How did it all begin?

Hi everybody. How are you?

We create this blog to tell you about the origins of Saibot Studios and to keep you updated about the development of our projects. Because right now there’s only one project in developing (videgame Doorways), we’ll be talking more about it.

Before anything, let’s introduce myself: My name is Tobías Mateo Juárez Rusjan, I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’m the director and co-founder of Saibot Studios; I also work as programmer, designer, sounds effects composer and other stuff in developing.

We can say that today Doorways has a soeme kind of identity in the indie game industry, but the original idea of the game was way to far from what most people know.

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Origin

Everything started in 2011, for that time I was working as a programmer in the company NGD Studios, one of the most important places in the local industry. I met a lot of great people there, both professionally and personally talking, and who always give me all the support in this journey.

After a couple of years working at NGD, the authorities allowed me to make a prototype of an idea proposed by myself; this happened just after I send them a high-concept and some illustrations.

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The pictures were made by myself (as you can see, that’s not my working area :P) but they were showing the intentions I had in that moment. It was about an adventure with elements of actions, where the player must travel across twisted worlds, jumping, confronting obstacles, avoiding fell to dead and other challenges.

For the making of the document a big friend of mine called Shady Akil helped me, and the name of the high-concept was “The Path”; we changed that to “Twisted” after we got notified about another game using the same name.

After all the material was evaluated, the authorities at NGD allowed us to make a prototype. Even though we only had two weeks to make it, the results were pretty liked.

Unfortunately (at that moment) and because of some troubles about decisions and credits in the project, we couldn’t continue the project inside NGD (for that moment the game was using the name “Atonement”). But after some talking and discussions they allowed me to take the prototype we created to continue it by myself; in exchange of that, I had to quit the job.

Even though I didn’t have any doubt in making that move, it was hard at that time, because I was working for more than four years at those offices and I had some important friendships right there.

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Independence

Once outside the company (ends of 2011), I continued working at home in the prototype. I worked hard in all the areas I was able to: design, programming, sounds and more; but I needed to get cover the rest of the areas to allow the game to grow in something better.

I was able to make a complete new map from my own; this time it had enemies on it which you had to avoid using stealth. This last thing was inspired after playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which is a game I love and which one was recommended to me by my ex-partners.

I knew I was needing a team to get the game to the next level.

So I started to serach about the stores, the competition, the people and resources the game needed to be created. With everything defined and with the prototype on my hands I decided to contact Iván Rusjan, my uncle and best friend.

Iván worked part of life as team leader, as project manager and even as programmer; but this time I was looking for him for an investment, and of course also for any advice in leading projects. I told him about the idea, I showed him all the material I had and I ask him if he would be interested in make an investment on it; finally and without any doubt he answered: “Yes”.

I knew I could count with him (he was always there when I needed him) and, even when this time it was about something serious and where both of us could get something good in exchange (only if things went well), he was doing this for helping me, so I can make my dreams come true. This is why I will always be grateful to have the kind of uncle I have: “unique”.

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Saibot Studios

After doing some research with Iván about all the number in the future project (with the name changed to “Harto” at that time), we decided to officially start with the team on March of 2012.

For that moment the team was formed by three people: Martín Voychisko in everything related to graphics, Nicolás “Niclam” Lamanna in the story and me in direction, programming, design and sounds.

Martín and I worked full time in my mother’s house, in my bedroom (alongside my bed); and Nicolás worked at distance just ot help us in the moments he was able to.

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We started well, or at least that was what we thought…

The thing was that all the goals we plan were far away to our reach. In was in the middle of the second month of developing when I needed to change my routine: full-time wasn’t enough, we worked trying to find more hours a single day has to offer. Even though, the deadlines continue failing: I planned to have a total of 8 chapters done in 8 months; but when we were at the eighth months we didn’t even have the first single chapter finished (!). In fact, we needed to change the total quantity of chapters to 4.

But we also must say that the ideas in the game got more ambitious than the original idea. The elements of action decreased, but we added more elements from the Survival Horror genre, like the inventory, the importance In the texts and the story, the items and relics, and more.

In the middle of 2012 the game changed it’s name one more (and last) time to “Doorways”. It was proposed by Nicolás, based on the story and from the elements in common inside all the worlds.

Gustavo Federico was also incorporated to the team in the graphic area, and also Leandro Rolando to the story (Nicolás helped us a lot all he could, but he was unable to continue due to his other jobs). And we also received a lot of help from our colleagues in the graphic area, without that help we could never finished the first two chapters.

The beginning of the project had nice moments, but it also had some downs. It wasn’t an easy task to get something done from zero, more from a game which belongs to the PC platforms and focused in a specific and very critic audience. There were some moments where things looked like there was no way to move forward in the project. Personally, I got some anemic declines and I though the game was never going to see the light at any point; and this was bad because I had a huge compromise with my Uncle and I could not let the project to be a fail.

