As someone who enjoys 2D cinematic platformers – such as Prince Of Persia and Inside, I recently found out about an upcoming game that shares many of the aforementioned titles’ gaming sensibilities. Developed by OutOfTheBit, a small indie studio that’s based in London (UK), Full Void is the brainchild of Ali Motisi (Founder, OutOfTheBit) who has spearheaded production of the game since its inception. And with a demo available on Steam, the game should be released around September this year on consoles and PC.
I spoke to Ali Motisi about his upcoming Full Void game, and was able to ask him as to how the game’s development has been impacted by Covid, and also got to ask him as to how he intends to raise sufficient sales revenue from the game’s release – especially in an age where the average indie game doesn’t make more than $4000 on Steam. Enjoy!
How long has Full Void been in development for?
We started development in June 2021, so it’s been two years since we started working on Full Void. We had a clear vision of what we wanted to do when we started the project, so we’ve been very focused on working on it for two years almost.
You started working on the game during the pandemic era?
Yeah, that’s correct.
How did the pandemic affect development?
Before Covid, the company was a bit bigger in size.
How big is the company now?
We were eight people, now it’s five of us. It was very hard to actually keep the company together during Covid, we really struggled. Thankfully, things got better. I focused on this project, started working on this project, and slowly hired the right people. So we are rebuilding the company again. Now it’s five of us. We’ve got myself who is running the company, working on the code of the game, the programming side… and we’ve got two other people working on the art and animations for the game. Then one person for public relations, and another developer to help with porting the game to different platforms.
Are these all “local” people?
Yeah, we all live in London (UK). The company is based in Wimbledon.
UK developers usually have expensive salaries… What was the reason for you to keep everything “local” in London, as opposed to looking overseas, and maybe outsourcing certain development duties?
That’s a great question. I really like working together with people in the same building, in the same room. Especially for games, I think there’s some value in iterating and brainstorming together. For the project that we are doing, a cinematic puzzle platformer, it’s all about the iteration. Working together makes it much easier to actually progress with the game. That’s why I wanted to keep everything local, and that way we could meet every day in the office and really brainstorm and put our passion into this project, into Full Void.
As someone who likes to work with other people, I’m aware that a lot of tech companies are finding it really difficult to retain talent because the so-called “talent” wants to work from home. What challenges have you had in keeping your staff on-site and in getting them to come into the office on a regular basis, especially when there is so much competition from other companies who might want to poach your staff? At the same time, what difficulties have you had in keeping your staff on board who may not necessarily share the same working patterns and working ideals as you, who may want to work from home, and who may not want to come into the office anymore?
That is a very good point, and in fact, that’s a real challenge nowadays. The way I’ve done it, since I like working together with people, whenever I put up an ad and I look for an artist, I put it in the ad job description that we’re looking for people who love to work from the office. If you’re looking to work from home, even if it’s a few days per week, then don’t apply for this job. There is a space for working from home. It’s fine if people want to work from home, and if they can find a job and they’re happy, then that’s great. It’s great that it’s an option nowadays. It just doesn’t work for us and for what we’re trying to do. I’m not saying that it’s the same for everyone. There are companies that can work from home. They can make it work for them, and that’s great for them. It’s just… for the kind of project we’re working on, for the kind of interaction we’re looking for, it doesn’t work for us. So that’s why I’m quite clear with people when I hire them. They know the job is from the office. It’s good conditions. The office is great. We don’t do crunch. We work eight hours a day. We don’t work weekends, so it’s really good working conditions. It’s a great place in Wimbledon. People love coming to the office. It’s like a house, basically. We’ve got everything you need in the office. Again, from the beginning, we hire people that are actually happy to work with other people everyday. And I’m very clear, and if you’re clear with people upfront, they don’t expect they can work from home, and that’s fine. Again, it’s the way you want to be, it can work both ways, to be fair, you just have to be clear.
How long has your company, OutOfTheBit, been in operation for?
Quite a while, actually. I started the company in 2008 and we started making games for iPhone and then Android. So we started with mobile games, and we slowly grew the company one game after the other. Now we’re approaching more challenging projects for XBox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and Steam as well.
If you were standing in an elevator and had to deliver an elevator pitch to a publisher, how would you pitch Full Void to someone who’s never heard of the game?
It’s very easy… Full Void is a cinematic puzzle platformer that’s very similar to games like Prince of Persia, Another World, Flashback… Also, if you think about more modern games, like Limbo and Inside, it’s a game that you play in real-time, where there are puzzles and there’s a story. Also, we wanted to create a game that you can actually play together as a family, even with kids. Many puzzle platformers, they’re great, but they’ve got violence and gore in them. I don’t think they’re suitable if you want to play them with kids.
When is the game out?
The game is almost finished, but we’re just giving it the final touches in terms of the animations and sounds. I expect it to be out in the next couple of months, but we’ll make an announcement when we’ve got a release date. I would expect it to be everywhere by September.
What are you doing to market the game and get the word out?
We’ve done a good campaign on social media, where a lot of people follow us and they enjoy seeing the progress of the game. It was nice to be part of the Steam Next Fest. That is a big one as well. It gave us a lot of visibility. We provided a demo, so it’s always good to provide a free demo as people can try the game for themselves, and that really drove the game’s Wishlist up. At the end of the day, you need to provide something that people enjoy. You can market something all you want, but if people don’t like it, there’s nothing you can do. At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you create a game that people enjoy playing. That’s the tricky part.
Last question… There is so much competition in the games market right now, where it’s ultimately a battle for attention. There was an article that was published a while back where it was argued that the average indie game never made more than $4,000 on Steam. When you hear low figures like that, and bearing in mind that the game’s been in development for roughly two years, where the overheads have amounted to being substantially more than $4000… I know that you’re spreading your bets by going to console, but how does that make you feel in terms of Full Void‘s inherent risk and reward, where there’s so many other games that are coming to Steam on a daily basis already, and consoles as well, to the extent that the market is just flooded with all these indie games? And I haven’t even begun to talk about other content-driven platforms like YouTube and Netflix. So as someone who’s in charge of their own indie studio, what are you doing to ensure that you’ll be able to recoup any sunk costs, and how will you position yourself so as to ensure that Full Void will enable you to make more games in future?
That is a very valid question. I believe that most games don’t make enough money. Most games actually lose money. I believe that number. The thing is, like with any business, you need to make sure you provide some value. Even if you open a coffee shop, there are already many coffee shops. But how many good coffee shops are there where the croissants are good, the service is good, the price is good, and the location is good? Not that many. Those that do this stuff well, they make money. So the trick is to actually make good products. It’s the same in the video game market. We’ve been going since 2008, with our loyal customer base. They know that when we release a game, they are going to enjoy our game. It’s just about making sure that you take care of the details, and that you basically build a good product. That’s true with any business.
Yeah, it is true that there are many games, and that there are many indie games that are released every day. Most of them don’t make money. But how many puzzle platformers do you see, that have pixel art, that you can actually play together with your family? Not that many. I would love to see more, that I can play with my kids, but I can’t find them.
Thank you so much.