Congratulations to Thomas Geuken and StayHeavyGames, developers of our August GameSalad Game of the Month, Escape The Page!
Our August winner is a comic style game that features rock music, tapping gameplay, and an enjoyable, simple yet challenging experience.
GameSalad: Tell us a little bit about StayHeavyGames, yourself, and your experience as a game developer.
Thomas: Thank you for the honor of becoming Game of the month. Well StayHeavyGames is a brand new mobile and tablet development house based in wonderful Copenhagen. We are three people. Our aim is to develop games with an artful twist. My background is in psychology, music and being futurist at Copenhagen Institute for Future studies.
GS: That’s quite an interesting background! How long have you guys been making games?
Thomas: We made some games back in the 80’s such as clones of Pac-man, Space Invaders, Galaxy, Jetpack etc. We are truly in love with simple old school game dynamics – they remind us “games have to be fun”.
GS: Sounds like you guys have been at this for quite awhile then. Has Escape The Page met or exceeded your expectations?
Thomas: From an internal perspective yes indeed. But we just published our game and are in the middle of a two week soft launch – in silence – to bug fix and see how a small amount of people play “Escape the Page” everyday. The interest has in fact been overwhelming, being number one in TouchArcade’s “Hot Games” section, and getting really great reviews ranging from 4-5 stars out of 5. We are feeling humble and have worked really hard to come up with a new build within days to fix all the known bugs. We did not want gamers to get frustrated because of our negligence.
Gaming is indeed a global phenomenon – and it is a bit of a surprise to us that China and Russia responded extremely positive to Escape The Page. We have not done any marketing yet. From our point for view, creating a good game is only 25 percent of the work. Marketing, trailers, review-letters, business-models, and community building is the hard work.
Our hard launch is in 10 days and we are getting ready to rock our little game on iOS and Android. Our expectations are not met at all yet – we just started 5 days ago and “The only way is all the way!” We are a rock ‘n’ roll company – we work hard, have fun and reach for glory – even though we know the odds are against us.
We will get back to you in half a year to tell you whether or not we exceeded our expectations.
We are in it for the long run. The real potential of Escape The Page is not the game itself – but rather creating an authentic, edgy, street-smart comic brand universe that people simply like.
GS: It looks like you guys have some great expectations. I hope you can reach them and wish you luck! Is Escape The Page your first GameSalad game?
Thomas: Yes it is. We are still learning the industry’s do’s and don’ts. We were uncertain which development platform to choose. Well, to be honest, we were shopping around until I insisted on using GameSalad as a tool for prototyping because we needed to test our game design and play mechanics. Truthfully, we thought about prototyping the game in GameSalad and porting to Unity for publishing, but the game executed so well and we were constantly hitting 60 frames per second in gameplay that we decided there was no need to switch to another platform.
GS: Well we’re glad you decided to stay with us! What got you interested in GameSalad and about how long did it take you to develop Escape The Page?
Thomas: Simply put: Its fast non-programmable prototyping capabilities! Our development cycle has been 8 months all together for iOS and Android (Android version will be released in the near future).
GS: Any words of advice or tips to share with fellow GameSalad devs?
Thomas: This is our game development philosophy:
1) Make a fun prototype: Get going – make a fast prototype and let people play it. The gameplay has to be fun. Only blue boxes jumping and dodging has to be fun – otherwise you will end up with a “pig in make-up”!
2) Write a game design document: When you have messed around with the prototype, write a good game-document that includes your game vision: the natural story (which makes your game feel authentic), value propositions (how does it benchmark with other games), USP (Unique Selling Point) and how you will build your level design in words!
3) 20% is game development – 80% is marketing: If you do not have your value propositions and strategic differentiation down – you are doing something wrong! They have to be included in everything you create. They will help you to create a pure and strong experience for gamers. Your game design document is the games’ “true north” – it will help you to stay on track, focus your development efforts, and most importantly, save the qualities that make your game truly stand out. Qualities that easily get devaluated in technical solutions and marketing stunts. Make a good marketing case. How do you on-board 1,000,000 gamers? What is your retention model (why do gamers need to get back in to the game?) What is your business model (you need to implement your business model into the game. It has to be an extension of gaming – not a plug in (me too banners)!
4) Follow the natural story: Every tale has a natural story that makes all the elements come together in a larger user experience. The natural story guides decision making. Whether a good idea is accepted or dropped. For instance, our animator created a beautiful sunset with the sun being very cute. I personally loved it, and from a narrow marketing perspective, it would be great to have a smiling cute sun like the one in “Teletubbies” to get small kids on-board with our game. But, it is not what our game is all about. Our natural story is about a cool boy trapped in a dangerous comic book overcoming tons of dangers. “Cute” did not fit our value proposition being a rock ‘n’ roll, street-smart jumper, or the escape story. Indy games have the obligation to bring something different to the marketplace and to take a risk in producing an authentic game with an edge or a feel – for lack of a better phrase – more human experiences!
GS: Thanks for the interesting insight! What’s next for StayHeavyGames?
Thomas: We have a plan to bring out two new games within the next 6 months that are basically set in the same universe. We have tons of stories and set pieces we would love players to engage and jump around in. It will be a blast!
GameSalad has given us our company wings to fly into the gaming world and for that we are truly grateful.
Congratulations again to StayHeavyGames! If you’d like to download Escape The Page then go look for it now on the app store! Also feel free to:
Check out the gameplay trailer!
And their facebook page!