Helloi you Oisters! Sabaku is here!
The end is near! 2019 is finally over, and I say finally because that means it’s only one month until UmaikiGames is officially a part of the “We released something”-Club! It was a long ride, 2+ years to be exactly inaccurate, but it feels like 2019 was THE year where everything came together.
I think looking back has great value in this instance, maybe because we germans LOVE Jahresrückblicke (end-of-year reviews) and can’t get enough of them, but maybe also because we feel especially in the Indie gamedev space where a lot of young, talented, passionate people come together and can feel lost quickly, perspectives are important.
And as said, a LOT of stuff happened this year.
Firstly, I have to excuse myself: We won’t talk about 2019 right of the bat. Unfortunately I have to speak verbosely and give a quick rundown of the end to 2018 to give you a good idea how everything that follows in this rundown came to be.
The inital plan for Skellboy was always to selfpublish on Steam, a platform that still seemed to be one of the most direct ways to put out a game of a small team without much shenanigans around it at the time. We made a twitter, we made a homepage, we pumped out pictures and gifs and vids on social media on a regular basis and csg (@ChrisScheidig), our Programmer but also Social Media Manager and Level Designer and general Contact Person jumped in to find out the basics of founding a company. At that time we had weekly meetings and everything formed, slowly but steadily, with me still studying, Chris already out of university and working full time on the game and Björn working full time and making music on the side. Björn, our musician and sounddesigner for Skellboy mumbled very regularely that he hoped the game would do good enough to also publish it on Nintendo Switch, maybe someday eventually with a little bit of luck and a lot of finger crossing and when the stars align right.
Ha, jokes on you, @BjoernMeansBear.
On 25th of Mai 2018 Fabian from Fabraz (@Fabrazz) contacted us for the first time. They saw some gif of one of our bosses falling over awkwardly (which for some reason summarizes a lot of our most famous Skellboy gamedev gifs on twitter), asked about our plans and proposed to publish us on (can you guess it?) NINTENDO SWITCH.
Some months later a demo build was sent, a roadmap and a brief documentary about the project was put together, and after double checking everything very carefully and making sure everyone was in the know about the way the project would go things were signed. Whew!
We made it! We made the strangely small appearing, but also difficult step for grabbing the attention of a publisher that also grabbed our attention!
Looking back, we were extraordinarily lucky and if I take one thing from this timeframe it is: Taking your time and feeling safe about your decision is really important. Fabraz was not the first publisher getting in contact with us, but they were the first publisher we felt comfortable with. I remember reading emails from one, two, three different publishers, but after checking them out we always agreed in team that this was not what we were searching for, not necessarily because they appeared fishy, but the gutfeeling said no, even after consulting our pillows. Everyone had to feel secure, there was no other way around it. Fabraz first impression was so much different (more personal, for one thing) and in retrospect I can’t thank them enough for their patience so we could make sure to feel safe in our decision every step of this untrodden pixelated path. Signing a contract feels scary as hell, because all of a sudden it’s not only a fun little game (ha) anymore. It’s a fun, commercial game now. But, after thoroughly examinating everything, another call and patient explaining where explanation was needed, we did it.
And so, on 3rd of December last year, the first official Skellboytrailer for Switch dropped, and we are now publicly published! That, my gamedeverinos, already was HUGE for us, even without a clue what would happen over the next year.
PAX EAST 2019
If you are following some of the bigger indiedev personalities on twitter you probably got the feeling that they travel a whole lot and if you are like me you instantly want to lay down just from reading about it. While it may sound exciting, it also appears exhausting, because we are the generation of people that feel old and didn’t even hit our 30ies, oof. But enough of that.
Teaming up with a publisher opened up the possibility for us to visit the Penny Arcade Expo 2019 in Boston as part of the Indie Mega Booth, the first of many places Skellboy would be featured in this year. As you may or may not know, we are all from germany and if I remember properly of the three of us I was the only one that flew with a plane and was in America before - roughly 20 years ago. One of us said there was the possibility they are afraid of heights. And also no one of us awkward bums ever was at a big gaming convention before.
What could possibly go wrong?!
Actually, everything went pretty smoothly! For everyone who wants to read the itty-bitty details I made some kind of travel diary over at twitter at the time! Good stuff with blurry pictures!
