In our first Talk To Me interview of 2018 we sit down with iFun4All’s Jacek Glowacki to chat all things Serial Cleaner, VR, desert island PCs and visits to West Germany - enjoy!
What inspired you and your team during the development stage?
We had a lot of different inspirations, but you must know that Serial Cleaner's concept was evolving before the game became what it is today. What we tried to achieve (and hopefully we have), was a "inverted Hotline Miami" kind-of game. We loved Hotline Miami and played a lot of it, but we didn't want to just copy most of the gameplay solutions and add one twist. We wanted to figure out something unique and original. Hence we've decided that it was going to be a game about cleaning up after a killer.
So, if I'm to enumerate gaming inspirations, I'd say Hotline Miami and Party Hard, which, in my opinion, is also amazing! But there are the 70s too of course - terrific decade, very colourful, dynamic and revolutionary in so many areas... We adore the 70s, but we adore the decade even more when we look at it through the eyes of great movie directors, like Quentin Tarantino. We always like to say that Serial Cleaner is "Pulp Fiction meets Hotline Miami." Our art team searched for inspirations by studying thousands of photographs from the 70s, but also Matthew Lyons’ paintings. So, as you can see, we were inspired by a lot of pieces of art.
Can you tell us about your team at iFun4All?
iFun4All S.A. was founded in 2009 by Bloober Team - an indie development studio, responsible for such great games as Layers of Fear and Observer. At the beginning iFun4All was to become Bloober's mobile division to expand Bloober's activity. Hence we started off by making premium titles for iOS, such as Red Game Without a Great Name and Green Game: TimeSwapper, which were later ported to PC, PS VITA and Android.
Later on the company's philosophy changed, because the new CEO had started implementing his vision. We switched to PC and consoles as primary platforms and started working on Serial Cleaner. In the meantime the company went public, we found investors and signed a global publishing deal with Curve Digital. The development team has expanded and we moved from a beautiful (but too small) house into a new office in Krakow, Southern Poland. It all happened in just couple of months and we're ready to open a new chapter in iFun's history.
How difficult is it for indie developers in this current market? Can you take artistic risks and still make a profit?
Two words of introduction: I'm the head of business development at iFun4All S.A. and before I joined in September 2016, I worked as a business developer at Techland Publishing, where I moved from Onet, the biggest Polish information service, where I worked as a gaming journalist. Hence I've been observing the development of the gaming market from three different perspectives: a journalist's, publisher's and now developer's.
Regarding your question, the market is completely crazy. Extremely competitive, more and more costly, and super risky in terms of ROI, in constant need of more skilled and talented specialists, but with almost no entrance barriers.
Working in the gaming industry is a dream come true to many people around the world (including myself), but it's always stressful, yet exciting; always changing, but in some areas remains constant. If I was to use one word, describing the industry, it would be the word "paradox" (in no relation to the Swedish developer and publisher :D). Still, of course you can make profit, while taking a purely artistic approach, but nowadays your chances for success are really low. Behind one super successful story of an indie developer hide thousands and thousands of stories of failures or, in the best case, average performance. And developers should be aware of that, while pursuing their dreams.
"...the market is completely crazy, extremely competitive, more and more costly, and super risky..."
With that in mind, are shows like Rezzed beneficial in helping you find an audience?
Now, when it comes to fairs and events, I believe that they are perfect places to be, but not really to build the audience (if you're a debuting indie studio with new IP), but rather to get some priceless feedback (from journalists too - and you can meet a lot of people, who'll be reviewing your game after launch) and simply collect bugs for free :). That's where fairs are most helpful. Of course I'm sure that companies like EA or Activision take a very different perspective, but they are swimming in a very different ocean!
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
Oh, that's easy! My advice is: make games. It's the best way to get into gaming industry. Develop your skills in your favourite area and look for opportunities. That's pretty much it I guess :)
Where do you think the industry is heading - is VR the future in your opinion?
