Stadia has unveiled the latest round of developers launching their games under the Stadia Makers program, with 10 new titles joining the platform.
As we explored back in September, Stadia Makers is run in partnership with Unity, and is designed to support developers looking to bring their games to the cloud streaming platform.
The programme offers three main benefits to its chosen developers: technical support from Unity, up to five physical development kits and additional funding to offset the costs of porting a game.
Today Stadia has announced the next ten games joining the platform under the Stadia makers programme: The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark, Hundred Days – Winemaking Simulator, FORECLOSED, Figment 2: Creed Valley, GRIME, SHE DREAMS ELSEWHERE, Merek’s Market, Death Carnival, Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch, and Skyclimbers!
To find out more about the programme, working with Stadia, and the future of cloud gaming (and Stadia specifically), we talk to Bas de Jonge, Senior Marketing Manager at SOEDESCO (Kaze and the Wild Masks), Rob Clifford, Lead Engineer at Akupara Games (GRIME), Alyssa Kollgaard, Publishing Producer at Akupara Games (The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark) and Nate Ahearn, Developer Marketing Lead at Stadia.
Tell us about your game!
Bas de Jonge: Kaze and the Wild Masks is a 2D pixel art platformer inspired by 90’s classics like Donkey Kong Country 2, Sonic the Hedgehog and Rayman. It features challenging and fast-paced gameplay as you go on a journey to save your friend Hogo from a curse that has spread across the Crystal Islands. Along the way you’ll find Wild Masks, that grant you the powers of a Tiger, Eagle, Lizard or Shark. Kaze and the Wild Masks is developed by Brazilian development studio PixelHive, and published by SOEDESCO. The Stadia version of the game was developed by our in-house development studio SOEDESCO Studios and launched on Stadia on March 26, 2021 at the same time as all other platforms. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI6Qveqq-ak
Rob Clifford: Destroy… Absorb… Grow… GRIME is a fast and unforgiving Souls-Like Metroidvania Action-Adventure RPG from Akupara Games in which you crush your foes with living weapons that mutate form and function, and then consume their remains with a black hole to strengthen your vessel as you break apart a world of anatomical horror and intrigue.
GRIME lets you play to your preference, upgrading only those traits you feel most suited to your unique style. You’ll find there is more than one way to break open an enemy as you move through a variety of evocative environments, meet their inhabitants, and discover the source of their madness. It’s Coming Soon to Stadia. Trailer: https://youtu.be/U7408j2vh70
Alyssa Kollgaard: The Darkside Detective is a multi award-winning comedic serial adventure series where Detective McQueen and his sidekick, Officer Patrick Dooley, investigate cases plaguing Twin Lakes and its colorful citizens. Point and click around mysterious and eerie locations, and use your wits (or borrow a friend’s) to lay these cases to rest!
The sequel, The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark, picks up after the events of The Darkside Detective. McQueen has to save his usually-present (in body, if not mind) sidekick Officer Dooley from the Darkside, so the two can get back to what they do best – investigating the city’s many strange, often paranormal, always paradoxical goings-on. Akupara Games is bringing both titles to Stadia for the first time on April 8th (The Darkside Detective) and April 15th (The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark)!
Cloud platforms are still something of a niche audience – How do you know if Stadia is the right fit for your game?
Bas de Jonge: As for everything new; I think you’ll never quite know until you try it. We’ve had a good relationship with the Stadia team since before the launch of the platform and we’ve been very curious about cloud gaming for a long time. We felt that Kaze and the Wild Masks would be a good fit for the platform, and the timing felt right, so we went for it. Now that the game has launched I can say we’re happy we did this as we’ve received quite some comments from people telling us Stadia has enabled them to play the game on their phones or on devices that would not be able to run the game otherwise.
Rob Clifford: The best thing about Stadia for GRIME is that a cloud based gaming platform with powerful machines behind it, enables us to deliver the game to players with all of the visual polish we can throw at it, regardless of what machines they have at home. For GRIME, this means getting to deliver a game that doesn’t sacrifice any of the gorgeous artwork in the way we would be limited on other platforms.
