U ncasual Games, out of Barcelona, Spain, is a game studio comprised of only four game developers: Juan, a game design artist programmer; Eugenio a 3D engine and game programmer; Xavi a game programmer; and Lluis who is over sound design and music.
“Eugenio, the main coder, and Juan the artist, are old friends,” said the Uncasual Games team. “They have worked together for years in different companies, usually building in-house 3D engines, working with virtual reality, or other related technologies. We both started the project together because we always wanted to do a PC game by ourselves. Xavi and Lluis are friends as well as coworkers in the past. When we showed Xavi and Lluis what we had – they didn’t hesitate to start collaborating with the project.”
Each one of them comes to the table with different levels of exposure to development in the gaming industry. For Eugenio, this is his first game, while Juan has published two Android games prior to this. Lluis, the musician, has years of experience as a musician and FX sound designer with collaborations in film and gaming. And finally the most experienced member of the team is Xavi, who has been coding games since the 80s.
After years of working for other companies these four developers decided to take a leap of faith and started work one year ago on what would become, Ancient Cities.
“Ancient Cities is a strategy city builder set in the Neolithic Age,” described Uncasual Games. “You have to guide a European hunter-gatherer tribe in the process of establishing a sedentary settlement while they adopt new technologies like farming or animal husbandry. We want the game to become a platform for future developments where the same settlement will move through the Bronze Age and beyond.”
ALL IN THE DETAILS
Ancient Cities is meant to be a strategy game in the sense that it will simulate a world where players will interact with their environment on varying strategic levels. The vision is for players to have direct effect on their environment based on where they build and how they progress.
One of the elements that sets Ancient Cities apart is how accurate and detailed it is meant to be. They want accuracy in everything from how the people move and hunt to how their government and architecture were built. Every detail of the native animal species to the environment.
Juan is a lover of travel and archaeology and is obsessed with realism and historical accuracy, so the bar is high for this city builder. Players will be developing diplomacy, commerce, migrating, and even starting wars. Decisions matter in the historic world of Ancient Cities.
The game will begin in the Neolithic-Atlantic period where the player will build their civilization. Each expansion of the game will move civilization through time through periods such as the Ice Age, Neolithic Middle East, the Bronze Age (Atlantic Europe), and potentially even into the Bronze Age (Mesopotamia).
With each new era introduced there will be new gameplay, new skills, and new features that didn’t exist in the era before – but players will have to play those eras for themselves to see just how much their abilities have evolved. Just as civilization moves forward and evolves, so will Ancient Cities.
A familiar element that Uncasual Games has thrown into the mix is the element of survival. Much like the nostalgic masterpiece, Oregon Trail, players will be thrown obstacles such as harsh weather, lack of food or water, wild animals, and naturally occurring disasters. This coupled with the world building aspect brings a fresh gaming perspective to the gaming industry.
With this team comes an extensive base in building 3D engines, working in designing for virtual reality, and a lot of coding. While many game studios start ups opt to use third party engines, Uncasual Games has taken the path less traveled and begun work on building an engine from scratch to accommodate their development needs.
“Ancient Cities has some requirements that do not fit well with third party engines without full access to the code and lots of work and hard adaptation,” explained Uncasual. “For instance, we need to manage and render, not hundreds, but THOUSANDS of elements on the screen, from plants to buildings to characters. With our technological backgrounds we felt that we needed to create the game from scratch to allow this. Building engines is what we have been doing along our professional careers.”
The developers love the challenge and with all the work that was needed to accomplish this kind of feat, the only thing they could not do themselves was give unbiased feedback. So, the team turned to Steam’s Greenlight. After Valve announced the imminent closing of Greenlight, Uncasual Games decided to move the game to Greenlight in its alpha stage and show the game to people to help grow a community.
Within the last four days of Greenlight, Ancient Cities had jumped to second place with a 95% rating. This brought a lot of attention to Uncasual Games’ debut creation and allowed for them to have a jumping off point for the future of their development.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
With the beginnings of a new studio, creation of a debut game, and building a new engine, Uncasual Games needed help with funding an enormous venture. So, the team created a Kickstarter, set the goal to €100,000 ($113,958.50), set the time frame to 14 days, and launched their campaign.
When I interviewed them initially before the one week mark, they were well below their €100,000 goal, so much so that we weren’t even sure if they would be funded. With a lot of diligence and some luck, they raised money faster in the last few days than they did their entire campaign thanks to their efforts reaching out to the press, YouTubers, doing interviews, and tapping into their Greenlight community.
They spoke highly of the community that gathered around their game, crediting them for their success.
“There were moments when we were evaluating to cancel the campaign and start it again with the right time span,” said Uncasual. “But at the end we decided to continue. The wonderful community saved the situation by spreading the campaign like crazy.”
Community is a huge part of Ancient Cities and the studio Uncasual Games. Their Twitter account has almost daily development updates where you can find everything from design images to gameplay time lapses on any given day. The community that has grown around this game has been supportive, to say the least.
On June 30, 2017, when the Kickstarter campaign ended, Ancient Cities had raised €125,365 ($142,872.22), surprising both us and the development team themselves. Within the span of just a few days, Ancient Cities went from being a possibility to a reality for Uncasual Games. The sheer social media presence of this game and ease of access to the media has granted them a chance at developing a game they almost thought was over with. With being open to so many venues this also means taking time away from development, but in this case it paid off.
The gaming industry is competitive and filled with new games needing funding every day- being able to set yourself apart from the crowd is an unprecedented skill to have. For a brand new studio like Uncasual Games to have not only succeeded but exceeded their fundraising goal in a matter of a couple weeks may speak well for the kind of studio Uncasual Games will be in the future.
In order for the studio to add members and generate more content for future expansions of the game, Uncasual Games will need more funding. While they are not looking to expand currently, they are looking towards the bright future that this studio has in the creation and expansion of Ancient Cities.
They explained, “We have to return to work as soon as possible now. Moving forward, we also want to fix our mistake of creating a short crowdfunding campaign and open a crowdfunded extension through another platform.”
Their crowdfunding expansion is currently being hosted on Indiegogo. With a time frame being around a month this time, the studio has set the goal amount at a mere €25,000, which they have already raised 75% in the first few days (as of July 10, 2017) with almost 400 new backers already.
The success of the Ancient Cities Kickstarter campaign was an amazing surprise and we’re excited to see how the game shapes up.