09.12.2016

"The cost of localization of our game is more than $ 20 thousand": Double Dice Games about himself and work on Willy-Nilly Knight

We tell you about the studios whose games are or have been Greenlighted on Steam. The first material is about the Double Dice Games team and its Willy–Nilly Knight project. The project is a role–playing game with a turn-based combat system and a plot of 40 thousand words.

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The questions were answered by the co-founder of the studio Timur Kozanov.

Hi! Tell us a little about yourself and your studio. Is a studio a normal definition for two people at all?

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Timur Kozanov

Hi. Now the boundaries between indie developers and studios are so blurred and vague that it is unclear what to call themselves.

I have been in the field of development since I was 16. Before that, I was engaged in high-load services, made social networks. About five or six years ago I got acquainted with Unity. I started studying, got involved in all this, for the last five years I have been working in Social Quantum and Destiny Development on top projects (Megapolis, Dragon Lands).

Why did you decide to leave the wing of a big company and start something of your own?

Decided is too strong a word.

The story is like this: I worked at Destiny together with a game designer who once had a hand in the “Space Rangers”. Before that, I had already tried to do personal projects with various colleagues.

The last five years have been a trend of active growth of the mobile market, so we also made games for mobile phones on the general wave. They made a clone of “Airport City” in the pirate setting, then they made a clone of Boom Beach. These games didn’t come in. I think it was because there was no marketing. Plus, to find a publisher, you need a very high-quality product, and we didn’t have money for a very high-quality product. Therefore, it did not work.

And somewhere in February-March of this year, a very big hype began around Life is Feudal and Punch Club on Steam.

We sat, thought about it and decided to also be released on Steam, we wanted to see what it is, what it is eaten with. At first there was an idea: to make interesting mechanics, on its basis to assemble a demo in two or three weeks and release a mini-series. Make a series of projects, each of which will have 30 minutes of gameplay, sell for $1 and see what happens.

As a result, we worked hard. 3 months have passed and we found that we have something in between Fallout, Divinity: Original Sin and Diablo. Mini-games don’t work out, and a lot of time and effort has been spent.

Have you already left your main job by that time?

No, we did everything in parallel. We worked 8 hours at our main job and after that we sit, work 5-6 hours further on our game. So that it does not interfere with the workflow, of course.

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As a result, after 3 months, we found out that something good and interesting was coming out. And we decided that we need to make a full-fledged game. We sat down, thought out the storyline.

Our game designer, Oleg, is a man who complains that little attention is paid to English folklore in the gaming industry. And we decided to make some kind of mythological reference to the story about the knight Arthur. We have a lot of references to this topic both in the name of the game and in various events.

But in general, we have a fantasy theme. This is a story about a certain knight. Even the name of our game — Willy-Nilly Knight — translates as “Involuntary Knight”. This is a story about a knight who woke up in an unknown place, does not know where he came from there and what wind brought him there. As the game progresses, he tries to find out who he is and where he comes from, finds friends who help him walk the difficult path, and eventually realizes that he has been drawn into the confrontation of some higher forces that are trying to revive an ancient evil. And he fraudulently becomes, in fact, their weapon.

When did the team realize that it was possible to separate? Or are you still working for the company, is the game still a parallel project for you?

No, we started to fully engage in this product about a month ago. Not because they left, but because Destiny closed the project we were working on. And we decided to devote serious time to our game.

The fact is that we have already done most of the work, and now we are at the stage of filling with content. And we have literally 60% left to fill. I think that we will do this by the end of the year, and at the end of February or early March there will be a release on Steam.

What do you need to be prepared for when you are doing a big project? Were there any sudden rakes that were not expected in any way?

Rakes were everywhere! First of all, we were not ready for the fact that the project would stretch and grow so much. When we realized this, we were… a little surprised. We realized that we would have to work very hard. When our project was closed and I left Destiny, it turned out that I had accumulated 3 weeks of unpaid vacation. Just because he had no time to walk. You need to be prepared for the fact that you have to work hard. These are banal things. But the fact is that you don’t always realize the scale of the work, understanding comes only in the process.

The advice to work hard is excellent. But were there any special pitfalls? The ones that you would consider important if you were told about them at the beginning of the year?

As such, there were no special stones, because we already had experience in developing other personal projects. There was a codebase.

The only thing that comes to mind concerns not specifically this project, but in general the experience of working with other projects. If you start as an indie developer and there is no way to do a cool project right away, there is no way to do cool art, it is better to pay attention to a platform like Steam. Or to other platforms that support indie developers. And don’t try to make another Boom Beach clone. And to take and make a unique story by virtue of its capabilities.

