As many of you might know, starting a new project is a complicated matter. The process requires the right partners, a budget, ideas, and a place to serve as an office. Soon, issues and challenges start to pop up: managing everything might not be as easy as many think.

As for the gaming industry, development takes requires several specialized and complex steps. It is hard to imagine how one or two people may be able to give birth to small works of art. Still, many independent companies are extremely small; counting only a handful of employees.

Nils Mathis Wiederhold of Lionbear Games gave us an insight on what starting an indie company implies.

Starting up

That’s The Spirit – Main Character

Nils begins his story by telling us how the project that he’s currently working on was born pretty much by chance.

The idea behind the game is Cornelius’, his girlfriend’s cousin. When the two met, the latter had just completed his game designing degree and needed some projects for his portfolio. Nils considered the offer and agreed to help him with the coding. The idea of a weekend project evolved into something bigger, eventually encouraging the duo to found a company.

Budget is one of the main aspects to consider when starting up a business, but has not been an issue for Lionbear Games. “In Germany – says Nils – it is pretty easy to start a company with a relatively small amount of money”. He adds that there are some laws to follow, but it was not hard for them to hire an expert at a reasonable price.

While discussing the monetary aspects of his project, Nils  mentions Kickstarter as a good way to finance independent video games.  The young developer also advises following really strict criteria and being a perfectionist when setting up a crowdfunding page. “You have to ask yourself if you would finance something that looks like your product” he suggests. The two friends analyzed other campaigns, noticing differences in quality between successful and unsuccessful ones. The former usually featured really well made teaser trailers and concept arts; the latter had people filming their screen for two minutes straight.

Let’s Meet The Team

We then asked Nils to talk about the group behind Lionbear Games. “We are currently a team of two. I am the programmer, Cornelius is the game designer. We are both from Germany.  We also collaborate with an associate musician, the youtuber ShadyCicada. The three of us are working on a game called That’s The Spirit”.

Even if the team is quite small, the division of roles is clear and much needed. As Nils explains: “Shady is in charge of music and sound effects, Cornelius of everything artistic, and I code both the website and the videogame”. To him, it is vital that everyone expresses their opinions , but it is also important that they maintain power over their respective fields. “This way we avoid conflicts”, the German entrepreneur continues.

The four heroins of That’s The Spirit

The Community

One of the biggest topics we discussed with the guys at Lionbear is the current status of the independent development community. Nils shockingly said that such a thing  does not really physically exist in his country, mostly because everyone keeps in touch through the internet.

“I am amazed by how games are able to tear down walls and borders around people – he continues; recalling with fondness some old gaming mates from all around the globe- there are a lot people who can teach you, if you are willing to listen!”. He adds that is easy to get high quality feedback from the community, especially by joining online forums or Facebook groups.

A few minutes later, we moved on to talk about sensitive topics and possible taboos within the industry itself. “As we have not released the game yet and it’s not a controversial one, I can’t really say much about that. By the way, from my experience,  games are a very popular form of entertainment in Germany. As the stigma of the gamer nerd slowly starts to fall in the western world, the same happens in our country”. The diffusion of gaming is certainly one of the reasons why starting a company in this field might be the right choice.

When asked about female presence in the indie industry, Nils declared: “I personally would like to see more women get into game development and computer sciences in general. Women engage with and solve problems differently from their male counterparts; something which would result in a greater variety of games and gamers”.

A Suggestion For An Aspiring Game Dev?

Our last question to Nils was if he had any advice for someone who wanted to follow Lionbear Games’ path. “Try your absolute best!”, he said. He insisted on being hard on yourself, always questioning whether you’re giving it all you’ve got.

“You have to be willing to learn quite a lot. Starting a business is not as easy as internet guides want you to believe. You have to catch up on tax laws, look into your insurance, and get close with your bank and tax advisers”.

However, all of these efforts have positive results. As Nils confirms, “these challenges really boost your self confidence once you accomplish them”. Since Lionbear Games saw the light of day the young creatives learned a lot, all while having  huge amounts of fun. “If you are able to handle responsibilities and trust your skills as a developer, designer or composer, you will find starting your own Indie Game Company a great experience”.

We thank Nils Mathis Wiederhold for the interview and the whole team at Lionbear Games for the chance to talk about their projects. Read the rest of Beyond The Game here.

That’s The Spirit is an interesting 2D RPG that will soon hit the market with a free prequel. We invite you to follow the studio’s Facebook page for more details and information!


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