Definitely VR has been a hot topic for some time, as well as AR and I'm sure they'll remain hot, because a lot of very rich companies have spent billions of dollars to buy and develop the technology - so they'd love to get their money back and earn some more - but I'm not the biggest fan of VR to be honest. From time to time I suffer from motion sickness, the gear separates you from the world around you (which is very frustrating when someone knocks on the door or you have a dog/cat/small child), the visuals are average - compared to modern PC's - there's not enough fluency etc. So, I observe VR with curiosity, but I think that we need to wait for next generation headsets to be sure if that's the direction we'll be taking as the global industry.
For now I wouldn't be very excited about the VR, but rather about new, potential markets we can expand to - China is not new, but has still a lot to offer to companies, who are ready to cooperate with companies, which understand the business relations there. Africa is pretty much terra incognita to Western companies, due to lack of infrastructure and poor economic situation but it's a huge land with millions of passionate gamers and very talented game developers. The same can be said about the Middle East and it's no accident that Tehran rises to be the capital city of the gaming industry in the region. Business development is very much about sales and I'm doing my best to build relations in the regions I mentioned above, because I believe that signing agreements there is a real deal right now, while it's important to observe trends and be ready to shift the company in the right direction in the future.
What game(s) have had the biggest effect on your life, and why?
I've been a gamer since I was 5 and I made my first trip to a non-Communist country - Western Germany, where my grandmother lived. Munich in 1989 was an entirely different universe to a Polish boy. There were lights everywhere, huge malls with all the products you could've imagined, stores that were only selling toys, there were escalators and many other wonders I've never seen before. For Christmas I got the NES with 2 games: Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2. Later I also got Dr. Mario and I remember my dad playing it the whole night. So Mario was the first character who showed me the beauty of video games, one might say that it was him who made me who I am today! Of course there were many games I fell in love with later on - I've learned that I love strategy games and good stories - but Mario was the first and probably the most important gaming character in my life.
What does the future hold for Serial Cleaner & iFun4All?
We're working very hard to minimize the risk of not knowing what the future brings! But, seriously, our industry is so dense and every single day there's another surprise waiting on Twitter... It's almost impossible for an indie studio to know for sure whether we will enter a successful path or not. But, of course, we have targets we want to achieve after a year, three and five years and we're using every tool possible to make them come true. Obviously, we have ideas and are working on some projects that are still unannounced that we're very excited about, but in this industry you can never be sure about the next hour, not to mention the next 12 months or more!
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
I'd take my PC. Why? Because 99% of games I love are on it, PC gives the best possible visuals (and as long it supports a controller, I can "emulate" playing on console too :D), PLUS, you didn't mention if there's Wi-Fi on the island, so if there's a risk I won't be able to log into my PSN account, I pick Steam and its offline mode!
Thanks to Jacek and the rest of the iFun4All team for chatting to us. Serial Cleaner is available now across all major platforms - so you have no excuse not to play it!
2017 was a pretty great year for games, wasn’t it? Games like Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Horizon Zero Dawn, Resident Evil 7 and Wolfenstein 2 were just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
Nintendo fans are eagerly anticipating new Fire Emblem, Kirby and Yoshi titles for the Switch, not to mention a potential new Pokémon game, as well as the remastered versions of Bayonetta 1 and 2 that are just around the corner. With a fresh suite of reveals from the recent Mini Direct topping things off, Ninty look set for another strong year.
With yet more exclusives and, of course, an endless supply of multi-platform releases on the horizon, allow me to present my picks of the bunch to help focus those wandering eyes.
The Last of Us Part 2
A bit of a cheat pick straight out of the gate, I know, as it isn’t confirmed to be releasing this year, but a girl can dream, no?
I was unfashionably late to the PlayStation 3 party, finally getting one after watching a trailer for what I deemed at the time to be a Western Resident Evil, without the awful voice acting and story that has often gone hand-in-hand with the (in)famous Japanese series.
