"Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it." ~ Akan proverb
Today, our flagship project Voodoo is live on Kickstarter. This is a leap. But more importantly, as our first Made With Unity post, I'd like to share how we got to this point.
Almost two years ago we set out to bring a multiplayer Shadow of the Colossus-type experience to PC. Yes, we're huge fans. However, the last thing we wanted to do was make a silly clone.
In my personal opinion, one of the hardest targets to hit with any creative effort is the bullseye of originality. We tried to get close.
Why We Love Videogames
We asked ourselves: Why do we love videogames?
Our answer: Through them you can be transported to worlds you'd never even imagined before. For us they are the future of virtual tourism.
This was our train of thought while we were brainstorming. We knew we wanted to create a gigantic world with larger-than-life co-op challenges. We just didn't know where that world was.
"To get lost is to learn the way." ~ African proverb
We didn't convince ourselves with many of the first ideas we had for a geographical setting. It all seemed played out. So we literally pulled out a world map, like tourists, deciding where our next trip was going to be.
Where had we never been before? Where had we never been in videogames? Where could we never go #IRL.
Not Africa. Ancient Africa.
Getting to Game Design
The more we explored this idea the more we realized just how much we had to explore. African customs, traditions, fashions, belief systems -- these were all hugely untapped in game lore and game design in general. Originality aside, everything we discovered was of great interest. We got lost in it. And we learned our way.
Before long, and after learning about the birthplace of "Voodoo", that's what we started calling our game.
"Unity is strength, division is weakness." ~ Swahili proverb
At the risk of having to duck arrows (which after a few minutes of Voodoo gameplay you get used to!) we have a confession. When we initially started working on Voodoo we did it with Unreal Engine. In retrospect I can't really pinpoint the reason why, but it ended up being too hard for us anyways.
Touching on Technicalities
Voodoo is our first PC title. We'd only dabbled at some mobile gaming before this. But perhaps the best decision we made for this project was to stop trying with UE and move over to Unity. If you're a newcomer to #GameDev, take it from us. Unity is the easiest and most accessible engine to use.
As a team. we all agreed that Unity was invaluable for one main reason. Unity has an incredibly large and active community. For just about every technical question you can think of, some kind spirit in the Unity forum will have an answer for you.
"The friends of our friends are our friends." ~ Congolese proverb
Not every problem we faced was about game development. When we posted a gameplay trailer, one of our early fans said, "I just hope you don't get slammed with the race card."
After IndieGala, Italy's biggest Steam game distribution platform, took us under their wing and exhibited Voodoo at Gamescom 2016, one journalist wrote an article describing the game as racially stereotypical.
The Cameroonian on our production team called the article "extremely pretentious bullsh*t". This guy wants to make an indie game studio accountable for drone strikes in Somalia?! Al Banda is an African but also a third-culture individual like Barack Obama. He's open-minded.
But we actually did a double-take? Is it possible that racial stereotypes exist in our minds? Yes. Like they do for everybody. We're Italians. How many times did you encounter an Italian character in videogames who wasn't connected to the mafia, the church, or pizza? (Excluding Mario of course!)
We don't know why Al and Mario are sideways. But we do know that we have a limited understanding of the cultures around us. This is why we undertook this project in the first place. It's why we opened a call-for-submissions to bring in more ideas to Voodoo. It's also why we opened up pre-alpha access to Voodoo so we could get constructive feedback.
Our morale was affected. But Al asked for input from some of his connections in the African startup community and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Note: Don't let critics grind you down.
We're trying to put unexplored territory on the map. We also like to imagine a fantasy Africa before the continent was cut up and divided by colonialists. Keywords: fantasy and colonialists.
"It takes a village to raise a child." ~ African proverb
Game development is an amazing learning experience. There are so many things around you that you pay closer attention to. The next time we bump into an African, we may have a common convo to share.
Your dream game is trying to burst out of your thinking-cap isn't it? Fear nothing. Community is what really makes a game come to life. Get out there. Make some new friends and connections. Start building right now. Unity made this possible for us. So join the tribe!
And of course: Please support our project on Kickstarter!