, so we’re bringing on board a few. As for culture clashes, no not really, everyone seems to get along great – we’re all passionate about the game and on the same page, so I think that’s all that really matters.
Yuuki: So Kickstarter and social media seem to be good sources for indies to gain more talented people, this is good to hear!
Now onto something more Vita related – why did you want to bring Wild Season to the Vita, and is there any feature of the Vita which you really want to work with?
Sharan: Honestly, I think the PS Vita is the one of the BEST Platforms for the game.
- The game is portable friendly since it will also be on smartphones.
- The actual physical controls mean more screen real estate for players.
- The huge & bright screen just makes bright 2d games like these so ENJOYABLE!!!
- Great sound system to enjoy our audio & soundtrack
As for specific features, I really can’t say at this time. We are developing the game on Unity and Sony’s Unity Plug-in is still in beta, not all the pieces are there to make use of the PS Vita’s hardware but at the very least we will probably make use of the touchscreen, possibly for things like recipe and inventory management, just because its easier. On that note, we can also actually confirm that it WILL be on the PS Vita. Although we hope to include it in the global launch window, we’re bound to Sony’s development of the Unity plug-in so we’ll be launching it as soon as we’re able.
Yuuki: If there is one thing you could change about the Vita what would it be?
Sharan: hmmm… battery life!… and state saving ability. It’s annoying that when you want to quit a game you have to go in and save it, or find a save point. It would be great if the “app” could remember where you left off when you close it from the home screen or if your battery dies, because the PS Vita already executes some level of state-saving as you don’t have to worry about your last save point (or re-setup the PS Vita) every time the battery dies.
Yuuki: That would indeed be a good thing! Is there any game that all Vita owner should have, in your opinion?
Sharan: hmmm… I can’t really say any one….there’s just so many great ones
Yuuki: I can agree on that one.
Sharan: Really? Which game do you feel is “essential”?
Yuuki: Since I am an huge RPG fan the choice is obvious with Persona 4 Golden, others would be Killzone, and most of the indie games – which are far too many to write them all down xD
Yuuki: If I remember right Ouya doubled the Kickstarter funding, this was the first I heard of this program of theirs – how did you found out about it?
Sharan: That’s correct!
So one of our backers mentioned the Ouya free the games fund, so we applied; basically they commit to doubling our Kickstarter amount and for each $10,000 USD they give us, we need to pledge 1 months exclusivity to them prior to launching on other platforms. However, they will only give us the money upon reaching certain milestones, so 50% when they see a beta and the remaining 50 at other milestones. It’s also first come first serve, I believe they only have allocated 1-2 million dollars for this, so our fingers are crossed that they don’t run out before we at least show them the beta.
Yuuki: Good luck then, I’ll cross my fingers for you! Is there anything else you want to say?
Sharan: Ooh yes!
So we’re in the last week of our post-Kickstarter fundraising, a week tomorrow. We will no longer be accepting pledges for our Kickstarter tiers, but we will be opening a store for those interested in making pre-orders. We [also] have some amazing deals that are only available to Kickstarter and post-Kickstarter backers, including game bundles and the Kickstarter edition, and alpha/beta access. So for those who are interested in getting in early, there’s still a chance via Paypal & Bitcoin.
Yuuki: Thanks for your time!