The game turned out to be a great deal more than that, combining stealth gameplay and brutal combat with fully-formed characters and a story that far surpassed the usual zombie apocalypse garbage. The multiplayer was pretty damn good, too.
The two trailers released thus far by developer Naughty Dog have shown a glimpse of returning characters Joel and Ellie, alongside some newbies and one helluva lot of violence. Fingers crossed we get to continue this story by the end of the year!
Sea of Thieves
I grew up on Rare’s marvellous Nintendo 64 years - GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, et al - but have to be honest when I say, I haven’t enjoyed a great deal of their Microsoft output in the ensuing years. This all looks set to change with the colourful pirate plundering of Sea of Thieves.
Band together with a shoal of chums, hitting the high-seas in a quest for treasure, adventure, cannon and cutlass-based skirmishes, and a good few tankards of grog!
Personally, this is exactly the kind of fun-filled experience I was looking for when I climbed aboard the good ship Xbox back in 2016, so I can’t stress how much I’m looking forward to getting lost in Sea of Thieves’ world with the PTC mob.
The granddaddy of open-world RPGs finally returns, after way too many years in the wilderness.
Regular visitors to PTC may recall my plea for remastered versions of the original two games after part three was first announced, and although things have been quiet on that front, 2018 seems to be the year that we’ll finish Ryo Hazuki’s slow-burn quest to avenge his Father’s death.
A truly groundbreaking game on release in 1999, Shenmue set the precedent for open world adventure/RPG titles. The main quest was fleshed out beautifully with a brilliant Virtua Fighter-influenced combat system, side quests and mini-games to play, along with some of the most unintentionally amusing script writing and delivery of all time.
For me, these extras are as vital as the story and combat, so here’s praying Yu Suzuki and his team get it right and we finally get to duff-up that bastard Lan-Di, with or without sailors.
Charming art, beautiful music, a rich colour palette and an isometric viewpoint; I could easily be talking about any of the top-down Zelda games, but it’s a different adventure I’m most looking forward to in indie-land this year.
You’ll be exploring a massive world as a little fox, encountering baddies to battle, secrets to search for and puzzles to ponder. What’s really impressive here is that the bulk of the work has been done by one man: Andrew Shouldice. Check out the first of his developer updates and try not to be impressed by what you see. I can’t wait to delve deeper into Tunic later in the year.
Intelligent Systems, a Nintendo second-party studio, are famous for their output in the world of strategy RPGs, most namely with the fantastic Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series’. Both of these great franchises are a clear influence on Chucklefish Games’ Wargroove, a pixel art strategy title releasing across the major platforms.
The game promises an impressive twelve different campaigns, in which you’ll select a commander to follow from one of the four warring factions. Combine this with full co-op and competitive online and local multiplayer, as well as a map creation suite, and it really does seem like a generous package.
Having sampled the game at last year’s Rezzed, I can tell you first-hand how ruddy good it is. I got thoroughly lost in its world, art and gameplay, even going as far as to go back and replay it. Being an indie game, it’s very likely that Wargroove will launch at an attractive price point, providing yet another reason to take a look when it launches early this year.
Keep your eyes open for more from us on all of the games mentioned above, but, most importantly, have a happy new gaming year, folks!
From the painstaking recreation of 15th Century life in the Kingdom of Bohemia and its notable inhabitants, to the need to eat, drink and sleep in order to continue your day-to-day existence, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an RPG that shies away from the fantasy side of things in favour of a more authentic medieval experience. As the game’s tag line puts it, this is ‘dungeons and no dragons’.
The opening chunk of gameplay I was given access to was set not long after Henry, the game’s young protagonist, woke up in the town of Rattay after being nursed back to health following a raid on his village that destroyed his home and family, and left him gravely wounded. One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times; it’s clear a lot of research and effort has been put into making the world feel as authentic as possible, though an inconsistent frame rate did spoil the immersion a bit.
