Tengami: A good idea on paper
Nyamyam's Phil Tossell and Jennifer Schneidereit on making the leap from Rare to indie
You'd think the move from the relative safety of console development at a large studio to independent development would be anxious at the best of times. What about if you self-funded? And decided to make a technically intricate game? But, say Phil Tossell and Jennifer Schneidereit, they're far more relaxed now than they ever were before.
"It's been really good actually," said Tossell, who along with Schneidereit left Rare and the Kinect Sports team to found Nyamyam. Its first game is a beautiful iOS title called Tengami, created with Ryo Agarie, also formerly of Rare.
"Console development these days is very different, you have a very small piece that you basically have to cover, you're like a small cog in a big machine," Tossell continued.
"So the overall influence that you have - even though at the end I was ostensibly in a fairly influential position - you still don't have that much influence over what you're doing. So going to a smaller team, smaller platform has been really exciting. Fingers in everything, having to tackle everything."
"It was a conscious decision that we made, we wanted to self fund, we wanted to self publish"
Schneidereit agrees, and said she actually finds independent development less stressful than her console days.
"I was very stressed on Kinect Sports because every game I've ever worked on I've always been passionate about it, I was emotionally invested," she explained.
"But the thing that you get on big teams is head bashing because everyone has different ideas of what they want the game to be. So you're trying to make a sports game, but everybody is slightly off from each other, because everyone is individuals and has their own ideas, their own preferences, very different opinions."
"You can get into this very negative situation where everybody is almost like fighting against each other and you constantly have to prove yourself and defend your point of views. Whereas as with Tengami we are only three people, and we're all in this together. I feel much more relaxed about what we do now than I did before."
Part of that comes from being able to make sure they're making the type of game they want to make, which is in part thanks to the decision to be self funded.
"It was a conscious decision that we made, we wanted to self fund, we wanted to self publish," said Tossell.
"Primarily because we wanted to have control over what we were doing, and from what I've seen over the years basically whoever controls the purse strings controls what happens. It's definitely more difficult, because you have to be careful about how you spend your money, and making sure you've got enough money to last you through the development."
He admitted that work on Tengami had already gone on longer than originally planned, but Tossell still has no regrets. And added that they've saved time not having to pitch to publishers. Especially considering the unique nature of Tengami.
And as well as doing their own funding, the team are now faced with marketing a game without a dedicated PR department to do it for them.
"It's been a challenge but a tremendous learning experience. I was never aware of how difficult it is to get sites to cover your game!" said Schneidereit, though she admits their contacts from their time at Rare have helped. She's enthusiastic about her experiences of it so far, talking directly to gamers at Rezzed, and using social media to get feedback on what they've shown so far.
"I was never aware of how difficult it is to get sites to cover your game!"
Tossell is is more reserved, but admitted to enjoying the freedom to talk about what he was working on, something he says would have be frowned on at Rare.
"It surprised me how much time gets spent on it. Recently it's been about 50/50 between development work and I guess promoting the game. I knew it was going to be hard work, but I didn't know it was going to be that hard," he exclaimed.
"I really enjoy talking about the game, it's something that I never got to do much of at Rare because they were always quite secretive. And there's nothing more enjoyable than talking about something you're passionate about."
There's still no release date in sight, at least not one they wanted to talk about just yet, but next up is a tour of IndieCade (where they're nominated for an award) and the Tokyo Game Show.