Fika Productions: step out of the shadows to create games in a different way

For a young and new studio, presenting a first game to the public is a pride, but reaching this stage without retreating under the pitfalls is a completely different result.

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The Fika Productions team, who unveiled theirs roguelite Ship of fools last March, he knows something about it. The Quebec-based company has worked hard since its founding in 2018 to find its place in the sun and have the chance to bring its first project to life.

Image courtesy of Fika Productions

“At one point, the big questions we asked ourselves were whether we had the budget to make color business cards. Today we have a studio, we buy equipment for the team, we pay salaries to everyone. There is so much evolution when you compare it to starting the company, when we were just starting out. There, we like: “OK, we can say we’re doing what!” Laughs co-founder and CEO Antoine Grégoire-Slight.

Met in the still new offices of Fika, in the heart of the Saint-Roch district of Quebec, the young entrepreneur recalls the beginnings of the studio: three friends who, after studying together, wanted to continue the adventure and start a business. .

“We were wondering what fascinated us, what united us and we all had a common passion for video games. We played video games together, board games. All that is very social, us voyage. In the end, therefore, we said to ourselves: let’s leave that, let’s go and make a video game », says Antoine.

And since, by his own admission, “three developers, who don’t make great games”, Fika’s initial team was quickly completed with two other friends from the group, who came to flesh out the studio’s “art side”.

Having the funds … and the credibility

Alas, to start a studio it is not enough to have a team and a head full of ideas, it also takes money!

Here’s why, before you actually start working on projects like Ship of foolsthe artisans at Fika Productions first completed various mandates in software development and design for other companies, time to build a fund that would finance their video game dreams.

“It brought some water into the mill and allowed us to hire some employees who started part-time as they were finishing their studies,” says Antoine.

One thing led to another, the Fika group then expanded to reach ten employees, who continued to work on external mandates, as well as lay the foundations for what would become Ship of fools.

Photo Raffaello Lavoie

“The goal at the beginning was above all to create a team with which we could carry out a game project from A to Z, and then bring it to the market. That was our first year, explains the co-founder of Fika. The term that is sometimes used in computer projects is bootstrap. You create your structure, which then allows you to carry out your project. The structure was to find the right team, the right talents. People who know each other, who complement each other very well and who are able to cover all the professions necessary to say: let’s produce a game.

That said, once the crates and ranks were a little better stocked, another big challenge awaited the Quebec team: to make a name for themselves and build some credibility.

Thus, while several independent studios are made up of former members of large companies in the sector, Fika for its part has relied on a talented squad … but entirely made up of rookies who had not yet had games to their credit. A situation that proved to be a major obstacle when it came time to seek funding and establish the credibility of the study.

“We were confident in our abilities. What was difficult was convincing the world that we could do it, Antoine points out. At first, we submitted applications to the Canada Media Fund and they were only turned down. We got good grades everywhere, but when we got to the “Team Experience” section, that’s where [ça se corsait]. “

However, Fika’s artisans refused to give up and began submitting proposals to various publishers, most notably during the MEGAMIGS event in Montreal. Seeing interest in the concept of Ship of foolsthey then worked on a playable prototype, as well as signing up for various Quebec contests and competitions.

A few months later, the results spoke for themselves: Fika Productions had won the grand finale of the Catapulte program, had won the Coup de coeur award for the Ubisoft Indie Series and … had signed an agreement with the British publisher Team17, known in particular for Worms et Overcooked.

The tests were now (a little more) done.

“There are many studios that would like to sign with Team17. I think he really came to say, OK, Fika, they’re credible. There is a publisher like Team17 who believes in their project. He has made a big difference to our team, all the motivation he brings. Knowing what is happening, that we are making this game, that we are supported by a publisher who will allow us to market it and attract visibility. Everything comes to life in that moment, ”insists the studio’s CEO.

For the sake of cooperation

Roguelite cooperative, Ship of fools will put players in command of a crew of friendly sailors, nicknamed the Fools, who will have to navigate through a dangerous body of water, protecting their ship from a variety of menacing aquatic creatures. Depending on the enemy, you will need to know how to adapt your strategy and then work as a team to survive.

The title will also be playable on its own, but this was designed primarily to be interviewed with more people, notes Antoine. And this, more particularly in person, even if online play will be possible.

“We are gamers who love local games and who also love board games. In short, anything that creates social interactions between players creates emotions. We tell ourselves we’ve won our bet when people scream as they try Ship of foolswho scream and have to do it fun. We want there to be emotions and that’s how we made the game. The local is very important to us, it is the basis of Ship of fools“Says the stylist.

In doing so, Fika intends to distinguish itself from the other cooperative titles of the roguelite offering an experience designed from the ground up for multiplayer gaming.

“There are many rogueliti which come out where cooperative mode is later added. […] It’s super cool, but they’re still games designed for the single player experience. There are always limits when you do this, observes Antoine. We said it with Ship of fools, we were going to create a game that you would like to play as a team and that is how it should be played. The optimal way to win and be successful runThey are different.”

Create games differently

With Ship of fools due out on PC and consoles later in 2022, what’s next is already on the horizon for Fika Productions. A future, according to Antoine Grégoire-Slight, which will combine growth and new projects, but which will also focus on continuity.

“We plan to continue adding content to Ship of fools. So, from the moment the game is over, we don’t stop development. […] It is in our plans to make sure we keep putting something new into the project. That said, we still have to think about what will happen next Ship of fools. We have many upcoming projects to develop, ”launches the company’s co-founder.

Ship of fools

Image courtesy of Fika Productions

To bring these new ideas to life, Antoine expects the Fika team to expand in the coming years, but that the studio will still maintain the human dimension that characterizes it today.

“We may not want to grow to the point of being a large AAA studio of a hundred people, but we are already seeing it. [le besoin] with future projects. We can think that it will take more people in the team, more strength and perhaps even work on more than one project in parallel ”, she specifies.

Of course, the CEO argues that one thing is clear when thinking about the future of his studio: no matter what growth or future plans, Fika Productions’ founding values ​​will not be sacrificed.

“When we started the company, we thought we were proving that it was possible to create games differently. It is not true that to make a commercially viable game you have to exploit your team. This is what we want to show. That it is possible to work well, be super creative, take care of our world and be able to supply a quality product, ”insists Antoine.

Aspects that the young entrepreneur considers essential, but also non-negotiable.

“It will remain forever for Fika. This is what he defines us. “


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