Joining The Switch Effect on today’s Industry Interviews is Jacek Glowacki, Company Development Manager at iFun4All. iFun4All is an indie game studio based in Cracow, Poland and formed in 2009. For those who have not had a chance to play the company’s three released intuitive and unique games including Serial Cleaner, Red Game Without a Great Name, and Green Game Timeswapper, fear not! With Green Game: Timeswapper released on November 17th to the eShop and Serial Cleaner arriving today (November 30th), now was the perfect time to learn more about this great company!
Jacek, thank you so much for speaking with The Switch Effect. Before we get into it, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the gaming industry?
Hi guys, the pleasure is all mine. So, my name is Jacek Głowacki (yes, with the Polish letter “ł” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%81). I’m 33 years old, a dedicated gamer and happy father of two sons. From 2010 I worked for five years as a gaming journalist in the biggest Polish information service, Onet.pl. Later I joined Techland as a business developer and helped launched Techland Publishing. It’s an awesome place to be, but I preferred to move to a smaller development team, hence I became the head of business development at iFun4All S.A. It’s a great, remarkable team, full of very talented people, and I intend to develop iFun4All as soon as possible.
What was the first console/game you ever owned?
Poland in the 80s and 90s wasn’t really a paradise for gamers. We didn’t have original home consoles, it was really hard to get a PC, and it was way too expensive for our parents. Some of us had an Atari, Amiga (especially Amiga 500 or 600) and of course Commodore 64. We were spending most of our money in arcade rooms and most kids back then in Poland played on Pegasus. It was a clone of Famicom, 8-bit strong… After the collapse of Communism at the beginning of the 90s, we finally got our passports and were able to travel freely. In the 80s, a lot of Polish workers emigrated to Germany, Canada or the US, but that didn’t mean that they were sending hundreds of pieces of hardware back home.
One of my uncles brought a Commodore 64, which he found in one of the trash bins in West Berlin. However, I personally was a little bit more lucky than most of my friends as I had a grandmother in Munich, who bought me an original NES with three games in 1990, for Christmas. So it was my first gaming device at six years old. I remember my dad playing Dr. Mario all night long; mom was really angry at him that day. The funny thing is, he’s a doctor and he fell in love with Dr. Mario at first sight. So, my first gaming memories are about Nintendo. Later, when I was 9, I got a PC 386 from my paternal uncle. The computer had exactly 100 games installed on it and I was able to discover the greatest games of my childhood, especially Sid Meier’s Civilization.
Serial Cleaner…time to clean!
Growing up, did you always want to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
I always loved video games, but never really thought about joining the industry. I became a gaming journalist by accident to be honest. I used to work as a key account manager at a small ad agency in Krakow and one day I found out that the company got bankrupt because of overinvesting. My first son was around two years old and I really had to find a job fast. I sent my CV to dozens of different companies and Onet was one of them. I decided to take my chance, because from time to time I was writing game reviews for Valkiria.net, a small service for gaming nerds, sci-fi maniacs etc. It was kind of a hobby and wasn’t getting any money for my texts, only the games I was reviewing. Still, I was invited by Onet to write a test to determine, whether I’m good enough for the job
Around 40 other people were taking the test too and somehow it appeared that I had the second best results. Onet needed only one employee, but the guys with the best results took another job and I got accepted. Later he joined Onet too and for some time we worked together; good old times. After a couple of years at Onet I started looking for something fresh and different. I applied for the position of brand manager at Techland, passed couple of stages of the recruitment process, but was rejected.
Around a year later, Techland called me and offered me a position for business developer. Back then I wasn’t really sure what it meant and I had never spent a day in my life working as business developer. But, I appeared to be the best candidate and joined one of the strongest, most skillful and experienced team in Polish gamedev. I met a lot of great, passionate people and still have a lot of friends at Techland, but after eight months I knew that I need something else. I moved to iFun4All and I know it was a great decision!
Let’s talk about iFun4All. For those unfamiliar with your company, can you provide some background as to how it was formed?
iFun4All was founded in 2009 as a mobile division of Bloober Team, Polish game development studio famous for Layers of Fear and Observer. At first iFun4All’s purpose was to create small, premium games for iOS, but after developing Paper Wars: Cannon Fodder Devastated, Red Game Without a Great Name and Green Game: Timeswapper, Michał Mielcarek had become the new CEO and the company’s business philosophy changed. The team became bigger and stronger, iFun4All was becoming more and more independent and the company started working on Serial Cleaner. I joined in September 2016 to help organize business development, seek new business opportunities and to find a global publisher, interested in supporting Serial Cleaner. We signed with Curve, before that we became a public company and now we’re working on something new, in our new headquarters, 17 people strong and growing.
Your most recent title, Serial Cleaner, is a stealth/action game set in a 1970s theme and atmosphere. The player goes around the city to clean up murder scenes, but must be careful not to be caught by police and bystanders. Interestingly, the game uses Real-World Data to modify the gameplay. Can you elaborate on this a bit?
This is a feature we’re especially proud about. We think that it adds this innovative flavor and allows us to design games in a very unique and “our” way. Real-World Data is, basically, real-world data, any data we choose, that influence gameplay somehow. So, if you’re playing Serial Cleaner on your PC, Xbox One or PS4 and you’re connected to Internet and, let’s say you’re playing at night, it’s also night in the game – characters’ visual cones are smaller and they generate more noise. Of course, Real-World Data in Serial Cleaner is basic stuff, but I can promise that our future projects will take great advantage of this technology. We even got a huge grant from the Polish government, only to develop Real-World Data in our games! That really helps us raising the bar in this area.
It’s time to “switch” gears. Let’s talk briefly about the Nintendo Switch! What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s newest console?
Switch is a blast and the hottest console out there and exactly what players were looking for. Of course, it has its flaws, but generally speaking the console is designed beautifully, very handy and offers probably the most attractive exclusives this season. No wonder millions of people around the world want Switch now!
Red Game Without a Great Name
Were there any challenges or new opportunities that came with bringing your titles to the Nintendo Switch?
Oh, quite a lot of both! For an indie studio the first challenge is to obtain dev kits. The queue is long and you as a team need a really good business development manager to shorten the process. This is done by organizing face-to-face meetings and persuading guys from Nintendo that your company should be provided with the hardware sooner than later. If you’re working on Unity the porting process is not very complicated, but there are two, very individual issues you have to face: plugins and graphics. Switch didn’t support most of the Unity plugins we were using, so our programmers had to write them from scratch basically.
Also, Serial Cleaner is 100% hand-drawn, which means that visuals are really huge and that’s not good, when you’re porting to Switch. The best opportunity you have is to become a part of Nintendo family, learn something new, solve new problems, and boost your company’s experience, know-how and value. Also, to get through submission processes, very different QA, to meet people from Nintendo and talk to them, to gain new skills, contacts and qualities for your team. All of this is definitely worth fighting for your place among the sharks in the gaming industry ocean!
Can gamers expect to see other iFun4All games make their way to the Switch in the near future? Anything you can tease today?
Of course! We have already announced that all four of our games are coming to Switch by the end of this year. Green Game: Timeswapper was released on the 17th of November and is available on the Switch for $2.99 in Europe, South Africa and North America. Future titles are on their way!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you. I encourage all players to support (n)indies! Please, if you can, always provide us with feedback about our games. We’re not a corporation ready to spend millions of dollars on tests and analytics; hence we need the community support to be able to continue creating games for you. Thank you so much!
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
Make sure to download Green Game: Timeswapper and Serial Cleaner today on the eShop and be on the lookout for Red Game Without a Great Name when it debuts on the U.S. eShop on 12/07/2017!