Hi there, booklover! Are you curious about what it takes to turn your books into games? This post aims to give an introductory lesson on the world of games to see if games are a right fit for your stories.
We are Komikasi. We make games. Have been since 2007. But when we started, we made card games. If you’re a writer, you’d probably enjoy Talecraft. That’s the first card game we published. After that, we went on to making Facebook games and mobile games for brands. We made games and apps for Nescafe, Coca-Cola, Jollibee, Rexona, Merial, and Oreo.
Our CEO is Ria Lu. She likes games, but she also likes reading fantasy and romance novels. And she laments the fact that there seems to be a divide between romance novels and games, when games for women in their 30s is one of the largest gaming demographics these days. So, we decided to visit your realm and see if we can introduce the literary sphere to the wonderful world of gaming.
You can find out more about us in our About Page.
Games is a US$109B global industry. According to the 2017 Global Games Market by Newzoo, in North America alone, it is a US$27B industry with a 4% year-on-year growth. It’s even bigger in Asia with US$51.2B and a 9.7% year-on-year growth. With the global box office revenue at US$40.6B and the global music revenue at US$17.3B in 2017, the global game industry is larger than both the movie and music industries combined.
People play games. And nowadays, people we don’t consider “gamers” play games. Given that, shouldn’t we start seriously considering games as one of the media for our stories?
- 2017 Newzoo Global Games Market
- 2017 Statista Global Box Office Revenue
- 2018 IFPI Global Music Report
Women are a growing demographic of games, and comprise 41% of the playing population. The average female gamer is 37 years old. Interestingly, women 18 and older represent a significantly larger game-playing population than boys below 18. So if the question is market, there is a market for games for older women.
What do these women play then? Studies have shown that they’re mostly puzzles. But interestingly, one of the fastest growing type of games women play is the Hidden Object Game. These games are often mysteries and sometimes have romantic elements to them. They’re not time-based. They’re visually appealing. And they have a story.
Also, have you heard of Japanese Otome Games? These are games that are targeted towards women and always have romantic themes. And they are huge. One Otome game company alone, Voltage, made US$210M in 2017. And their 80+ titles cover genres that span from fantasy to contemporary romances.
- 2017 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, ESA
- Voltage website
Making a game is closer to making a movie than anything. It has a pre-production phase, where we make the script and the game design document; then we have production, where we do the artworks, music and programming; then a testing and quality assurance phase where we check for bugs and errors before it is deployed. But deployment isn’t the end of it. Once it’s up on the app stores, we go into the maintenance and update phase.
Let’s go through each phase one by one.
Phase 1: Pre-Production / Game Planning and Design
In the pre-production phase, the story is adapted for games and the game is designed. Here are the things we need to define about the game we’re making before anything else:
- Who are our target players? Women in 20s and 30s? Boys below 18?
- What type of players are they? Are they casual players or hard-core players? We can also define the kind of players we are targeting here, for example, are they the social types, or are they the competitive types?
- Where will the game be deployed? On mobile? Both iOS and Android? Or are we going for console like Playstation or X-box? Or maybe even PC via Steam?
- How will it be monetized? Is it going to be a straight paid download game? Or will it be free-to-play and just charge for premium? Or will it be ad-supported?
- How long will it run? Will we maintain the game for a year? Two years?
After we’ve defined that, we go into game design. When we talk of game design here, we are not talking about art. Game design is about figuring out the rules of the game. In this step, we determine the puzzles, the pacing, the amount of assets we can make based on the budget, and how levels flow throughout the game. In short, this phase is all about designing the experience the player will have.
- Game Design Document
- Game Script
- Asset List
Phase 2: Production / Development
Once the documents have been created, we go into production. Now, in games, we’ll need art, programming, and sounds. And to save time, we need to go into all three types of development simultaneously. Art is further divided into character art, background art, and user interface. Most romance games are more art-heavy than programming-heavy. And depending on the size of the game, there’s usually a different person doing character art from the person doing background art.
For sounds, we have music, voice overs, and sound effects.
In programming, we also have front-end programming and back-end programming. The front-end one is the programming that we see. This involves putting together the scene on-screen, loading effects, computing the scoring, and other more visible programming functions. The back-end one deals with things we normally don’t see like the database, analytics, in-app payments, and security. So as not to have to wait for art and music, programmers already start programming at the start of the phase. Thanks to the asset list, the sound engineer and artists would already know the exact size, file type, and other limitation that the game designer, with the help of the programmer, has defined to be able to integrate the assets properly.
Once all the assets have been made, the programmer takes them and integrates them in the program he has made.
- The finished game
Phase 3: Testing and QA
After the game has been put together, it goes through testing and quality assurance.
- First is an internal testing where we test it for balance. Is the game too hard? Too easy? Are the characters balanced? Are the enemies challenging enough? And most importantly, is it fun?
- Then we test for correctness. Are the spellings all correct? Are the images of good resolution? Do all the login options work? Do they work on all the iOS device types? How about Android?
- After that, we go into stress testing. What are the minimum specs this game works on? If we have this many people playing at one time, will it still work?
After these internal testing, we go into Alpha Testing. In this phase, we have people we know play test the game and be on the lookout for bugs and balancing issues. When the game passes Alpha Testing, we go into Beta Testing. You’ve probably heard of this phase before. This time, we open the game to the public (or sometimes, a subset of the public). You can think of it like a dry run. It’s like the game is live, but programmers are on standby for any bugs or problems.
