10 Jul 2017 | 05.04 pm
Three Russian Guys And Their Dublin Game
Try out Funbakers' Silent Streets for free
10 Jul 2017 | 05.04 pm
Funbakers is a mobile game developer loosely based in Dublin that has just launched Silent Streets, an episodic detective adventure set in Victorian times. Co-founder Demid Tishin (pictured) explains how three guys from Russia ended up in Ireland with their startup.
Where are the founders from and how did you get to know each other?
All the three founders are originally from Russia. Alex Nitz is my friend next door in Samara, a big aerospace city no one knows about. Ilya Moshkov is from Saint Petersburg and had previously helped me as a project manager in a different company. A couple of years ago it just happened that each of us was looking to change his life path, so we had a quick chat and banded together to make original games! And actually Alex and Ilya made fantastic colleagues.
Prior to moving to Ireland, where had your careers taken you?
I’m a founding partner in www.allcorrect.com, a games translation company established in 2006. I quit my CEO position in late 2015, which left me with a bit of savings, contacts in the industry and loads of free time. Alex is originally a medical doctor and Master of Public Health from the University of Massachusetts, but later worked in web design in Russia. Because Alex had also studied visual arts, he handles our UI design and level design among other things.
Ilya is a Belgian business school graduate and co-founded a successful consumer start-up in Belgium. He worked as a freelance project manager when we met. Ilya manages most of the production, and as a talented musician also creates fascinating sound scenes for Silent Streets.
What made you decide to move to Ireland and when did you relocate here?
I first visited Ireland in 2014 for a translation business conference; my wife and our one-year-old son came too. We hired a car, went to Glendalough and just fell in love with the country! I started to look for ways to relocate, and Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up scheme fitted perfectly. We opened Allcorrect’s branch in Ireland, and I got a residence permit. We actually moved in early 2016, as soon as our second and third children were fit for a flight.
Did you have the idea for the business prior to coming to Ireland or did that idea emerge once you set up here?
I’ve been a gamer all my life, and always dreamed about creating games. I think my father played like three dozen Warcraft II maps that I designed for him back in the 90s, he is a big real strategy games fan. So yes, it was definitely conceived in Russia, but I could only properly focus on this business after moving to Ireland.
How do you describe your first game?
Silent Streets is a Victorian detective gamebook with augmented reality features – you walk in real life to move in the game world and search for crime scene evidence with your phone camera. The story has meaningful choices and memorable characters, full-scale voiceover, immersive artwork and sound.
The game incorporates augmented reality and physical actions from the user – what was the thinking behind that and how difficult was it to develop a game with this functionality?
We all love making original things and experimenting with technology, and we all enjoy a good narrative. We were surprised to find that there are so few story-based augmented reality games out there and decided to make one. On the camera side, it wasn’t easy to place 3D objects around the player in a realistic way. Most phones have only one camera, they don’t recognise depth and actual surfaces, so the objects sort of hover in the air. Making a continuous playing experience was another challenge, because the dialogue and evidence collection scenes are separated by the walking bits. But overall I can say we’re getting positive feedback from players.
You have received Enterprise Ireland support – what are your thoughts on the startup scene in Ireland, and has it helped you with your own business in tangible ways?
The startup scene is amazing in Ireland – lots of venture funds, angel investors, business accelerators, free advice from Google and much more. Funbakers won an International round of Competitive Start Fund programme in late 2016. This gave us access to seed capital of €50,000 and ensured we could finish Silent Streets and actually ship a real product to the market. The agency also connected us to a games industry veteran as mentor, and helped Alex and Ilya to get residence permits in Ireland.
You are planning further instalments of the game, is that right?
The first episode of Silent Streets launched on 20 June in Ireland, and we’re releasing an update with new features. We are publishing the game globally on the first week of July, and will focus on new chapters after that. Episode Two is in full steam, and we plan to release it at Gamescom show on 22 August.
How will you generate revenue from your game?
The first episode is free, which we think is essential for mobile players these days. Users will buy further episodes through the game’s interface. The success of The Wolf Among Us and other Telltale games shows that buying story episodes as standalone premium products can work. We also allow players to buy cab rides for real money, and watch advertisements to get free rides.
What is the process of listing on app stores like?
Generally, Google and Apple are pretty open about their requirements and restrictions. If you carefully follow the development and publishing guidelines, you have very low chance of rejection, and there’s always feedback if you don’t get approved. As for competition – it’s just crazy. Making a cool app is a big challenge, but discoverability is the real one.
How do you plan to scale the business – what’s your strategy for growth?
We plan to partner with a publisher to ensure a sustainable income, and then work on more games within Silent Streets IP and outside of it.
Where is the business located and was it hard to find a place with reasonable rent, facilities etc?
Funbakers is currently a distributed team, with members working remotely. We might get together in a physical office after we start generating a sustainable revenue, but currently we choose to bootstrap.
What’s your impression of the Irish games development scene?
The Irish game development scene is small but growing rapidly, and it’s very friendly. There’s good access to talent, with almost every college teaching some or other aspect of game design. Also an abundance of meetups to playtest games, share experience and best practices. IMIRT, the recently established Irish Association of Game Makers, is gaining prominence as a consolidating agent too.
What has been the most difficult managerial challenge you have faced since setting up the business and how have you overcome it?
Finding the efficient road to market is the hardest challenge, as the mobile games market is oversaturated.
What practical advice would you give to other games developers who are thinking of starting up their own business?
Read a few guides to pitching for seed investment, there are loads out there on the web – this will give you an idea of what business aspects you need to have covered besides the actual software development. From that you will see strengths and weaknesses in your product and your team, and adapt accordingly. The funding will come naturally then. I also see that many developers are shy to hang out with others and ask questions, but networking is crucial for growth. Go to conferences, arrange meetings with publishers, join Facebook groups, send emails to veteran developers, build relationships.