Developer interviews, Game Design

Fabio Cujino: Free games remove the ‘wall of fear’

Paparazzi-RunThis might be the first time you hear of the game Paparazzi Run, but something tells me it won’t be the last. It’s an upcoming endless runner game created by the Level Rewind development team, built for mobile platforms.

In the game, the player takes control of a movie superstar that has to run across the red carpet, surrounded by (obviously) the paparazzi. As you run along the three-way path, you’ll encounter various obstacles like movie tapes, equipment boxes and microphone holders, as well as coins for in-game purchases, large coins for in-game mini-games and puzzle pieces for extra content.

What makes this game really stand out is the graphics. Paparazzi Run features stunning hand-drawn visuals which would put even the best Cartoon Network animators to shame. SOOMLA got the chance to interview the CEO of Level Rewind, Fabio Cujino, and talk a bit about the game, the creation process, as well as monetization methods implemented.

What inspired you to create these characters? Are they someone you know in real life or are they simply a figment of your imagination?

The game is about coming to Hollywood to make it big. So we thought about people in general, since there is no specific look if you want to make it there (and if you don’t have it, surgeons are ready to make you match it 🙂 ).

comparison

To those who can’t spot the difference: The real Danny Trejo is on the right

We wanted a couple of badasses in the game. So if you check out The Cuban (they guy with the pony tail), we decided to find the meanest Latino we know. Who could be better than Machete himself, so we went for Danny Trejo as inspiration, but with additional pounds in different parts of the body (specially the arms), to make the character bouncy and heavy during runs. We did more or less the same with Tuff (the female brunette character). We made a mix of K-pop and Lara Croft, to create an evil good girl.

Then we needed their opposites, so we went for a regular blondie and a James Dean kind of guy. For the big guy character (Blond muscular guy), we took Mr. Incredible and Johnny Bravo as inspiration and enhanced his non proportional body parts to make him heavy.

The game was made by a team of people from more than 10 different nationalities. What can you tell us about your experience working with such a diverse team?

I came from Israel after living in Colombia and now I am a Danish citizen. So I see a lot of potential in bringing different people together to create something unique. In the environment where we placed our studio, people from big companies like Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks drop by here and there to teach at the school beside our offices. It’s also where the game’s animator studied. The school’s amazing reputation attracts people from everywhere, so the mix of people for game or movie productions just happens automatically.

We did not plan to be from 10 different places, but I think a group this diverse will result in more culturally rich games. Everyone has a saying, an asset, piece of code or comment to make the game experience their own.

Do you think endless runner games are the perfect mobile genre?

paparazzi run screenshotEndless runners can be a lot of different things in my opinion. The short game loop, the mission structure and the jump and run mechanics appeal to a lot of players. We added the swipe up and down in a new perspective, shooting and destroying to add action to it. People know runners and what to expect, so that might make them good matches for mobile. But today mobile is about so many things, and the games being published are so diverse and cool, that endless runners are just part of the bigger picture.

How long did it take you to finish the game? What were your biggest challenges?

We work for a big publisher in Scandinavia too, so that takes up most of our time (and makes most of our money). So we always struggle to find time for our own productions. That made the production of this game longer than expected, but we don’t really have an exact timeline of how long, since we worked on so many other things at the same time. With a team of three to five people, I think a game of this kind can be produced in three months though.

Will you bring the game to Windows Phone? Why did you decide to make it free?

As all mobile game developers know and feel in their pockets, one way or another, monetizing a mobile game is complicated. We wanted to make a good game, cool artwork and gameplay, and at the same time make it possible for us to earn some money. So we decided to go free to remove the wall of fear people have created when deciding to spend a dollar or two on a game. Free makes it easy for people to decide to download. The Windows phone is on our list of potential platforms, we are just not big enough to focus on too many platforms at this point.

With video ads, pop-up and in-game purchases, you have three types of monetization. Which one works best for your game and do you know why?

We released our game and had it out there for almost a week. We were then contacted by a publisher we had talked to before, so we removed it from the store. Now it is waiting for a relaunch on their side (the publishers side). Because of that we did not manage to collect a lot of data, but so far the video seems to be a good way to make money (Unity Ads) and the Interstitials look fine (Chartboost). In regards to IAP, the game needs to be in the market longer for us to know if people will buy extra.

You created a store for coins, however you said you don’t expect people to use it that much. Then why bother?

There are two currencies in the game, coins and mojo. The coins are the soft currency and we hope people will play enough to collect a lot of it. Our hope is that people will notice that coins come from playing more, and thereby stay in the game longer. The Mojo is the hard currency and it can be purchased at the store. Our main goal is not to make a lot of coin sales, but to let people know that there are quite a few items that might be nice to have to improve their game experience.

Paparazzi Run is expected to return to the digital stores soon. In the meantime, make sure to follow the game on Facebook and check out the trailer below. As Fabio Cujino said himself, he’s always willing to answer more questions to any curious individuals on Twitter, as well.

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