I've decided to do a little 🛄travel-twitterthread🛄 about our PAXmerica Tour, for everyone who's bored, has too much time on their hands and/or is curious ☝— Sabaku🎩 (@sabbi_tabbi) March 26, 2019
I call it #umaikitravel
Some things i want to highlight looking back: You only get an idea how diverse the industry is and how important connections are when you present your game in person to a huge audience like you are confronted with at PAX. And luckily it’s very welcoming. There is no doubt that the gaming and gamedev community itself has problems you can’t deny and we all have to look out for each other, and I couldn’t be more happy that I had a headstart meeting so many friendly people. The list of names would be endless, so only let me name a view - very delighted to have met @thewolfdoctor and @mzsylver from the PokeProblems podcast (@pokemoncast), we just had the honor to appear in their podcast some time before PAXEast (our first podcast experience in fact!) and also very kind Bill Nielsen from @SoManyBits!
There were quite a few people that recorded and filmed and asked questions, very lovely and approachable people and even when we werenervous as HECK and maybe imposter syndrom was shining through sometimes - it was also a lotta fun! And whenever we really got stuck or felt tired (we were there roughly 8 hours a day for 4 days), the Fabraz-Guys always helped out! (Did I mention how good Fabraz is already?)
FANTASY BASEL 2019
Hey, it’s Chris for a change!
The swiss comic con called Fantasy Basel was something we didn’t’ know about before Fabraz just casually asked us during PAX if we want to go. Basel in Switzerland, roughly 7000 kilometers closer to us than Boston sounded like another great opportunity for our team(except Sabaku, which stayed at home and worked) ! This time the crowd was a lot different because the focus was not on Video games, rather on comics and nerd culture as a whole)
So we took the offer, had some amazing schnitzel at Basel, and experienced our second big convention - this time all on our own!
The big difference this time was, that we actually woudn’t just go there under our own name, but actually as part of the Nintendo Showcase! That - indeed - was a MASSIVE deal for us! We were incredible lucky to have our own station at the nintendo booth, right beside the big Titles from the year. The supportive staff from Nintendo was a lot of fun to work with and this was also the moment, even more than the PAX, that showed us how strongly our game resonated with children all over the place. I will never forget the small boy, showing his father how he can chop of one of the Soldiers Heads at the beginning of the game. He loved it, but his father was kinda horrified!
We were one of two indie games at the booth, which was kinda scary. But other one was the developer of MODSORK (@MODSORK), a really innovative arcade style rhythm game where you have to coordinate with two thumbsticks. You should check it out, it is really fun and challenging!
What really impressed me is how many games are out there. I’m working with games on a daily basis, but each of these conventions shows me so many new games I’ve never heard of! I’m sure a lot of great games just fall of the radar because of this oversaturation, but I can understand why so many people want to create games in the first place.
The whole Gamescom timeframe was pretty intense for us! It was unclear if we were able to visit cologne in the first place for these events because getting a booth turned into a waiting game with some downs and ups. At first we applied for the Indie Mega Booth, which didn’t work out,so we tried to go for the Indie Village. But parallel to that something different rolled around we didn’t expect at all:
Nintendo confirmed us as part of their first Indie World Stream Event and on top of that gave us a place in their Nintendo Indie World booth, together with Trine 4, The Touryst, Phogs!, and much much more. Big things about the stream: It would contain the final release date, which was such a relief because just one day before the Indie World Stream got live we already stood at Devcom at our booth and kept it secret, even when people were asking about the release date. Game Developer are actually keeper of powerful secrets. (∩｀-´)⊃━☆ﾟ.*･｡ﾟ
Also Kirk Scott, the Nindie man himself recording an intro to your game trailer is something you never knew you wanted until you saw it, in a stream from Nintendo, with thousands of people watching.
Third, the best thing we could do was to ask @VintalValentin for writing and recording the music for the trailer together with Björn. If you wonder who sings the song and plays the guitar in our indie world stream trailer: @VintalValentin! Check him out! He’s a cool talented dude! We always wanted to collaborate with him and thought this occasion was the perfect opportunity to finally do it. We weren’t 100% sure if people would enjoy the combination at all. But as Björn and Sabaku scrolled through the comments on Indie World Day, it became apparent it was the best thing we could do.
With two big conventions and Devcom already under our belt we thought to be buff enough for the Behemoth called Gamescom, but the 9 hours a day really demanded a lot of willpower from our side. With 373.000 Visitors and 1.153 Exhibitors, this monster is much bigger than PAX and a lot more demanding, on every level.
