FORCED – How To Win At Games Development

What’s the most effort you’ve put into something you love? I love cheeseburgers, and earlier today I travelled from my apartment to the supermarket to pick up some buns. When I came home, I fried some burgers out of the fridge, tossed on a slice of cheese and added some sauce – it took a grand total of half an hour for my wild, unassailable dreams to come to fruition.

Compare that to the developers of FORCED, who spent three years living in tiny office spaces and houses together to create their dream game, and my five minute mastery of the frying pan seems almost irrelevant. Almost.

Well, FORCED is now out on Steam, and it made almost 400,000 euros in it’s first week.

My cheeseburger masterclass did not make me almost 400,000 euros in my first week, but that’s not why BetaDwarf’s success is so incredible. The company is very open about the fact that it got the ball rolling in an abandoned classroom, which it made it’s home for 7 months. They released a big image that they produced to explain their nightmarish situation, which helped them get the funding they needed on Kickstarter.

You can find the image here. I’ll let you open it up yourselves since it’s so long, but it’s well worth the read.

No balustrades? Safety is clearly not paramount in FORCED.
No balustrades? Safety is clearly not paramount in FORCED.

FORCED itself looks like a great game. Balfus is your spirit mentor and companion throughout the game – you’ll recognise him as the little floating ball of energy in the screenshot above. Cast as slaves in the toughest gladiator school around, you battle with friends to overcome all of the challenges thrown down before you in your quest to earn your freedom. By working together, you can utilise Balfus (and each other) to destroy lots of different enemies and complete different challenges, all the while avoiding the insta-gib machinations around every corner.

BetaDwarf released their own trailer, which gives you a look at the gameplay, as well as how effective everything you encounter is at wearing your balls for earrings.

Three years of blood, sweat and tears (and spaghetti bolognese by the looks of things) were put into the game by Steffen Kabbelgaard and his team, and the accolades are a testament to their hard work. Aside from the immense achievement of getting 165% of their Kickstarter funded, they also earned the ‘Best Game with 3D Graphics’ award at Intel level-Up 2013, as well as ‘Best Danish Game Developer’ at the Danish Game Awards 2013. Not bad for a squad of guys who started in an empty classroom.

I spoke to Alex over on the FORCED development team about what motivated the team to keep going, even in the face of potential failure.

“We all wanted to get into the industry, but to do that we had to get better. A lot better,” according to Alex.

“The only way we knew how to do that was to keep doing it, keep practicing and keep focused about it.”

The story of FORCED reached a lot of people which really helped get the game funded over on Kickstarter, and showed the devotion it takes to make it as a successful video games designer. For these guys, the dream has been realised, and BetaDwarf Entertainment are continuing to work on other titles.

The Games Design department at the University of Cumbria taught one of the producers of FORCED, so I went and spoke to Max Rowlinson, the tutor who educated him, about what it takes to be a success.

“Breaking into the industry, basically you got to get good,” insisted Max, “whatever your specialisation, you need to become very good at what you do.

“I think it’s something that people underestimate; playing games and building them are two totally different things. It usually comes as quite a shock to them when they realise the kind of work it takes to produce anything.”

Max echoes Alex’s thoughts that you have to get good at what you do – something which doesn’t happen overnight.

“The main thing is effort. We have people who live in the computer labs for the final project, and they’re the ones who do really nice work.

“We’ve had a fair amount of success over the years – someone at Crytek working on Crysis, and then Lionhead – that’s Fable, Fable II and Fable III. We have a graduate at Rockstar North, they did GTA:V, someones working on Watch Dogs at the moment – so, yeah, we’ve got someone in all the major houses at the moment.

“The creativity is a certain aspect of it, but you can still get a job as a generalist doing technical stuff. These students, they worked hard, they were in the labs learning their skills.”

I also asked Alex what his team valued in a fledgling developer.

“I think one of the things we value the most in any developer is the ability and will to learn and develop your skill set.

“We want to be in constant improvement as a company, so of course each individual should have the same goal, which is to improve and become stronger developers.”

The University of Cumbria uses the Unreal Developer Kit (or UDK for short) to give its students the tools to develop their ideas. At first, they encourage them to get their work onto Apple’s iOS market.

“The App Store, the whole Apple environment, that’s opened up self-publishing for everybody.

“We have the UDK games engine, and that will publish games to the App Store. So if students wanted to publish their own games they can do so, and get it in the pipeline.

“We focus in on the iOS side rather than the Android side because that’s where the money is at the moment,” according to Max. “Even though they say Android’s got a bigger market share, when it comes to paying developers, Apple, for every $1 Google pays out, Apple pays out $4, so the money’s there.

“There’s more computing power in an iPhone 5s than there was in the Apollo spacecraft. These things are pretty serious devices now.”

The Games Design course at the University of Cumbria isn’t as lucky as universities like Hertfordshire, which Epic Games decided to invest in with top-of-the-line equipment and networking opportunities with senior members, but that hasn’t dampened spirits.

“It’s something we’ve talked about, but we’re obviously a smaller uni in the north of England.

“We are working on these things, but we’ll see what comes about.”

FORCED is €13.99/£11.75 on Steam at the moment, and looks well worth the purchase. If you have the friends to spare, show them the trailer and get them in on it too.

Do it, or I'll set this fella' on you.
Do it, or this fella won’t be happy.

Author: graemefinch

Teacher, avid Warcrafter, gifted Dungeons and Dragons character creator. Passionate about all things high fantasy and RPG.

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