Interview With Drakhar Studio

Let’s start off by learning a little about Drakhar Studio. How big is your team, and is this everyone’s first videogame industry experience or have some of your members already worked on games our readers might recognize?

There are five developers working daily at the studio, involved in game design, art, programming and sound, but we have more people collaborating sporadically. Some of us have done amateur works, but this is our first professional experience in the videogame industry.

Tell us a little about the social learning platform you’re also developing. Has the team’s experience with smartphone game development played any role in this project, or would you say there’s been little or no overlap between Drakhar’s game development and social learning projects?

The main objective for this project is to give a new, modern and more social interface to online education environments such as Moodle, etc. We started the project due to the opportunity it gave us to create reusable elements, which could be later incorporated into our games. We created a basic communication scheme between Unity and centralized server elements using WebService interfaces. Frantic Flight’s high-score system, for instance, is based on this scheme.

We saw that UAM’s Center for Entrepreneurial Initiatives awarded Drakhar Studio a prize for Best Project in 2011! Did the Drakhar team receive a lot of startup business guidance at UAM, and was Frantic Flight the project you submitted and received the award for? It’s great to see a videogame studio treated so seriously in a formal business school setting — do you think there’s a general sense in your country’s business community that mobile games are a promising area of growth for the Spanish economy?

The reason we joined the prizes was the opportunity to receive training in business management, as the founders come from the engineering world, and we lacked that knowledge. The award is given to a “business plan,” within which we included Frantic Flight videos to demonstrate the technical viability of the initiative, but that was a minor part compared to the revenue estimates, cost analysis, etc.

And yes, we think videogame development (not only for mobiles, but for all platforms) is seen as a growing industry in Spain. There are several important studios in our country (like Pyro or Mercury Stream) and a lot of independent ones. Games like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and Invizimals have been created here. And, founded on Oct 14th 2010, we have the Academy for Interactive Arts and Sciences, which is focused on spreading the word about the good business data expected for our industry.

How long has Frantic Flight been in development, and how did you happen to choose these insect-like beings as the game’s heroes?

Frantic Flight’s history has been sort of turbulent — we’ve been working on it, along with other projects, since last summer. During development we had the opportunity to present it in various forums to leading experts (thanks Ivan Fernández-Lobo!) and this made us rethink some parts of the design to ensure an exciting user experience. After everything we have learned, if we started development today, we could finish it in half the time.

The “specialists,” born with the name “bicho-demo” (demo-bug), come from our first concept of a huge, long-term project: “Chronicles of Distormia,” a space MMORPG we will address whenever possible. Their first appearance in the video game world was in our tech demo “The First Challenge.”

The game’s camera perspective shifts are really impressive. Was that easy to pull off in Unity, or did the team have a big technical challenge on their hands?

Thanks for mentioning! The perspective change was the main principle of the game since the beginning. It was hard to design a game experience around that one principle, keeping the player’s interest through the game at the same time. Technically speaking, after the Matrix-like effect we wanted to accomplish was clearly designed, implementing it was not a challenge at all. However, it did complicate several other little things like debris, bonus items, and GUI, which had to be adaptable to the perspective changes.