Creating games has never been more accessible for developers, but that also means it’s never been more difficult to stand out from the crowd. For Homo Ludens and CEO David Rabineau, it was a major aspect of the design process for the studio’s first game Blooming Business: Casino.
With any smaller game, however, there needs to be something that gets potential players to take that second look and ultimately give the game a shot. For Rabineau, going with animals – actual animals rather than humans with animal heads – as the characters was a big way to do that.
“We needed to find some solutions to kind of stand out in all the games that are out there,” he said. “And I think that’s one of the reasons we looked at using that type of characters was that we’re talking about some stuff that can be a bit dark at times and throughout history, using animals to kind of diffuse a problematic topic was kind of used.
“If we look at casinos, for instance, if you put out slot machines and have grandmas that come in lose their savings, you may feel a bit bad as the casino owner. When it’s a koala, it’s surprisingly less sad.”
In addition to the design being used to help handle what could be a sensitive topic, Rabineau says that his team didn’t want the game to look like other tycoon games out there. Many games have similar art directions, he said. Because of that, Homo Ludens took a softer approach to colors and general design. In a word, the game can be seen as a “muted” style.
“Muted is a good word,” Rabineau said. “It’s quite an appropriate word. Yes, that is absolutely by design because it’s kind of similar to the rest of the reasons why we have that all direction. We want to have a game that’s quite welcoming. We don’t want you to come into the game and be kind of triggered by anything.”
The goal of not triggering any players also went into the gameplay of Blooming Business: Casino. The game wants players to feel welcome no matter the experience level in tycoon-type games. It’s why the game recommends the tutorial to get a handle on things before diving into the full game. But even if a player doesn’t want to do them, it’s not going to be a game that’s unpleasant or unplayable.
“The pace is quite slow; the objectives are fairly easy to reach,” Rabineau said. “If you want to go into like heavy optimization as a hardcore, technically you can, but if you don’t, that’s perfectly fine. We even have a creative sandbox mode where you have unlimited money, all the items, and go from the get-go and you can just decorate as you like.
“It’s almost like playing a weird version of The Sims and that thing about the colors and having something very soft and welcoming that plays into it, we think because people want a smooth, relaxing experience, kind of find that in all aspects of the game and that’s a big one.”
It’s also why the game had a number of different versions of its user interface and user experience during the course of its development. It was all about finding a happy medium that gave enough information without being too overwhelming. It was just one area of the game that was helped by feedback from playtesters during development and other aspects.
Through it all, Rabineau is proud of where the game started and what it became by the time it was ready for launch despite some second guesses. And he admitted his plan to celebrate the launch was going to include a bottle of champagne.
“It’s years of work for dozens of people,” he said. “Personally, I’m always feeling kind of weird in release times because you think of all the stuff that you would have never rather done differently with the game. But yeah, I don’t know what’s going to go through my head at that moment [of launch], but I can tell you that I’ll have a champagne bottle in my hand, and hopefully, that will help out with whatever is going through my head at the time.”
For more on Blooming Business: Casino, watch or listen to the entire interview with Rabineau in the latest episode of The Indie Initiative above. The game is available now on Steam.
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