Whiteboard Games' president Luciano Musella told us how work is organized at the company, spoke about the studio's approach to education, and discussed the peculiarities of the South American game development community.
My name is Luciano Musella, and I am the president of Whiteboard Games and the game director of our first published video game, I See Red. I have a burning passion for video games and the video game industry, which started at a young age and continues today. In fact, I have more than 2000 games in my Steam library!
As a teenager, I played an Argentine MMORPG called ImperiumAO and later joined the development team. Surprisingly, I didn’t consider turning my passion for gaming into a career until one of my fellow staff members mentioned studying videogame design in college. Fast forward to March 2020 (very interesting times), when I graduated from Da Vinci School in Buenos Aires with many amazing professionals and friends who share my passion. Together, we started our own videogame company called Whiteboard Games.
Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, we were determined to bring our thesis project to the world: I See Red, a twin-stick shooter rogue-lite where you rage through enemy spaceships in search of vengeance. We received lots of help along the way, including from other developers, former teachers, and the Argentine Association of Videogame Developers (ADVA), which mentored us through their MPVP program.
On October 24th, 2022, I See Red was released for PC on Steam, Epic Games, and other online stores through an alliance with German publisher Gameforge. With some years of experience and a team that grew from 5 students to 30 professionals, we’re even more excited to present new ideas to the world. We’ll be attending GDC and Game Connection America in person for the first time!
Organization of Working Processes at Whiteboard Games
Our teams are divided by projects (typically, videogames, except for the occasional outsourced project), each with its own sub-teams. We have departments that focus on game design, level design, concept art, 3D modeling, VFX, music and SFX, programming, writing, marketing, and graphic design.
How do we communicate and coordinate the efforts of all those people? Well, while we do have an office in Buenos Aires that you can even find on Google Maps, we discovered during the pandemic (Whiteboard, in fact, was born during it; a pandemic video game studio, if you will) that working from our respective homes is more comfortable and no less productive, contrary to what everyone tells us.
Mostly, we communicate via Discord, where everyone can stay informed about what's happening in other teams and offer their expertise if an outside perspective is required. Instead of having a defined schedule, we use a time-tracking tool – Clockify – so that each member of Whiteboard Games can work at their convenience. Unlike other companies that went the online-only route, we're always on a voice channel while we're working, as if it were a virtual office.
In addition, we organize group sprints and review meetings that ensure everyone is on the same page. We also plan in-person gatherings that tend to focus more on team building, having fun, and getting to know all the members that make up the studio.
Whiteboard's Approach to Education
We're constantly seeking inspiration and the latest trends, news, and tools from the video game industry. Our Discord is filled with art and video game references, be they related or unrelated to our current projects, that any of us can share and discuss if we find something interesting.
Apart from this permanent talk of what’s happening, Whiteboard Games also pays for courses and helps its employees with their university tuition. Since we have several teams, each with its own times within the development schedule, there are times when some teams are busier than others.
We take advantage of those moments of relative peace to learn, sign up for seminars, and courses, and polish our skills for the next task. On top of this, many of us are professors at local universities. As we mentioned earlier, some even were coaches for the initial stages of I See Red that later decided to join in!
3D and Gamedev Market in South America
In our experience, the South American game development community is warm, growing, ambitious, and full of cultural beauty that translates to innovative stories, art styles, and mechanics. At least in Argentina, this feels almost like a grand family, where everyone knows each other and wants them to succeed.
From the moment we first started, we received an enormous amount of support from our national association of game developers (the aforementioned ADVA), as well as the selfless help of other development studios that shared with us resources, contacts, and tips they had gathered in their work.
Specialized media outlets are always eager to talk and promote new games, proud of what is made in their country or region. And there is a ton of economic support too: South America has been described over and over again as an emerging player in the knowledge industry.
From the perspective of more developed economies, the work we do here is cheaper, but not at all inferior. We have the same level of education, resources, and distribution since the video game world is almost entirely online. This makes it an amazing opportunity for foreign publishers and investors, which in turn continues to foster the growth of this industry.
Whiteboard's Take on the Future of Gamedev
I don’t really think the way players consume video games is going to change. But games themselves and game development are changing, and have been for several years: players are getting more demanding; they want more content, polish, and attention to detail, with expectations that reach the sky and then go beyond.
Thankfully, many developers can rise to meet those expectations. Of course, bigger games need more budget; more money. After 30 years of industry, games finally went from $60 to $70. To reverse this rise, the healthiest solution would be to mitigate the cost of production. Until very recently, there was not much hope of achieving this. However, now that we’ve begun to see the boom of artificial intelligence, we see a tool that can be thought of and used to save costs, enabling a person to achieve in minutes what ten would do in a month.
Studios, like ours, are already taking advantage of this: we can generate code and art or game design prompts, or use illustration tools. Today, AIs are complementary to our work, and the results they yield have to be analyzed and processed in order to be usable. But in the future, it is logical to expect them to advance to a point where those adjustments will no longer be necessary. At that moment, the tools will become the workers.
Tips for Artists
We get asked this a lot in Argentina, where the video game industry is rapidly growing but not yet as developed as in other countries. We’ve found that there is a lot of work and an amazing amount of talent. You can have a great career in game development and videogame art if you’re persistent, eager to learn, and ready to work as a team.
Be sure to keep your skills polished. Color theory is a must, and a good eye for dimension, depth, and scale is great for imagining and previewing scenarios in your head. As for software, you should learn, we can start with the classics: 3ds Max for scenarios, Maya for animation, ZBrush for characters, and Substance 3D Painter for textures. There are also a couple of odd ones for more specific situations: Marvelous Designer is amazing for clothes, and SpeedTree is a nifty tool for, well, trees, which almost every game needs!
Every time you go to work, have with you references so that what you produce is more believable; learn from and build on what’s already done, without depending exclusively on your imagination and creativity since, even though it’s one of your most powerful tools, it will sometimes make you fall into common mistakes or oversee easier solutions, basic rules, and industry conventions. Don’t fall in love with only one reference either: When we only have one, we can end up taking more than inspiration from it; have a good amount for different purposes, so you can have a general overview of the problem to solve. Good luck!