WHEN DEVELOPING GAMES IT REALLY HELPS TO KNOW YOUR GOAL AND TARGET MARKET
Foundat.io/n Game Studio was recently fortunate enough to sit down and chat with Sean Young about his game Littlewood. This cute RPG allows you, the game’s hero, to build, craft, forge, farm and create friendships. Before we jump into the interview, let’s take a moment and watch the trailer for the game below.
First, thanks for joining us today Sean. Let’s kick off the interview by talking a little bit about you and your relationship to the game. Can you begin by telling us about why you started developing Littlewood? What was it that made you need to develop this game?
Well Littlewood started as an idea for a relaxing world that I really wanted to escape to. I was in a tough spot after my mobile game didn’t do so well financially, and I just craved a gaming experience that would help me relax and feel good. I played Animal Crossing for quite a bit during this time, and I was so intrigued by it that I absolutely had to try making a similar game. That’s when Littlewood was born!
When did you start developing this game? I see you’ve used Kickstarter as a platform to help you get this game made. In fact, you had an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign (raising over $80,000 from almost 4000 backers). Was Kickstarter your only funding source? What advice would you give to others who wish to use this platform to help them fund their games? What were your biggest takeaways?
I began developing Littlewood about 2 years ago. Kickstarter was immensely helpful in providing financial support Aside from minor revenue from older games, this was the only funding source. To others who want to use Kickstarter for their games, I urge them to build a following before starting a campaign. Use social media to your advantage with screenshots, GIFs, and videos of your game to build hype going into your Kickstarter campaign.
What game engine did you develop Littlewood on and why did you chose that engine over others as your weapon of choice?
I used Unity for Littlewood. I have always used Unity for my games for the past 7 years. I don’t have much experience with other game engines!
Tell us more about what the day in and day out development process looked like. What was it really like when you were working in the trenches developing the game? How many people were on board? How long were the days? How long did the entire process take up until this time?
It’s just me sitting in my room with a cup of coffee everyday working on whatever is next on the list! I aim to work 6-8 hours a day, and taking breaks on the weekends. To prevent burnout I like to alternate my tasks, so some days I’ll do art whereas other days I’ll do programming or design work.
Many people (myself included) love classic style RPGs like yours. Why do you think that this game art style can still manage to attract massive numbers of game players? I know for some older players who grew up on pixel art, classic RPG style games help these gamers remember their younger game playing days. However, it seems that games like yours attract huge numbers of younger players who aren’t attracted to this style for nostalgic reasons. What do you think the contributing factors are that help keep this game style popular with gamers?
Well for me nostalgia plays a huge role in what art styles I like, and I really wanted to go for a Pokemon GBA pixel art style. It turns out this resonated with more people than I thought! I think pixel art is so flexible and ages very well, so maybe that contributes to it appealing to a wide audience.
I think Littlewood is testament to the fact that game mechanics, story and innovation can trump 3D AAA games with glossy graphics. I think your game will inspire many indie game makers because you’re living proof that indie games can be more than just a hobby for game devs. However, I’m sure much of your game’s success is tied to your pre-production process. I’m sure, you optimized your chances for success even before you sat down in front of a computer to code. I sense that you were aware of your limitations as an indie game developer, and you strategically worked within those limitations to optimize your game’s chances for success. Am I right? If so, what would be the biggest game pre-planning advice you would give indie game makers who have dreams of completing commercially successful games?
While there is no predefined formula for making a successful indie game, I think it really helps to know your goal and your target market. There are tons of extremely successful indie games that draw inspiration from older games and use that to their advantage when trying to reach an audience. For me, it was picking a peaceful (and popular) game like Animal Crossing as a base and then trying to prove that I can bring something new to the genre!
Who are other indie game makers or other indie game studios who you drew inspiration from? Not necessarily from an art standpoint or from a game mechanics standpoint. But just indies who you think are doing an exceptional job of trying new things and pushing the limits of what it means to be an indie game maker?
Any of the solo greats are a huge inspiration to me. Markus Persson, Eric Barone, Toby Fox, etc… To think that one person can have such a profound effect on the gaming scene is truly something that keeps going.
Now that your game is live (as an early access) I’m assuming you’re switching gears into game marketing mode now? I see on YouTube you already have numerous “let’s play” videos with wildly positive reviews. You’re also already featured on many gaming blogs. As an indie game developer, how have you been approaching marketing your game? What platforms have you found more successful than others when it comes to building awareness about your game?
In my experience, getting Youtubers and Twitch Streamers to cover my games is the only marketing that matters. The amount of power that these content creators have is really nuts! I think amazing games can go under the radar and be a financial failure if no one covers them, so it is important to try to get the attention of any content creators you can.
Now let’s quickly talk about distribution. You were recently greenlit on Steam. Congrats! In your opinion, as an indie game developer, what are the most important distribution platforms out there for indie game makers?
Steam is definitely the biggest one if you’re making a PC game. I’ve heard great things about the Nintendo Switch and I’m excited to begin porting Littlewood over to it once we reach version 1.0! I don’t have much experience with other platforms.
What’s next for you after Littlewood? Do you already have your next game planned? Will you stay in video game marketing mode for a while? Or will you move on to the next game?
I have many game ideas that I would like to pursue, but I’m really hoping to stay with Littlewood for as long as possible after version 1.0! It is a relaxing game to play but it is also relaxing to work on. I’ve enjoyed every moment working on it and I just hope that players will really love all of the content I have in mind for the game!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today! To our audience, if you’d like to learn more about Littlewood, please head over their Steam Page where you can pick up a copy of the game and keep up to date with development.