4 August 2020
CyberLight Studio is a small games company from Ukraine, who have been building their latest hunting game that is doing really well on early access.
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They shared how they got started as a team and the story behind the development of the game.
Can you introduce yourself and your background?
The foundation of the CyberLight studio consists of two brothers: Dimitry and Stanislav Zinchenko. We are the founders of the studio. We are now 22 years old. Since we were kids, we have been interested in everything related to graphical effects, films and games. We decided to focus on games, because it gave us the opportunity to create our own world, plot, heroes, and tell our own stories. Unlike movies, games are more interactive, which was another key factor that made us choose this medium.
What motivated you to make your own game?
We were not attracted by the idea of looking for work in other studios and working on other projects, we wanted to immediately start creating our own game. Therefore, after entering university in 2016, we started developing our project "BIGFOOT". At the beginning of development, we had very little experience and it was extremely difficult to do basic things. But after a year of hard work and dedication to improving our skills, we got the first version of the game.
How does the development timeline look like?
After a year of development and the completion of that early prototype, we felt that the game was already at the stage when it could be shown to people and we could get some feedback. Therefore, we decided to apply for Steam Greenlight, which ended up being successful. At the same time, some bloggers noticed us and after a few months our game became quite famous (in particular, PewDiePie made a "let's play", which greatly helped us in promotion). YouTubers loved the concept of the game, and it helped us gain our first fans.
We could have stopped and released the game at that stage, but we were not happy with the quality and gameplay. So, we decided to continue development until the moment that we feel like we are proud of our first project. Subsequent development took 4 years. And now we are preparing a global update, which will include significantly improve the gameplay and fix the shortcomings of the game.
At the moment there are 4 permanent people working in our studio. A year ago we hired a 3D modeler and marketer.
What is this game about?
You have a unique opportunity to gather a team of friends or go on a solo expedition to the forests of wild reserves and feel like a real Bigfoot hunter! You can use modern gadgets, hunting traps and various weapons to lure and capture this terrible mystical animal. You will have to hunt in different weather conditions, explore deep caves and abandoned tourist camps day and night. You can also hunt foxes, bears, wolves, raccoons and even deer in order to set baits, because Bigfoot loves fresh meat the most. In BIGFOOT, the monster itself is not the only game you will be hunting
In the game, Bigfoot can be controlled by artificial intelligence, while users play as hunters (there is both a solo mode and multiplayer for 4 players).
How did the idea for the game come into fruition?
We always liked watching shows and scientific documentaries about legendary animals, in particular about Bigfoot, and then realized that this topic was not covered in the gaming industry. We would like to embody an exciting, but at the same time frightening experience about this forest creature.
What design issues and challenges came up when developing the game?
To begin with, the development of the game was started with absolutely no budget. All we spent before Early Access was $100 for Steam Greenlight. It's very hard to make games without money. Also, we did not have experience in developing games and the implementation of literally any system or mechanic would be very difficult for us. When the profit from sales began to flow, we immediately began to reinvest so that the players received a quality product.
We are constantly improving the architecture of the project, learning from our own and others' mistakes. We often had to refactor the code, but now the game is very stable and most bugs have been fixed. We are proud of the knowledge we acquired and progress we made during this journey!
What engine was used to develop the game and why?
We use Unreal Engine 4 to develop Bigfoot. We decided to use this engine due to the ease of development. Unreal is very convenient for writing code at high speed because it is the only engine currently on the market that has a high-quality visual programming language. It's easy to write new logic and fix existing ones. In addition to that, UE4 has good graphics from the box. This is very important for a small team like ours.
What are some workflow tips and tricks that you guys used?
We often resort to developing tools that speed up manual labor and automate routine processes. For example, we developed a script for placing steps on paths in the forest, which saved time.
What criteria were used to determine and come up with the final style for the game?
We wanted the game to be very immersive, so we decided upon realistic graphics, realistic interactions, events, and Bigfoot behavior. Beautiful and immersive natural environments make up a big portion of BIGFOOT's graphical appeal
That said, if the question arises to make a particular scene beautiful or realistic, then we would rather choose the first one. In BIGFOOT, you will not find pale colors, especially when it comes to lighting.
What tools were used to create art for the game?
For the visual development we use Maya, 3ds Max, Photoshop, Substance Painter.
What tools were used to develop the audio?
Most of the audio we bought or found on free game asset websites. We also worked with freelancers, so it's hard to answer exactly what was used to create the sounds as there were many tools and sources. We also use Audacity for minor fixes and tweaks.
Are project management frameworks used for the project?
We use Agile methodology tools, but we are not tied to a specific framework. At this stage, we are testing different options and approaches to our work, while looking for our "ideal" approach.
Recently, we started using Jira, which is a very useful tool for streamlining the game development process. We also used Trello, but chose Jira because it is a more complex tool.
How did you guys approach hiring new employees?
Our team is small, but very well-coordinated. Besides the two founders, the team consists of a 2D / 3D Artist and a marketer. We also have some tasks that we outsource to freelances, such as UX / UI Designer or Animation. We connected different ways of finding the people we needed, in particular through friends and recommendations, on social networks, on freelance exchanges, as well as popular platforms such as Behance, LinkedIn and others.
We are lucky because we are not just a team of enthusiasts and game lovers, but also friends. We have gathered to embody an interesting idea, and we dream of delighting the players further with positive emotions through games!
How was the development funded?
Initially, we didn't have a lot of resources. We were students who received a scholarship and lived with ordinary budgets. In terms of development, BIGFOOT started with no budget at all and only after our first sales were we able to allocate a budget to improve the game.
Were assets used to speed up the development of the game?
We use Megascans Library, Unreal Marketplace. There's a ton of quality content out there that speeds up development significantly.
What strategies have been used to raise awareness of the game?
There was a lot of attention from YouTubers from the very beginning, so we had no problems with promotion. We simply gave access to the game to everyone who wanted to film a “let’s play”. We also ran many contests on various social networks, had several integrations with pastry shops. We also had experience participating in the Indie Cup developer competition, which attracted more attention from the media and industry professionals.
How did you manage the community around your game?
One of the best promotion solutions was the creation of a Discord channel, where we brought together game lovers from all over the world. We gameified participation in the channel, allowing everyone to earn titles and different levels. We also hold contests there, share new, and sometimes "insider" information. We try to form a strong community of fans, intrigue them with news, share the details of the development process. We also have other other communication channels, including Reddit, Instagram, Twitter and others.
What were some of the biggest lessons learned from the project?
Even with a zero budget and knowledge, with a lot of desire and hard work, it is possible to create a complex project that will get thousands of fans around the world.
Always add 3 times more time to the estimated completion date of a process or deadline.
What would have been done differently if given the chance to undo some mistakes made?
Of course there were many mistakes, but doing nothing is the biggest mistake someone can make in our opinion! We can't really think of one particular thing we would have done differently, since we are happier with where we ended up.
What do you think went well?
This is the first game, and it has managed to become quite popular and sold. It has a lot of fans and has given us a pretty good start, so of course this aspect is good news for us - like the upcoming update!
What is your advice to aspiring games entrepreneurs?
Believe that your work will bring success, and constantly improve your skills in everything that can help your business.