Guo Xing meets us in the hallway and show us to the office where the rest of the members at Screambox Studio sits, all absorbed in their work. In the corner of the room where we will have our interview, there is a sofa, a wide-screen TV and several Play Station games scattered on a coffee table. It looks like an environment directly taken from a gamers living room and a perfect setting for a local multiplay get-together.
The name of the studio, Screambox, comes from a vision Xing describes to us. He illustrates a scene where people opens a box of hidden content, and upon discovering what is inside, they can’t help but to scream in excitement. That is also the feeling he wants to create for his players.
“My primary drive is to create something really fun and entertaining”, Xing explains. “I prefer that kind of games myself. The type of games like say, Devolver tend to publish. Rather Broforce than Journey.”
This is exactly what Xing and his team seemed to aim for with their debut AngerForce: Reloaded. The game is a stylistic descendant of the arcade games that the team members played in their childhood. Of course, AngerForce is a modern game, both in terms of graphics and design, but at the core of its gameplay it is a hardcore action shooter in the style of a 90’s arcade game.
Initially released for mobile, the game is now available for PC, and the game got a facelift in the process. Xing tells us that its longer and more fun now. While F2P type of games dominates the gigantic Chinese mobile game market, the teams aspiration is not to create such games themselves. He feels that PC is a platform that is suitable for the kind of games they want to make, rather than mobile.
In the process of porting and updating the game for PC the narrative was also expanded. I am curious about what role an extended narrative might have in an action-packed, local co-op shoot’em up like Angerforce: Reloaded, and how does Xing’s general focus on “fun” works with storytelling?
“Stories are not a necessity for a good game, but it can help to introduce the game world”, he explains. “It can also be a factor that help your game stand out. So it has its place, but I try to convey the story through the mechanics as much as possible.”
The members of Screambox do not come from a background of making games. However, when they chose to become game developers their skills grew rapidly. Xing himself was never one to get stuck in theory, even though he eventually reads about game design. He think the most important part is to work on your projects and actually create something: “If we ever get stuck or can’t seem to reach where we want, that would be the time for research. It is simply more effective to look for solutions when they are needed.”
He feels that the team has learned by experience more than anything else, and especially gained a lot of wisdom from trying to sell the game. His attitude towards marketing has changed: “We have learned not to put the promotion at the end of the development process. One should start early, and keep in mind to also create promotional content like trailer material, gifs, etc. at the same time you are making the game itself. It is also important to realize how your game stands out, or make it stand out, and use that, whether it is found in the art or in the action of the gameplay. Especially if your game is easily comparable to other games.”
Xing also stress the importance of keeping track of dates for conferences and other game events, and set milestones for the game’s PR to be in sync with those.
So what about the future? What would be next for Xing and Screambox Studios?
“We talk about new ideas frequently, but not often with a special intention”, Xing says. “If you speculate too much on the future you might lose interest in current projects. Also, if you spend too much time about planning the future that might make you anxious and uncertain. It is importance to do one thing at a time.”
How about expanding the studio, or would that take the indie out of the Screambox?
Xing laughs: “Indie is not a matter of the number of members. Indie means you start your own thing and go you own way. Indie is the grassroots movement of the game industry. Expanding is not easy though. It is important to find the right people, with similar vision and competence, and most importantly, the same taste. It is difficult to build such a team to begin with. So if we need help at this point, we rather outsource than expand!”