But if there’s something that was always present in the project, it was the unconditional support of the family and friends. This kind of thing pushed us forward, even in the darkest moments.

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Presentations

On Nombember of 2012 we finally got had the first playable version of chapter 1 of Doorways. We decided to make a presentation in the annual event EVA 2012, in which was going to be a special room dedicated to the indies to show their works.

We did some stuff for that event: we make flyers, we take one of our PC and also some dark curtains to make a more immersive presentation. It worked better than we though, people really liked what we were working on and we made some pretty cool contacts in developing and press.

With that presentation, we got in contact with Daniel Benmergui (one of the most respected indie developers in our country), who I already knew from EVA 2006, but who I never saw again since then. Daniel, Andrés Chilkowski (co-founder at NGD Studios and my former boss) and also Agustín Cordes (an icon in the Adventure Games local industry) helped us a lot in everything related to marketing and business: giving advices, passing me contacts, doing press and more.

Steam Greenlight was very recent at that moment. It was the new system at Steam incorporated to select the next indie games to be published at the store, based on the votes from their users.

We created the official website, the social media sites, a basic video trailer and screenshots using what we got at that moment, and much more; and we finally added Doorways at Greenlight on November 20, 2012.

In the first weeks at Greenlight we move forward very well in the ranking, because we were in the front page due to our recently appearance in the system; also, they were not too many games competing at that time.

But at mid-December we got stuck. Even after receiving a lot of support from the local press, friends and other contacts from the industry, we couldn’t enter the Top 100; and this time we slowly started to move backwards in the ranking.

It was there when I entered in contact with Thaiel Calzada Guirao, better known as Alfredito. He was a local “youtuber” (people who works making videos at You Tube), who I was following for a while. I wrote him proposing to play the game on his channel (very popular in our country), we offer him an unpublished version of Doorways (there wasn’t any public build available yet).

He really liked our offer and played and uploaded the videos at his channel on You Tube. He did huge emphasis to his followers in voting us at our Greenlight page. This made us to enter in the Top 100 of more voted games in Greenlight.

Alfredito was the first one, but then more youtubers from all around the world helped us a lot in our campaign. And after 9 months of effort we finally got approved in the big store. And that’s why we’ll be always grateful with all the youtubers and all the people who supported us to get approved. Actually, we did a special thanks video dedicated to all that people:

As we mentioned in the video, we kept in touch with Alfredito and we made together a campaign in a contest to travel to the E3 2013 in Los Angeles (U. S. A.). That was an amazing experience for us and it was not in the plans but, without a doubt, it was great and it was also very productive for Doorways.

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Last details

When we were at Greenlight fighting to enter at all cost in Steam, we used that time to get Doorways better in all possible aspects. We incorporated voices in the letters and other texts in the game; for that, we contacted professional actors for both the English version (Sam A. Mowry) and the Spanish version (Javier Gomez).

Also, we decided to get the music and ambient sounds to a higher level. When we started to show the game in the social sites, we received a lot of offers from musicians, but there was one of them who also specially created a demo for us. It was a simple song proposed for making another trailer. We really liked that consideration and that work was also pretty impressive for being making In just a couple of days:

It was David Levill who did that scary work and who we contacted again a couple of months later to making the music of the first two chapters official trailer; then all the ambient music inside the worlds of the game; and finally the music at the intro which was based on the old demo he sent us at the beginning :)

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Publishing at the Stores

With the new upgrades and after making a lot of tests with friends and colleagues. We were in confitions to publish the first two chapters. When we were close to get approved at Greenlight, we decided to publish a Beta of the first chapter at Desura and also at our official site (using the Humble Widget system). This allowed us to make some last tests to have a better version for Steam, which was finally released on September 20, 2013.

The first days after the release were very noisy. Even after testing everything a thousand of times, some bugs appear because now lot of people around the world were finally playing our game.

We had a bad timing when we released Doorways, because a couple of weeks before was released the amazing Outlast and the most anticipated horror game of 2013: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. This was not good for us because lot of critics compared us to those gigants. Even though, lot of people liked what we created and they continue following us today.

During the next months after the release at Steam we were working on some improvements, we added things like the controller support and an Oculus Rift native implementation.

Personally, I can say that today I’m totally satisfied of what we’ve done, because we made a game developed entirely by us, we published it at the big store and thousands of people around the world has played it so far, and right now we’re being able to work on the next parts based on the first chapters succeed.

I will be always grateful with everyone who supported us on this crazy journey: the family, friends, colleagues and all the fans of Doorways. Thank you! :)

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Tobías ”Toba” Rusjan and the team at Saibot Studios

Tags: Doorways