Student studio The Butterflyers entered and won last year’s Dare to be Digital competition, and were crowned the ‘Ones to Watch’ at the 2010 BAFTA Video Game Awards for their title SHRuNK.
Butterflyers Team Leader Vykintas Kazdailis spoke to Develop about awards, developing and what the games industry looks like to a newcomer:
How did it feel to be recognised by BAFTA, and so early in your career?
We were just so happy, it was really fantastic. Afterwards we realised that maybe this would also help us turn the game into something bigger in the future. It was just a little slice of it that won. Maybe we can get someone else interested in it now.
So would you like to try and get the full game published at some point?
Well it’s maybe a bit early to think about publishers, but we are certainly meeting with people, and we have some plans. I would say that initially we thought of the game as a Nintendo-like title, but during development we realised that the integration of that, along with how well it would actually work, would be questionable. We simply didn’t have the time. At the moment, as it is, we think that it would be ready for something like Xbox Live Arcade. It is currently working on an Xbox controller, anyway.
In terms of the development of SHRuNK, what gave you the initial motivation to enter Dare to be Digital, and what inspired the idea for the game itself?
Well I wanted to get into the previous Dare to be Digital, and finally found wonderful students to work with this year. The team I worked with were just the best. I knew they were the best, they knew I was the best, and we got together and made the game.
Were there any major issues along the development process?
Of course! To start with there were a lot of features that didn’t make it into the end game. We were forced to think realistically about what we could actually put together many times. We all lived together as well, so it could get very intense if there was a difference of opinion! It could be challenging to pull together as a team even in the really tricky moments, but we did it, and we survived.
We were sometimes working all hours of the day – from nine in the morning to eight at night and beyond every day of the week.
What are the team all doing now?
A few of us are doing Master’s degrees in Game Development. Some have graduated. Nothing specific yet.
What was your favorite part of making SHRuNK?
My favourite part was seeing children playing our game. We had them round during development and to see them playing the game and laughing was great. It was hugely helpful to the process as well. So much of the game was changed or taken out or added in based on their reactions. We realised how important it is to take reactions and children’s coordination skills into account. They struggled with a keyboard and mouse, for example. It was clear that using a controller was very important for them.
Of course winning the Dare to be Digital competition was huge as well. That felt excellent after so much hard work and frustration. That was very rewarding. I want to say thank you to everyone who helped with that. It was a huge team-effort.
Why were you personally attracted to working in the video games industry?
As a child I was always interested in animation, and I always loved games. I was born in Lithuania, and there is, or rather was, no video games industry in the country at that time. So I looked at where I go to develop my skills and learn about making video games, but I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into games development or animation, and I would say that this continued right up to the point when we won this BAFTA. But games will certainly be what I am involved with from here, starting with SHRuNK. I am really happy with that.
What would you say to anyone thinking of getting into games development?
Do it. You have to work hard, but if you do, you can win a BAFTA! Don’t ever get put off by failing, you will learn new things that way and get stronger as a developer.