This week, we spoke to the team at Specialbit Studio, who craft high-quality hidden object, adventure, and match games for PC and mobile. With games like Inbetween Land, Stormhill Mystery: Family Shadows, and The Wild Case, you know that whatever they make next will certainly be a hit. Let’s find out what goes into their development process!
What is the most challenging part of designing and developing your games? What is usually easiest?
The most challenging part in game design is to choose the exact genre and to define what the player will be doing in game. How far can we go in terms of complexity of hero and gameplay? What will our player be allowed to do, and what not?
Another tough moment is transforming abstract story ideas into specific tasks for artists and level designers. If we have a global task, “Hero must go to blacksmith”, it has to be disassembled to a chain like, “get to know about blacksmith and his smithy – find someone who can help to open it – accomplish a task from that character – get a hint to finally open a smithy”. Each of those small tasks must be detailed to exact actions (talk to the boy, get a slingshot, give slingshot to the boy, open the code lock with a code given). Without such boundaries, the development will be stuck in endless discussions. “Should we show this thing right here?”, “Will the player do something in this part of the location?” etc.
Talking about production, the hardest part is testing and polishing. Hundreds of walkthroughs, where each time you try to go different ways, use every combination of actions possible. The further you are in development – the longer and meticulously testing becomes. But at the same moment, your developer vision becomes blurry, and inner strengths get lower.
The easiest part in developments is, probably, to choose a story, and cut it into levels. Even the monotonous task of assembling levels is interesting, not too hard and inspiring. You can watch how blank space becomes something where you can walk, interact with a new world.
Where does your team draw inspiration for the stories you tell? How much do these stories change during the game development process?
Any creative person draws inspiration from a variety of sources. Quite often they get mixed up. It can start with a dream or a vision of a particular scene. During a detailed discussion, moments inspired by films, books, and other games are added. These ideas may come from completely different genres.
Of course, there will be changes when adjusting the story to the chosen genre. The idea is told in just a few words (the detective comes to the village and investigates where the mystical animals came from), but it is necessary to think through everything till the end. The essence of any story is not in a plot twist, but is the way the story is being told.
The global plot rarely changes, but changes, twists and turns inside are quite common. Sometimes we see that the logic of what is happening is not clear, or another turn will add intrigue. There may even be new characters or entire levels if we decide that the story will become more interesting with them.
Do you have a favorite game that your team has developed? Why or why not?
I don’t remember the authors who could clearly highlight one of their works. How they love to write – they are all like children. It was very interesting to work on Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward. Revive the work of Lovecraft, add something of your own there, create a small world with its own creepy story. The development process itself was very interesting, with the filming of live action scenes, inspiration and adjustment to the desired mystical level. It was really great.
Each project enriches the developer with something.
If this did not happen, then for sure the project was not interesting either. But I don’t remember any among ours 🙂
What are your favorite casual games to play?
One of the reasons our games are different is that we don’t really play other developers’ casual games. We can play some of the hit games, but most of them aren’t what we want them to be. That is why we develop our games. To offer the players something different to try.