Darklings: a successful game on the second attempt

Original author: Emre Canbazoglu
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The appearance of the game Darklings was an event on the AppStore in late 2013. Perhaps many of you have already taken the side of the Light and have gone through epic black and white battles, expelling the monsters of Darkness with inscriptions. The Darklings developers received the Crystal Pixel Award for the best gameplay and decided not to stop there - but did you know what they went through before getting the well-deserved honor and respect?

We at Alconost were fortunate enough to work on localizing Darklings in 8 languages ​​and on a teaser video.for the second season of the game. And we decided to translate for you the story of the creation of Darklings, written in the first person. We are sure that this story will give strength to teams experiencing difficult times and ready to give up. Just like the Darklings team did, don't give up guys! In May 2013, Burkai Ozdemir and Emre Kanbazoglu founded the MildMania game studio in Turkey with their money . The first development of the studio, the game Darklings , was hardly released in November 2013. As Emre recalls, making the game was " especially difficult in Turkey, where the gaming industry is very weak ."

Darklings is a game for mobile devices with a “fundamentally” unique gameplay: as in epic tales, here Light meets Darkness. You play as a Firefly who fights with Darkness and returns Light to the Universe.

Emre will tell us how the game was created and what was behind all this.

There was a poster in the beginning

It all started with the fact that Burkay saw a poster of the only startup incubator at that time (late 2010), specializing mainly in games. Together with two friends, he applied there. With this team, we announced the project of the social board game Icons, which is in no way associated with Darklings.

In the same year, Burkaya was accepted to the master's program in gaming technology, where I studied. As our course project, we presented a game similar to the Harry Potter computer games (where you need to draw to use the spell) and the Z-Type HTML5 game (where you need to write letters to explode the asteroids). But unlike these games, our game was developed for mobile devices and is ideally adapted for touch screens.

Our team started searching for suitable tools, drawing on all the available experience and the help of friends.

But before continuing to work on Icons, we spent the first months with a new team in the startup incubator solving a number of problems. Firstly, for everyone in the team, the experience in developing games was limited to a couple of training projects that were far from perfect and not up to the level of commercial games. So our team began to search for suitable tools, drawing on all the available experience and the help of friends: professors from the master's program, colleagues from other game development teams and industry experts from the start-up incubator.

Later we suspended work on the project submitted to the startup incubator, and took up the game with the working title Monstiez (where it was necessary to draw in order to kill enemies), because it seemed to us that it could be completed in a few months.

The split is for the better

The finished Monstiez prototype attracted the attention of the gaming publisher Chillingo and industry experts at the Startup Turkey 2012 conference . We are among the 15 best startups in Turkey and we have a chance to talk with a large number of investors. Everything seemed to be working out well. Having started working with Chillingo, we got a lot of tips for improving the game and changed the style to black and white - while Limbo and Contre Jour games became popular , which increased sales and received rewards.

But after some time, the development stalled: everyone around considered the game too boring and primitive. Because changes to the project were made too often, moving forward became agonizing. This and a number of other factors put the team on the brink of a split. We could no longer work together, our views were too different. After much debate, the team disagreed completely: a gap became inevitable. The designer decided to leave and pick up all his best practices.

Only Burkay and I did not give up on the game. After all, we believed in it from the very beginning, believing that this game could become something completely new in the market. We tried to learn from our mistakes and not turn back onto the wrong (as it seemed to us) path. The last time we took up the development of the game, thinking through everything in the most thorough way so that the new version of the game would definitely turn out much better.

We did not give up on the game. After all, we believed in it from the very beginning.

We found Juan Pablo Casini , who took up the design and design, and David Stanton , to music and sound. What was even better, we founded MildMania LLC and brought in Contrast8to create our corporate identity. As a result, we began to make decisions much faster than before. It was still not easy, but we finally began to like what we are doing - as in the very beginning.

Teamwork - business, friendship and romance

We made one big mistake: we were too attached to certain people and their number in the team, being confident that it was always possible to solve all issues and continue working with the same team without any problems. And since we started three together, it seemed to us that a team of three should complete the work on the game.

The game could have come out earlier, if at the very beginning we had made the right decisions.

Splitting the team is not easy for everyone. But looking back at it now, we see that after the split, things went uphill: from external relations and relations, important and everyday decisions, the people with whom we worked, to satisfaction from what was done. We realized that if we had earlier decided to split the team and collaborate with our current designers, we could release a well-thought-out game much earlier.

So we learned that each company should find out whether partners are able to understand each other and work together without disagreement, without turning every little thing into a problem. Everyone should ask themselves if their vision and expectations coincide with the partnership. This is not just business or friendship - it is a little bit of both, and even very similar to a relationship with your soulmate. :)

How not to get lost in the AppStore

For nine months we worked with three designers, one audio designer and two programmers. Three people from this team were freelancers with whom we collaborated for a long time. Our relationship was good enough to meet everyone if necessary in the office and continue to work from scratch - from the corporate identity and new names to game graphics. It was not only a split that prompted us to make radical changes, but the main reason was quality: we realized that it should be much higher than before. We worked on changes to the game with our team members and industry colleagues to bring the game closer to the expectations of AppStore users.

