Develop catch up with mobile gaming powerhouses Kiz Studios
Could you please give a brief overview of Kiz’ formation and history?
Kiz Studios started out as Kiz Toys. We were working on a toy/virtual world concept back around 2007. In 2009, we transitioned to mobile and PC titles. After we had some success with our first mobile release, Critter Escape! our focus turned to mobile and the release of Might & Mayhem. Last year, our game “Wonky Ship” made Apple’s ‘Best of 2015’ list, and we launched our first console game, Trans Galactic Tournament exclusively on PlayStation 4.
Trans Galactic Tournament saw you transition from mobile to PlayStation 4 – and with Dash Galactic you return to smartphones. What has your experience been of transitioning between the platforms?
We always try to find the platform that best fits the title. Trans Galactic Tournament (TGT) was a free to play game, and, at the time, the free to play market was pretty wide open on PlayStation 4. TGT began life as a PC game; to port the game to console we partnered with Hibernum Creations in Montreal, and later Red Kite Games in the UK. Those partnerships have been great because, not only did we get TGT on PlayStation 4, we also got to see the process firsthand which is great for our future capabilities as a studio.
Early on we had a lot of problems finding the right game engine, so when we discovered Unity it was a game changer. The ability to develop quickly and port content easily can’t be overstated.
What tools, tech and methods do you use to build your games?
Currently we develop exclusively in Unity. Early on we had a lot of problems finding the right game engine, so when we discovered Unity it was a game changer. The ability to develop quickly and port content easily can’t be overstated. Other than that, we use a pretty standard mix of 2D and 3D software, and our artists all have their own preferred workflows and areas of expertise. Trello has been a very useful tool for organizing our pipelines and tracking work, and recently we've adopted Slack for inter-office communication.
You have previously said that you are aiming to blur the lines between casual and hardcore game design. How do you achieve this? What challenges have you encountered?
When looking at game design, we’ve always tried to take complicated systems and present them in ways that are accessible to mainstream audiences. The challenge is trying to find the right balance. If you simplify things too much, experienced users will get bored. On the flipside, if there is too much complication, you’ll start to limit your audience. Some studios try to key in on a specific niche, but our focus has always been more broad. That means we take on games in a diverse range of genres and styles and we try to create systems that can be understood and enjoyed by gamers of all skill levels.
The challenge is trying to find the right balance. If you simplify things too much, experienced users will get bored. On the flipside, if there is too much complication, you’ll start to limit your audience.
Wonky Ship was selected as one of Apple’s top 25 games for 2015. What effect did this have on player interest in the game?
We definitely saw more players in the game when Wonky Ship was named one of the top games of 2015 by Apple. Any time you can get placement on one of the app stores it’s a big boost. Apple has been very supportive to Wonky Ship since its release.
What is the studio culture like at Kiz?
Our culture is mostly defined by our team. We opened the studio with seven guys back in 2008 and that original team is still here. It hasn’t always been easy- but every challenge has taught us lessons and brought us closer together. As the studio has grown, that comradery has been our foundation and it sets the tone for our culture. We tend to be pretty casual and laidback but our passion and drive comes out through our games. We also put a lot of value in diversity and the different voices and perspectives that it brings to the table.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment we’re focused mostly on work for Dash Galactic - our three-person cooperative action shooter - as well as some new characters for TGT. We’re also doing a lot of support for existing titles like Might & Mayhem. Sometimes people want to see us put more games out there but the support side is something that often gets overlooked. After you’ve been around for a little while and accumulate a few titles supporting them can get a little out of hand in a small studio.
People want to see us put more games out there but the support side is something that often gets overlooked. After you’ve been around for a little while and accumulate a few titles supporting them can get a little out of hand in a small studio.
Do you have plans to recruit new staff?
We try to hire gradually instead of having to staff up all at once so we’re always looking for talented people. When hiring new staff we look for creative thinkers who are going to bring talent and passion to our projects. Dash Galactic is a perfect example of what new creative talent can bring to a game.
Why would developers want to work for you?
I think, like a lot of smaller studios, we offer people a lot of opportunities to grow. Since we have limited resources and a diverse range of projects, people are given the chance to pick up new skills and help out in areas that may be way outside their core responsibilities. We also work hard to ensure that our developers have a voice. If someone wants to be involved in decisions, whether that be concepting new characters or deciding what projects we’re taking on next, they have that opportunity.
What’s next for Kiz in 2016 and beyond?
We’ve got a lot of releases in 2016 - there’s space adventures, fantasy battles and various mythological creatures in the mix. It’s going to be a busy year! Honestly, 2016 is going to be so crazy it’s hard to look beyond that-- but with experience under our belt and our team of talented folks, setting our sights this high is just the next step for Kiz.