Get to Know a GameDev: Igor Davin
Igor Davin is the CEO of Id&aL (Ideal) Editions, a game publishing company based out of France that turns tabletop board game into mobile game experiences. His aim is simple: “to conceive video games we hope will excite and energize the users and make them as passionate of the games as we are passionate about producing them.” And he’s enjoyed some great success as a game dev.
The first app developed for Id&aL was Kahmaté, a board and app based rugby game. Since then, Igor Davin’s team has launched several similar projects including their latest, Backdrafts – in which you play an adorable dragon protecting his gold.
Curious about the combination of physical and digital games, we sat down to talk about Igor’s success in game dev for the multi-platform publishing market.
What would be your unofficial title, working in games?
As everyone knows, in an indie dev team, everyone is a bit of jack of all trades, and pitches in wherever needed … Guess it would be true for any small start up in any sector. I guess that if I were to have a title, it would be “The coms guy”. I particularly take care of game design and communication (CM/PR). I also do level design.
What’s the hardest thing about being “the coms guy”?
The hardest part in a role like mine, between game design and communication, is knowing when to stop to move from one role to another. Most indies have the same problem: small teams in which people have several roles to play. You really need to plan things. Knowing when to do what action is paramount! I also have the habit of splitting my day into several parts, during which I try to do only communication or game design. Tip: plan your tasks as early as possible, say “on a certain day, at a certain time, I have to do this.” And do it!
Who else is on the Id&aL team?
Vincent is the gameplay developer. He also makes game design, internal analysis tools, and UI. Jo is the game engine dev and economic designer. He also deals with game design, sound design and internal analysis tools. Cedric is the illustrator of Backdrafts and he’s also helpful for communication. Alexandre, our former illustrator, has made [most] of the illustrations and animations of the game. Phil is the web designer, he deals with SEO and QA/Gameplay tests. Finally, Cathy takes care of all administrative and quality tests.
A good sized team! So when did you first know you wanted to make games?
Since I was 13, I have been creating games. First of all board games. Then very quickly I wanted to create video games. The first games that made me want to create are Civilization, of course, but also Ghosts’n Goblins, Syndicate or Command & Conquer.
What did you do before joining the game industry?
I was a journalist, I was working on educational games and weekly productions specifically designed for children and adolescents for some time, and as a project manager. I started my own publishing company for board games (Id&aL) just a few years ago. The company’s name is a bit of a pun, as it both corresponds to the initials of myself and the company co-founder, but also combines two concepts: Ideas, and Ideal, in other words our constant quest for ideal ideas!
I met Jo and Vincent in 2011, when we developed the first app for an Id&aL-funded game together: Kahmaté, which is a board and app based fun rugby game. Kahmaté actually proved to be our first small production success, and continues to be regularly downloaded from the App Store. Similarly, the team came together on several occasions to adapt several board games into [a] mobile format. We worked in the same company for 4 years together, before we decided the time had come for us to launch into the indie adventure.
Was there any special strategy for breaking in to the industry?
To answer your question in a nutshell : we started to make board games, then adapted them and a few others to mobile format.
Today, we aim to conceive video games which we hope will excite and energize the users and make them as passionate [about] the games as we are passionate about producing them.
Since you’re based in France, do you launch games to the global market?
Since we started producing board games, we certainly aim to export all over the world. Having focused on mobile games has simplified access to the global market. So yes, for Backdrafts we very much aim to create a universal game, which will be translated into 7-10 different languages.
Nowadays, if you are genuinely aiming at a world audience, there is no way around the need for translation in multiple languages, beyond the obvious and usual French and English. But this is not the most difficult. What is difficult is to have visibility throughout the world, that [people talk] of Backdrafts in several countries. Marketing is the real challenge of indie studios.
Does Id&aL Editions have a company ‘motto’ that makes it stand out?
I would say “casual and fun”. At Id&aL, we do not try to make tough games for hardcore gamers. We try to reach a family audience, with our board games or with Backdrafts, our first video game. We make games that are relatively easy to understand and master, and where teens and parents alike can enjoy immediately without the need that you have in some games to work long and hard to discover the secret handshake or the hidden gem that it takes you a few weeks to even understand is there. In other words the type of games that you pick up in your free time.
