In this week’s Series Spotlight, I was able to catch up with ERS Game Design Director Alexander Motylev, to talk about the genesis of the Haunted Halls game series. Check out how ERS makes these amazing games below!
Please introduce yourself/development team
Hello, my name is Alexander Motylev, Game-design director at ERS Game Studios.
How did you come up with the Haunted Halls game series?
Simple! We wanted to make something that one has never seen before in casual games. We decided that it should be an asylum, but with a light-hearted approach. We wanted to make it scary, humorous, and interesting… and so it happened!
What made you want to be a game developer?
We simply like playing games, as well as everything new and interesting. We wanted to turn our passion into our profession. Now we develop games and couldn’t be happier. Every working day is like a holyday for us. Now, we use our Facebook page for communication with players, because they love our games (just as we do) and give us their advice. They ask questions and give their ideas on how we can improve our games. We love our players and we’re always glad to talk to them. And they love us in return. We have mutual love without obligation!
How do you get inspiration for a game?
Sometimes I ask myself where all this comes from. Ruslan Pismennyi, our ССO, always has lots of ideas brewing. An interesting picture, a phrase, or a new film can inspire a new, great idea Well, anything can inspire us for a new game. Something similar happened to Haunted Halls. -“ Think of an asylum… What if the game takes place in a real asylum with patients and their phobias? It might be an interesting idea.” So, it began. Currently the 3rd game of the series is about to be released, while 4th game is in development. The project is expected to be just as unique and compelling as the previous games.
How long does it take for you to design a game from start to finish?
Too long! We wish it took less time. We don’t want to make our players wait. The concept for a new game is already in mind while developing the previous one – this is when we think over what will happen to the characters, how the story will change, which of the characters will stay, and what Dr. Blackmore will invent to rule the world. That would be the basics for an upcoming game. In a few months after adding details we will have the design document ready. Then begins the long task of content development. The whole process takes 10 to 12 months on average. And players perform a leading role in this process, as their opinion is extremely important to us.
What are the biggest technical challenges when you develop a game?
Technical challenges are inevitable. It is very hard to find a balance between the amount of animations in a scene, and the performance of users’ computers. All players have different computers with different performance. We try to satisfy everyone while improving our technologies.
Any advice for new developers?
Love what you do and those for whom you do it – and you will succeed.
What does your development team do that’s different?
We create a unique atmosphere in our company. All of the employees are friends; we participate in the ERS Game Studios soccer championship, and gather for picnics. This is the atmosphere where our games are born, and you can be completely sure that some of the ideas for Haunted Halls we borrowed from our every-day life.
As a developer, after shipping a game, do you enjoy playing it just as much as you enjoyed making it? Or when it’s shipped do you take a sigh of relief and forget about it, knowing you don’t need to worry about it anymore?”
We always keep playing our games. We love to do so! We also play our game to come up with ideas for the sequel. Our children and parents also play the games.
Have you ever had to sacrifice a feature you really didn’t want to give up to keep a game in budget or meet a deadline?
Game development is both creation and production. Sometimes, the two clash with one another. Creativity doesn’t follow deadlines, and has no limitations. Production is about deadlines. Only by striking a balance between the two there could be an effective result.
How many ideas have you had to abandon or drastically change because someone beat you to the punch?
Oh, many of them. The heart could have thousands of ideas inside, but the head will say: “Stop, think, perhaps, it is too much?” But having both, the heart and the head to work together, they should follow the same rhythm J.
What do you find is the best approach for starting a new project? Do you think about the story (or characters or style etc.) you want to get across or do you worry about mechanics and gameplay first?
Of course, first we think about the idea. What is it going to be like? How urgent is it for the time being? We need to consider in advance what our players and their tastes would require in a year and by the time the game is released.
What do devs think about the people who get mad about a particular aspect of a game, whether it be story, customization, gameplay, etc. Do they take it personally or ignore it?
Particularly negative reaction of players makes us think – “Where did we go wrong, why didn’t they like it? “ And try to improve these aspects in our following games, since we make games for them!
Do developers ever realize that the game they’re making needs a major overhaul? If so, is there a process to improving a game in the latter stages of development?
We would rather say that improvements always happen. E.g. Haunted Halls: Revenge of Dr. Blackmore – when everything was almost ready for the Survey the game seemed a little dull to us, as one would say it was lacking a “soul”. That is how the kangaroo with a newspaper about Siberia, the nice lemur in the bamboo bush and many other animations appeared in the game. There are cases when we change the art style of the game entirely. In short – this is game development. A game is a very complicated thing. It takes us a year to make, but one may complete it in 4 hours time.