Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Indie Dev Insight: Kuyi Mobile

Kuyi Mobile is an independent game development company based in the Philippines and focused on creating a new breed of mobile games.

I first came across Erick and Kuyi Mobile when part of the Corona SDK community and a feature run on the incredibly popular Streetfood Tycoon game. I know for one that my wife is addicted to this game as its a blend of casual game, vibrant colours and addictive gameplay. I spoke to Erick when having just launched Streetfood Tycoon: World Tour.

What got you into writing games?
I guess it's the same for all game designers/developers--I used to be a passionate gamer (now I have less time!) and play a lot on different consoles/platforms. And being a cartoonist has helped me get into game design/development easily.

What's good and bad about what you do?
There are a lot of good things about being in the game industry but I'm pretty sure everyone has heard it all by now so I'll concentrate on the bad. Two of the bad things that I had to struggle with was work-life balance and staying healthy. It feels great to be able to hack at night and do fantastic things but it takes a toll on one's health. I wouldn't advise sleeping late at night anymore. Whether you're working at home or in an office, be sure to allot time for work and spend the rest doing something else--recreation, exercise, hobby, quality time with family, etc.

How many people are involved in writing games at Kuyi Mobile. What roles do they take on?
I've always been a one-man team since I put up Kuyi Mobile but I outsource all my sounds and music. It's not that I dislike working with other people, it's just that I wanted to start small and take it one step at a time. Just last December, I started forming a team and added one developer and an artist to Kuyi Mobile. Hopefully, we can get a decent office soon and work more seamlessly.

What would you do differently now given what you know from projects completed and experience from the gaming and app market?
If there's anything that's changed, it's my process of choosing my next project. Though the gaming industry has boomed the past few years, competition has also gone up which means we all need to level up and put as much quality into our products as possible. I usually do a lot of market research, brainstorming, prototyping and getting a lot of early feedback for my game ideas before I go full blast on it. Choosing which game project to embark on used to be just a day or two, now it's about a month or more!

What tools do you use. By this I mean software development kits/engines (Cocos2d, Corona, Unity3D etc), audio packages, art packages.
I was actually never dependent on just one tool (discounting XCode, of course). I started out with Cocos2D and now using Corona SDK. I'm currently exploring Unity and possibly use it for my next game project. I believe it all depends on the game that you're working on, what the requirements are and what 3rd party tool can support it. Of course, it gets harder to support and churn out updates if you're using various tools but I don't mind as long as my players/customers get a fantastic gaming experience when they play my titles.

What marketing tactics do you employ? Forums, twitter, paid PR etc
To be honest, I just send out a press release via PRMac and that's it (used to be only US$20, now it costs US$22!). Since I started, the only things I've added to my marketing are my social media channels--Twitter and Facebook. You really can't survive w/out engaging with your players. I try to experiment with a few marketing tools from time to time but I never really stuck with anything consistently. Right now, I'm experimenting with Facebook's mobile ads, figuring out its effectiveness and how it can help me grow my userbase.

What effect do you think free to play has had upon your game design?
F2P is a huge game changer. I used to be your free + paid type of guy but since I got into F2P, the way I look at game design has totally evolved and changed. It pushes developers to be more creative and ingenious and it's not actually bad as long as you keep your game's main goal and mechanics intact. I also spend a lot of time on monetization and virality but I make sure that it doesn't sacrifice my original gameplay. I'm not after my player's money, I'd rather give them a nice and enjoyable gaming experience. Besides, those who really like my games will eventually make a purchase and support me anyway.

What resources do you swear by for learning new techniques, getting more from the packages you mentioned above, news etc. e.g Books (specific titles would be appreciated), forums / websites, social media
What I love about this industry is that everyday, you can always learn a new thing or two. I read a lot of books about game design, entrepreneurship and startups and spend a lot of time on indie and game development sites to learn more about what's new, trending topics and what's coming.

There has been a lot in the press recently that app development is going through a gold rush and that the bubble will burst soon. Do you see it like this?
I'd rather not think about the gold rush and how it will all fail in the end. I prefer to focus on creating more games, growing my userbase and building a nice track record. As long as you have built a good game catalogue and acquired a lot of fans along the way, I believe you'll be able to sustain yourself in any kind of situation.

Do you think app games will eventually kill off AAA titles as we know them?
One great thing about what Apple did is that they provided an arena for indie game developers like us to compete with the big guys so yes, we can definitely compete with Triple A titles but I don't think we'll eventually kill them. There's a lot of room for both and it's become a great ecosystem for developers, content providers and consumers.

What does 2013 have in store for Kuyi Mobile?
New games! :)

Any additional advice you would give for up and coming indie developers?
Start small, aim big! Also, do your homework--come up with new & unique game ideas, research what's out there and ALWAYS focus on quality.

Why not give Streetfood Tycoon: World Tour a go. Its fun, free and as addictive as ever and available on the App store.


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