This is our sixth instalment of our series Indie Game Developer Interviews where we cover the day to day of indie studios and look into how they make their amazing games.
Did you know there is a community of indie game developers out in the Canadian Maritimes? This is the beauty of this industry - you can go to the far reaches of the earth and guaranteed there will be an indie game developers designing an amazing game.
This week, we had the chance to catch up with Kathleen Cassidy, co-founder of Queen Bee Games who are out in Prince Edward Island following their dream of creating games they want to see in the world.
Tune in to discover what life is like as an indie developer on the far reaches of the Atlantic!
Queen Bee is such a great name for an indie studio. I was wondering if you could tell us more about how it all came to be?
We had been living in Ottawa with secure jobs in the animation and gaming industries, when I became pregnant with our first child. We moved to Prince Edward Island where I was born and raised, to be closer to family. We found ourselves searching through limited job opportunities in our fields of expertise. I stumbled upon a program called SelfEmploy PEI and we decided to jump into entrepreneurship, capitalizing on this once in a lifetime opportunity to pursue our creative dreams. Our goal was to produce quirky, beautiful and stand-out games. We had the capabilities with our many years experienced to do so with high production values and professional quality. We combined our creative talents, began to learn about business and just dove head first into it all. We were small, but wanted to make some deep impact, so decided upon the name ‘Queen Bee’. We loved the symbolism of small but mighty. Our daughter also had the nickname ‘Bee’ when she was born. So it was perfect. We haven’t turned back since forming in 2013. It’s been a wild ride.
Women are few and far between in the gaming industry. We interviewed Bekah at Finji to get insight into her experience of it. As another woman in the industry, what has been your experience?
I have been fortunate to have had awesome experiences thus far. It certainly is no doubt a male dominated industry- however, there are more and more women than ever before- in all levels of art, development, production and management. I feel treated as an equal. It’s a fun industry to be a part of.
We all know being a game producer isn't easy. What have been your biggest challenges when building a game? Any tips and tricks?
I would say the biggest challenge for me is determining how long the project will actually take. Nothing ever goes as smooth as you would expect it to, and I think it’s extremely important to add that extra padding in for when things don’t go as anticipated. We are in tech and technical difficulties are a regular occurrence. Going forward I might refrain from giving dates/time frames too early. For example our game Spinch says in the teaser trailer that it will be out in Summer 2018 which won't be the case. Delays are par for the course. We don’t want to compromise on quality when launching and it’s tricky to balance the quality, scope and budget. Making games is not easy.
What are your thoughts on the free to play model and how the mobile gaming market has developed?
We get why it’s the way to go, however it is frightening as a small game studio, and it seems almost next to impossible unless you have access to a lot of capital for user acquisition or an incredible publishing partner. I think the major issue with the mobile gaming market is the issue of discoverability and the over-saturated market. Which is now currently taking place in the PC world. Standing out is key. We have yet to create a F2P game, but never say never.
What’s your experience with being an indie studio out in the Maritimes?
Up until recently we felt very much alone in terms of game industry support. It seemed there was nobody to talk to in the space about our challenges, and there was no industry specific mentorship available. Luckily in the last few months, QBG along with other local game companies and stakeholders formed a group called ‘VideogamesPEI’ and it has really brought our local industry together. There is a thriving video game scene here on PEI, it was just all being done behind closed doors and there had not been much of a community. I feel that this has started to change and I look forward to what the future brings with this association and local game dev scene.
One major perk however has been the support through the provincial government gaming program, GamePlan, which is through Innovation PEI. Without them I don’t think we would still be in existence today. Their support has been pivotal to our steady growth. I hope they continue to bring in new programs through GamePlan that will help the little guy, giving us the push we need to get out there with the big players.
Launching a game is already hard. What’s your biggest challenge after launch?
We are a small team, so I would say that the biggest challenge is being able to keep up with the support of a freshly launched game while working on a new project. It’s all about time management. It can be tough when you think you’re done with a game, but there is always plenty to do once you finally have it launched- bug fixes, patches, customer support, marketing, etc.
Do you ever talk to your players?
Yes, always! I did a lot of customer services years ago and think it’s crucial to speak to and relate to people. I love bonding over our game and funny gifs on Twitter. :) I really hope to expand our community as we grow. It can be really tough due to mass amount of games that come out on a regular basis. It’s really smart to get to know your players and listen to their thoughts and concerns when you’re able.
All your games are precious. Anyone you have to mind when you design them?
We honestly make the games we want to play, and what we want to see on the market. Everything from gameplay to art-styles. We want to create what we feel is missing from the market, and that’s what we long to see and produce. Our games will always be quirky, fun, beautiful to look at, and accessible to many.
It was great catching up with you about what's on your plate. But have you got any new projects down the line?
Yes, we have two game ideas built up with pretty solid concepts. Including one that will be my baby, which I think has major potential if we can nail out an awesome proof of concept. We don’t really have any time right now due to our finishing up Spinch. But we always need to make sure there are plans for our next projects as after all we are a business.
One last question! What are your current favourite mobile games?
Steve: Puzzles & Dragons
Kathleen: I really need to download a new game. I’ve been so busy lately that I rarely play anything, but the game we’re working on. I do play around with Toca Boca games when I might have a minute because the kids have those games downloaded on my phone. They are my secret obsession, sometimes I wish this is the route we took with our company. Shhh… I feel like Toca Boca really nailed it. They are a very cool game studio, with games for kids that are just so unique and fantastic.
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About The Author: Caroline Corbett-Thompson
Caroline is the Marketing Director at Itavio. You'll find her listening to NPR and scowling 99% of the time.
More posts by Caroline Corbett-Thompson