Written by Jaymes Carter
DroidGamers has an opportunity every now and then, to explore the businesses which make the games we love playing. We get the opportunity to learn about their inner workings, and what drives them to create games. Nekki, the game developer behind Shadow Fight 2 and the immensely popular Vector, has provided DroidGamers such an opportunity. This is a two-part interview. Within this first interview, we’ll find out about the origins and inner workings of Nekki. Our second interview is going to be concerning the long awaited Vector 2, which is in development now, and will be visiting Android/iOS soon.
Jaymes Carter: What does the name Nekki mean? What is its etymology, and how does it relate to the games you produce, the people you hire and also the vision for that company?
Nekki: Nekki is Japanese for “enthusiasm” or “power of passion”. They fit our organization very well. We try to enthuse our players with this games, and our team members are driven through the passion to create great games. The success of Vector and Shadow Fight 2, act as proof here. In fact, the name for our company came about accidentally. In the past of Nekki, our CEO and founder, Dmitry Terekhin, was searching for a simple domain name with the .ru ending, but everything have been taken already. He was aiming for something catchy like “Ikki” whenever a friend of his, who been very thinking about Japanese stuff, mentioned “Nekki”. By that time, it was even more fitting though, as everybody was dealing with no salary, but driven through the enthusiasm, to obtain the business ready to go.
JC: That is intriguing. Especially knowing that your company’s home base is in Moscow, Russia. Do you know me a tiny bit more about Nekki’s founder, Mr. Terekhin that you simply mentioned?
Nekki: In 2002 the CEO and founder of Nekki, Dmitry Terekhin, volunteered to save a browser-based football manager. By that time, the original creator from the game, couldn’t continue its operation. He wanted someone in whose hands he could place it. Like a player of this football manager game, who was also interested in programming and website creation, Mr. Terekhin jumped in the opportunity. Under his guidance, the aforementioned browser game “Golden Boot,” rapidly became the most famous game of its genre, and also the first Nekki game.
From there on, Mr. Terekhin assembled several like-minded individuals with whom he dived in to the games industry. The greater compact form of the story sees Nekki moving from browser games, to social games, after which to mobile games and beyond. But within the timespan from 2002 so far, the organization also had to endure hardships, as its not all strategic move yielded success. These events lead to major learning, that has now been ingrained in Nekki’s DNA. One of these is about adapting to changes in the marketplace as rapid as possible.?
JC: One of your more popular games, Shadow Fight 2, was initially on Facebook. Is the fact that correct? Why did you decide to make a game for Facebook? It appears that the audience for Facebook, and the audience for mobile games is very different. Is that true? If so, so how exactly does Nekki go about testing the marketplace for their games?
Nekki: The predecessor to Shadow Fight 2, that was released on cellular devices in Autumn 2013, and has attracted a lot more than 65,000,000 players to date, was Shadow Fight on Facebook. The history of these games – Shadow Fight and Shadow Fight 2,?illustrates perfectly how Nekki matured in its business operations. Nekki recognized the shift from browser games to social network games only with belatedness. Beyond that, a part of the team was not willing to adapt to the demands of this new platform. This result in projects that did not meet players expectations. But after a hard transition period between 2008 and 2010, Nekki finally achieved success this year, with Shadow Fight on Facebook. Also, by that time, the company was eyeing upcoming marketing developments more closely and prepared to jump into the mobile games arena in early stages. Vector and Shadow Fight 2 hit the industry in the right time and offered quality-experiences, which resonated with players across the globe.
We don’t even think that playing on Facebook and on mobile excludes each other. They’re rather, different steps towards platform convergence. Because the “smartphone-storm” has left no one untouched. We simply aim to entertain our audience on the devices they have “at hand” (literally). And, although we run tests in key markets with core audiences, we rely on another belief that has formed over time at Nekki: Developing original and artistic content, backed by an enthusiastic team, is the best formula for achievement. In essence, fun is freed from platform-specialties.
JC: Free to Play games haven’t necessarily been popular with the hardcore gaming audience. I have seen things i call “Free to Play” done right, along with other examples, where it really is about leveling up or progressing inside a game through paying real money. So how exactly does Nekki balance that? For example, Shadow Fight 2 is really a game which i have enjoyed playing. It is free-to-play, however it doesn’t want to is structured in ways where you stand instructed to pay, to proceed. The game is definitely around the upper tier of difficulty, when it comes to games within the fighting genre. It may be frustrating at times, but I have discovered, the sport challenges you to definitely find out more about the strategy involved with winning matches, as opposed to just mashing buttons. Therefore it is really the opposite with this particular game if you provide time. By trying hard enough and develop your talent, you are able to progress. It just might take a little bit more than you anticipate. How do you balance good action for the gamer, and still make money at the same time?
Nekki: Thanks. In fact our game mechanics tie in with what we stated to the previous question.?Being gamers in mind ourselves, we stay to in keeping with what we want to play ourselves. So naturally, we don’t overdo monetization schemes, but concentrate on playability and uniqueness instead. On the other hand, we have to make money to keep and grow our business. We will still walk that fine line between in-game transactions, adverts and self-prepared-progression by the player. Just watch for our forthcoming games, and you will see much more about the way we still develop this tactic.
