3. Finding the Right Music Partner
Music was a big part of the Rolando games. After much amazement at how complicated music licensing can be (and hitting a ridiculous number of dead ends while trying to license tracks we wanted), we ended up going direct to label Ninja Tune and licensing tracks by the UK breakbeat artist Mr Scruff. Mr Scruff's music helped create a really distinctive feel for the game, complimenting Mikko's art wonderfully and greatly contributing it its success. This was something we really wanted to do again for Okabu, and from the early days of development we made music a core consideration.
The nature theme of the game drew us towards an acoustic flavor. We were keen to have something that sounded very authentic and natural. This drew us down the world music route, with a particular focus on Africa, given the direction we were headed with the art style.
We began piecing together a few tracks that we felt represented the desired feel of the game and built up a Frankenstein playlist, featuring everything from Bollywood anthems and Malcolm McLaren to Paul Simon and MIA.
We began looking for potential partners to either curate a soundtrack or create something entirely from scratch. It was our first time meeting game audio folks and it was a real pleasure to meet such passionate, talented people. We met people from various parts of the globe, but in the end we settled on a studio based almost in our backyard here in East London: Resonate Music.
I was introduced to Liam Paton from Resonate through a mutual friend, and popped round there one afternoon to give them a demo of the WIP game and to talk through our goals for the project. They really got what we were going for -- it felt like there was a great chemistry there, and we began working together in the Autumn of 2010. I'll let Liam go into a little more detail in his own words:
"With the Okabu soundtrack, we have really tried to capture the social aspect of African music, recording all the music live and recording as many of the musicians together in the same room as was possible. All the music and recordings are completely original. We didn't want to rely on any sample libraries for this project, and have tried to retain a real human feel to all elements of the tracks.
"We have worked with a number of very talented musicians and performers over the past six months who have not only brought great playing skills to the project but who also consulted for us, making sure we were creating something with real credibility. With such an original idea and concept for the Okabu game, we wanted to create something that was unique and that helps bring this vivid world to life."
Andy, Liam, and the team at Resonate completely blew us away with the Okabu soundtrack. It brings so much to the experience and sounds totally unlike any other game out there. From the moment I first heard the Okabu theme that they created for our launch trailer, it brought an enormous smile to my face, and the trailer comments mirrored this, with so many people saying how much they loved the music.
They've created a sound for the world of Okabu that will be an amazing foundation going forward, and their great work was recognized with a nomination for Best Original Composition in the Music+Sound awards, going up against the King's Speech, Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, Frozen Planet, and My Week with Marilyn!
4. Building an IP
One of the core objectives with Okabu was to create a long-lasting, comprehensive IP -- a building block for future games, future platforms, and future endeavors, and this is definitely something that we've succeeded at.
We've a developed a huge Okabu canon, with backstories, characters, continents, fauna, and flora. We have an enormous war chest of assets from each of the game's four worlds -- all manner of buildings, creatures, vegetation and animated avatars, not to mention the outstanding soundtrack that Resonate Music created for the game.
From the beginning of the project, we wanted Okabu to be a multi-platform IP, and so the assets have been created efficiently and are highly suitable for lower power platforms, such as mobile and tablet.
This huge collection of assets essentially represents a very flexible toolkit that will allow us to make the transition to our next Okabu project smoothly and swiftly. After wrapping up the initial PS3 game, we spent several weeks brainstorming ideas for subsequent games for the Okabu IP. With our roots in iOS, we're particularly excited about what we'll be able to bring to the iOS and Android space. We've already been hard at work building prototypes for mobile, and the Okabu IP feels like such a good fit.
In addition, the fact that we've retained full ownership of the IP gives us free rein to explore any and all opportunities, no matter how peculiar a tangent they might take and offers us considerable security for the future.
5. Partnering with Sony
Since our very first conversations, Sony has been a pillar of support for Okabu and HandCircus as a studio. It's been such a positive experience having them on the project -- the Pub Fund program is a great fit for us, supporting developers looking to self-publish while also allowing retention of IP.
I really admire the objectives that Sony have set out with the Pub Fund program, to build a distinctive and diverse portfolio of games for PSN -- it allows developers like us to spread our wings and set our sights a little higher on more ambitious projects.
The marketing support from Sony was also a huge benefit -- our own marketing budget was relatively modest, but Sony's channels are obviously substantial, with enormous reach. In addition to some great support online, we were given the opportunity to demonstrate Okabu at GDC and E3 as part of Sony's program -- something that we would never have been able to do ourselves.