NGD Studios Interview
hail all the way from the other side of the internet in a land called Buenos Aires, Argentina. NGD are known for being sexy, and for Regnum Online
, a free-to-play MMORPG released in 2007. Regnum Online focuses on the conflict between three realms, with players fighting against characters of opposing factions. Now the indie studio is about to become known for another title.
The developers at NGD are getting ready to release a new self-published action game for the PC, called Bunch of Heroes. In Bunch of Heroes you play as a member of a team of elite fighters tasked with saving humanity from alien invaders. Bunch of Heroes features colourful cartoon graphics, four playable characters, objective-driven gameplay, plenty of weapons and loads of enemies to use them on!
Bunch of Heroes will be available for purchase from Steam
on September 21st; offering up both single player and 4-player co-op. Read on for some Q&A action with NGD’s Andrés Chilkowski, as we chat about DLCs, the importance of Steam to independant developers, the new trend to social network everything, and lots more!
NGD Studios is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Are there many game development studios in Buenos Aires? Is NGD the largest?
We are not the largest, just one of the very first studios here in Argentina. In the past 10 years the industry in Buenos Aires has grown from a couple of dozens of enthusiasts divided in less than 10 amateur teams to a community of more than 2000 people working in more than 60 studios.
This growth can be explained by two factors: the fact that Argentineans are big consumers of videogames – although sadly mostly through piracy- and thanks to our currency’s devaluation after the economic crisis Argentina experienced in 2001. Suddenly it became quite cheap to hire Argentine developers to work on games, and we used this advantage to learn the tricks of our trade.
From software factories with 500 employees, to indie developers like Daniel Benmergui (today I die), the dev scene in Buenos Aires has blossomed. The game development industry in Buenos Aires is here to stay. Some companies are still offering development services and QA for big players such as Zynga, EA or Playdom. There are other studios, like ours, who strive to make our own original ideas.
What does NGD stand for?
We never revealed this in public before. But, this is Voodoo Extreme so here it goes…
NGD started as the fusion of three teams of game developers that wanted to work on an MMO. We barely knew each other when we started working together so when we had to configure our first development servers, we named with the placeholder name “Nuevo Grupo de Desarrollo” (New Development Group in English).
For almost 6 months we fought to come up with a super-cool new name for the studio, but trying to please everyone proved impossible. Discussions became so heated that in the end we settled for the acronym that started it all.
What is gaming, in general, like in Argentina; is it as big as it would be anywhere else like Europe and North America?
Gaming is as big in Argentina as in every other part of the world. It even resembles Korea in terms of competitive gaming and Lan houses.
Argentina has never been targeted by the videogame industry as a market because of the huge piracy rate here – PS3 was launched this year being the only platform officially available -.
As the platforms are not here officially everything is imported and in dollars, which means very high prices for both hardware and software. Luckily this scenario is slowly evolving as digital distribution platforms (such as Steam) become more popular and original retail games are getting more affordable.
Piracy has had a strange impact in the development community though… it’s very common for an Argentine gamer to play hundreds of games per year, which means that gamers and potential game developers here are very game literate.
In regard to your newest title, Bunch of Heroes, can you tell us a bit about the game from behind the scenes; such as length of development, how many people are working on it, and how much it’s going to retail for at launch?
The development of the game started two years ago when three of the most experienced developers at NGD, Gastón di Pasquo, Leonardo Benaducci and Javier Barreto, decided to do a shooter prototype to test a new engine Leo came up with on his spare time.
The concept art and the quality of the first prototypes were extremely good so we decided to back the project as a full blown NGD Studios game. The core team was around 6 people, peaking at 12 people when finishing all of the game’s content.
The launch price is going to be $9.99. We are planning a special launch promotion and something unique for Regnum Online fans too.
The heroes in Bunch of Heroes are really cute (in an “I’m going to kick your ass” sort of way . Do you just pull appearance and personality for a character out of thin air, or are they modeled after people you know, TV / Movie characters, etc.?
Gastón, (Lead Artist), came up with the main characters. They are the “resón d’etre” of the game.
