Running Things in Wisconsin

 

1: Hello who are you and what are you known for?

Hello!  I’m Eric Francksen, CEO of Sky Ship Studios, the team currently developing the digital adaptation of Atlas Games’ award-winning card game, Gloom.  My team and IAAEAAQAAAAAAAAcvAAAAJDdkYjJkZjNkLTg1ODAtNGJmNi04N2RhLTIyZWExNjRmMGQwYg.jpg have contributed to games such as Guild Wars, Scary Girl, and Wolfenstein.  With Sky Ship Studios, we’re excited to be focusing our efforts to digitize a card game we’ve enjoyed for years.  The art style and fun story-telling made Gloom an instant classic for us.  We hope to do it justice when we release next year.

2: How did you get your break into games?

Back when I started out there weren’t many game education programs, so you had to be pretty driven if you wanted to make games your career focus. I do have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media, but the vast majority of my game dev education was informal. I had to really put myself out there, meet developers, make friends, and hope they were patient enough to teach me what they could. Eventually, I broke in not as an artist but as a producer. As it turned out, I was better at managing teams than 3D modeling 🙂

3: Based in the Madison, WI area, can you tell us a little about the local game dev community? What is the indie scene like?

Madison is my absolute favorite game dev community. It’s anchored by groups like Human Head Studios and Raven Software who have been around a long time, but also MDEV_wordpress_2018-1024x614.jpghas a strong educational game presence and a slew of other medium to small studios doing everything from VR to mobile. Today there are several social meetup groups for devs and we just launched MDEV, a game developers conference right here in Madison.

 

4: What are your thoughts on project funding: Is crowd sourced funding viable and what makes or breaks an attempt to go that route for funding, having had a successful Kickstarter pitch yourself?
I had a very positive experience with Kickstarter. Of course, we were successful, but it really can’t be overstated how much time it took to run the campaign both before and after we made it. Prepping the marketing material, making videos, running reward fulfillment and community management… it all adds up, but there are some pretty big silver linings to all that stuff. Besides the money, which we’ve put to use for things suchGloom Screenshot 5.png as music and professional VO, going through the Kickstarter process really helped us consider the game’s audience very early in the process. The market validation goes well beyond raising enough money, it continues with every update we make to our backers and every comment they share as we move forward. Running a Kickstarter is a major time commitment but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Although next time I might use a reward fulfillment service 🙂
5: When starting out on your project, “Gloom“, did you plan to hit as many platforms as possible or how did you narrow the scope down?
Gloom Screenshot 1.png
We have a growth plan for Gloom. We’ll be releasing on Steam at first but have plans to expand to iOS and Android tablets shortly after.
6: How did you go about partnering up with a card game to work on your current project? Has there been any unforeseen difficulties working with a licensed product?
Gloom Screenshot 2.png
We haven’t run into any major difficulties. Atlas Games and Keith Baker, the game’s designer, have been amazing. We’ve consulted with them often on the project and couldn’t be more grateful for their participation and support.

7: What was the worst review or gamer post you read about one of your projects? How do you react to that?

I never really mind criticism as long as it’s fair and, in my experience, it usually is. Professional game reviewers may or may not have made games themselves, but they tend to have a healthy respect for folks who do. If they can take the time to review my game, then I think I can listen to what they have to say. In 2009 I made a small game for Wii Ware. The critics gave it a hard time for the controls and you know what, they were right. The Wii was a relatively new system back then and the controls were the weakest part of the game.

8: Best 30 second game design segment or level?

Can I pick an element of a game? Prince of Persia: Sands of Time made death a part of the story, which I absolutely loved. Because the entire game was told as a recollection, whenever you died, the Prince corrected himself, saying something like, ‘No, wait, that’s not what happened’. For me, it was just a soft reminder that no matter how frustrating the death was, I’m about to get another chance to do it right.  I really appreciate small things like that, which keep you immersed.  

9: What advice would you give as a mentor to anyone either entering the industry or as a start up?

There are a lot of forces out there that want to convince you you’re in a sprint, but this is a marathon. Get a good education, learn new tools outside of class, make time for local industry meet ups or, if you can swing it, get yourself to a major conference. Don’t feel as though your first job NEEDS to be in games. Some of the best developers I know started in other fields. Just keep at it. The game development industry is a competitive space. But it’s that same quality that ensures the people you’re working with, at a studio or on an indie team, are there because they love what they do. Nobody’s here because it’s easy. They’re here because they love the craft of game development. That has to be my favorite part about the job.

10:  Finally……Any advice for your last boss?

I suppose it would be the same piece of advice I try to give myself, ‘A team is nothing without it’s people.’ If you’re open with them, and put them first, you’ll have the foundation for a team strong enough to weather anything. In game development, ‘anything’ is what you should probably be prepared for.

 

Gloom Screenshot 3.png  Gloom Screenshot 4.png

Thanks for the chance to talk Gloom!

 

 

Thanks Eric, for a great insight to project management,  running your own company and the Wisconsin dev scene!

If you would like to know more or to connect with Eric, check his profile out on Gamesmith.com and his company, Sky Ship Studios.

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