We are here today with Stanislav Zagniy, a former game developer from the Unigine Corp that has been working on and developing games since 2008 . After his work on Oil Rush (A Naval strategy game,) Stanislav and his brother Alexey (Also from the same Unigine Company but during a different time frame) formed a new company from Siberia, Russia called Tequilabyte Studio. With both of them creating the soundtrack, Stanislav as the artist/designer and Alexey doing the programming, the duo have been working on creating their newest hit called Sumoman since the summer of 2013. Here is our sit down with Stanislav about his work with Tequilabyte Studio and experience with developing games.
GP- First and foremost I’d like to thank you for your time and the chance to look into developing video games from a different perspective. What would you say was your main reasoning with creating video games and what was the defining moment you decided to work more intently within that area?
Stanislav- Main reasoning? I believe that games can make the world better (not all of the games though), and video games are a mix of all sort of arts. It makes game development a very interesting process. How did I start making games? It’s a long story. In shortness – I have liked drawing and playing video games since my childhood, but I didn’t think about game development seriously until I graduated Tomsk State University. After working some time as an engineer I understood that it is not my direction. All that I wanted at that time – was to draw. I found on one internet forum a programmer who was looking for help of an artist to make his own MMORPG. He taught me the basics of 3D modeling. And after that no one could stop me. Of course that MMORPG project was failed. But I understood that game development is only one thing that I want to do.
GP- From my understanding, you and your brother were finalist of the IGF in China in 2014 along with several Russian contests as well, what is the pressure like having your game presented in front of large audiences of people. How do you deal with criticism of your work?
Stanislav- Being the finalist of IGF China was a great experience. It is not the same as IGF though. There was not so many people as I expected. I liked the attention it brought to our game and I didn’t feel any pressure. Probably it is because not so many people know about our game. What about criticism? I try to listen to constructive criticism. It is not so hard, because it is similar to my thoughts about the game very often. And we don’t have any nonconstructive criticism at the moment (not so many people knows about our game). As for me I think that ignorance is much worse than criticism.
GP- With only two people on your team developing a game, would you say it is easier to communicate the overall idea or does dividing the work among two people add more stress and complications?
Stanislav- I think it is much easier to work with a small team. Everyone definitely knows who is responsible for everything. As for me – an artist and programmer is a perfect team for development of an indie game. We don’t have any problems in dividing the work – I don’t know how to be a programmer, and my brother can’t do any art stuff. There is only one problem of the small team – amount of content. Of course it is not completely true that we do all the entire game with only a 2 man team. We have a friends who help us with some things that we can’t do such as sound design, localization, any advice and criticism and etc.
GP- So tell us a bit about your newest game Sumoman. What separates it from the rest of the Platform based games out in the market today?
Stanislav- So, our game is a platform based game about adventures of clumsy sumo wrestler. Sumoman, while returning home from the sumo tournament, finds his fellow countrymen in a dramatic peril. Someone has enchanted the inhabitants of the island putting them to the eternal sleep and players have to figure out this situation. The story itself is some kind of mixing “Sleeping Beauty” and one Japanese tale about monk-mage.
As for me, gameplay of Sumoman is very close to Limbo. It is a platformer without enemies but with a lot of puzzles and obstacles instead. The main difference of our game is an unstable physical model of main hero. Any wrong movement can make heroes fall upside down. If he falls once – he can not stand up. Player needs to rewind the time back or load game at the last save-point.
And the next difference is a humor. Unstable model of main hero leads to a big variety of funny situations – falling, impacts, balancing and incredible jumping. All of it make player smiling or laughing, especially in two player mode. We developed a humorous atmosphere more by adding different Easter eggs and other funny situations.
But don’t think that this game is very easy because of its humor. Sumoman is a pretty hardcore game, so you need to think a lot to complete it.
Gp- The scenery and color palette look mesmerizing and provide a relaxing atmosphere and to use a sumo wrestler as the protagonist is a spark of ingenuity that is often hit or miss with indie games. Can you explain your thought process for creating these elements and what drove you to use a sumo wrestler?
Stanislav- Thanks a lot. As an artist I really appreciate your comments about art in our game. The Sumo wrestler suits our game mechanics most of all, it is a very big man who can not stand up if he has fallen once. It is not true in real life, but it works well for our video game. Also sumo wrestler is not just a fat man – he is a wrestler, fighter, who has a lot of the strength and the will to win.
And it is so funny to make hero do the things that are not peculiar to him.
Although it may not be a full inspiration, this commercial convinced us to use a sumo wrestler as a main hero of our game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nuNSTo-fH8
GP- How has the change from working on a Naval Strategy Game to a Platform based game been for you? Has there been any challenges or obstacles or is this project easier to work with?
Stanislav- I like all of the genres of games – and Strategies and Platformers. I have some experience in development of games for very little kids (3-5 years old). Turning from post-apocalypse to the little rabbits is more odder than turning from RTS to Platformer. And I like it. It allows you to look at the game development from different points of view. And I am not going to stop on these genre and settings. Also I think it is very useful to work in different genres in the times when the mixing of genres is so popular.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Stanislav’s upcoming hit Sumoman, a platform puzzle based game releasing on several platforms and already green lighted for Steam in the near future!