The cost of eight months of redesign may seem too high for casual play. But after the sacrifices that were made to the project, we could not let the game get lost in the ocean of thousands of applications.

Testing can lead to a complete redesign

We are convinced that we made Darklings better by adding a lot of content (game spaces, tactical fights with bosses, tasks and achievements), the possibility of individual settings and changing the game mechanics. The testing involved hundreds of people, including developers, designers and business managers from around the world. We passed all the tests with TestFlight.and conducted user testing of the beta version, accesses to which were distributed after the release of the teaser. We invited everyone who showed interest in it to the game, as well as our friends from Turkey - game developers and gamers at the same time. Hundreds of people from many countries have contributed; in order to get the most information, along with the in-game feedback mechanism, we have implemented analytics collection. Now Darklings is not at all like the game that we worked on for a year and a half. All the collected reviews helped us fix a lot of mistakes.

We completely redesigned the user interface, came up with unique fights with each boss

For example, it turned out that the user interface was not quite suitable for mobile phones: some buttons were too small. In addition, fights with bosses quickly bothered the players, so we completely redid them, coming up with a unique battle with each boss.

Product focus instead of public debate

We planned to release the game on November 27th. After such a long development, we could no longer wait for Darklings to appear in the AppStore and were terribly happy when our first application finally came out and instead of the test builds we saw the “Ready for sale” status.

We could not wait for Darklings to appear in the AppStore

But publishers were suspicious of us, considering the project too risky due to a split team before launch. In addition, our former designer launched indictment campaigns (both public and targeted), desperately speculating on twisted stories to tarnish the name of the game and company. We did not respond: instead of getting involved in public discussions, we tried to focus on the product. We knew that all the tales of our former designer were a lie, and we could have defended our rights in court, but that would have taken years. Instead, we turned our efforts in a different direction, and the reward for these efforts was the launch day and the day following it. Both days were incredible! The American and Canadian AppStore named Darklings one of the best applications. Discussions on the forums were initiated by the users themselves, the media published excellent reviews. We received tons of letters with words of support, to which we tirelessly answered. Watching the Darklings disperse all over the world was part of our dream that finally came true!

Darklings brand created itself

Unexpectedly, the decision to go out by samizdat opened up new opportunities for us. Just a week before the game appeared on the AppStore, we met with Ajay Chadha , the founder of B27 , and agreed to join our efforts. It was not a publication, but rather marketing and business development in the USA and Europe. This helped us to get out self-published as we wanted.

Our brand began to line up on its own.

With the help of Ajay, we established really good relations with industry representatives, where we began to be recognized both due to the quality of our game and thanks to our friendship with B27. Our brand began to line itself up. Now we already have an agreement with Unity Tech Japan and Kakehashi Games about the Japanese edition, with Joygame- About the publication for Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. We also continue negotiations on entering Korean, Chinese and other markets. In addition, we are trying to attract financing to expand the team and work on parallel projects without loss of quality, and this is where good relations with investors from around the world can come in handy.

The amount of work after launch has doubled. And we found that our actions after launch are also significant for the success of the product. At the end of the development, a whole new world opened up for us, and we adapted to it, receiving considerable pleasure from the process.

The business side of the industry, establishing relationships, searching for local publishers, giving interviews, receiving media reviews, watching how the game is highly appreciated by industry veterans, planning a business for the year ahead to develop the game and strengthen its position - all this was new to us, because before that we were completely focused on development! And even taking into account the fact that the creation process was still a headache, we gained confidence that since we were able to enter this industry, in the future our products will be even better.

The amount of work since the launch of Darklings has almost doubled

Now we are almost ready to announce the release of the second season of Darklings, which could actually turn into Darklings 2. But we decided to release it as an update, because the game itself is only three months old. On the other hand, it is something fundamentally different! And this means that we are not going to abandon the game and make sure that Darklings fully realize its potential.

Darklings is available on the AppStore . The game is being prepared for release on Google Play, Samsung Apps, Amazon, LeapMotion, as well as for PC and Mac. Meanwhile, the MildMania team promises more surprises, including exclusive releases and new products that will be announced shortly!

About the translator

Translation of the article was done in Alconost.

Alconost is engagedlocalization of applications, games and sites in 60 languages. Native translators, linguistic testing, cloud platform with API, continuous localization, project managers 24/7, any format of string resources.

We also make advertising and training videos - for sites that sell, image, advertising, training, teasers, expliner, trailers for Google Play and the App Store.

Read more: https://alconost.com

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