Profile – Jyri Kilpeläinen (Fin)

Jyri Kilpeläinen_640

34 year old Jyri Kilpeläinen wears many hats. He is a father, husband, web developer by day, indie game developer by night and like many others before him he got bitten by video game bug at an early age. With his first game a solitary developer on general release, he hopes to join the growing ranks of Finnish developers making their mark on the industry. This is his profile!

Chart your entry into the industry?
I played my first games at my friend’s house on his dad’s IBM PC (Alley Cat was one of my favourites). However, the real turning point was when my mom bought me and my brother a NES.

I graduated as a software engineer in 2004 but I’ve been mostly working in web development companies. I developed my first proper game in December 2010 when I and an ex-colleague Pekka Vilpponen made a Facebook racing game called Tracks ‘n Wheels as a hobby project. Sadly it didn’t get many players so we shut it down in March 2011. After that we were both hired to the same company where, together with Niina Salmi, who we eventually made two mobile games with (Cheezia and Cheezia: Gears of Fur).

What are the challenges of creating and marketing a game as a one man developer?
Oh man, there are plenty. Of course, when you are work all by yourself, you are responsible for everything including programming, graphics, sounds, testing and so on. Things progress pretty slowly and since I’m not very good at drawing original artwork, making stuff sometimes takes way too much time.

I also prefer working in a team where you can throw ideas and get help from colleagues. When you are working alone, all that is pretty much non-existent.

Marketing has also been really hard. Mobile app stores are so crowded nowadays that you have to have a really polished product to have even the slightest chance of getting noticed by Apple, Google and others. That or a big wallet for buying the userbase. I’ve done the usual stuff like sending press releases, posting to forums, promoting on social media and so on. Unfortunately Mystic Marbles hasn’t received much traction from the press.

I think one of the main issues is that to many, the game is, despite the unique game mechanic and multiplayer, essentially just another match-3 game.

Also maybe the graphics are not appealing enough to get you interested.

What is the inspiration for Mystic Marbles?
The idea for Mystic Marbles was born when I was taking our dog for a walk one night. I had been working on a shoot ’em up which turned out to be a bit too demanding for one man to make. I wanted to make something simpler which could be released sooner. Match-3 games seemed simple enough but I didn’t want to make a “just another match-3″ but something that would play a bit differently. That is how I came up with the what I call “drag ‘n drop” mechanic.

My main inspiration is definitely Bejeweled Blitz and it’s 60 second, fast paced gameplay. Candy Crush Saga seemed also really interesting but making that kind of level based game would’ve taken ages. Other games that inspired me was Zoo Keeper (different bonus items during gameplay) and Super Monsters Ate My Condo (the use of characters and accessories).

What revenue generating model do you have in place (if any)?
The game is free to play with ads. I figured that since there are many other free match-3 games on the market offering a similar game experience, it would be really hard for me to release essentially the same kind of game as a paid title. Once again I took inspiration from Bejeweled Blitz and how they do not have any kind of timers or life meters in the game (things I hate in F2P games). You can just play as long as you want. I also wanted to be fair and remove all ads if a player makes an in app purchase.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Well, just making and releasing Mystic Marbles, which is my first game as an indie game developer, is definitely high up in that list. The game took a total of 16 months to develop, most of which I worked on it full-time (I was unemployed at that time).

The development process was occasionally very hard and demanding not just for me, but also for my wife and kids. When the game was finally released in January 2014, I remember bursting into tears.

Although it was a tough creation process, it taught me a lot about making games as well as me as a person.

How would you describe the indie scene in Finland and the Nordic region? Is there a collaborative spirit?
I haven’t got much experience outside Finland but here the whole game industry is pretty open. Companies share their experiences with each other and collaborate. The Finnish IGDA chapter is also one of the most active in the world, holding free monthly gatherings in downtown Helsinki. I live in Kotka, a small town 120 kilometers east from Helsinki, where we sadly have just a few game companies. We do have a local IGDA Hub here which had it’s opening party in March 2014. I’m hoping it will act as a catalyst and get the local companies, students and investors talking to each other more.

What areas of the scene could be further developed?
One of the areas that should be developed is making it easier to get funding for indie startups. The Finnish government has already made improvements on this with different kinds of public programs but most of them require that a.) you already have a company and b.) you already have money to invest.

Establishing a limited company takes quite a bit of money and although you can get a small amount of public support, it is not enough to pay your rent/mortgage, food and so on. Of course, rich parents or an angel investor are possible sources of income but not many have that kind of help right in the beginning.

Who are the developers you look to for inspiration in Finland and the Nordic region?
Mojang, Simogo, Frogmind, Mountain Sheep, Jussi Simpanen, Otto-Ville Ojala, D-Pad Studio… The list goes on and on. There is a ton of incredible talent here in the Nordic countries who have made amazing and very successful games with small teams. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.

Mystic Marbles
Jyri Kilpeläinen on Twitter

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