We love chatting to Indie studios, and we’ve got another exclusive Q&A for the site. This time we’ve been chatting to Paolo Abela from the studio Starwork GC, based in Italy. So without further delay, here’s what Paolo had to say…
Let us begin with a small introduction; firstly, tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Hi there! I’m Paolo, CEO & Lead developer @ StarworkGC, a small Italian gaming studio made up of 35 people. What we do is teaching young (under 30) wannabe game artists and developers by letting them work and learn through the development of commercial games.
Now a little bit about your studio; how did it all start up? Where did you get your name from?
It all begins in 2013. I was 17 at that time, and I had a group of friends I hung out with.
Our problem was always “how are we going to pay this Saturday’s party?”. One day, I realised that most of us were young artists and musicians, and I had just started studying Unity3D. Therefore I asked some of them, 6 at the beginning, something like: “Why don’t we start making games?” And here we are. Things evolved quickly after that of course, and our goals became way higher. We aimed to be stars in the field and be capable of doing wonderful work, and that’s where “Starwork” comes from. “GC” simply stands for “Game Creators”, but we sometimes use that so say funny things according to the context (like “Great Cornflakes” or “Giant Cabbage”)
And what’s the Indie scene like in Italy? Is game development as big thing over there as it is in the UK and USA?
Most of the Italian teams are actually Indie. I’d say they’re about 95% of the game developers, and they’re almost small teams of about 2-5 people. Most of them don’t even survive the development of their first game, either because they set goals that they can’t reach or due to lack of determination. We’re kind of something different though since we’re around 35.
That’s why in the last 4 years we evolved from a simple “indie gaming studio” to a “gaming studio that teaches indies how to become professionals and survive”.
Gaming is pretty undervalued by the media, who think that games are “children stuff” and just ignore all the big numbers of the market.
Now we know a bit more about you and the Indie development scene in Italy, let’s talk about your existing title, Galactic Fighters. What type of game is it?
Oh, Galactic Fighters, our first game. In a sentence, we could say that it is the “sci-fi, 3D version of Touhou project mixed with Dark Souls difficulty”. It’s a 3D sci-fi Bullet hell so hardcore that’s going to drive you crazy after the first 20 minutes of playing.
And what was the inspiration behind it?
We started developing it in 2013 when the “Temple Run” mobile game was very popular. At that time, we were like: “hey, why don’t we make something in which you are a spaceship and aliens try to catch you from behind?”
It definitely evolved over time, and now it’s a totally different game.
I think that this is what actually happens with almost every project in the gaming industry: you start with something and then evolve.
How have you tried to make it stand out from the competition?
We aimed for hardcore skills and customization. Our goal was to make it really difficult to beat, and in fact, you can do that only if you manage to find the right combination of spaceship and power-ups for the level you’re trying to beat and then do your best to actually survive.
If you had to give our readers one reason to go buy your game, what would it be?
Today’s games are for casuals. This game is only for true gamers who are not afraid of being crashed 100 times in order to prove that they have skills. Can you imagine the final satisfaction?
And moving on to your newer games, you currently have two titles in development. Tell us a little bit about them.
Oh, yes! So there are “Hunt For Gods” and “The Saviors”, which are totally different from “Galactic Fighters”.
Hunt for Gods is our Flagship game: it’s a Strategic Roguelike Online Battle Arena which you can compare to a version of chess with 4 players in which the pieces are your teammates. You know, something like Harry Potter’s Wizard’s chess.
There are 4 teams made up of 3 Hunters (the pieces) and one God (the strategic player). The hunters are action players with skills (like the ones you can find in Paladins or Overwatch) that fight the others in the arena in order to kill some mobs and earn objectives while the God (which can also play in VR) guides and protects them from the sky by using his own skill set. There’s no respawn, so if you die the match is over for you. If all the Hunters of the team die, the God loses too. We’ve been working on this project since almost a year and a half, and we hope to start a closed beta soon!
“The Saviors” is an Arcade Horror VR-Only game in which you have to survive several hordes of very bad intentioned zombies. We can summarise it as “Lots of pew pew, explosions and OMGs IT’S GOING TO EAT ME”. It’s a very young project (just a month), and we’ll be developing it for at least 3 months before releasing it.
These games are very different from your first title, with Hunt for Gods having VR support and The Saviors being a complete VR title, what made you decide to switch to developing VR games?
We fell in love with VR as soon as we saw its capabilities. Being teleported in a virtual universe It’s just an amazing experience, and we believe that as the VR technology will become cheaper, it will become a must-be for every gamer.
What has been the main difference when it comes to working on VR titles compared to standard games? Do you use different software? Have you faced more difficulties than usual?