We wanted to show as much presence as possible, and with the combined power of Fabraz, the lovely guys from the Nintendo booth and enough hydration we made it, and in the end I think it really payed off!
Also, Gamescom was again the time for a lot of meetups with old and new friends! For the first time, because we are from Germany ourselves, friends not related to gamedev showed up which was pretty neat. It really felt like you reached a special point when you have to handle people you know as customers and present them your game!
Oh, and by the way: After this stressful time we had a wonderful day at the Fantasia Land amusement park. Of course, just as a team building activity….!
Oh bOI, it's time for another round of #umaikitravel ! We gonna show #Skellboy at #devcom AND at #Gamescom2019 ! That means I'm traveling to Cologne tomorrow, and I hope to meet a lot of you Oisters! And for everyone else I try my best to keep you updates! Baai and a goodnight!💀 pic.twitter.com/8zOnfyFrFU— Sabaku🎩 (@sabbi_tabbi) August 16, 2019
This turned into a massive wall of text, wowzie! Seems like you really just know how much happened over a year when you put it together. And those were just the things we witnessed ourselves! Skellboy also was on PAX West 2019(Seattle), PAX South 2019(San Antonio), at Comic Con Russia 2019(Moscow) and many many other gatherings Fabraz managed to go to.
After allll of that we finally returned to the final stretch of development. And they really don’t lie when they tell you that most of the content happens in the last weeks of development. We wrote tons of dialogue in english and german, we did last minute music, last minute sounds, last minute graphics and corrected last minute bugs. We took the oath that we wouldn’t crunch, which…didn’t work as good as hoped, but we made it to Lotcheck in the intended time frame. But as your probably know (and now we talk about the downers, folks!) things didn’t work out for the intended Dec 3th release date and we had to push it back to January 30th. There is not much to talk about, besides time management can bite you in the ass, nobody was really to blame, and we all learned some lessons in the process. Fabraz did a good job, Nintendo did a good job, we did a good job, end of story. Probably anybody and their grandma was frustrated, mostly because we had to delay it so close before release and with that a lot of other things like Podcast dates, AMA stuff and so on and so on, but hey, it’s probably good that it happened now, so we know what to look out for next time! The upside is that we now can go all out on release, with merchandise and everything!
Which makes another first, right now we are working together with The Yetee(helping with the shirtdesign, making pins and stickers from scratch) and Black Screen Record(bringing the Soundtrack to fancy Vinyl). This makes you see your art in a much different light, you think “You really need to level up your skill here”, but while Sabaku pumped out Shirtdesigns and Coverarts, Banner for conventions and flyers and trailers and with all the feedback we got for the game itself, the concept and the music, we had to realize something.
THE THINGS TO COME
Apparantly we have something with huge potential on our hands, as it is right now. We are all so excited when the release finally happens, when we get tons of new feedback and new opportunities arise, when we can see where we have to put more effort in (and of course get a good review or twomaybethree).
And because the potential is there, the square skeleton will probably spook around quite a while on our To-Do-List, hopefully for positive reasons, will send us to a lot more different places and find a spot in the heart of a lot of players. Of course there is the possibility it’s just another indiegame out there. But to be honest - at that point it isn’t anymore. There are already too many awesome memories attached.
After Skellboy (whatever after means and when that even is) UmaikGames is already hot for the next thing. Yes, Skellboy will still be released for PC some time this year. Yes, we would love to make another game, but chances are high it has nothing to do whatsoever with Bones and Squares. Even with the little ones. Actually, there are two projects with a very similar history as Skellboy on our long list of prototypes (some you can see on our Website) we would like to tackle. We are still evaluating what it will be (I mean, Skellboy isn’t even out) and how it will look, but honestly, a lot of that is also depending on how our first baby performs. So stay tuned!
Schotti is still working hard on Santria and teamed up with his artist and partner in crime Sam (@goawayimcrabby), naming themselves the Cheekynauts (www.cheekynauts.com). You can read the recent developments of Santria following the link to the retrospect of 2019
In 2019, a lot of Santria’s development took place in the background as tools and editors were created to speed up content creation in the future. We are excited to see finally silly gifs again in 2020!
With those million words written, you earned your belated Merry Christmas and also your Happy New Year! It was a FANTASTIC time for us and whoever is reading this right now, we wish you that the coming year will be full of opportunities for you, with all the support you need and we send you all the energy. Have a good one!
csg, Sabaku, Björn and Schotti from UmaikiGames