E3 2013

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Skara: The Blade Remains

11 - 13 June 2013 | Written by Maxxum

Media coverage of indie developers at E3 is abysmal. A GoogleNews search for "indie game developers" shows results for news stories that are either already 404'd, or only tangentially reference indie game devs by discussing how little support they receive from console manufacturers - or worse, coverage that discusses indie game developers without actually taking to them at length about their games.

Skara: The Blade Remains, from 8 Bit Studio, is one developer taking a stab at reaching the broader market without help from a major studio. They've recently released a trailer showing in-game combat sequences, and are currently seeking contributors via their Kickstarter.

What interested me beyond 8 Bit Studio being an indie game house, it is a foreign company dual-based in Barcelona, and London, making an attempt to enter the competitive American market - so, they are not only facing the difficulties attributed to small companies, they must address cultural hurdles within that market as well.

Follows my talk with Pablo Rodriguez, Project Manager, and Cesar Ortega, Co-Founder and CFO of Skara.

Knowing the risks of being an independent game developer, what motivated you to try this?

Cesar: Well, to be honest everything starts with Pablo... Pablo here has been working in the industry for the last 10 years, and for the last 4 years he has been working on Skara on the side - so, it's his baby project. He kept telling me about it, every time we got together because we've been friends for the last 18 years.

And, after 4 years of development one day he said, "Listen, you really have to help me to do this, this is my dream, I think it can work, and this is the right time." Why not? There's a lot of independent game companies coming up into the market. Thanks to Kickstarter, there's more of them, and absolutely making their dreams come true. So, we said, "Y'know what, let's give it a try". Why not?

Tell me about the plot-line for the protagonist in the story.

Pablo: We are going to have five different races, every one of them with different weapons ... so, we are trying to develop a type of versus fighting game, but multiplayer. The game is going to be so fun to play, and fast paced actions, the kind of game we always wanted to play.

What game engine are you using?

Cesar: That's a funny question, at the moment we are developing on Unreal 3, but we had a meeting with Epic yesterday, and they actually offer us the chance to use the 4th generation of the engine - so, we are gonna probably take the opportunity which will require us to pretty much start from scratch in terms of programming, and a lot of stuff that we've done, we have to scratch them, and start from zero. But, I think it's a great opportunity, so I think we are definitely going for Unreal 4.

Pablo: And, that means, maybe next year, we are going to develop Skara for the next-gen consoles

What are some of the complications you've had as an independent game developer?

Cesar: Well, a lot. As I said earlier, Pablo has been working in the industry for many, many years, but he's been usually basically been given a budget, just do this project, and when the project is done just give it back to me, right? So, as an independent company you have to do absolutely everything yourself, and the first thing you need is money. So, how to raise money was the first of our problems, which we have to say we've been pretty lucky. We have a very good group of friends and family who are supporting us on this, and we managed to get the project started thanks to them.

The second most difficult part that we probably are in country now, is the marketing, get yourself known out there because, as I said, developing a game in an office is one thing, but to get the world to know about it is completely different, and here we are in E3, just trying to give it a try, and get to call as much attention as we can.

As a company based in Barcelona/London, has entering the American videogame market been different than the one in Europe - if so, in what ways?

Cesar: At this early stage without a product in the market yet, it is difficult for us to assess the difference between the European and the American markets. From our backer history in Kickstarter, it looks like European gamers are a bit more open to foreign video games, but this is probably because the US produces the majority of the games out there. What seems to be true is that to conquer the world, you need to appeal to the US market.

What advice do you have for others trying to start an independent game house?

Pablo: I am also a teacher of videogames ... back in Spain, and I always ask my students to at least try to start a project, and it doesn't matter if the graphics doesn't work, just try to create a new game mechanics, something simple ... maybe it works, maybe not, but at least you are starting to get involved in the industry and to realize how to build upward from the beginning.