I can see some global trends which are going to affect the Polish GameDev. The biggest problem is still the fact that there is no big foreign studio in Poland. I cannot understand why Ubisoft, Activision-Blizzard or Electronic Arts haven’t opened a production studio in Poland yet. I can only speculate. We need foreign capital professionalism and open-mindedness to change the existing environment. I believe that such a branch could have a positive influence on the Polish industry and maybe change it by leading by example and sharing innovations on the company culture and international experiences. Another thing is the union of Game Developers. In my opinion, a union should be created as fast as possible and it should start cooperating with international institutions like Game Workers Unite. The rules regulating salaries and work ethics should be normalized. You cannot have a situation where people with similar skills and competencies earn different salaries holding the same position. You also cannot have a situation where people are not paid for overtime, for working on holidays, weekends, at night. And it can’t be that… creators receive no royalties.
I believe that the way of the future is not only worker unions but also employer unions, based on partnership, having two studios cooperate on a project. There are only either great companies or tiny ones. There are no mid-range studios creating AA+ games, which some call indie premium.
It’s about making independent, high quality, original games with a short interesting story and characters directed for a mature player. Such games cost usually about 40 USD, and half of the profit usually goes to the distributor. If the budget of such a game is several or a dozen million PLN including marketing it’s easy to imagine how many units you have to sell to reach the so-called break-even point (sales threshold after crossing which the studio starts earning money – edit. note). Cooperation between studios could reduce administrative costs while maximizing quality.
It’s hard to say how it looks like outside of Warsaw, but here it is more like one big group of friends. People know each other, they support each other, especially if they used to work together. There is no sense of competition rather solidarity. Every year Digital Dragons opens and Game Industry Conference closes the industry conference season in Poland. It’s always a great opportunity to meet and exchange experiences. It’s a shame that it’s always the same faces (laughter). It would be good to see some fresh blood in the GameDev industry. A great example of the fact that the industry is tight-knit and that there are no divisions is a YouTube gaming channel called “Przegrani” run by Tomasz Gop who invited everybody to his end-of-the-year summary reports regardless of their corporate colors.
We have known each other for a long time. We have lived through sorrow and success. We cried together and then motivated each other. We create a unique culture and atmosphere which makes the personality of our company. Our work environment, mission, values, ethics, expectations, and goal are reflected in our games. We do not make games, we want to create intense experiences and tell our players exciting stories. We want our game to leave a lasting impression on our players the same they do on us. We need to constantly update our values to admit new members to our team because we want develop aggressively without losing our identity. The culture of a company that is always growing is malleable and adapts to the circumstances. The best company culture is the one which makes all employees feel comfortable and appreciated and never uncertain. We focus on teamwork and transparent communication, competitive atmosphere, which bases personal development on benefits coming from making games. Such an approach is essential to the way we run our company.
When it comes to our target audience we are making a game for You, about You. For everybody who feels they are being torn from the inside by the Beast (laughter). We are making an innovative transmedia RPG. It will encompass all online and offline media: from a tabletop RPG, a skirmish miniatures game, to a video game for all platforms, comic books, books and in the future potentially even TV shows and movies. Using the mobile application enables players to transfer characters, story and game progress between the media. The game is inspired by the East Orthodox Church, Roman-Catholic Church, Protestant Church, and other religions. The game takes place at the end of the sixteenth century in Carpathian Ruthenia but the events in the game even though inspired by actual history are a certain metaphor, for what is going in the world at the moment. The game BEAST is directed towards all those interested in cultural, social, philosophical and religious groups in search for truth. The game we are creating has a global character and is for everybody but especially for fans in USA, Canda, UK, and Europe. Our product is for mature players aged 21-35.
We want our game to stand out among other titles. We want it to be more coherent, have a straight message and to be homogenous artistically. We want to promote Polish culture, its history, music, creators, and not only video game ones, but also in the fields of literature, music, and art. We believe that a high-quality video game is a perfect tool for that because it can reach a wide audience and get them interested in such content.
We expect the player to want to reach for other pieces of Polish culture after playing our game. This game is going to be a calling card for our studio and it will guide us along the artistic path we chose to follow. Releasing this game within the next dozen or so months is going to show that a good team consisting of experienced developers who have known each other for a long time is able to cooperate effectively to create a high-quality product, and any other games coming from our studio are beautiful, mature, evoking strong emotions and carrying an important message. At the moment we are in the process of getting an investor and publisher. We have a functional and playable prototype (i.e. advanced enough to play the game) and we are working on a demo, which is going to show elements of the final game. In the video game jargon, such a version of the game is called a “vertical slice”. It should show a cross-section of the most important game mechanics, show the main concepts that make our game different, so-called unique selling points, the atmosphere, and the graphic style and, in part, show the characters and the story of the game. There are 36 people engaged in the project: programmers, 2D, and 3D graphic designers, 2D and 3D animators, 3D character modelers, sound designers, a music composer, scriptwriters, level designers, art designers, game designers, a cinematic designer, producers, etc. We also have people responsible for marketing, PR, community management, finance, accounting and legal. At the end of January 2020, we are planning to release a PC version of BEAST in Early Access on Steam and the full version of the PC game and on consoles will be released by the end of 2020.
Fortunately, we have many people who help us, advise us, and support us on our way, although experience has taught me that young studios need to be wary with agreements. It’s always easier to get someone with GameDev experience and pay them to prepare and/or check the agreement than to draft one yourself even with the help of a lawyer who has no experience in the field. Publishers, developers, investors, all have different kinds of agreements. These agreements are often complicated, long and more and more often written in English. Regardless of whether you are an employee or an employer the situation looks the same. Agreements are to be negotiated. You can’t sign anything you are given without learning about potential risks and responsibilities resulting from the agreement. There is a huge disproportion of negotiation power between the employer and employees. It’s the same between the investor and the founders, publisher, and developer. Of course, there are many workshops and legal courses, but they usually just skim the subject and real problems are usually in the details. At the moment we are facing a decision on the choice of offer and signing an agreement with an investor and publisher. I know that meetings and talks and negotiations and signing are two completely different things.
Thank you for the conversation and we wish you luck and many successes on your way!
Interview conducted by Angelina Stokłosa on November 28, 2019
Translated by Alexander Stroganov - BEAST writer