There’s not much that Andreas has left to do. He has taught music, instructed boxing & kicking sessions at the gym, and has also been a firefighter at one time. But this interview is about his experiences as a Lead Game Developer for King, the company that made Candy Crush.
Real name: Andreas Jirenius
Alter ego: SetTheBet
Profession: Game Developer at King.com
Q: So how did you land in programming, given your music, gym, and firefighting aspirations?
A: I have always been a creative person just finding new channels to output that creativity into. (Yes, you sure need to be creative in the ring as well 😉 ). Back in the 80’s I very quickly realised that the computer was almost the ultimate creative tool for art, music, writing, code, etc., so it already started with some poke’s and peek’s on the C64. This hobby has always followed me parallell to my “professional” work and there has always been some time over for some game jamming, 3d modelling or music tracking. When being a music teacher 9 years ago I also started a small indie game company where I could publish my first solo made game “Cryptex of Time.” Music, sound, design, gfx, dialogue, programming… all made by me. I was super proud! It sold like crap… But still I actually believe that there’s a big advantage of having many other hobbies when developing. I think it contributes to the full picture and to understand your target audience better.
Q: What inspired you towards game development? How difficult is it to learn mobile app game development?
A: I believe what inspired me the most to start develop games were those game magazines that had an extra page of just basic code. If you wrote it down on your Commodore (and didn’t misspell one single character) a game would magically appear. That was fantastic! Also the first “creators” that was popular back in the days. ShootEmUp Creator, GraphicAdventureCreator, later on RPG Maker. They were all fueling the dream that I could do any kind of game one day. Then the programming language AMOS came on the Amiga and gave me the tools. I would like to say that today it is not hard at all to create a mobile game. But it sure takes time to learn. Today we have all those great engines out there to help you get into game development really fast, and will give you results on multiple platforms quicker than ever before. Still underneath the hood it has never been as complex as it is today, and as soon as you want to dive deeper into what’s actually going on there is a lot to learn and discover.
Q: Tell us about those projects you have made or have been part of using Defold Game Engine.
A: As with most game companies, at King we are prototyping a lot of ideas and trying out many different types of games. I was one of the first to try out Defold at King and have been involved in around 6 games using the game engine, but have only been a part of publishing one game, Blossom Blast Saga. It depends on what you define as a project. If you’ve been around my channel at Livecoding.tv
Q: Tell us about “Game Jamming.” What challenges are you facing or have faced making this multiplayer game?
A: Never tried fast-paced multiplayer development before, the hardest is the part of creating a illusion that all 4 players are on the same machine reacting immediately on every single command. Also, I’m using TCP/IP instead of UDP, which makes all communication a lot slower. Not having the server as the authority doesn’t help either. Right now I’ve been curious to try out Photon engine to help out with that part. Another challenge has been the great weather in Sweden right now. It’s hard to find both time and motivation when summer is here.
Q: What are your main responsibilities at King?
A: Right now I am the lead developer/tech lead for a new team that just started up it’s production. I work at the Genesis studio which is one of the studios that tries to innovate and create new IPs, a position that for me is the golden ticket here at King.
Q: What are the main differences between the planning of a game by a company such as King, and by an indie developer?
A: King had already, before Candy Crush Saga happened, around 200 games online out there and with that also a lot of experience and knowledge about what kind of games that do work for our specific target audience. Both using that knowledge and the many talented people here at King hinders us to make the same design/tech mistakes over and over again, mistakes that I know I, as an indie, surely did make and probably most indiedevs do a couple of times in their career. Otherwise I would say that it, at least in my studio, is quite similar to how a small group of people would plan a game. We pitch the game, prototype it in a small team, ask ourselves the main question: Is it fun? If not, we might tweak it or scrap it and move on.
Q: How difficult is it for indie developers to get their games noticed in the market in comparison to big companies like King?
A: Anyone who says that marketing doesn’t matter as long as you have a great game is lying. Of course, having the ability to tell the world that your new game exists is an enormous advantage. Still we always see those new indie games popping up becoming huge successes without piles of money being poured in. There are ways to be smart about your marketing even with lower budget. A great game can create a great buzz if you make yourself visible in forums, events, livestreams, etc. It requires a lot of work, but there are a lot of testimonies out there that shows smart unique ways to create a buzz. It’s easy to see King as that big giant today with endless resources, but one needs to remember that a big key to its success story was finding new ways of creating the buzz and virality of the games. Your first game is always the hardest to market. There are no fans waiting for your next game. No ability to cross promote the new title. If I would recommend one single thing to make it easier in the long run, it would be to carefully think through how you want to keep your players from title to title. Find ways to tell them that you have a new game coming up. It is cost-effective and builds up your playerbase and brand.
Q: What kind of support is available at King when game ideas are to be pitched?
A: Every single employee at King can pitch a game. We take them to a pitch review meeting and present them for a selected team of designers and stakeholders. A great pitch can then be greenlit and sent further on into prototype phase. Some ideas need to be refined or tweaked and there are lot of help to get from talented game designers. I have pitched a couple of ideas, but… nah they all got scrapped :). As always, kill your darlings often, and fail as fast as possible.
Q: How are job prospects in Sweden for programmers?
A: For such a small country as Sweden, we are really in the front of the game and apps industry. There are plenty of job prospects coming from both the larger companies and from smaller up & comers.
Q: How much is Game Development in demand in Sweden?
A: Just looking at King we are hiring people almost every single day. Game development is super hot, and new companies, educations, and positions are popping up everywhere. I would say that the indie scene is particularly strong and vibrant here.
Q: You were the developer for Blossom Blast Saga. What were the challenges you faced with Defold at the time?
A: Blossom Blast Saga was the first game to be published with this new engine. During the development we sat just next to the Defold team and had the luxury to request features as we proceeded. I would say all challenges like different animation formats, Facebook integration, asian language support, etc., were all handled quickly so they really didn’t block us in any way. Our greatest worries was of course that it was an untested tech and created by a very small team with no previous experience with the engine (nor language). Still, to this day, I cannot remember any sleepless night nor any screaming at the engine team 🙂 It went well.
Q: Do you have any plans to make a music themed boxing game that has firefighters in them? 🙂
A: 🙂 I’m always up for suggestions on my channel. At least all three could have their own game (I’m very eager to try out a music/beat game soon).
Check out one of Andreas’ recent streams: Game Jamming – Multiplayer Game