Alyssa Kollgaard: Stadia is a great potential fit for any projects that want to come to console without needing to sacrifice visual fidelity or any projects that have optimization limitations. Due to the fact that Stadia is a streaming platform that runs on high-end machines, it makes it a much more robust option.
Stadia also offers some really unique features for streaming directly to YouTube with Crowd Play and Crowd Choice, sharing game states with State Share that distribute user-generated content and offer cooperative player tasks. There are a lot of ways to use the platform for multiplayer titles and even to create collaborative ways to play single player titles against friends. The audience may still be growing, but any developers who are looking to push the boundaries of what you can do with games and stay on the cutting edge of tech would do well to invest the time in now, because they are doing a lot of things other platforms haven’t caught up to yet.
For The Darkside Detective series in particular, our technical demands and episodic format made it a great fit.
You’ve worked with Stadia in the past: How did you find that experience?
Bas de Jonge: Great! The Stadia team has been very supportive and helped us with every step of the way. From development, to producing, to marketing. I think Stadia has a solid platform and the Stadia Makers programme includes a great number of initiatives for us to reach the Stadia audience.
Rob Clifford: Working with Stadia has been great! The Stadia team have been incredibly accommodating, and the process of getting GRIME up on Stadia for development has been on par with any other platform, with one of the big differences being that Stadia has been really accessible and well documented in a way that enables a lot of early work to get done very quickly. They also have a very responsive support team that helps unblock any issues quickly and correctly.
Alyssa Kollgaard: Stadia has a highly responsive support team across both Google and Unity. Their documentation is up to date and reliable, and changes to their pipeline and workflow are flagged directly to developers as they happen, so even when things change it is always broadcast to the people who need to know. There are some unique challenges to the platform due to the fact that it is cloud-based that you don’t need to account for on traditional consoles, but it is more than offset by the wealth of resources available to developers.
Is cloud-based development better suited to our current situation, with everyone working remotely?
Bas de Jonge: Since there’s no dev-kits needed to develop on Stadia, this definitely makes remote development easier. It also allowed us to test faster, as our producing and testing team was able to playtest the game remotely as well.
Rob Clifford: Working with a cloud based system has been an incredible boon during this challenging time, and the biggest reason is that all team members essentially have access to high quality machines through Stadia that can be used to test game builds with an incredibly fast turnaround time. Being able to link team members to a build that can be played in a browser and tested anywhere allows our team to remain as flexible as ever, even when external forces have altered our workflow in other ways.
Alyssa Kollgaard: The games industry in general was pretty well suited to migrate to remote work. Many studios (like ours) were remote pre-COVID. The biggest benefit to cloud-based development is how easy the QA pipeline is. Builds can be distributed to users (and even ratings review boards) without the need for development specific hardware.
What should Unity developers consider when approaching cloud platforms like Stadia?
Bas de Jonge: Stadia development is quite fast, as you do not need to spend much time setting up a dev-kit or messing around with any hardware. Unity has great technical support for Stadia, and as you’re able to test the game right from the browser, it’s rather easy and fast to test and iterate on builds.
Rob Clifford: One of the biggest differences between Stadia and platforms that most Unity developers are used to is likely going to be how Stadia as a platform handles storage. Because you cannot rely on the device that your game is running on being the same every time, due to Stadia being a cloud system, there are unique challenges when it comes to saving local data, but this is also a situation where the wealth of information made available through the Stadia developer documentation and Unity Developer forums comes in handy, with a number of different developers having already solved most issues that would come up and made their solutions available.
Alyssa Kollgaard: Platform storage is one of the biggest differences between traditional consoles and Stadia.There are some considerations when it comes to saving local data, and some different requirements than other consoles when it comes to saving and broadcasting player states. The storefront is also more technical than many other platforms, but it is built in a way that it can be handled entirely by a non-technical person and they provide active support both build and store-side.
What kind of benefits do you get from being in the Stadia Makers programme?
Bas de Jonge: The Stadia Makers programme has a lot of initiatives that will help publishers and developers reach the Stadia community. Examples of this are the Makers Moment and the Stadia blog and of course as part of the Makers programme, Stadia has also helped amplify our social media posts on their channels. We were able to join the official Stadia subreddit with a custom flair and the Discord server with a developer role. This is also encouraged by the Stadia Community team and communication with them has been great!
