As always for our fans from abroad we have translated the whole interview for your reading pleasure as well as we give you new photos from our game, Biolab plus a small teaser from our next game in production!
“When the tributes on Greek video games development teams started through the “Team of the Month” there were actually around 10 companies and as many other teams in the landscape along with those who had ceased to exist. So we said that in two years we will have finished.
Having started the second year of our tributes we are confident that we will write continuously for the next five years. At least. The same time that the Greek gaming industry makes its own team-booms, 2003-4, 2007-8 and now in 2012-13.
Of course there were always groups or companies in the last 20 years at least that were starting to develop video games in Greece but in these years we observe an up rise in starts like a baby-boom (so the team-boom).
But if 20 years ago you had to make your own engine starting from libraries for graphics cards or the mouse and making your own sprite editors by buying a book to do so, we understand where we are today.
Better than reminiscing about the past is to meet the people who experience the current circumstances and so immediately to read what Stratos Kampourogiannis replied to the questions we raised to him for the “Team of the Month” October 2013, Demigod Studios.”
Q. We have described you as the youngest group hosted as “Team of the Month”. Will you tell us about your start?
The truth is that the start was very sudden and not something that was planned long ago. I wanted to enter the video games industry for many years but I knew that if I wanted to do something serious I had to go abroad something that i couldn’t do at that time.
Sometime ago i started paying attention to developments in Greece and what I discovered was that there is a lot of talent. It just needed the right guidance, organization and plan. So the group started as an idea by me in late 2012 under different circumstances, plan and composition.
In early 2013 there had to become a radical reorganization since the initial plan as it was made unfortunately could not work because major problems would appear in the future. This made us good in a sense as it made us think what was not working properly and what should be changed in order not to have the same problems in the future.
Since last February until mid May we were constantly reorganizing and creating a plan so that in the end of May we gained official legal status. Since that time the company is constantly evolving with small but steady steps.
Q. Tell us some things about the team structure. You work in an office, remotely or a flexible mix of both?
The company at the moment is working with external partners from Greece and abroad. Since our headquarters is located in Athens those who live there or relatively close try to have meetings as often as we can in order for members to know better each other and collaborate more directly in the development of the games we are working on.
Currently there are two groups working on Demigod Studios, which work independently of one another. Team Theseus which was the first created and is currently working on BioLAB and team Perseus that works in a title which we have not officially announced yet.
Q. Describe us a day developing video games.
A day developing video games in contrast to what many believe has much work and fatigue. Right now the time is divided into two parts.
First by collaborating with the members of both groups to solve problems that arise and giving directions to each member individually and second in game design for both existing and future titles because we always look what will come next and not only what we are currently working on. But at the end of the day no matter how tired, when you complete a certain number of jobs you really feel that it was worth all this effort every day.
Q. It is an open secret that programming is not doing well with art thus the rumours of conflicts between the two parties when developing a video game. How do you bridge this gap?
With good mood and a lot of effort. Because these two will always conflict and it is the duty of the project leader to always find the right balance so that the development can proceed without problems and delays.
But all members have understanding and in the end we are all striving for a common purpose and that is none other than the completion of each project. I once read an interview with a game developer who said that “a studio is nothing but a bunch of useless machines. People are what give it value.” This particular phrase i believe very much and that’s why I pay attention to anything that concerns the team members because they all strive for the best and sometimes not under the best conditions.
Q. Have you included the promotion of your games from a certain point in your plan or you complete them first and after look about that?
For a serious company that wants to grow, promotion is very important otherwise you can create an amazing game that no one will know. Promotion is a bit more difficult for Indie groups that do not have marketing departments and everything should be done by the members themselves.
So with our company, promotion of each title we produce is very important and we create a plan in advance and not at the last moment.
Q. What percentage of the company are not game developers such as people for marketing and sales?
Currently there is no qualified person to deal with the marketing in the team although it is something that we are thinking about. Apart from the community manager that the company has all the other members are actively involved in the game development.
Q. We know companies that started before the crisis while others faced it during their birth. How is the decision amid constant crisis to start a business?
The decision is not difficult. But you need to have a plan and know exactly what costs you will have to avoid surprises. Prior to founding Demigod Studios there was a clear idea how much the whole project will cost and what expenses there will be. If you remain stable and do not deviate from this plan then there is no danger to get to the unpleasant point of being unable to pay the costs of your business.
Q. What is harder: to start a company or to maintain one in time? I’m asking this because one fourth of development teams we have presented no longer exist.
I personally think that it is relatively easy to start one but frighteningly difficult to maintain and grow it in the future. Starting is easier because there is excitement that motivates you and you do not think about the problems that can occur after.
But when you pass this initial enthusiasm, when the mind is clearer, there should be as proper planning and determination so that even in case of a problem to be ready to deal with it so it will not affect the rest group.
