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LAS VEGAS — The not-so-secret secret of indie publisher Capy Games‘ success is that most of its ongoing and past games have been created through collaborations with other developers and artists.
Nathan Vella, the cofounder of Toronto-based Capy Games, said the company has published a wide variety of games since its 2003 debut. And the reason for that is collaboration, such as pooling efforts with Jonathan Mak’s Queasy Games on Sound Shapes or Superbrothers on Sword & Sorcery. The company is also working on new works such as Below with collaborators.
“We believe in teaming with developers,” he said today in a talk at the 2015 DICE Summit, the elite game industry event. “It’s how we collaborate. We are defined by our collaborations.”
One of the big benefits of collaboration is better discovery, or how people find apps. That’s especially important for indie game makers in an age when it is difficult to break through the noise of so many games being published on the app stores.
“Collaboration is a way to smash through that barrier,” he said.
Musicians such as Jim Guthrie have collaborated on Capy Games titles and brought in new audiences.
Collaborations also help you inject fresh ideas into your teams, giving them more imagination to create something that builds on top of somebody else’s work.
“It lights a creative fire under your team’s asses,” he said.
He noted how Hollywood and game people are now talking about working together more than ever before. A year ago, for instance, Valve’s Gabe Newell and film maker J.J. Abrams said they were working on a game together. If those two are truly collaborating on such a project, it could turn out to be really awesome, Vella said.
In order to succeed, collaborations have to have shared creative goals across the entire team. Communication also matters.
“Make sure you are not wasting time and wasting assets and getting frustrated,” he said.
Sharing the wealth also pays off, Vella said. If you create a project where the collaborators all have some ownership and revenue sharing, everyone wants the project to succeed to its fullest.
“You have to have skin in the game,” he said.
Vella said the hard part about collaboration is keeping everyone on a project communicating and iterating in real-time. Many developers can’t really see the end goal of a great game when they are in the middle of the game development process, and that’s even harder when you are collaborating with people who aren’t in the same location.
Vella said he agreed on Twitter with composer Alec Holowka, who suggested the creator of Towerfall and the artist of Nuclear Throne should collaborate on a Sega Sonic game. (Holowka’s credits include Towerfall’s soundtrack.)
“If you are the smallest of the small or the biggest of the big, think about it,” he said. “Go forth, collaborate.”