Rob Clifford: Stadia Makers offers a great array of support – financial sponsorship, marketing opportunities (like this one!), access to a Unity support team, outreach to their press network, and just generally boosting indie projects that may have limited reach on their own.
Alyssa Kollgaard: Stadia Makers offers many different opportunities, from funding to marketing to active support teams. Unlike a lot of third party partners, Stadia directly assigns each team a support manager who advocates for you throughout the entire process, so the level of support feels very personal and directed.
What kind of technical support have you received from the Unity team?
Bas de Jonge: Unity has opened a forum specifically for Stadia related questions, which has proven to be more than helpful enough for our development team to bring Kaze and the Wild Masks to Stadia.
Rob Clifford: Far and away the biggest benefit of working with Unity on Stadia is access to the wealth of knowledge that exists within the broader Unity developer community. Since developers are all working with the same platforms and toolkits, we are able to share our experiences and collaboratively problem solve in real time, helping to raise the quality of games across the industry as a whole.
Alyssa Kollgaard: We migrated in the middle of our development to a new pipeline process, but the Stadia team was very supportive including taking bi-weekly calls with our team to ensure we were on the right track. The documentation was kept up to take and shared to our team directly when changes were made, and the team was very understanding about granting waivers for technical requirements that were not relevant to our project. There is also a very active Unity developers forum for Stadia specifically where a lot of answers to common questions are available to reference.
Do you feel initiatives like Stadia Makers will allow for the development of indie games that may not otherwise receive enough funding?
Bas de Jonge: This is definitely the case. Stadia Makers offers the right tools for developers to get their games out there and to ensure that they can make their game.
Rob Clifford: Absolutely, everyone in the indie game space knows that getting funding for game projects is one of the most difficult parts of a process that is loaded with complex challenges, both technical and logistical. Having programs such as Stadia Makers available makes sure that there is a place for high quality indie development teams to go and find support while they build their financial footing in the games space, while building for a platform as well supported as Stadia.
Alyssa Kollgaard: One of the things indie games struggle with most is funding and marketing support. For small teams that are actively involved in multiple roles on the development side, sometimes the biz-dev and marketing aspects are an afterthought, or a skillset that a development team may not even possess. Having a partner like Google that can provide financial and marketing support to small indie developers is incredibly advantageous to smaller teams and projects that may otherwise be missed.
Is the support provided by Unity and Stadia Makers worth it for indie developers?
Bas de Jonge: Definitely. Both Unity and Stadia will offer great technical support for developers to get their game to the Stadia platform. On top of this, there’s quite some channels and initiatives from the Stadia Makers program that will help developers to get their game in front of the community.
Rob Clifford: Definitely, Stadia Makers provides the support needed for indie developers to launch their games, and comes with very few downsides in terms of opportunities to build what you’re excited about and to deliver to the platforms even outside of Stadia that you want to.
Alyssa Kollgaard: Absolutely. From a marketing, development and biz dev perspective, you definitely get the assistance you need to bring an indie game to the platform.
With Stadia’s first-party studios now closed, are there committed efforts to expand initiatives like Stadia Makers, in order to attract more third party titles?
Nate Ahearn: We’ve always worked to expand Stadia Makers given the potential to bring new and creative voices to Stadia and encourage independent studios to apply at Stadia.dev/apply. Empowering development teams of all sizes to bring their games to Stadia as easily as possible is a core priority of our team now and will be for the future. Today’s announcement is a great milestone in that respect, celebrating the launch of four previous games in Stadia Makers as well as ten other games coming soon that span everything from comedic adventures to simulation games, to exploring topics like mental health.
Cloud gaming is still in its early stages, but more companies are now investing in their own platforms. What do you think the future of cloud gaming looks like?
Nate Ahearn: The future is bright for cloud gaming and our community of players and partners. In 2021 alone, we’re bringing over 100 games to the Stadia store, which includes everything from AAA games from Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and SEGA as well as the incredible games from independent studios in the Stadia Makers program that we’re revealing today. All told, we’re incredibly excited for what’s to come and will continue to do our part to drive this new area in the games industry forward.