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How did you make art? Is it purchased from you, or did you order it? How was this problem solved?

Initially, the idea was quite banal: take several assets from the Asset Store and assemble the entire game world from them. But in the end, we had to order more art, since we have a familiar artist with whom we could work on outsourcing. We paid out of our own pocket and ordered art. 2D content from us completely all our own, and we took 3D content from the Asset Store and “finished” it ourselves. Well, most likely we will still “finish”. We have one artist who draws 2D, and the second — 3D.

You said that the project is large, voluminous. In hours of gameplay — how much is it?

We set about 20 hours for ourselves if we play fast. And up to 40 hours, if you play the way players like turn-based games, that is, explore every nook, every cave, climb into every barrel.

How often is the content repeated? I ask because I want to know how much time was spent on the schedule, what you need to prepare for if you want to do a project with outsourcing.

There are a lot of assets in the Asset Store. You can buy so many of them that you will get a variety of locations for 10-20-30 hours of gameplay. How it will look — like assets from a store or as a good product — depends on how well a person has developed a sense of level design. Our game designer did the level design himself and set up 3D art. Lighting, shadows of all sorts I set up myself. It was his first experience.

We experimented with different visual styles. At first we wanted to make a more realistic style, like in Divinity. There is very realistic art, close to real perception. When they did, they realized that the game had lost some … “nash”, fabulousness. And we wanted to make a game that would be visually similar to midcore, but would retain hardcore mechanics. And we ended up making two versions. DevGAMM showed both more cute and more realistic.

Is the video cute or realistic?

The video is cute. And the people really liked the cute graphics. And in general, the game was very warmly received! Some visitors played for 20-30 minutes… There were even two or three people who sat and persistently went through all 40 minutes of content that we had managed to set up and debug by that time. The game was very unstable, we collected it on the eve of the conference “on the knee”. She regularly fell, flew out and threw out mistakes, which made it necessary to start from the place of the last save… I even felt a little sorry for the people who were interested in going through what was already there at that time! One guy started six times from the beginning, from the place of the last save. But he persevered and persevered through everything, the setting and the idea “came” to him so much. Buddy, if you’re reading this, hello to you and thank you for the feedback! Sorry, we’ll fix all the mistakes by the release and give you the opportunity to go through everything in the best possible way!

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Did you get any practical benefit from the showcase?

Oh, yes! Many developers (and we ourselves before that, what a sin to conceal!?) such events are greatly underestimated. During development, you get used to many things and don’t notice them anymore, you do it unconsciously. And when you see other people playing from the side, a bunch of jambs pop up. Plus, some players can give out really useful ideas and feedback.

As a result, we have collected feedback from more than 40 points, half of which have already been integrated. And the game really got better from this, much better! AAA titles pay money for playtests, and here you can get the same result for the target audience almost for free. It’s priceless!

How many percentages of graphics were ordered, and how many were taken from the Asset Store?

For 2D art, this is 100% its own. For 3D, about 80% of the art remains in the form in which we bought it. The rest is either redone or completely our art.

Can you announce the order of prices?

For 2D art for all 8 months, it took us around $ 3 thousand. For 3D art, taking into account what we still bought, about $ 4 thousand. Well, plus another sound. At the moment, we have integrated music from paid sites (Audiojungle, Premiumbeat) with a total cost of about $200. But in the end we decided to order a unique set of soundtracks. Firstly, the sound is one of the clothes on which they meet. Secondly, a good composer with high-quality sound will be able to create a deeper immersion in the gameplay. So we are preparing to spend another $1.5 – $2 thousand on sound in the near future.

You mentioned that translations of the game are still being prepared. Are they really worth more?

Yes, of course. We want to localize to EFIGS. These are English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. And we talked to localizers. The order of prices is the same for everyone, it differs by $ 2-3 thousand. The cost of localization, given that we have a game about storytelling and there is a large volume of text, is somewhere around $ 20-25 thousand.

And how many words are there in the game?

According to our calculations, from 40 to 50 thousand words. Due to the fact that RPG is a large volume of text, they are localized for a long time. This is the biggest problem, because, in principle, a person can do everything else himself. We can program the code and draw the levels ourselves. But localization cannot be done in any way, this is a complex process, native speakers are needed. That is, funds for this in any case will have to be sought. The fact is that the project has grown so much that it would be stupid to launch it only in English, because it would be a big loss of money.

Is the project itself being done in Russian or in English?

We are developing in Russian. We translate what we can into English ourselves. But we still have to translate through localizers, because our level of English is in the spirit of “let me speak frome may Hart”.

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Tell me about Steam Greenlight? I take it you’ve already passed it?

