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!