With discoverability in the mobile gaming market becoming harder and harder, we've decided to shine the spotlight on the amazing and interesting indie developers out there.
So welcome to the Indie Spotlight, where each week a developer tells us about their life and work, and the challenges facing indie developers in the modern mobile market.
For this week's Indie Spotlight, we caught up with Neutronized developer Gionathan Pesaresi and discussed the development of Super Cat Tales 2 and the challenge of bringing it to a tough market for small developers.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as an indie games developer?
Gionathan Pesaresi: I've always wanted to make video games since I was a little kid. In my early 20s I started working for a few video game companies and in 2010 I switched to being a full-time indie developer.
Back then the browser games scene was very vibrant and seemed totally accessible to small developers, so I thought about giving it a shot.
I started producing my own browser games and was able to make a living by selling licenses to game portals. Back in 2012 I began working on mobile games and stuck to this since then.
How do you feel now that Super Cat Tales 2 is out, how has the launch been?
Super Cat Tales 2 got a worldwide feature on the App Store. Feedback was great and I'm very happy.
A lot of what made the original so pleasing to fans remains, such as the retro style and a game that opens up with the more cats you get. Was keeping that vibe important to you?
I wanted to establish the same Super Cat Tales formula, starting with just one cat and then finding more friends along the way. It was rather important indeed as I think this is what makes Super Cat Tales special.
On top of that, there's a small but steadily growing community of fans that really like Super Cat Tales, so it was very important to deliver something up to their expectations.
What were some of your inspirations for the Super Cat Tales games?
I basically wanted Super Cat Tales 2 to be like a nice journey, with many friends and foes you might meet along the way. I had a lot of fun coming up with NPCs and their stories presented through simple dialogues. I think adding these little details is what makes games special and cosy.
I've been getting constant feedback from players and this helped me shape Super Cat Tales 2 to its current state.Gionathan Pesaresi
So under that perspective, I took inspiration from some of the best RPG games from the PlayStation era. Though many people say Super Cat Tales is a Mario-inspired game, I took little to no inspiration from those titles apart from the world map aesthetics and some level hazards.
What were some of the aspects of the original that you wanted to change or improve upon?
I wanted to completely remove back-tracking, that was an issue of the original Super Cat Tales that made certain levels very tedious. I also introduced a new power-up system based on items replacing the old minion-helpers featured in the original.
I documented the whole process in my devlog videos on YouTube. I've been getting constant feedback from players and this helped me shape Super Cat Tales 2 to its current state. Other than that I tweaked the control mechanics and improved the level design.
What were some of the challenges you faced during development of Super Cat Tales 2 and how did you overcome them?
It all came down very naturally to be honest. Perhaps the most challenging thing was to find the best way to design the item inventory and integrate it to the in-game shop without being too hard to understand.
Personally, I don't like games with too many settings and stats so I wanted something intuitive and casual.
What is your opinion of the mobile games market for indies right now?
I personally enjoy making mobile games a lot. Mobile devices are always with us and they offer a whole new world of game mechanics and experiences.
Bigger publishers have established their own rules based on user acquisition and the advent of hyper-casual games also made things worse.Gionathan Pesaresi
On the other hand, I must admit it's becoming more difficult to compete in the current state of the mobile market. Bigger publishers have established their own rules based on user acquisition and the advent of hyper-casual games also made things worse.
If you consider that Super Cat Tales 2 took almost a year from its start to release, you can imagine how hard it is to compete with publishers dropping a new hyper-casual game every two weeks.
I hope players will become more aware that the mobile games market can be better than this and also offer very nice and original game experiences.
What advice would you give to other developers on 'making it' as an indie?
I would suggest starting by taking more experienced indie developers as a reference and try to match their level. After that try to do better than them and eventually find your own style, coming up with something completely unique.
What are your current plans for the future?
A new update of Super Cat tales 2 with the second part of the story is already in the making. I'm also working on a new puzzle arcade game that I'll be announcing very soon.
In the meantime, I'm doing my best to produce a line of custom figurines of Super Cat Tales characters that I hope to announce very soon.