Political satire is a very popular subject in our country and the idea of mixing heroes with very distinct political backgrounds fighting together to save Earth seemed fun and fresh.
Gastón’s cartoon style allowed the game to depict some violence within a humoristic context, lighting up the mood.
The characters are of course inspired by typical stereotypes of the nation they represent, but we tried to add a twist to each one of them. For example: El Camarada is a Russian who retired in Cuba, so he actually speaks some really broken Spanish too and throws exploding cigars (a subtle satire of a confirmed attempt against Castro’s life).
What are your thoughts on all of the DLC that get released these days? It seems a bit over the top sometimes with day-one DLC and games that release them non-stop. From a gamer perspective I miss the days when developers would just release a free patch and toss in a bonus map or some new content. Now it’s an endless stream of paid DLC. Is it just so expensive to develop and produce a game these days that you can’t be truly profitable unless you release further paid content? Or is it just big publishers being extra-greedy?
DLC is a great way to add functionality and extend the life of a game in general. It’s a great tool but it can be used in the wrong way. Some of the big players seem to be more concerned about how to use DLC just to maximize revenue or to avoid the re-sell of games. Used as a marketing ploy, these DLC can hurt the original game experience which seems dumb to us.
Most of the DLC available out there should be free… paid DLC might be acceptable only for big expansions or really game-changing features.
If BoH does well do you think you’ll release further content for the game?
We are already working hard on our first free DLC which adds a Co-op survival mode. We’d love to add competitive multiplayer in the future too if the game does well. Also, we have a couple of Heroes that could join the Bunch, and weapons that didn’t make the cut in this release. Once again, it all depends on how the game does.
Can you tell us what you’re working on outside of Bunch of Heroes, or what you’re planning on working on next?
A big part of our team continues to work on Regnum Online, our Free to Play, Realm vs. Realm MMORPG. We are always improving and adding content to Regnum, our first game.
Our next big thing might be a huge and original MMO that we are prototyping, but it’s a very ambitious project and we are still looking on how to fund it.
If Bunch of Heroes does well we will work on more downloadable games of course, maybe a sequel? Who knows? We have tons of ideas that we’d like to work on.
Have you worked on console games at all, or is the focus primarily PC at this time?
We actually have a port of Bunch of Heroes running on PS3… if anyone knows a publisher that wants to take the Bunch to PSN and XBLA drop us an email!
What are the benefits of being an Independent Developer / Publisher?
Being able to reach your audience directly when working on the games you love is amazing.
Doing all of this without any kind of external investment is really tough though.
Do you prefer to be an Independent Developer / Publisher or would you go with one of the bigger publishers if a satisfactory offer came around?
Our objective is to work on triple AAA online games. As long as we are alive we will continue to push for that goal. If we can make it on our own, great! If not, we’ll see. If the right deal appears, it is not out of the question to work with a big publisher.
How important do you think Steam is to Independent Developers? Is it difficult to get a game launched on Steam?
We think that Steam is a great platform, run by people who care deeply about games and about independent developers. It may be difficult to get their attention though; Steam’s commercial team is way smaller than what people may think. Unless your game has had some media exposure it may be hard to reach them.
We were lucky to travel to the GDC and bold enough to show up at Valve’s booth to show them our prototype a while back. Once they saw the game things moved very quickly. Working with them has been great.
It’s no secret that social gaming has really flourished over the past couple of years. A lot of old school PC gamers tend to rebel against things like Facebook and Twitter integration in PC releases. What are your thoughts on the importance of social networking options in today’s games? And as a developer, how important do you think it is to have those “follows” on Twitter and the “likes” on Facebook?
Social networks are great communication tools, it seems ridiculous to use them for repeating automated messages about your progress within a game; even more so to play crappy social games on the browser to supposedly get something extra for an otherwise immersive experience.
Twitter and Facebook should be used for their only true purpose: organizing revolutions and un-tagging yourself from pictures that should have never been taken in the first place.
Of course, you are welcome to follow us on Twitter and Facebook at www.twitter.com/ngdstudios and www.facebook.com/ngdstudios