With discoverability in the mobile and handheld 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 and handheld market.
PocketGamer.biz: How did you get started as an indie games developer?
Ava Loz: We both have a computer science background. Mat always had a passion for music and I am a self-taught graphic artist.
Mat Loz: We met at university and our dream was to make games together, but before then we worked in large IT companies for a few years making computer software. Five years ago, we decided to go indie and founded our own studio in order to create playful experiences.
The main challenge in the mobile games market is managing to get any sort of visibility...Mat Loz
What is a typical day in your life as an indie?
Ava Loz: It really depends on which stage of a project we are at. When we are picking our next game concept, we have a lot of discussions and take our time to discover new things - be that performance, films, music, etcetera. This might be the only period when we really have time to play games!
Mat Loz: Prototyping is a very exciting phase but even when we are in the production phase, we alternate between development, visuals, music and preparing marketing materials. So, with that, there is no typical day, outside of us usually starting the day together at our desk or at least very close to a computer.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far as an indie?
Mat Loz: The main challenge in the mobile games market is managing to get any sort of visibility when going up against the huge marketing budgets of hypercasual titles that flood the market constantly.
There’s no real in-between in terms of acquisition budget, so with hundreds of games released every day, the best chance for an indie studio is to first be noticed by the press, However, it's equally important to get featured by the App Store's editors, and this can all come down to luck.
Ava Loz: It can be hard to keep faith sometimes. We previously had the chance to be featured as "Game of the Day" on the App Store, so let's hope we'll be lucky with our newest game.
How do you define ‘success’?
Ava Loz: I suppose we have a quite naive or artistic approach to creating games. Each time we try to release something very new - in terms of mechanics, universe, gameplay etcetera. – the trickiest part is working out how to sell it.
So when we manage to design and release a game, of course, we hope that as many players as possible will discover and enjoy it, but if we break-even and gain even a small community of supportive players, we usually call it a success.
What is your opinion of the mobile games market for indies right now?
Mat Loz: On the App Store, success is tightly linked to attracting attention from the store editors. Players usually rely on featured games, with these ones being the most likely to sell the best as a result. On Google Play, there’s less editorial selection. Still, the store is personalised for users, so there’s a chance they’ll get relevant suggestions based on games they have already played.
Players are aware and supportive of studios with bigger ambitions and any indie creations on the market.Ava Loz
With that, there’s possibly a longer tail of sales on Google Play than on the App Store. However, premium sales seem a lot lower than on the App Store from our experience.
Ava Loz: Saying this, there is room for very small studios. Players are aware and supportive of studios with bigger ambitions and any indie creations on the market.
Could you tell us about Rip Them Off and why the game felt right for mobile?
Mat Loz: Rip Them Off is an all-new puzzle game experience blending the strategy of tower-defence, the fast thrill of micro-management, and original 1950s-inspired jazz music with gorgeous surrealist imagery-inspired geometric art direction. The game’s tone and light narrative see players take on an almost villainous role, taking the unwitting consumers for all they have to win.
Ava Loz: Rip Them Off felt right for mobile as it thrives on a simple core gameplay loop. It melds simplicity with slick, accessible UI so that anyone can pick up and play. It also has enough complexity and enough value/depth for optimisation aficionados.
How is the studio coping under the current Covid-19 pandemic?
Ava Loz: Strictly professionally speaking, the impact was minimal. From the moment we started Lozange Lab (around five years ago), we’ve been working together from home and all our outside interactions are almost exclusively remote, so we are used to it.
Mat Loz: Of course, the lockdown has blurred the boundary between work and home life and it can be a bit much at the end of the workday when you cannot go outside. What we mostly miss are the conventions and opportunities to meet players that simply cannot happen at this time.
What are your current plans for the future?
Ava Loz: We don’t intend to grow in size - the studio being the both of us just suits us fine. We would like to expand our collaborations and forge stronger links with creatives, such as writers, translators, and community managers. People who would be included and interested much earlier in the creation process.
Mat Loz: As we still have our minds totally focused on Rip Them Off, we haven't decided what will be our next project as of yet!
If you had an unlimited budget, what game would you most like to make?
Mat Loz: If we had an unlimited budget, I guess we would go for some kind of endless exploration game, with huge lore and a very detailed universe. Most certainly co-op would be involved as well.
What advice would you give other developers on ‘making it’ as an indie?
Mat Loz: You should focus on what matters the most and keep sight of it in the hundreds of choices you’ll be facing every day for your game.
Ava Loz: Well, there are many different kinds of indie studios out there and it really depends on what will make you happy and proud of your studio. Is it to bring together many creative talents to make a lot of money? To build a strong community of players around your game? Or to experiment on some mind-blowing game concepts? It’s probably a bit of everything, but it’s often harder if you try to make all these desires converge right from the beginning.