I soon bumped into Peshek, the miller whose daughter had kept Henry alive. He wasn’t blessed with quite the same generous streak as his offspring, however, and wanted payment for his hospitality; namely the illegal moving of a buried body, an act that was considered sacrilegious at the time (and is, probably, still frowned upon today).
This was an early example of the many choices players will face throughout the game, with most decisions you make having a knock-on effect in some way. For example, by turning down Peshek, I was informed that he would send men who would harass Henry throughout the rest of the game unless he was payed off or they were killed.
One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times.
It’s a rule that can be applied to a large chunk of your interactions within the game world; while doing the rounds as a newly employed member of the Rattay night watch (the culmination of my time in the opening chapter) I came across a heated dispute between the local blacksmith and a beggar, which ended in my ordering the ‘smith to be a good chap and give the poor girl some alms, in this case a couple of coins.
This was a decision that could have a negative influence on a player’s reputation within the town, specifically with the traders, who, as a result, may give Henry bad deals or even refuse to trade altogether. Thankfully, Tobias (the Warhorse rep) did assure me that it's possible to reverse a poor reputation, whether through completing missions for the townsfolk or by tipping traders some extra cash while haggling.
Given my limited playtime, it’s hard to tell how far reaching some of the consequences of my actions could be. I can’t be sure that the animosity between Henry and the irritatingly smug Lord Hanush – one of many Game of Thrones-esque characters lurking amongst the walls of Rattay – would have been so great had I not bested him in an archery contest and won his expensive hunting bow in a wager.
Perhaps I could have rebooted the chapter and deliberately lost, but after spending two hours exploring the town, talking to the locals, giving drunk guards a good rollicking and even finding time for a nap in a tavern, I’d had my fill of peaceful medieval life. My sword arm was growing restless, and to channel a certain Robert Baratheon - I needed to hit someone.
Luckily, hitting people is what the second act was all about, as I was to take part in a siege on a bandit camp hidden in some woods. The three-staged attack consisted of taking a lightly guarded bridge and then razing the main camp, before a showdown with the imposing bandit leader.
For a game that encourages you to favour diplomacy over violence, battles in KCD are pretty darn fun, although, as I quickly found out, Henry is no super soldier. On more than one occasion my eagerness to rush ahead of my allies led to a quick (and bloody) death, as I either ended up surrounded by enemies and cut down, or picked off by archers as I tried to limp away.
Once I got used to the fact that I wasn’t a medieval Master Chief and learned to advance with others, battles became a much more tactical affair as I carefully picked my moments, taking on weaker, unaware or injured enemies in quick, hit and run attacks, whilst keeping an eye open for archers, who I would take out with my own bow.
While this section of the game was deliberately chosen to showcase the combat system in action, there were still hints of the freedoms KCD gives players to tackle situations in different ways, from the recce information Henry presents Lord Radzig regarding the best way to storm the fort, to more subtle and stealthier ways.
“Before this fighting quest, you could have snuck into this camp and poisoned the food, then most of the people would be a one hit kill,” said Tobias. “You can also burn the arrows of the archers, but this is super tricky because you need to sneak in and try to not get caught, though you can try to kill one of the bad guys and dress as him and they will not attack you.”
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more.
Combat in KCD uses a similar method to the one seen in For Honor, in that players can adopt a number of stances – high, low, left, right, etc. - while wielding a melee weapon to counter or attack an enemy. Dealing out damage felt accurate and weighty; I was able to target weak points in enemy armour and exposed areas, such as a bandit leader's completely unprotected head, which lead to him dropping very quickly. As for defence, I found it easier to just dodge an enemy attack rather than try to stop it with a correctly-timed block.
After my glorious victory came the third and final chapter, which tasked players with sneaking their way into a monastery to find a murderer who was posing as a monk, but by now reality was calling (also known as the last EasyJet flight back home to Amsterdam) and it was time to say farewell to medieval Bohemia.
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more. Medieval Bohemia feels ripe for exploring, and there looks to be a progression and choice system in place that allows players the freedom to approach the game however they wish.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is just around the corner, releasing 13 February on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.