We use Unity3D, due to the fact that it’s the engine we started with and that it also supports VR development. There are 2 major things to consider when you develop VR titles:
1 – The movement of the character must be limited (no jumps, no dashes, etc…) because otherwise the player will suffer from nausea
2 – The way you think to UI is totally different from non-VR games. The best way to do that is to use world-spaced UI elements, which means that you don’t have any HUD and that the menus and the indicators are all around you (I.E: on your character’s body)
The main difficulty that we’re facing in developing VR titles is that it’s not easy to adapt to this new way of thinking, because it’s pretty new and nobody is used to it. Being a VR developer today means being an innovator, so you don’t have many previous “success case” that can teach you how to do something right.
Moreover, testing VR games is pretty difficult if your team is distributed and you don’t have 10 VR headsets.That means that only a small percentage of your team is actually going to test the game, and that’s a big bottleneck.
A lot of people have complained about nausea being caused by VR titles. What are your views on this and have you tried to combat it in any way with your games?
People are right about complaining. VR is not a natural thing for our body and can cause problems (like nausea) if not managed well.
The main problem is motion sickness, and you can deal with it by using teleportation between points instead of “common” movement techniques. Just avoid jumps and dashes and you should be fine as long as the colours of the virtual world are not LSD like.
Back to the individual games themselves; Hunt for Gods is still open for registration, why should our readers go and check it out?
I’d actually say 2 different things to 2 different kinds of players:
(to the strategic one): Have you ever managed real people and minions in a MOBA-like game in which you have vision over the whole map? You can do that right now.
(to the action one): Have you ever played with your friends in a Hunger Games-like arena that tries to blow you up every 5 minutes while you try to kill the other teams and collect some objectives? If so, did you also have a powerful ally that could help you from the sky when you asked for it? That’s what you’d do in hunt for gods.
The Saviors however, has already been Greenlit by the Steam community, very quickly I might add. How much does that mean to you, to know you have such backing from them?
It was a very big surprise. I mean, we did the prototype in just 1 week during Christmas holidays, and we expected to receive a loooot of mediocre-to-negative feedback from the community. However, looks like many people liked what we’ve done. We’re really happy about the starting point that “The Saviors” represents, and we’re going to do our best in order to make it a game worth to play.
And how have platforms like Steam Greenlight, social media and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter helped Indie developers? I mean it’s very different to what was available going back even just 10 years ago.
It really varies from platform to platform.
However, the kind of communities that we can find on social medias is very helpful for indie developers, which are usually isolated from the rest of the devs world. Those communities help people to connect, share experiences and make fewer mistakes, which for indies means A LOT. I’d recommend joining a couple of that kind of groups (you can find a lot of them on FB), especially if they have people from foreign countries.
They can also be good places to build a community, which is the most important thing to do for almost everything nowadays.
Crowdfunding sites are powerful if you have a very active community, a good marketing strategy and a product that almost speaks for itself. If you don’t, they’re just a waste of time and resources.
Tips: Steam Greenlight is currently overflooded: don’t go for it unless you have a very good game prototype and marketing strategy, or you’ll end up wasting your chance in just 24 hours.
Just a couple more general questions to tie things up; VR is still an area of the industry that is yet to truly take off, whereas eSports have erupted like a Volcano. What are your views on professional eSports? Are there any games you particularly follow?
I’ve been a League of Legends player for almost 4 years (nickname: RikuTheFuffs), mainly playing competitive games and occasionally watching e-sports. I think that e-sports are the natural consequence of multiplayer games, and they are helping in raising the importance of gaming worldwide.
What advice can you offer for people who are thinking about getting into the development of VR games? Are there any particular pieces of software you would recommend? Anything they should avoid doing?
1 – Choose your platform (mobile, PC or PSVR) and buy the most going-to-be-used VR headset for it, then ignore all the rest. Just develop for it and you’ll be fine, most of the minor headsets will disappear in a year or two.
2 – Unity3D is your friend, no matter what kind of game are you going to develop or the kind of “graphics” you want to achieve. You can also use Unreal for creating PC VR games.
3 – Design your game carefully to avoid motion sickness (see previous answers) and have the UI well-integrated into the environment.
And finally we’ll end with a random question; what did you have for breakfast this morning?
Biscuits and orange juice, I have them every day. It’s one of the habits that help me keeping the beginning of my day “consistent”, and I believe that if you have a solid starting point then it should be easier for you to achieve a further goal during the day.
Well, that’s your lot guys, interview over. We’d like to thank Paolo for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him all the best for his games. If you liked what you read and want to follow Starwork GC’s work or look more into the games, you can find everything you need below:
I’m passionate about Videogames coding and networking. In my free time I manage a youtube channel, named “RikuTheFuffs” (https://www.youtube.com/user/RikuTheFuffs), to which I upload video tutorials about coding, game development and other IT topics.
More on my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paoloabela
- StarworkGC: http://www.starworkgc.com/
- Hunt For Gods: http://athlon.starworkgc.com/
- Galactic Fighters: http://store.steampowered.com/app/513960
- Hunt For Gods: @huntforgods
Paolo’s Personal Pages: