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Games: Dream of Pixels, Monkey Labour, Twinoo

Tell us a little about yourself and how did you get into developing games?

My name is Žiga Hajduković and I am a cofounder of Dawn of Play (http://dawnofplay.com/) game development studio. I got into game development, since my dad got a ZX Spectrum and a handful of cassettes loaded with games. ;) My first playable game came about in the Turbo Pascal and Delphi era of the 386 PC and I started my professional career about 10 years ago with Java Mobile games at Cocoasoft and then went on to found Razum R&D studio with my friend Rok Jamnik. With an ultimate goal of making games, in the years growing to an awesome team of 8, we finally created our own gamedev studio brand Dawn of Play, where we recently launched Dream of Pixels (http://dawnofplay.com/DreamOfPixels/), a beautiful falling blocks puzzle game – in reverse.

What inspires you to make video games and where do you get your ideas from?

Other video games – to both questions. Sometimes, though, a real life situation or problem inspires me, like for Twinoo (http://dawnofplay.com/twinoo/) where I tried to connect the analytical and creative thinking into a minimal brain game.

Which platforms do you mainly develop for (PC, Consoles, Mobile, Web)?

We primarily focus on mobile, specifically iOS right now, but spreading to other platforms, too. We have Twinoo playable on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and in the browser and we released Dream of Pixels prototype on Kongregate web game portal. We also have Monkey Labour (http://dawnofplay.com/monkeylabour/) available for Windows and Mac, but have by far the most fans and players on iOS right now.

As a game developer how important is sound to you and why?

It’s very important, complements the art and adds to the general feel of the game at least as much as the visuals do.

Where and how do you find your audio team (composers, sound designers etc)? Do you go to forums or do you contact them directly via their official websites?

We did it differently for every game we did so far. For Dream of Pixels, for example, our chief coder Matej Jan found the music he was a fan of to be the perfect match – so he contacted the authors, all of them Slovenian, and we agreed on using their music. In other games, one of the eight of us in the Dawn of Play team always has a friend or a friend of a friend that is a musician or does game audio, so we contact them first.

Game audio has been overlooked for years and it’s not considered to be as important as other game development disciplines (art, code, design etc). What are your thoughts about this issue?

Yeah, I think it may just be a matter of not being critical to a game in regards to playability. I cannot really imagine a proper game without sound having a good chance out there, though. Admittedly, we do have a game without audio – Twinoo. It’s a really small brain training game, though, where you need to focus on doing simple math and mixing colours both at the same time and as fast as you can. I guess it’s just that none of the players said anything about the missing sound yet, that’s why it wasn’t on our priority list, and as it’s not a big successful game (yet!), it’s hard to justify the additional work on the sounds.

Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?

A few non-revolutionary, but I think are worth repeating:

  • Playtest. A lot, and as soon as you have a first playable, until release and then playtest some more.
  • Marketing. Plan a lot of your time for marketing your game – you will need months to write all the texts, prepare all the screenshots and tell the press and your fans about your game.
  • Do it for the long run, chances of your first game (or your 2nd or your 3rd) becoming a hit are small.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

If you think you have a really great idea for a game, don’t keep it to yourself, but show it to everyone you know. Get it out there, with all the tools that you have at your fingertips these days – that is the only way you will be able to know how great it really is – and in a short time. No one is going to steal your idea, you will only learn how to refine and perfect it. Or drop it before it’s too late, so you can move on to your next awesome and better idea faster.