We passed it in 8 days. We have 62% positive votes against 33% negative.

But on Steam Greenlight, the “against” votes are not taken into account, because someone just might not go to the setting or genre. So Greenlight evaluates only the “yes” votes. In fact, Steam is an unpredictable and interesting thing.

We set up the experiment six months ago. We took and put together a demo from our other game, which was made for mobile devices a long time ago, hung all sorts of effects and made a video from it. We didn’t have gameplay, there was only video. And screenshots. And we posted a dummy on Greenlight. Within 20 days, we received 45% positive feedback and 53% negative, that is, the majority voted against. The number of votes in digital terms was approximately 500. This is a very modest number. For comparison, now we have 62% “for”, in numbers it is about 1,500 votes. That is, we had very poor indicators. Nevertheless, after 25 days they wrote to us from Steam: “Guys, everything is cool with you and potentially you can pass Greenlight, but we don’t see gameplay in your video. If you send a sample, then we’ll send it to Greenlight.”

I would also like to give a little advice to those who are just preparing to undergo a greenlight – do not turn this procedure into an end in itself! It is very easy to pass Greenlight at the moment. If you have free €100, you can upload the game, buy targeted advertising in profile groups on Steam and forget about your game for a couple of weeks before receiving the coveted letter. No romance, everything is very prosaic.

But what is really important is the opportunity to see the real state of your game, its readiness for release. If you have less than 50% of the “yes” votes according to the results of the greenlight, this is not a very good sign. Carefully read the comments and look for reasons. Maybe you didn’t work well enough on the video, maybe the screenshots are unsuccessful, maybe the users are categorically disgusted with the visual series or gameplay. So before the release of the game, you need to try to find the reasons and correct them.

Joyfully.

Yes, that’s why Greenlight is such a joke that is absolutely unpredictable. There are people who pass it in 5 days, and at the same time I manage to get into the Top 100. There are people who hang in the Top 100 on the 60th or 70th place, and pass the Greenlight only a month later.

We analyzed open sources and estimated that Greenlight runs on the principle that you need to release 50 games from it per day. Accordingly, 50 games with the best indicators are selected and released. If there is nothing in the Top 100 that can be released, then they release what they have.

How will you release it?

At the end of January, we plan a soft launch in Mail.ru . This will give us the opportunity to raise money for localization and, after localization is completed, be released on Steam for early access.

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Have you calculated how much you can expect from the project after launch?

Yes. We plan to put the price tags at $15. These are still such preliminary ideas. And we want to sell about 100-150 thousand copies.

That’s a lot.

This, in our opinion, is the most realistic option. We are not aiming for millions, because we do not have an AAA title. The game is made by an indie studio, you can’t jump over your head. But we think that with a certain amount of effort, we can focus on this order.

Tyranny barely reached a hundred thousand in the first month.

Yes. But we are looking at games of this genre, the same Divinity: Original Sin. They sold about 1.2 million copies there on Steam alone. In the second part, on pre—order — they are now in early access, they have only one location ready – they sold 100 thousand copies. Therefore, we understand that for the entire life cycle of the game, 100 thousand is a realistic figure. Well, again, we do not claim the same 1.2 million as Divinity, because we understand that we have a completely different volume and scale.

Regarding Tyranny, the situation is generally strange. We were surprised by their results, given that the game was launched with a fairly strong PR campaign. And the game itself turned out to be quite interesting. Here is probably the closest example of the game Unknown. Quite an interesting game, a nominee and winner of many exhibitions and contests, and sales on Steam are very modest.

This proves once again that in the gaming industry you can never be 100% sure of the result. But, what are the alternatives? Do nothing at all? No, now technology has lowered the threshold of entry into the industry so much that it’s almost a crime! Therefore, hard work and an interesting good idea is where the success story of any game begins.

Are you focusing on sales of 100 thousand in order not to look for a job further, but to continue developing the studio? Or have you already tasted all the delights of indie development, and even if something doesn’t work out, will you continue to develop in the same direction?

Everything is simple here. Since we are an indie studio, a small studio and there are only two of us, our costs are small compared to the same AAA teams. We will recoup the costs very quickly. Even 10 thousand copies will pay off all our expenses, plus we have enough reserves for a couple of years ahead to make another game.

But to sell 10 thousand copies, given that we know how we will be sold, is not a big problem. Here the thing is different. The question is how much we will actually sell. If it is 50 thousand, 100 thousand, then this will allow us to deal with our projects only in the future within our studio, not to do anything else. And if 10 thousand — then it will be a small pleasant bonus that you can save yourself for a happy retirement and continue to work as we worked before — in parallel with another place of work.

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