Craftpix's Founders Oleg Domrachev and Anton Tyshchenko have told us about the company's history, explained how they create new assets for the library, and spoke about payment services.
Hi! First of all, we would like to thank you for inviting us to do this interview. 80 Level is a great platform that has a lot of interesting and useful information for people involved in the game industry.
We are Oleg Domrachev and Anton Tyshchenko, two brothers who founded Craftpix in 2016. For the past six years, we have been working with much love to constantly improve it.
The Birth of Craftpix
Before coming up with the idea to create graphics, we had a website with ready-made flash games. At the time, Flash was an essential tool for novice developers. They could create an interesting gaming project, put it up for auction and sell the game to a sponsor. Sponsors were usually large platforms with online games. They added advertising of their website into the game itself and distributed it between smaller sites, thus, generating traffic. One of the online platforms was our website
Already then, mobile games were gaining an audience, and it became clear to us that flash games would soon lose the competition for their attention. In addition, it was obvious that Flash technology had many problems and would be abandoned in the future. All this encouraged us to sell our site and look for new ideas.
After some time, the idea of Craftpix was born, and a difficult period began in the implementation of the project. Why was it so challenging? The reason was the extremely low budget. The total was $2500. Almost all of it we spent on paying for the work of artists. We started with small orders. After a couple of months, we had our first sales, and of course, all earnings went back to the project. We have been working in a severe deficit for 3 years. We, as Founders, did not earn anything for ourselves, but only invested all available funds in expanding the team and searching for new marketing opportunities.
Getting Necessary Skills
The essential skills were partly formed before the Craftpix project. For instance, Anton is an excellent specialist in website development, optimization, and promotion. The experience of creating hundreds of projects for third-party customers helped in the development of Craftpix. Oleg has a background in promoting websites in search engines and building work processes in a team.
Of course, the necessary skills had been forming along with the development of the project. Since the budget was limited, a lot had to be studied at the same time. For example, in order to write understandable terms of references for artists, you need to study the processes of creating art and, of course, the wishes of the game developers themselves.
Craftpix was launched in August 2016. It is a 2D and 3D game asset store built for indie developers. Its main feature is that by getting a subscription or membership for a year, a user gets the entire collection of graphics for their projects. There are no restrictions on the number of projects. The license is granted forever. To show the quality of the assets, we publish many free sets that are not different from the premium ones. This section contains all available freebies.
Artists are the backbone of the project. We are glad that we have been working with most of the artists for many years. Some of them have been on the team almost from the very beginning. There are 6 artists in the team (directions: sketches, pixel art, vector, 3D low poly, and high-res raster graphics). The team also has a Support Manager and a Web Developer.
Anton is responsible for the whole technical side of the project and marketing. Website, analytics, advertising, server, payment setup, improvements, etc. Oleg – for working with a team, receiving and processing requests from users, planning, and ideas for art. Each artist maintains their own collection of kits and draws in their own style. The support manager is responsible for external communication with our users on social networks and the ticket system
Since our entire team works remotely, we use a number of tools to systemize our work. The main planning is done in Trello using the Kanban system. Each column is a zone of a certain work stage. The task card moves from one column to another as tasks are completed. We decided not to implement Slack into our work, we use social networks to communicate with the team.
Working With Community
Novice indie developers are our main target audience. These are guys full of enthusiasm and desire to create interesting games alone or as part of a small team. There are students as well who use our graphics in the learning process. For instance, when they take online courses or create a project at school. And recently, more and more often we see studios among our clients who need a turnkey solution to optimize costs.
Big companies usually use our graphics for prototyping. For example, you can use our collection of RPG icons (more than 2500 in the same style).
The communication is mainly on Facebook and Discord. There we publish various announcements, news, or just what set has been released today. For example, in Discord, we can get feedback on a certain topic. There are separate channels: cyberpunk, TCG maps, RPG icons, etc. These are requests for new sets or important errors to fix.
