Today we interview Andres Martinez, owner of baKno, a game development studio located in Key Biscayne, Florida. They are a group of video game enthusiasts committed to developing new ways to deliver fun, interactive and challenging software.
Living as Independent Developer
Manuel Marino: You declare yourself and your team as “video game enthusiasts”. How much being a “videogames fan” is important in creating games?
Andres Martinez: All companies have their own stories, but in our case, developing and self-publishing our games has been difficult, with low sales during several months at our beginnings, and still low if they get compared to a regular studio. The only reason we have been able to survive is our passion for the art of game creation.
Can we say that the old games of the past were “better”? What can we say to the nostalgic gamers?
20 to 30 years ago the video game space was totally different. Accessibility to video games was very low, the product itself was like an experiment and the assumed audience was reduced, fortunately for us, we fell into that target, and we enjoyed every bit of Space Invaders, Galaga, Pac-Man, etc.
Some may say that it was better for game developers at that time because it was easier to create totally new and different IPs (Intellectual Properties). But the reality is that, they created myriads of games and only a few stood up to catch the public’s attention. Additionally, they were tremendously limited by technology and market penetration.
So, to answer your question, I don’t think old games were better or worst. But I think that our judgement is usually biased by the emotional attachment we have to those old great experiences.
How is the Independent developers world?
If we can name our day to day activities at baKno a “world”, then it is great!. Being able to make a living out of our own game creations is a wonderful feeling. None of us worked in this industry before and we don’t know how it is to distribute games through an experienced third party, maybe sales are much higher, but I suspect that for those particular jobs your independence is quite compromised.
What’s the difference between being “indy” and being “in the industry”?
We don’t consider baKno to be an industry player yet, we are independents as explained before, but it does not excludes the possibility of being an influent member of the gaming industry at the same time.
Videogames are more a “work of art” or a “industry product”?
All baKno games are a “work of art” built upon an “industry product” foundation. This foundation provides a minimum quality, design and support standards, and it becomes the canvas where the artist paint his game creation.
What can be done to make modern games better and innovative?
Creating better games is not that difficult, just use your common sense to take advantage of the ever-growing processing capacity, graphics and audio capabilities and internet bandwidth. As an example, you can enhance a simple old-school cards game with better graphics and effects, and maybe adding a multiplayer option with audio chat capability. Creating quality innovative games is an art, and for that there is no recipe or guideline to follow.
Why is it that I find games from independent developers being more innovative?
Innovation is weapon that cuts both ways. The more you innovate in a game, the higher the chance of being a great hit or a great failure. Established studios have serious economic responsibilities like payroll or rent, and they cannot afford to risk the company viability in a single game. On the other hand, and usually not even knowing about it, independent developers working from home are the risky creators of real innovative game experiences.
Internet can be of help?
Sure. In general, for casual games Internet has been the medium to reach massive audiences by offering free-to-try downloads, something that would have been impossible (very expensive) by mailing free CDs. In particular, baKno relies heavily on the Internet not only as a distribution medium but also as an effective way to communicate with our customers, and also to enhance the game experience with additional online features.
What are your next projects?
We are working now the online gaming for Billiards. We want to create a subscription service before mid-year. And by the end of the year we want to create a game with 100% pure baKno IP.
How do you see the future of videogaming?
As an interesting mixture of platforms, game genres and players’ demographics. Internet is going to be the default distribution medium, there won’t be a single dominant gaming platform, more and more people will embrace video games as an entertainment alternative, and most important: the general public will recognize the cognitive development value provided by video games (most of them).