Sketch Nation Studio's Nitzan Wilnai: Changing The Face Of Game Development
Engineous Games' CEO has big plans for his latest iOS app, and it may involve Sony and Nintendo.
I've always wanted to get into game development, but lack the programming skills to make this dream a reality. At least that's what I tell myself to sound ambitious. Want the truth? I'm lazy, disinterested with going back to school and would rather drool over Sofia Vergara on TV than crack a book, unless said book contains pictures of Sofia Vergara. There's a sneaking suspicion I'm not alone, and that's why Sketch Nation Studio is so appealing. Here's an app that strips away the unsavory elements of design for what's most important: drawing characters and sweet backgrounds. You can literally have a game up and running in minutes, and if you're especially brave, submit this title for approval, whereupon which the team at Engineous Games may or may not approve it and publish the game on the App Store. You can even make a profit, providing people buy it.
To learn more about Sketch Nation Studio and fuel my passion to become the next Miyamoto, I sat down with Engineous Games' CEO Nitzan Wilnai to find out how strict he plans to be with this approval process, among other juicy morsels of info that involve Sony, Nintendo and basically conquering the world.
Sketch Nation Studio helps fans create their own games and potentially make a profit. How does this work in regards to promotion?
There are several ways in which user-generated games will be promoted. First, we built in-cross promotion ads for the Stand Alone games. Whenever a user is done playing a game, the score screen shows up and under the scores there are ads (with links of course) for other Stand Alone games created with Sketch Nation Studio. The ads keep changing so the user can see as many of the games as possible. Second, we plan on picking a game randomly every month or so and releasing it for free, featuring it on one of the various free-for-a-day sites, which proved to be a great promotional tool from previous experience. Third, games that we notice are sluggish in attracting users will be promoted with ads in well-known blogs. We hope that will be sufficient to increase sales and benefit both our talented users and us.
How closely will you work with developers to tweak their games? Obviously, you want to make sure they're enjoyable.
We have all the respect for our users' creations, and so far, we only had to ask for minimal tweaks and changes to the games submitted. We want the experience of game creation and its release to be as authentic as possible. If a user submits a Stand Alone game and it does not meet our standards, we just send them an email respectfully declining their game and offering the chance to resubmit the game with better art. If the problem is something that can be easily fixed, we tell them exactly what needs to be done. For example, if the icon image should be changed, or if one of the enemies does not look as good as the rest.
What sorts of genres does this game cover? Platforming and flying seem the most important. People can't make RPGs, though, can they? Would you consider that in a future game?
Currently, Sketch Nation Studio supports five different genres: Up Jumping, Down Jumping, Side Jumping, Side Running and Side Flying. We will be adding more genres and more features in future updates. RPG is definitely on the list, along with shooter, tower defense (Plants vs Zombies, Desktop Defense, etc..) and physics type games (Angry Birds).
That said, how would you like the Sketch Nation series to evolve over time?
We have great plans and hopes for Sketch Nation Studio. Our main focus for the near future will be adding genres, more customization options and multi-frame animations, all to better the game creation experience and give our users the best chance to create an awesome game with our engine. In the long run, we hope that Sketch Nation Studio will spread onto other platforms (Android, Nintendo) and actually change the game industry and how games are developed. Once the tool is ported to another platform, all the previously created games will automatically work on that platform.
What are your thoughts on the Kickstarter phenomenon when it comes to gaming? Do you see any potential pitfalls to letting fans fund your games?
Personally, I am a big fan of Kickstarter. It gives a platform to those who have a good idea but do not have the financial resources to actually do it. Making games is very costly and developers are trying to solve that problem using Kickstarter, but when you think about it, they are not making game development cheaper, they are just changing the source of money allocation. Sketch Nation Studio, on the other hand, not only makes game development cheaper (the app is free) and accessible to all, it is actually giving users the chance to earn money from their games instead of paying for them. As far as pitfalls, I think that there is the concern that gamers will lose faith in Kickstarter type projects the first time they fund a bad game. Personally for us, Sketch Nation Studio is an ongoing project, so Kickstarter is not a good way to raise money.
How critical are you of a person's game? There's a possibility of you receiving hundreds if not thousands of entries. Will you go through them all, and how many will make the cut?
We welcome every game that is submitted, and unless it is made in Stand Alone mode, there is no reason for us to be critical of the games at all. We approve or reject it and let the other users do the critiquing for us. If it is a Stand Alone game, we have high standards for the art and gameplay. It needs to look nice and it has to be fun to play. In terms of game entries, just like we did in our previous app, Sketch Nation Shooter, we go through every single game that is uploaded, because we have to make sure it does not have copy righted content or sexual images. We do receive hundreds of games every day, and it does take a lot of time to approve them, but that way we stay connected with every game created, and that also allows us to cherry pick and feature the best games. Already, there have been more than 500 games submitted.
You mentioned Android as a platform you'd like to support. When will that happen?
Once we get traction with iOS users, we plan on expanding not only to Android, but also to other platforms such as Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita and Windows Phone. As I mentioned before, once Sketch Nation Studio is ported to another device, all the previously created games will work on that device automatically.