Norwegian Rock Pocket Games teams up with Sierra and the fruit of their combined labour, a gem called Shiftlings, is now on PC and console. The game is a sci-fi puzzle that makes you question your eye-to-hand coordination in a fun, slash, frustrating way that only makes the game that much harder to resist, once its quirky and lovable atmosphere sucks you in.
The game was conceived in 2013 when Rock Pocket Games joined the Norwegian Championship in Gameplay (NM i Gameplay), and had 10 days to create a concept and prototype for a game that would fit within the overall theme of “Size Matters”. The team were then quickly met with obstacles in the form of holidays and logistics issues, leaving them with only half that time, 5 days, to complete the task at hand. That resulted in the Norwegian team strapping in and focusing solely on that one project, effectively making it the first game to have their collective undivided attention.
“It was the first time that our team, as a whole, was working on the same project and everyone pitched in with ideas until we settled on a combination of ideas that led to the main gameplay mechanic in Shiftlings :)”, Natascha Röösli says.
Rock Pocket Games had been in contact with Activision for some time, and when they pitched Shiftling, it became a certainty that collaboration was inevitable. At the same time, Sierra became a part of Activision as their indie label, making the timing just about a call of fate.
“During the contract discussions we also learned that Sierra was going to be branded as Activision’s new indie label which was double exciting for us since a lot of us grew up with Sierra games.”, Röösli explains.
The Norwegian studio chose Shiftlings to be released on PC and console in an effort to grow as a studio and to realize their long-term goals. Röösli explains that the market for mobile games has long reached a point where there are more games than what is good for a developer – a classic example of supply outweighing demand.
That kind of over saturation is, according to Röösli, devastating for game developers, because without a backer in form of a community or existing brand, it forces them to either come up with a huge budget for user acquisition, or to go on without and essentially hope for a, hard to come by, strike of gold, such as Flappy Bird.
Many mobile games these days are Freemium, which is a model where you get the game for free, but pay for in-game content. A strategy that Röösli deems too troublesome, as it requires straining amounts of data analytics and fine-tuning of games to a flowing target group.
“We are just not interested in competing in that market. Additionally, it was always our goal to create games for the big screen in the living room. We think it’s interesting to have the different platforms such as WiiU, PS4 and XBox One that all have their own specific features to play around with in regards to design”, Röösli says.
According to Röösli, in order for the game developing industry to blossom and grow, not just in size, but also in content and quality, there has to be a protocol of engagement. Developers should be encouraged to show their work to other developers in the process of development, ensuring a well-analyzed result.
And as Röösli emphasizes, the only way to do that is through dialog and fairness. In her opinion, without openness to outside constructive critique, the fighting between games that is rampant these days, could very well turn it into something similar to the music industry.
In her own words, “We do need a lot of different games and the industry and the gamers deserve a wide range of them. Talk to and support other developers whenever you can and show your game during development to as many people as you can to get valuable input.”.
“Create what you are passionate about and work as hard as you can to make sure the public is going to understand and like it. You might not always succeed but don’t get discouraged. Start small and stay humble.”, she says.
As for the future of Rock Pocket Games, they seem to be on the fast track to success. Since 2008, where the studio was a regular one-man show, they have now grown to have 14 hardworking men and women in their midst – a trend they promise to keep expanding. With that said, however, they were forced to shut down their Olivia & Spike project last year, and at the same time let go of some of their employees. That same year, however, the studio was also nominated for “Company of the Year” in Norway, and nearly doubled their revenue from 2013 to 2014.
The newly paved road to success has led the team to make plans for a revision of the cancelled Olivia & Spike, and while they are still looking at feedback from their first PC and console game, they have a clear idea as to what is next.
“One of our main goals as a company is to grow, learn and improve with every release, be that in regards to our workflow or design wise. “.“Now, with our own PC and Console release, we will most probably do even better in 2015. We also do not have any outside investors in the company, which makes us especially proud. It’s all our own.”, Natascha Röösli concludes.