Our secret goal? Build a pro team on Overwatch and be among the best teams of the world. But honestly, we are not that good just yet. 🙂 Our other secret goal: that Backdrafts have as much media coverage as No Man’s Sky on its release!
Haha, we’re here to help 😉 What is the most unique thing about Backdrafts?
We believe that what makes the game unique is having switched the usual codes of this type of games. In the vast majority of fantasy games, dragons are systematically to be feared or killed, and portrayed as dangerous and extremely short tempered.
In Backdrafts, we turned this perspective 180 degrees, and the dragon actually just wants to enjoy life and be left alone, but is constantly being attacked by greedy and mean little humans! From initial test results, many of our players appear to love this twist, and we hope that many more players around the world should take great pleasure to play a dragon and take it out on humans who try to kill it or steal his gold.
Was localization a big part this game? How did you execute translation?
Backdrafts is currently available in 7 languages: English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Italian and Portuguese. And we have another 5 in progress … It has been quite complicated to have the game translated correctly in all these languages.
Most translators do not have a great knowledge of games in general and have no knowledge of your game in particular. The most important thing to do is to give the context of the words and sentences to be translated, to facilitate the translation work. Pictures, paraphrases, videos are necessary for your translators to be able to have a translation as faithful as possible.A small example, we have had, in some languages, great difficulty in translating “stasis”, which is a word widely used in the gaming world, but almost never in everyday vocabulary. Sometimes we did use some tricks in order to come closest to a proper translation.
Do not hesitate to re-read the translations, even if you do not know the language, use Google Translate. Check that some words did not remain in the original version, that copy / paste did not leave 2 times the same translated sentence, that some things were translated correctly, in the sense that you wanted. Once your texts are translated, the work is not finished! You have a major role to play proofreading.
It’s interesting that you’ve been making board games since 2008, but ventured into the mobile market. Why did you go mobile vs. PC or console video games?
There is a trend right now among gamers and a few journalists, to say that mobile games are not real games or that they are really far from the gaming experience that one can find on other platforms. They charge ads, in-app purchases, “pay- to-win”, and some argues that on some games you get pretty bad controls. They point an accusing finger at the lack of originality, copy cats, games that are not really games, what feels like unfinished games, etc…
Obviously this is not our take, and we believe that all this is a global conspiracy from the lobbies of big publishers! (joke of course). Seriously, do you believe that it is better on Steam or Gog? It is the same kind of concerns. And it is always better to have too many choices than not enough. We prefer the creative energy constantly renewed on mobile (even if indeed the quality and intricacies of games is not always as good), rather than always playing the same license on consoles or PC.
Interesting points. Here’s a more philosophical question: if you were to change something in your everyday life (as a game dev), what would it be and why?
It would be to try to be more actively engaged in trying to change the critical look that people retain around professionals working in the video game, in France. Today, in quite a few countries around the world, if you say you set up a sound studio, a film studio, an animation studio, one takes you seriously. This is not the case when setting up a video game studio in France.
We need to understand why that is, at a time when video games are currently the biggest leisure industry in the world. To us as a team this is a great and very serious opportunity that as many people as possible should take advantage of, and which should help create value, and jobs, across the country. Sadly, in France, many people still have the impression that, when one’s job is in gaming, one is not really working… But in fact, it is a very competitive sector. It is difficult to properly design and produce a video game. On top of that, it is increasingly difficult to promote it.
So I’ll end with this quote from Dan Amrich : “Until you have tried (and quite probably failed) to create a game, you cannot truly appreciate the effort involved.” We certainly have tried and failed before, so we very much hope that Backdraft will be a great success built on all the lessons we have learnt from past efforts and struggles!
That’s an excellent example to follow. So finally, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years ?! Ha … I would love to have developed a stable and viable video game company. Have stopped making benefits to live. To do only our own productions, the games that we have dreamed of doing for years, with collaborators of renowned talents, to propose extraordinary gaming experiences, to renew certain genres, to try new experiences!
Because that’s it, being an independent developer. It is always trying, proposing something new, being a real alternative to AAA games, which tend not to get out of the big licenses, those who can bring the most money, at least risk … to the detriment of the gaming experience and the creativity of players.
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- On December 01, 2016