In this podcast, indie developers Arman Kayhan and Levon Sebuhyan of Sillywalk Games discuss the challenges and lessons learned from taking their game Mind Mould to global markets. Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!
Michelle: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse this. My name is Michelle Zhao, and I am the Director for Global Publishing here at LAI Global Game Services. Our guests today are Levon and Arman from SillyWalk Games. They are an indie team based in Europe. Mind Mould, which is also called Nao Li Mo Ju in Chinese, is their newest mobile puzzle game designed with a global interest. They have overcome many difficulties to solve their own puzzle of getting the game ready for a global launch. They have expended quite some efforts to localize their game especially for Asian market. I believe their journey to the East story will particually interest our western listeners. Now let’s welcome Levon and Arman to share their experience with us.
Levon and Arman: Hi, Michelle. It’s nice to be here. Thank you for having me on to talk about our game.
Michelle: OK, let’s begin our interview with the 1st question:
1. How did you come up with the concept?
Levon and Arman: We were playing a lot of shape filling puzzle games in that time. After a while we figured out that, every single one of it is actually same. They give you a shape to fill and there is only one solution for it, so either you find it or you fail. So it was a matter of time and more tries.
Since we were in love with the puzzle concepts, specially the shape filling ones, we wanted to hold on to the main concept but make some changes to push players to the next level on that genre. That was the time we started working on Mind Mould.
2. Michelle: Comparing to other puzzle games, what makes your game unique?
Levon and Arman: We created a game in which players can find their own solutions for every single level. Even though it’s your 4th or 5th time with the same level, you wonder how solutions will vary with your choice of filling the puzzles. Because of that, Mind Mould players should push their creativity and visualization skills.
3. Michelle: As an indie game developer, it’s no easy job to develop a game for the global market. Any struggles you met during development?
Levon and Arman: Yeah, of course, of course. Being an indie developer team has many struggles actually. First of all you are a small team and that means that there is more and more work to do per person. The biggest struggle is the limited skill tree, I mean you are a team consisting of 3-4 people. Everyone has his unique skill set, but other than that if something new comes up, you are forced to learn new skill to get the job done. That takes time and makes your project go slower. But that is just how it is as an indie developer.
4. Michelle: When you are looking into the market to launch, why are you particularly interested in Chinese market?
Levon and Arman: We knew China is a huge market with a lot of potential to go. Year by year it’s pace of growth increased and we wanted to be part of this.
Michelle: You are right – according to a few research institutes like Newzoo and TalkingData, China’s mobile games market will reach $6.5 billion in revenues this year (2015), more than one fifth of the $30.1 billion generated worldwide. This positions China as the world’s biggest market for smartphone and tablet games, ahead of the US with an anticipated $6.0 billion in revenues this year (2015). And the most popular mobile games are among either really hard-core games like MOBA games, or extremely casual games.
5. In terms of localization, what have you worked on to make the game more appealing in the other market?
Levon and Arman: Players must have fun playing your game, and it starts with the proper localization. We wanted them to feel Mind Mould like one of their own.
So other than classic translation work, we started to read about the history and mythology of the country. We re-created our cut-scene, mascot, colors and music to be closer to the Chinese culture.
Michelle: Exactly! While the first touch of localization is the language and locale, it seems that you have put a great deal of thoughts on the habits, favorites and gameplay of local gamers. From our experience, we knew that Chinese users normally stick to a game more than Western gamers within a short time period. But they are also early quitters in front of difficulties in games.
6. Next question is a follow up to this: any difficulties you meet when localizing it? What lessons have you learned?
Levon and Arman: We face with many difficulties actually. Most significant one was working with Asian fonts. We used to work with Latin fonts, but Asian fonts are something new for us. Like, if there is a mix-up in the texts, we wont notice it immediately. And also the layout and readability is not easy to check for us. Certain graphic effects will work fine on Western fonts, but will mess up on Asian fonts. So that was the difficulty we face.
Michelle: I’ve heard that later on, you’ve worked out the issues during the testing phase with the help from LAI’s Asian game localization experts. That’s great news!
7. And talking about testing, what have you found out from the gamers in other cultures during testing?
Levon and Arman: We figured out in China, players expect to see lots of tips in the game. The players are more familiar with a busier window comparing to western gamers. That was a real surprise for us.
Another thing we learned from testing phrase is that gamers will have different preferences and leave very different comments. We will listen to their ideas but can’t integrate all, of course.
8. Michelle: What are other tips you could give to developers looking into publishing their game overseas?
Levon and Arman: First of all, It is important to work with a localization company. It is a must actually. You can’t afford to make big mistakes regarding culture and language. Publishing a game is hard enough by itself, imagine what would happen if elements of the game would be offending to people in those culture.
Michelle: Thank you very much for sharing your story with us, Levon and Arman! Hope Mind Mould a global success!
Levon and Arman: Oh, thank you, Michelle.
Michelle: Back to our listeners, hope you enjoy today’s discussion with our friend Levon and Arman from SillyWalk Games. And as always, if you have comments, suggestion or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can even twit us at LanguageAutoInc.