Industry Retrospective: Firefly Studios

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posted 4/6/2012 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
Platforms: Multiple
A retrospective is an agile development term for a team meeting at the end of a development cycle where the team determines what things were done well, what things could have been better, and what things they were going to try to do better in the next cycle. It's a great way for teams to celebrate what they did correctly and identify the things that they need to improve on. 

Given the state of flux that the video game industry is in right now I thought it would be an interesting idea to do several small retrospective with folks from around the industry with the end goal is to develop a holistic view of the state of the video game.

We've got a nice variety of opinions ranging from game developers to publishers to hardware manufactures and everyone in between. This is one of the more ambitious projects we've ever done and we think you'll enjoy seeing the wide spectrum of opinions on the industry. You can see our previous retrospectives here.  

Today we wrap the series with newly independent developer Firefly Studios who had a fairly mixed 2011 as they'll detail below.

Looking back at the last year what were the things that Firefly did right? What things could you could have done better?
Well simply put, we got Kingdoms right but had the odd problem with Stronghold 3!

Stronghold 3 was a hard one for us - We had immense pressure to release it externally and internally and it came out too early. We have been patching it for the last 6 months and will continue to do so, but it’s only now that the game that’s been wanting to emerge is finally doing so.

Kingdoms on the other hand is going from strength to strength. Not just in terms of a fast growing army of loyal players but also as a game, we continue to refine and extend it month in month out. This is one of the great strengths of a free to play MMO – Unlike a retail release (such as Stronghold3) you can keep building on the game past the initial ‘release’.


What do you think went well for the game industry in 2011? What do you think the industry could have done better in 2011?
Proper medieval video games! It’s great to see titles like Stronghold, Total War and Crusader Kings in the charts. It goes to show that people still enjoy the medieval setting and don’t always need or want that fantasy element, the lack of which actually helps us stand out I think…

Of course the industry did a lot right in 2011, but I’m looking forward to seeing more games built from the ground up with free to play in mind. Making existing titles like Team Fortress free to play is a huge first step, but I’m hoping more devs will start to deliver bespoke F2P titles.

Looking ahead, what are you most excited about for in 2012? What’s the one thing you’re planning on doing now that you weren’t doing in 2011?
Finally bringing Stronghold Kingdoms out of beta. Making a self-funded free to play was an adventure and now that we have a bit more free time we’d like to bring the game to as many players and territories as humanly possible! In an ideal world everyone would be able to play Kingdoms :)

What are you looking forward to most in 2012 from an industry standpoint? What should the industry do better in 2012?
I’m looking forward to the continued growth of the indie scene in PC, web and mobile, which are great places for smaller devs – Who perhaps can’t afford to take that one shot at console success – To cut their teeth. With so many self-published, indie success stories emerging it’s a great time to be in the games industry, whether you’re Firefly, Mojang or Double Fine.
If there’s anything that could be done better I think it’s to do with embracing digital. In the light of the recent closure of the GAME chain here in the UK, there’s a lot of ‘opportunity’ there for developers, publishers and retailers to future-proof their businesses.


You’ve recently changed publishing models, could you talk about why you made the decision and how that’s worked out so far?
Well, not having to take outside money to develop titles is liberating in many ways. It gives us much more control over what features go in or are removed during development. It allows us to schedule development to suit us rather than to a set of ‘contractual milestones’ which imo only helps the product. It can also be financially helpful as well, as self publishing tends to give a more reliable cash flow than the ‘publisher advance’ model.

As an independent developer what’s your take on what Double Fine has done with their Kickstarter effort? Is that something you are considering and how do you think that kind of thing changes the developer/consumer relationship?
There are two sides to this, I think. On one hand the optimist would say that this will lead to publishers giving devs more autonomy and better terms – Which can only be for the good – But there are also issues with crowdfunding. Being funded that way means you have tens of thousands of people who have already paid for your product and legitimately feel they deserve input on the dev process. Unless your generous backers have a unified vision for the game it could turn out awful! I think Tim Schafer put it well when he said that the whole thing could be a spectacular failure. We’ll have to wait and see…




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