- The tested game
Phase 4: Deployment
Once all is well in terms of testing, we deploy the game. This simply means we put the games up for download in the different app stores. At this time, we also push marketing so people will download the game.
Phase 5: Maintenance and Updates
Unlike movies or books, we don’t let go of games once they’re released. Instead, we go into a maintenance phase. In this phase, a programmer would regularly check the status of a deployed game. What he checks often include the following:
- Updates from Facebook, Apple or Google. These services update often, and if we don’t modify the game based on any updates that happen, the game will either not work anymore, or will be removed from the app store.
- Status of the database and hosting. The game gathers data from its users. This includes sign-up information, scoring and inventory, and analytics. We need to frequently check if we’ve reached the size limit and need to upgrade already. Nowadays, services like Amazon Web Services allows for dynamic scaling of hosting. But as this service costs more, some clients still opt for the older type with the set size limit.
- Security checks. Trust us, even if it’s just a free mug that you’re giving away, there will be people who will try to hack the game. So, we need to check constantly for any attempt, and fortify security accordingly.
Aside from the above maintenance, we also check the analytic data we get from the game. This helps us determine the demographic and playing behavior of our players. Knowing this will help us be able to update the game so it’s more targeted, more relevant, and more fun for our players.
And there’s also updates. Players like to feel that their games are “alive,” meaning there are frequent updates to the game. These updates usually take the form of seasonal reskins (like it’s snowing in the background during Christmas, and you see pumpkins in the icons during Halloween), new levels or story chapters, or in-game events. This helps keep our players engaged and playing throughout the years the game is running.
Phase 6: Retiring a Game
Once interest in the game has dwindled, or the story of the game is really finished, we retire the game. This is the time we take it off the app stores and stop maintaining it. There are games that are so successful they still haven’t retired yet. World of Warcraft, for instance, has been running since 2004. But we recommend giving the game at least three years before retiring it.
How long and how many people are needed is determined by how long and complex the game we intend to make is. If you’re familiar with Flappy Birds, that’s a pretty simple game that will take two people just a few days to make. But the reason it’s simple is because it doesn’t have levels, there is only one character with very little animation, there is no story, and we don’t save any information. Games like Final Fantasy take hundreds of people about two years to make. So, it is really very varied.
But a normal otome or visual novel game, let’s say, would probably take around 4-6 months to develop with around 7-10 people. The people involved in a game like that would be as follows:
- Producer – The producer is in charge of the overall project. His/her responsibilities include time-keeping, budgeting, and making sure of the harmony of the game as well as the people involved in the game.
- Game Designer – The game designer’s job is to design the experience of the game. He/she designs the levels, puzzles, and rules of the game.
- Game Writer – As this is a visual novel, the script plays a very big role in the game. The game writer’s job is to write the script with the parameters (total word count, word count per chapter, character count per screen, etc) given by the game designer.
- Character Artist – The character artist’s job is to illustrate characters with the expressions and clothing changes set by the game designer in the asset list. In this case, the character artist will also be in charge of doing the art for the user interface and also the scene illustrations (like if 2 characters are interacting) needed for the game. In bigger games, the scene illustrations are done by a different person.
- Background Artist – The background artist’s job is to illustrate all the backgrounds that will be used in the game, based on the asset list provided by the game designer.
- Programmer – The programmer’s job is to program and put together all the assets to make them into a game. Assuming the game would be monetized via straight payment in the app stores and would not keep extensive user data, one programmer would be enough. But in case analytics and in-app purchases are to be included, then two programmers would be needed: the front-end programmer, and the back-end programmer. The front end programmer will be in charge of things that players see like the levels and the putting together of the actual game, while the back-end programmer will be in charge of databases, analytics, security, and payments.
- Sound Engineer – The sound engineer’s job is to create the background music and sound effects of the game. For games with voice overs or songs with vocals, additional artists will be required.
The price of games really vary from $5,000 up. The cost will depend on how much work is needed to make it. On average, a game developer would cost around $15-20/hour (in the Philippines), and a producer, a bit higher than that. And as explained above, we’ll need around seven roles in a game project. Assuming you’d like a game with these specs:
- Visual novel/otome type of game. Similar to this.
- 3 hours playing time per playthrough
- 3 endings, 2 bonus stories
- 10 characters, 8 backgrounds, 12 illustrations
- 6 original background music, 8 special effects
- Straight payment via app store
A sample computation for something like that would be as follows:
Development (one-time fee)
|Role||Unit Price||Duration||Total Cost|
Maintenance (Corrective maintenance only. No new chapters etc)
|Role||Unit Price||Duration||Total Cost|
|Server Hosting||$300||1 year||$300|
The above is an estimate and would still really depend on the story we’re adapting for games. But assuming the above is our cost. A straight paid game would cost $4-7 per download. We’ll need about 5,000 downloads to break even. Assuming only a tenth of your fans would download the game, your story/book needs to have at least 50,000 fans for this to make sense. It would be best to involve your publisher as well since, like a book, the game still needs to be marketed after it is deployed. And the more downloads the better. 🙂
So, are you ready to make a game with us? If you have any more questions, or if you’re a publisher and would like to discuss book-to-game adaptation for your titles, please send us an email. We are actively looking for partners and we would love to hear from you.