Pinokl Games is a small indie studio. We developed several games for social networks that gained more than 15M installs in total. One of the most successful our projects is Real Steel. This game was installed by more than 2M players only in vk.com. Also, we had several mobile projects before we started developing for Steam and gaming consoles. At the moment we are Ocean’s Twelve:).
Why did you decide to work with pixel art? Were there any other variants?
One of our developers, Alexander Ponomariov, was working on some pixel art projects before so he was in charge for the graphical aspects of the game. Also, we can tell from our experience that pixel art is quite popular among participants of different indie contests. At least it’s much easier to draw when you’re short of time.
Don’t you feel a bit tired from pixel art today? Also what other styles you’d like to try?
We treat pixel art like a Greek mosaic, which is valued and pleasant to look at. It’s always beautiful and we can’t get tired of it.
The entry level of pixel art games is very low and, unfortunately, many developers use that. A lot of projects of low quality appeared which couldn’t help but influence players’ attitude towards pixel art, but still, it’s a universal style for those who can use it wisely.
Of course, we would be happy to work with 3D, such kind of development requires longer terms and wider audience. In nearest future, you are sure to see something interesting from us in 3D.
Let’s get back to Party Hard. How much time did you spend on the first version of the game? How many variants of gameplay have you excluded before this one, what other mechanics have you tried?
We spent 3 days if we’re talking about that laggy flash version of the game. We noticed public interest and hurried to make a better version. It took a month to port the game to Unity. It was one playable level, which we presented on Casual Connect 2015 in Amsterdam. We won Indie Prize Award at Indie Showcase and met our future publisher TinyBuild.
When we were supported by fans, press, and youtubers with millions of views, we understood that we had to keep on working! Together with TinyBuild we started development of the game for Steam. From the very beginning, we wanted to make a slow tactical game with elements of puzzle, which you can finish only after the right succession of actions. But after sending the build to streamers we noticed that the audience instead of slow tactical gameplay preferred unexpected situations, like UFO, a murderer of a cop, a horse in the middle of a house etc. So players wanted to have crazy fun so we decided to give it to them. It worked out in the end.
It took more than six months. A year ago, on the 25th of August we launched the game! We are happy with what we’ve got, Steam is an amazing platform!
How painful was the transition from the first version to the one that you released (what was added, what was canceled)?
The transition itself was easy. We were already familiar with Unity at that time, and it was easy to remake the extended version of the demo. We only borrowed assets from the original flash game to base our work on. We abandoned all features that didn’t give the desired result in a time frame. Following this rule, we didn’t miss an opportunity to add little details if they didn’t require a lot of time. And it wasn’t a problem to spend a bit more time on important aspects.
Did you use the same tool for the first and the second version? I mean engine, project management tools and so on. Which one do you usually use?
As I have already said, the first Flash version of the game was made quick and dirty during the contest. Then we switched to Unity. All tasks were in Trello or even directly in Telegram. It turned out to be very convenient for inside communications. Also when your team is very small it’s much easier to arrange a meeting.
Were there any fears that the provocative theme of the game could somehow have a negative impact on sales or raise questions from Steam? The game is a simulator of a psychopath made with a humorous touch. By the way, what rating did it get?
There is no strict rating policy on Steam. For example, GamesCom gave it 16+ after we removed all the blood. There were some negative reviews from critics. But because of the pixel design, and, as you said, humorous tone, the game ceased to be so dark. Players do not associate what is happening on the screen with the real world. This article very clearly describes the difference between our game and Hatred.
It’s a premium project. Usually, this type of games launches and gets abandoned because it’s not free-to-play. However, you released patches and new levels for it. How much does it affect sales?
At the moment the sales of the game are at the same level they were on the second month after the launch. Moreover, updates stimulate sales on Xbox One / PS4. You can see the online chart on the picture below. It shows great work of TinyBuild!
And we think that it’s not the limit. We hope to take a milestone of 1000 players online. And after that, we’ll make the second part.
Was there any additional work with the community? How did you present a new pack to players?
We are a small team, but we try to inform our community. A lot of problems our players can solve by themselves, we get involved only when our help is necessary. We try to engage ourselves in a dialogue with annoyed players and collect feedback. It helps us to understand what we should fix and where to move the game further. As for our plans, we are sharing them mainly on events like PAX or E3 with press and streamers.
After the release of the project, you have been working with Twitch. Can you tell us about your partnership?
We integrated Twitch in the game. We didn’t integrate streaming, it is still possible to use other programs for it. What we did is the implementation of a chat, with the help of it the audience could influence the progress of the streamer.
Players could vote for all sorts of events, they could help or to interfere with the player. Now we are preparing a big update, which adds more of these things (even an ability to control characters). In addition to this, each spectator will have his own account, the ability to collect points and spend them in any stream.
The game has had a level editor since April. Why did you decide to implement this feature? How did this affect sales?
The idea of the editor appeared almost immediately after the launch. As soon as we saw loads of players wishing it, we immediately went to work. And, apparently, we did not miss: our online rose, the community had so much fun with new levels. Sometimes players create really good and complete levels. In future, we plan to feature these levels by adding them in the additional top category, like Editors choice.