The Communications Officer at Chainsawesome Games Laurent Mercure talked about the studio's recent title Knight Squad 2 and explained the nuances of indie game development.
My name is Laurent Mercure, I am a dad of three and the Communications Officer at Chainsawesome Games. I studied Communications and PR at the university, and it covered but a fragment of what I do every day for the studio. I manage the PR, community management, and all the marketing as well as a big chunk of the business development for Chainsawesome Games. I have worked on Knight Squad, Aftercharge, and more recently, Knight Squad 2.
Chainsawesome Games is a small studio of 6 people based in Quebec City, Canada. We have been around since 2012 and we have developed and self-published 4 games in those years. We specialized in making easy-to-grasp multiplayer games that you’ll want to play with your friends.
Knight Squad 2
Obviously, Knight Squad 2 is a sequel to our second game Knight Squad, released in 2015. The core mechanic of that game was developed during Game Jam way back in 2013. In Game Jam, you don’t have much time to think twice and we decided to make an arcade-inspired multiplayer prototype inspired by Bomberman and old-school gauntlet because it seemed like a good fit for the occasion. People loved it, we won the first prize and we set out to make a full commercial product with that. When Knight Squad was released, the reception was amazing and we didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of our success at the time. We set out to make another game completely while the growing community was asking for more out of Knight Squad. We took all the comments during that time and made the best sequel possible. In summary, Knight Squad 2 is an 8-player Bombermanesque medieval party game will silly knights and a ridiculous amount of game modes. We made the project with a team of 6, 2 programmers, 2 artists, 1 QA, and myself.
The original Knight Squad was very retro and we leaned entirely in the “old-school” vibe of arcade games. We had always felt that the 2D art style had hurt Knight Squad in its marketing. Since we knew the game got great success with families and kids, we figured it made no sense to go for nostalgia and decided to go down the stylized 3D cartoon much of what the younger generations are used to.
The cool thing with making a sequel is that you know exactly where you are going. We took the characters our Art Director made from the first one and quickly turned them into 3D characters with the new 3D skills we acquired making Aftercharge (our other game released between the two). That was really quick. We actually started prototyping Knight Squad 2 using almost all the Knight Squad assets as placeholders. And in turn, those assets were made based on our game prototype so I guess all of our inspiration is from that brief 48 hours in 2013.
Demand and Marketing
In indie game development, a good rule is to make a game you know you can make. We know our skillset. We are not great writers; we don’t make complex intertwined game mechanics and we don’t have the art team to make vast 3D worlds. Way back in 2015, we made Knight Squad because our prototype was fun and we didn’t know better about the difficult video game market but in 2019, we decided to make Knight Squad 2 because we had built a following that was asking for it. That was the extend of our market research.
We were hit with kind of a marketing challenge. Knight Squad 2 has online multiplayer and it’s fun and all, but local multiplayer is where the game truly shines. COVID stripped us from the ability to show it to conventions, in person. Just like Knight Squad, people would have seen how awesome it is to play with a group of friends on a couch. Instead, we really worked to improved the online experience (with cross-play and a free trial on Steam) and showed the game at numerous online conventions. We promoted the game through streamers a lot as well, insisting that they gather people from their community to show how fun it is to play “with the gang”.
Hiring New Employees
Specifically in our case, we are pretty much never opening a new position. We make offers to specific people we know in the industry who we’d like to work with. We don’t take beginners or interns because we’re too small. All of our team members are responsible for so much stuff, we don’t have time to do any coaching. My advice to beginners would be to go build skills and experience at larger studios, indie studios are usually made up of people of experience.
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