Q. Going back to your startup, did you thought instead of starting a new team to reach an already existing one and collaborate?
No because I knew from the beginning what I wanted to do and none of the existing teams had the ideology or the planning that I would like the team to have. I’m not saying that other teams have wrong planning, simply they didn’t offer what I was looking for and didn’t have the elements I consider essential for a game development company to succeed.
2nd part of the interview.
“Reading the first part of the interview in the “Team of the Month” for October 2013, Demigod Studios, someone can be highly troubled. Eventually the passion and optimism of creation outweighs pessimism caused by the circumstances and the environment.
Also 5 years ago plenty of money flowed without questioning the “Money exist” that characterize the five years of steady economic crisis giving a different perspective in starting a business effort in developing video games.
But money is not a necessary and sufficient condition for success for a company, because all this time more have stopped before the crisis without even entering to the new conditions. Also things have improved even at the state level.
So since 2008 you do not need to locate similar codes for starting a video games company but you go straight to the corresponding code! This of course for those who change to a company state or start directly as a company.
Each season has its own parameters and thus requires a different approach to how you look at it, but the fact is that each year this industry is flourishing and the more barren the economic landscape the greater the creativity.
At this point, however, let’s continue with the second part of the interview of Stratos Kampourogiannis for Demigod Studios.”
Q. Touching the “cooperation” subject, do know collective efforts in our area as the Hellenic Game Developers Association (HGDA) or the gi-Cluster?
We know for both of them, as both are well known in the field and if someone is interested will surely find information.
Q. Do you participate in any of these and what you think of such collective efforts in general?
In the HGDA we had registered a while ago but without any communication from them. Not even an email. For the gi-Cluster unfortunately the information available does not give you to understand what is it about and how to help a video games development company. There should be more clear instructions so that anyone can contact and ask for help if needed.
Q. Are you aware about government programs such as ESPA and the development activity in video games?
Unfortunately no, although there was an attempt to see if there is some program like this as we are interested in everything that can help us in what we are trying to do, there should be clearer ways someone can find the existence of such programs and not searching in the dark.
Q. Would you ever look for funding in Kickstarter or the OpenFund like other companies in Greece?
Of course as it is a possible future option. Just those who consider programs like Kickstarter or Indiegogo should be very careful and not rely only on these because a potential failure can be disastrous as we have seen many times happening. To exist as an option yes but not to base all their planning on it because the end result can be surprisingly bad.
Q. Do you think that the state should assist in game development because of its global dynamics or private initiative is better?
As the state can support any business so it can do with companies in our field. Only gain they will have from this.
But unfortunately the climate right now is more than hostile as not only they don’t help businesses but no one still takes very seriously a game development company.
There seem to be some steps but these are too small and too late unfortunately, something that is catastrophic in an industry that moves at a fast pace and those who are left behind don’t have many chances to survive.
Q. The fact that we are not developing video games in Greece as is done in countries such as France and England you think it depends on the state of things here?
We see that in countries with a developed video games industry the governments are supporting the efforts of companies by offering various incentives to help their development. In Greece it is almost non-existent and when there is, it’s very individual. When offered greater incentives and assistance we will see this industry grow here also.
Q. Hundreds of people are already employed in game development companies and the companies continue to hire this year. Let’s not forget the Career-Day in May. We also have dozens of titles in production. What is needed in your opinion, to be able to talk about “game industry” here?
Due to the economy, most companies and teams in Greece are concentrated with casual gaming which has a much lower cost and risk of an AAA title.
The bad thing with this is that most games, even when they are very good, are lost in a sea of casual games produced worldwide which results in very few people abroad to learn about the games we produce.
Only if we create a hardcore title that will stand out and get worldwide publicity we will be able to break this barrier and make the game industry a real event in Greece which will be recognized and talked about not only here but also abroad .
Q. Before we go back to you what you know about training on games development in Greece?
I know there are several private schools that have departments for game development but when there is no infrastructure to support the students who study in these departments when they will graduate it will be very difficult for them to evolve and will remain stagnant.
And the worst part is that these students who will think more seriously to continue their career on this field will be forced to go abroad. How do you expect this industry to grow in Greece when almost all the talent is going abroad ?
Q. Would it be important that the initial experience to come from real video games titles already from the time of the courses or it doesn’t play such an important role?
I think the theory is good as it gives some solid foundations , but practice is the one that will throw in the deep all who go to such a school and will teach them the actual conditions under which a video game is created.
So, it’s very important these schools to have a collaboration with companies engaged in game development in the way of presentations or by more direct practice so that students gain experience in the real world which can not be done in a laboratory. So they will acquire the appropriate knowledge in order to cope with the demands that will occur when they will work in a professional studio.
And we finish with the 3rd part of the interview.
“It’s been a long time since we hosted an interview in 3 parts and we are delighted that we filled October with the 1st and 2nd part of the interview of the ” Team of the month ” Demigod Studios! Also alot were written about the changes in our field in recent years in response to this article.
