Profile – Bedtime Digital Games

Bedtime Digital Games

Bedtime Digital Games is a six (soon to be seven) person game development company based in Aalborg, Denmark. The core members of the team were also on the student production for the first version of their game Back to Bed (due out in August). As a company, they define ourselves by our love for a wide variety of games, great aesthetics and a very open door policy when it comes to people interested in our games or the industry. This is their profile!

Chart your entry into the industry?
The student version of Back to Bed was finished by Christmas 2011 and was incredibly well received by the experts and journalists connected to the DADIU student program. 2012 brought on the first games festivals and prizes, like the “Guts and Glory” award from Dutch Games awards, and nominations for both Unite and Nordic Game. This is also where we decided to make the game bigger and better to do a proper release, backed by some crowdfunding. The goal for the release was at the time just to get our name on a proper game and most of the large student team was behind this idea.

IGF Showcase was the turning point. Not only did we get a lot of attention, but the game also got attention from investors, one of these being Danish CAP NOVA. Our project manager, Klaus, and I had been discussing that the weekend development was maybe not the correct way to go, due to a lack of steady progress and difficulty of communicating with a very large team not in the same location. The interest from investors opened up a new path.
We spent the last part of 2013 setting up a new company with a smaller, more devoted team with core members from the old student production. The idea being that a smaller full-time team can pull of a more professional launch, something we feel Back to Bed deserves. Now we have our own office, a game ready for release and a spiritual successor in the start of production as well.

How important was the award win in the decision to continue along the path of game development and the formation of the studio?
For us it was extremely important, and I think there are two main reasons for this:
First, being told by someone else that our idea is good and worth playing, is greatly motivating. We tend too spend so much time working on the game and polishing it, that it ends up being a part of our daily life. We still love the game, but it is difficult to get the sense of “wow” every single time we play it. Having someone else, especially other developers and experts, compliment the game does a lot to motivate us.

The other reason the award was important is that we are all Danish and it is ingrained in us not to overstate our own skills and ideas, even when we may have something worthy of attention. Danes do sometimes have their feet too solidly planted on the ground. It is something that we really work on, and feel we have mostly overcome, but is far easier to take this step when other people are backing you up.

What would you say are some of the major challenges you face as a relatively new and small outfit?
I would say all the small challenges in starting a partnership with an investor and starting a company combines into one big challenge. Contracts, rights, office space, licenses, tax, budget and so on. These are things we have not spent a great deal of time on before. Now we suddenly have to, not just understand this, but also become proficient in the art of administration. I will admit that I now feel a lot more “adult” after going through this.

Getting into the mindset of doing PR and marketing is also a bit of a challenge. Many of us in the game industry have a tendency to focus inwards on the game, without letting the rest of the world know what we are doing. However, if no one knows who we are and what we are doing, a success seems very unlikely. It is something that developers have to spend both time and some money on, whether we like it or not. We do feel thou that we understood this challenge at an early point.

This leads into a very tricky challenge that might sound a bit strange, the challenge of actually releasing a game. The challenge of setting a date and being satisfied with what we have made. At a certain point further polish will not improve the game, just alter it. This is a business decision, and something it seems many designers and artists have a hard time doing. Our own team have had fair share of these discussions.

Back to bed_falling

What is Back to Bed and what inspired its striking aesthetic?
Back to Bed is a 3D puzzle game heavily inspired by surreal art, available for multiple platforms. While playing the game, the goal is to guide Bob the sleepwalker back to the safety of his bed. The player does this by controlling Subob, a small guardian creature that spawns from Bob’s sub consciousness, to guide Bob and manipulate the game world. Since the player is part of Bob’s mind the game world is surreal mix of reality and a dream world that bends the rules of reality.

Playing through the game will tell the story of how Bob falls asleep at work and walks out the window. His journey is being told via a series of parallaxing artworks that the players must interpret. We have our own interpretation of the story, but we are very much looking forward to finding out what players see.
The game combines quirky mechanics, where one character have to save another character, with a unique visual style inspired by surreal artist like Dali and Escher and the style of hand painted art that is usually only seen on canvas. We try to treat the screen as an art frame and every level should be like a painting you would want to place on your wall.

Where do you get inspiration for your titles from?
Surreal artists and painters in general, have had a huge impact on the visual side of our games. We think of the screen as a canvas and try to create the experience of playing in a piece of art. We feel this creates a game universe where we can do something new and tell some quirky stories.

Back to bed_character

On the gameplay side, we get a lot of inspiration from other indie games that we can relate to from both a size and a business standpoint. In addition, many larger games, which relies on puzzles, are a source of inspiration, such as the Zelda series and essentially every adventure game out there. It helps us to see what have worked before, but also what did not work for others.

Having said that, a lot of the time we try to go for that which is strange and unexpected. Take a good idea and make it just bit stranger, or add a surreal visual to it. The goal is always to create something that turn heads and catch the interest of the player.

How would you describe the indie scene in Denmark and the Nordic region?
The indie scene in the Nordic region, I would say, is healthy overall with many interesting projects out there. Projects ranging from free-to-play mobile games to far more hardcore PC games. It feels like many Nordic developers like the idea of smaller teams and the type of games these teams can manage, as well as the individual freedom and influence these team sizes tend to create for the individual.

In Denmark, we sadly do not see the same level of success as our neighbors in Sweden. There have been some great successes, but it is still hard for small developers to find solid funding.

In the Danish public and amongst politicians there is still a lack of understanding for games. People enjoy games in Denmark, but when it comes to development and business people mostly think of something that can be used to teach or some awkward little brother to the film industry. We are starting to see a change in this view though, and we think this will change further in the coming years.

What areas of the scene could be further developed?
We feel that the general understanding of games as creations of professional designers and artists, and as a solid business could be improved amongst politicians and people in general. This could open some new doors and inspire people to join the industry.

I recently talked to a person trying to develop the learning game scene, and my main point for her was that there is a lack of understanding when it comes to size of the game industry and how it functions. Small indie companies usually have little or no interest in taking on an underpaid work-for-hire project on a too tight time schedule. Projects of this type eats a lot of time from a company’s own projects and there is a risk of losing money on it. I feel that the first step to any real improvement must be to understand what it means to develop games.

Though there may still be a general lack of understanding for the games industry, it does seem like there has spawned a greater degree of interest for games. When you reveal to someone that you develop games for a living, this tend to spawn interested questions rather than long stares.

Who are the Nordic developers you look to for inspiration?
We are inspired a lot by PlayDead, the developers of Limbo. We feel that we share a common love for strange game universes and puzzle games, and that we both do not buy in to the race towards zero when it comes to price. That sometimes a game should be a complete experience on its own, and therefore must a have price tag on it. Something we feel many Nordic developers also believe in, even the big ones like Paradox and Mojang.

It is not that we are against free-to-play, but that business model should not be the end all be all that many believe it is. We feel that game and business model must be in balance.

It is a very positive experience when you say you are doing a premium game, and people just look at your game and nods, understanding immediately that not everything must be free-to-play. In general, we feel right at home in the Nordic scene.

Bedtime Digital Games
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