JC: The number of people are employed at Nekki? On your website you have a video depicting the working atmosphere. Is the atmosphere as laid back as the video shows, or are there long arduous hours of labor, but play is available in spurts?
Nekki: We’re about 100 full-time employees. To allow a relaxed atmosphere, we support our staff with straightforward structures, management tools for agile development and regular soccer matches organized by Nekkis CEO. Sometimes, the deadlines are tight and crunches happen. That’s the time that free pizza shows up! We’re happy to possess a devoted team. Everyone is always looking forward to a brand new game release, and the moment they see people play and respond to their game on the train or bus.
JC: Being an employer, wouldso would describe the model employee? If you’re looking to work for a game title company like Nekki, where would you start?
Nekki: When compared with other markets, there aren’t a lot of strong game companies in Russia. Thus, there is not a large reservoir of people that are adept already in game development. So, Nekki actively teaches its new colleagues the secrets of the pros, and internships play a significant role. The fact that probably 1 / 2 of our staff includes former interns is quite telling here. The easiest method to knock on our door, is by using a (homegrown) game project, and good dose of enthusiasm for games in general.
Our founder and CEO Dmitry Terekhin recently summarized the abilities and characteristics, he finds necessary to shape within somebody that really wants to make a dent in game development. You can find his thoughts here: ?Siliconrus (Russian only – but autotranslation provides a rough scope)
JC: What is the average age of the employees?
Nekki: The average age over the company is 28.
JC: Is there another game company that you would say is similar to Nekki within their approach? Why is Nekki unique?
Nekki: The confusing answer to this question might be many, and none. Everybody who participates the games industry – in the indie towards the mega-company – attempts to achieve success. However the routes taken are different. You have to find your ecological niche in defining “your” platform, audience and product. Nekki is exclusive in the way, that we specified the right platform (mobile first) for the time given along with the right model (F2P) and the right tools (Cascadeur). Enthusiasm and experience play an excellent part here. Please be aware our rights might be wrongs for another player, though. In the end, it all boils down to delivering an authentic product, that becomes a great match the audience. Think “Shadow Fight 2“.
JC: The statement that follows your business is: ?”We create/inspire emotions.” How do you go about doing that?
Nekki: Maybe you have gasped, laughed or cried while playing a game? Or, have you even smash your gamepad? Nekki is aiming to generate these strong emotions in the real world using its games, though we don’t strive for individuals to break their devices of course. There is no blueprint for achieving this. But staying away from copycat-methods, inventing innovative art-styles and concentrating on gripping game play, are members of it without a doubt.
JC: The animation in your games and also the artwork is striking. The animation particularly blows my mind! How can you make the animations seem so realistic? Shadow Fight 2 animations look amazing to say the least, and also the parkour animations in Vector, are the very best that I have experienced in that genre.
Nekki: The animations in Shadow Fight 2 and Vector are made with our own proprietary “Cascadeur” animation engine. Our in-house R&D is still refining and re-writing it for that new architecture we will utilize in Vector 2 and Shadow Fight 3. Shadow Fight 3? Yep! It is currently under development. And, it will have a huge CG intro-movie, which will show graphically, what Cascadeur is capable of. With this animation engine, you’ll be able to produce high-quality animations, which just could not be realized by mo-capping actors.
JC: Hearing that Shadow Fight 3 has already been in development is pretty exciting! I guess I have to hurry and finish Shadow Fight 2. Since we’re referring to development, do you know me concerning the process for creating games like Shadow Fight 2 or Vector? Can you walk me with the game development process/cycle for one or another? The main reason I ask, happens because few people understand how challenging it’s to actually make a bet on top quality, like Vector. It is not only art pulls of a great game, though that certainly helps. It’s programming and a numerous other things that has to take place, before we boot it up on our multiple devices.
Nekki: The entire process of developing a game like Vector is structured into several stages, that are shown in the adjunct diagram. We’re just mentioning the big chunks here and then leave out all the additional steps which stick to the initial launch (like updating content, porting to other platforms, maintaining the F2P economy etc – which is part of “Operations” then). Apart from agile development, which gives you a certain freedom of iteration, while still enabling you to finish the merchandise, the decisive factor is based on the keenness of the team. Because inside the development process, you are making tens of thousands of small decisions. If these everyday, micro-decisions are made with soul, you’re actually breathing life into your game.
JC: How many games would you focus on at one time?
Nekki: Using the current setup we could focus on two to three major projects simultaneously. Let’s not forget that we’re still maintaining our Facebook library (Gladiators, 11×11, Shadow Fight, Vector) as well as delivering updates for Shadow Fight 2. Using the latter, players are still waiting to challenge the ultimate boss – Titan. And that we possess a much more features coming up for this.
Apart from new projects and updates we also expand into untouched markets (e.g. SF2-Kakao-launch in South Korea) and onto new platforms (SF2 is greenlit on Steam).
JC: What’s one question that you wish game journalists would ask, instead of when is the sport being released?
Nekki: From our experience, it