Meeting the Developers of Kickback Studios - Makers of Lost Echo
Kickback Studios is the creator of the iOS game Lost Echo. Lost Echo is a point and click game with clear, high-definition graphics.
According to Kickback Studios, you can "...solve puzzles, explore fully 3D environments, interact with numerous characters and solve the mystery!" What mystery you might ask? The main character is searching for his girlfriend, who has disappeared.
Lost Echo is being developed for the iPad and iPhone, including older models back to the 3GS.
Internship team Cataclysm got a moment to ask the developers of Lost Echo a few questions. Cataclysm consisted of GameSkinny authors Shoduran, Cupcakecrisis, Ernesto, and myself. Developers Nick Konstantoglou and Vagelis Antonopoulos gave us some great answers to our questions. Check it out!
Catalcysm (Shoduran): Between working on a central theme or idea and the coding involved, what's the hardest part in developing a game?
Vagelis: Well, Lost Echo is our first game so the most difficult part was to organize the work and create a way to have proper feedback. When you are working hard on a project, it's hard to know if what you are doing really works, or if it's good or not, you lose all objectivity.
Nick: That and having to make all those hard decision while making the game. Both of us were responsible for multiple elements of the game at any point and there were a lot of decisions that had to be made at any point. We are a small team and we knew we couldn't afford to go back and change things too many times.
Vagelis: Although we ended up doing that many times anyway.
Cataclysm (Shoduran): Before the company started officially, has any member of the team ever used other game-developing software, such as RPGMaker, for fan-work or original projects? Where does prior experience come from?
Vagelis: We were both trying out game engines in the past as a hobby. But I can't say we had a lot of prior experience in game development as a whole. During the last few years I was involved in projects as a programmer and Nick was always doing something in 3D, so we were a good combination.
Nick: I used to do architectural visualisation, so 3D art and architecture were big interests of mine. I also write music. And while we both had dabbled in other engines in the past, it is our first attempt on a serious game. Apart from small pet projects, we've never done a real game before. So while we have a lot of experience in a variety of elements of game making, I can't really say we had a ton of experience in game making as a whole.
Cataclysm (Cupcakecrisis): What do you think is particularly unique about mobile gaming from a developing standpoint?
Vagelis: It's the limitations of the hardware and the touchscreen interface. The hardware (while it's getting faster at a great pace), is still a lot less powerful than the average PC or console. That makes them ideal for smaller teams such as ours to work with.
Nick: In other words, while you would need a big team to make some sort of high-end PC/Console game, we felt that the two of us could make a good mobile game. We also knew that we had to make a game that works well with a touchscreen. We both share a dislike of virtual joysticks (no disrespect to other developers), so we wanted something that felt more natural on a touchscreen.
Cataclysm (Cupcakecrisis): When you do have inspiration for a game, what aspects of the idea do you take into account to decide whether it would make a good game or not?
Nick and Vagelis: We don't think we can answer this. Lost Echo is our first and only real game and it has been a learning experience. What we can tell you is, that for our game we tried to have an engaging story, nice graphics that depict the world we had in mind and intuitive controls for touch devices. In general, we believe that you only know if an idea is worth pursuing after you make a prototype. We don't believe you can clearly judge it beforehand.
Cataclysm (Mary): Where did you get the idea for the storyline for Lost Echo?
Vagelis: Lost Echo is a sci-fi game with emphasis on the story - much like a visual novel. We were always fans of sci-fi movies and books so naturally we had a sense of elements we like in stories.
Nick: There are also a lot of personal stuff in there. I can't really spoil anything, but certain themes in the game are from personal experiences. I don't think we can really answer with "that's where we got this idea." We started with certain elements we knew we liked, started making some sort of outline for the story, then we had a couple of inspirations along the way and finally we filled in all the gaps (which is harder than it sounds).
Cataclysm (Cupcakecrisis): Lost Echo seems to have such a unique style, what other developers or designers do you receive inspiration from?
Vagelis: While trying to create Lost Echo we had a goal to create a realistic visualization of the not too distant future. So we took inspiration from existing but futuristic looking buildings. For example we liked the idea of the "High Line" park in New York or the Canary
Wharf in London.
Nick: I don't think we could name any specific developers or designers for inspiration. The visual style has more to do with things outside gaming. For example the heavy emphasis on lighting comes from my background in arch viz.
Cataclysm (Ernesto): What games do you see as inspiration for Lost Echo?
Nick and Vagelis: Well, there are the obvious classics that are parts of our childhood, like Monkey Island. There is some of that old-school adventure spirit in our game. But more recently we played a lot of Phoenix Wright. While we don't think our game has a lot of things in common with Phoenix Wright, we did note that the dialog presentation in that game was great for smaller screens, very readable and the variable text speeds gave it a lot of character.
Cataclysm (Mary): Do you have a release date for Lost Echo set?
Nick and Vagelis: Late August is the best estimate right now.
Cataclysm (Mary, Ernesto, and Ernesto): Are there any plans to port Lost Echo to Android or Kindle formats after iOS release? Do you see yourself pushing to console or PC gaming in the near future? Any other games in the workings after Lost Echo releases? In the future, do you see your company sticking to adventure games or moving to other genres such as puzzle-platforms, shooters, or roleplaying games?
Nick and Vagelis: We want... to do everything! But more seriously, we have a lot of ideas and a lot of plans that may or may not come to fruition, so we'd rather not talk about them before we put them in motion. Right now we are focused on releasing Lost Echo on iOS. After release, we will be able to decide on what to do next and then we'll be able to talk more on what we're going to do. So we'd rather not speculate before we actually know. The only thing that we definitely know we want to do is add another smaller story, that serves as a prequel, to Lost Echo. But that will depend on whether the reception is good enough (and we're not sure what good enough means).
Cataclysm (Ernesto): With mobile gaming becoming more mainstream, and people are making games available on platforms such as the Ouya and Gamestick, do you see bigger companies dipping their ink into the market?
Nick and Vagelis: We don't know. When the original Infinity Blade came out, one of the first big releases from bigger companies, people were talking about AAA companies coming to mobile. And while there have been a few more big releases since then, that hasn't really happened. We're more interested in what comes out from indies anyway, the indie scene has become very exciting in the recent years.
Cataclysm enjoyed working with Kickback Studios and are looking forward to their release of their first game, Lost Echo.