The aim is not to reminisce about the past or to judge the present. What happened does not change and brought us to where we are today. More important are the changes that happen in the field that concerns us where they lead and not the positive or negative in front of a future that we the creators are looking for .
What we need to keep in mind in my opinion is that now it is a common belief that the era of stars game creators has already passed since Carmack was developing Doom and “video game gods” have moved into the world of Indies where they can be called by their name and not as the “programmer” at that game.
You have to go beyond your individual microcosm that 10 years ago was what you needed to create something sustainable and meet others with similar scope . So the scope is extended and now the possibilities multiply. This are the teams and companies behind them and their interesting games.
So today we conclude our tribute to Demigod Studios with this third and final part , and we hope soon to get our hands on their first video game and what will follow after, as we look forward with all game creators after all!
Thanks once again to Stratos Kampourogiannis for everything he kindly agreed to tell us. Happy reading!”
Q. Biolab is your first game and will be out for smartphones.
Yes it is the first attempt of our company in the market of video games.
Q. How should a game begin in your opinion: I / we have an idea or is it more time consuming and complex than that?
It all starts with an idea. But the question is what you do after.
The hard part comes after as you need to turn this idea into a set of graphics, gameplay and sounds which will make the player interested to get to the end , to get his attention.
And this is very complicated because you have to combine the idea that you have and you want to play but also think from the side of the common gamer and what was it that he would like to see and would get his attention.
Because let’s face it, we make video games that a lot of people can play and enjoy them, not just us .
If it was like that then we would make a game, we would hide it in a drawer and keep it for ourselves. And don’t forget that in all these we should also take into account what the team is capable of creating. Because many times we see that teams start with a relatively simple project and at some point they try to create a video game that is far beyond their capabilities with bad results in the end.
Q. On the other hand what played a role in the choice of platform, e.g. why choose that instead of the web or a console? Many groups choose consoles because of cheaper total cost of equipment and tools, but also because of the multitude of applications in the so-called Smartphone Marketplaces.
It was a conscious choice because the growth of the mobile devices market and the relatively low cost needed to develop a title. Also the risk one takes is relatively small and has enabled us to measure our strength and see what we can do as a group that works for the first time in a video game.
Q. We see in your page Unity. Is this the engine you develop your games with?
The Unity Engine recently entered the production pipeline of our company as BioLAB was developed with the Corona SDK. The Unity Engine will be used in future company projects.
Q. What played the most important role in the selection of it? The trend around the Unity Engine, the tools and the support, the experience of your team members or the price?
The decision to use Unity was taken after seeing what our future needs are and what it can offer and of course the cost and support that such a graphics engine has.
Q. Speaking of the engine price how important it is for a company, working capital? Many beginning without even that and we should not ignore the cost of machinery and software.
You do not need much capital for someone to start and make his first steps. Most computers have so much computing power that with little money you can have a machine for game development. Also there are many graphics engines nowadays that are available for free and without any restrictions. The issue of software certainly exists and I believe that there you should allocate some money without the need to reach astronomical numbers.
Q. We ask all these because it bothers nearly everyone when they begin and the exchange of experience and expertise is important between us. Do you have plans for next game?
Demigod Studios is always looking into the future regardless of how committed we are in preparing each title.
If you do not have a plan you will release the game you are developing and then waste time thinking what you will do next and the whole group will wait, something that is destructive for business and economics.
Q. Is it not risky for a new group and company to have two production lines?
Not at all. You only need to know how to handle it and be ready to devote many hours to organize and manage both teams. Everything is a matter of good organization. Without it you can’t do anything no matter how big budget you have, no matter how experienced individuals are in each team
Q. When we should expect your first games?
We have not officially announced a date for Biolab yet but we hope to release it this year without committing to a date yet as it is important for us to make a game enjoyable to those who buy it and at the same time with as little problems and bugs as possible.
As for our other projects we will announce when we will be ready so be a little patient.
Q. Will you make an Open Beta or Testing will be in a more closed circle?
We are currently looking all the options we have and we will decide soon. In any case there will be an announcement on our official website.
Q. Video games, videogames(GREEK) or entertainment software?
Due to their origin I would have to say video games. Some things better to keep them as they are.
Q. How did the name Demigod Studios came?
As a Greek company i wanted its name to combine Greek elements from our mythology alongside a more westernized culture as video games have become a part of their culture in America and therefore have very big success there. I think the name Demigod Studios expresses the company perfectly as it targets a global audience without forgetting that at its base will be a Greek effort.
Q. What to expect from Demigod Studios in the future?
Our first goal is to release BioLAB for Android and perhaps other platforms something that has not been decided yet.
As for the future we have many projects we would like to share with you but it’s early yet. All in due time with hard work and above all with love for what we do …