The Happy Juice Games team told us about the idea behind their Lost in Play game, spoke about their decision to work in the quest genre, and shared how they searched for funding and what were the main things they needed money for.
80.lv: First of all, could you do a little introduction? Tell us a little bit about your team and your company.
Happy Juice Games: We are Happy Juice Games, a small company from Israel with a lot of experience in animation and games in particular. We are three partners: Yuval Markovich, the programmer in the group who owned a mobile game company for over 10 years and worked on projects such as GoCube, Alon Simon and Oren Rubin, animators and designers who created the game The Office Quest and worked for several leading game companies on animations for commercials and for the prime time television in Israel.
Lost in Play
80.lv: How did your journey with Lost in Play start? What's the story behind this game?
Happy Juice Games: After the success of our previous game, The Office Quest (made in a collaboration with 11Sheep) which was a great success with over 4 million downloads on all platforms, we decided to make a new game in a bigger production. We knew we wanted to focus on art and animation and make a game about children's imagination. All three of us are parents so it was easy for us to connect with it. The children in the game are based on Oren Rubin's children.
Choosing the Quest Genre
80.lv: You're doing a lot of work in the production of animation quest games. Seems like an almost lost genre and very difficult to sell. Why do you work in this genre and what makes it so compelling for you?
Happy Juice Games: We wanted to make a game that would be very easy for us to connect with, a game that we would want to play. We knew that if we made it with a lot of heart there would be a chance that other people would also feel the same and despite the genre, the game would be a great success. We tried to build a game that is a kind of a gateway to the genre, a game with a level of difficulty that is not too high and addresses all targets, a great family-friendly experience.
80.lv: In terms of your costs, what were the biggest lines in your budget? It seems like your art production and animation are very costly, or maybe there were some other things?
Happy Juice Games: It's hard for us to put our finger on one thing, we think the main point was an estimation of the time. Because we are a very small team and we still wanted the game to be at a very high level of production, so the project took much longer than we planned. We worked very hard in all sectors: programming, gameplay, and building many mini-games as well as art and animation. Along the way, a lot of ideas were thrown at varying levels of development.
80.lv: How do you plan things? Game development can be infamously chaotic. What is your solution for solving this chaos?
Happy Juice Games: We are not the most organized people and probably, the creation of the gameplay was a bit chaotic for us as well. The best way to create a good level design is to constantly go back and fix the gameplay and let someone play and be impressed by their experience, then change and so on, constantly changing more and more until you feel satisfied with the result. It's hard to predict a gaming experience other than watching a player play for the first time.
80.lv: Tell us a bit about your search for funding. Do you feel like you need to have a large list of shipped titles to be able to get a good deal, do you maybe need a vertical slice ready?
Happy Juice Games: We were in a long process with a very good option that unfortunately did not work out. We were working on the game for over a year and we couldn't do it anymore, we had a demo version but we needed money to finish the whole game. We realized that we need to stop the development and focus on finding an investor, our steps for that were:
- We started making noise on social media with videos;
- We did a market survey on options for investors;
- We worked on our deck according to conversations with potential investors;
- Finally, Joystick Venture believed in us and we are grateful to them.
80.lv: Do investors look at your competitors, genre, TAM – what do they need to make a decision?
Happy Juice Games: It's hard for us to say what our investors did, but we can say that we researched and presented to them our competitors and how much they earned, and based on that we estimated where we stand and how much we can earn from the game. We looked both at games from our genre and at games that are similar to us, for example, games whose focus is art.
80.lv: What were the main things you needed the money for? Why?
Happy Juice Games: Salaries for us, first of all – it's a 3.5-year full-time project and we have families to support. Basically, we just wanted to finish the whole game. Of course, we wanted the project to be as good as possible, so happily we were able to hire: programmers, animators, screenwriters, musicians, voice actors, and more.
Price of Game Development
80.lv: In today's market, what's your take on the overall price of game development? How much money does it take to build a game, it seems like it's getting more and more expensive, or is this a wrong perspective?
Happy Juice Games: We agree with you that the trend is that there are more and more games a year, so to stand out in the market you must produce quality and impressive games, both in terms of gameplay and design, and all this amounts to investing more time and money. It is indeed difficult but possible and sometimes you should dream and try to produce your game.
Advice for Younger Teams
80.lv: Maybe some final piece of advice for younger teams who want to build their own games? What are the things to take into consideration, some elements that prepare you for this journey?
Happy Juice Games: Start with a small idea and see how people react to it and only then go into a big project because it will always take more time.
In addition, try to think as early as possible about an option for investors and how to reach them, how much money you need. As developers, we focus on the game itself and can kind of forget that this is a business that should also make money so that you can continue to produce more and more quality games.