In reality, the website users themselves play a vital role. They form a request (for an idea) on a particular topic when they use the search engine. We see non-personal information in Google Analytics, such as our users’ searches. Later on, we work on these topics, creating extensive collections.
As mentioned earlier, to a greater extent, we rely on the statistics of our users’ searches. But in some cases, trends have played a role. For example, a few years ago Cyberpunk 2077 was highly cited, of course, this affected the searches as well. We decided to make a large collection of cyberpunk assets in pixel art. We are still releasing new sets by the way:
Usually, the work goes like this. A term of reference is created on a given topic (in some cases, it is not needed, a brief description of the task is enough). Then we draw sketches. After that, they are sent to the final rendering. The main tools we use are SAI, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Here's an example:
We have 300,000 registered users on our website, and first of all, we would like to improve their user experience. To give them more unique content from our artists. We have been actively sub-licensing independent artists over the past few years, which has resonated with our users. We have received requests from our regular audience for the purchase of works from a number of creators.
Currently, we are working on a flexible system for informing registered users via email and push notifications. We have plans to develop a DMP platform, which will be designed to personalize user experience and increase user engagement.
This year we plan to open several new topics: graphics for visual novels (characters, backgrounds); a whole series of different animated effects; characters in a modern setting (residents, policemen, soldiers, special forces, etc.); pixel RPG collection with a top view (locations, characters, items). We also plan to expand on several existing topics. You can find more details in our announcement.
In 2022, we plan to organize Game Jam where winners will receive our merch and other prizes.
In addition to art, we plan to create a set of IT solutions for indie studios. They will help promote projects of game studios and scale the studios themselves through educational solutions.
A platform for organizing workflow within the team and interacting with the outside audience. The team will be able to keep a game development log and share development progress with their audience. This will allow studios to receive feedback and build a fan base before releasing the project. Users will be able to financially support the team on this platform and vote for the development of storylines and mechanics interesting to them.
Mobile Game Tendencies
The trend with NFT projects stands out in particular. Subjectively, it often looks not like a game from which the user should get an interesting gaming experience, but as an incentive to make money by reselling digital NFT items or characters. That is why the very essence of games is blurred. Games should bring pleasure from the process, and not become work. I suppose that for many players such projects can end in disappointment and loss of money.
I would like to mention another trend. These are metauniverses in the mobile segment. We believe that in the coming years this will develop especially well in the gaming space. There will be high competition, and whoever wins the attention of the audience will get great opportunities. After all, monetization in the metaverse is extensive: sale of virtual branded items, holding various events (concerts, presentations), built-in stores with home delivery (food, merch, etc.), social opportunities for the player, and much more. If all this is organically integrated into the game, then such a project will get more of a social dimension. Definitely, there must be a balance in everything. It is important for the game not to lose its main essence.
Have You Heard of the Apple vs Epic Court Case?
Yes, it was hard to miss such news. It is crucial that there is an opportunity for competition everywhere, including in payment acceptance. After all, this cannot only reduce the commission for game studios but also contributes to the development of companies that specialize in payment processing.
First of all, it will reduce the costs of game studios. This means that the threshold for entering the mobile market will decrease. The number of new games and new game studios will go up. Plus, due to increased competition, the advertising market will expand. And of course, there will be more companies that offer payment processing solutions.
It will also affect the payment security. After all, the integration of third-party services leads to an uncontrolled result and can be used by fraudsters.
Unfortunately, we do not create ready-made games or applications. We create graphics for game developers. Therefore, we cannot name the pros and cons of services for the mobile market. For our project, we use the solution from Paddle.
This service provides a large enough inventory to solve our tasks. But there is no limit to perfection and we would be happy to make a number of improvements to the work of this service.
They are now moving away from web applications towards integration into desktop and mobile applications. They do not develop the API and plan to shut down the affiliation system. It was convenient to share the sales income through it. This was a great solution for splitting income between the author and the publisher. In my opinion, this is the wrong decision.