Interview with Simon Davis Mighty Bear Games
16 Mar, 2020
Our friends over at Analog fanzine recently completed an interview with Simon Davis Mighty Bear Games. They were kind enough to lend us the interview to share with the Into Indie Games readers, you can take it all in, below.
Tell us a bit about Mighty Bear and how you got started
Mighty Bear started in January 2017, by myself and my co-founders Ben and Fadzuli. We had all been working together at King, and really loved working together and the awesome people we worked with. We found that we had the same values and principles when it came to making games and building teams, so when King closed their Asian studios and Nonstop, well… “stopped”, we turned down the chance to relocate to Europe and decided to take the plunge into running our own studio together. It was the perfect opportunity to form the studio because everyone was looking for a job at the same time!
We had all been in Singapore for some time (I’d worked for King and Ubisoft here), and really love being here. Singapore also provides us great access to engineering talent, and players here are at the apex of East and Western influences — on the train to work, I’ll see someone playing Brawl Stars on their phone, another watching the latest Korean drama, someone else watching Netflix, and someone else playing a Chinese MMO. That makes it easy for us to build and test games that could have global appeal.
Not to mention, it has great food! This was definitely a big influence on ‘Butter Royale’!
What methodologies did you adopt in order to develop the games in 6 months?
A lot of the work starts before we even build the game. For Butter Royale, we designed a ‘Minimum Awesome Product’ by stripping the whole battle royale genre to its absolute essentials (so we did away with the plane dropping you in, carrying multiple weapons, etc.) so that we could execute on something that still felt awesome but was achievable within 6 months without killing the team. In the end we managed to deliver a battle royale experience that works within 5 minute sessions.
Many of our team come from a AAA background so we know first-hand what happens scoping goes wrong, so we’re pretty ruthless with scoping and prioritisation. We want to push ourselves, but not kill the team trying to do the impossible by crunching. It’s our company principle that we don’t do brutal crunch. If we do overtime, there’s strict guidelines to protect our team — we don’t do more than 11 hours of work in a day, and it’s never for more than a couple of weeks at a time.
Was this quick turnaround always part of the plan?
Yes, it was. We had a clear goal to build the game in six months and designed accordingly. It’s actually one of our principles – we aim to develop all our games in six months or less. We’re glad that the players and community have enjoyed the game so much, cause we have a huge backlog of features that we wanted Butter Royale to have, and now we’re really energised to ship them!
On reflection, is there anything you would have done differently?
Yes, definitely. One of the things our players were quite vocal about were the XP and currency limits that we had with the first version of Butter Royale. We introduced the daily limits because we didn’t want to create this undue pressure of players playing game after game to gain as much XP as possible. We were wrong and our players let us know that. We removed the daily limits with our first update a few weeks ago and overall players are much happier and playing more.
Is it something you will repeat for future projects?
We’re considering a larger project right now (up to 12 months dev time), but we only take on larger projects under exceptional circumstances. You should expect that most of our next slate of games will land around the 6 month mark.
Can you tell us anything about your future projects?
Right now, we’re focused on delivering updates for Butter Royale, so players should look out for that. We’re also working out new game concepts, some that live in the Butter universe, and some that don’t, but I can’t share much more about it at this early stage.
What’s the biggest challenge facing a studio of your size in the sector that you’re in?
I always tell my team that we’re a 20-person game studio in Singapore that has no business surviving and succeeding! That sounds harsh but it’s a very Darwinian environment here: the games industry here is relatively younger so there isn’t as mature of a network of investors and publishers in Southeast Asia like those that US and European studios can rely on. To have a shot at success we need to outperform everyone and get noticed by partners all over the world.
That’s no mean feat, when it’s much easier to work with a studio that’s down the road vs. one that’s a 17-hour flight away. That also means we’re always trying to hire and fill skill gaps. For example, we’re looking for top-class UA people right now, and great Product Leads are always on our mind.
- You can find out more about Mighty Bear Games and its titles by clicking here.
- This interview with Simon Davis, Mighty Bear Games first appeared in Analog fanzine, you can find it and a whole lot more by following this link.
- Find more features on indie games and the indie games industry on the Into Indie Games Features pages.