Season 3, Episode 3

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This is a transcript of one episode of the Samsung Developers Podcast, hosted by and produced by Tony Morelan. All episodes of the podcast can be found at Buzzsprout. A listing of all podcast transcripts can be found here.


Host

Tony Morelan
Senior Developer Evangelist, Samsung Developers

Instagram - Twitter - LinkedIn

Guest

Tobias Thorsen & Peter Holm, Biodome
Games, Galaxy Store

Not only do we chat about their award-winning mobile game Gold Digger FRVR, but how being acquired by a larger game publisher has allowed them to focus more on game development, while the publisher handles the marketing aspect of producing games.

Listen to this episode on Buzzsprout.

 

Topics Covered

  • Biodome Games
  • Studio Spelunca
  • FRVR
  • Best of Galaxy Store Awards
  • Publishing on Galaxy Store
  • Marketing
  • Discoverability
  • Galaxy Badge
  • Generating Revenue
  • Integrating IAP
  • Music
  • Diversity and Inclusion

Transcript

NOTE: Transcripts are provided by an automated service and reviewed by the Samsung Developers web team. Inaccuracies from the transcription process do occur, so please refer to the audio if you are in doubt about the transcript.

 

Tony Morelan 00:01

Hey, I'm Tony Morelan. And this is the Samsung Developers podcast, where we chat with innovators using Samsung technologies, award winning app developers and designers, as well as insiders working on the latest Samsung tools. Welcome to season three, episode three. On today's show, I'm joined by the founders of biodome games to be a sourcing in Peter home. Not only do we chat about their award-winning mobile game gold digger, but how being acquired by a larger game publisher has allowed them to focus more on game development, while the publisher handles the marketing aspect of producing games. Oh, yeah. And we also chat about how their game studio is now called studio spelunka. Enjoy. Hey, I am excited for today's podcast to be interviewing, not just one, but the two founders of biodome games to be a source in and Peter home. Hey, guys, welcome to the podcast. Thank you. Thank you. So let me first start by asking who is to be as Thorson?

Tobias Thorsen 01:04

Well, I'm 40 years old, I grew up in rural Denmark far out west, I would describe myself as a programmer with somewhat of an artistic sense. I like programming not because I'm particularly good at writing beautiful code, but because it gives a degree of control, and you get a final say in the product you're developing. And I really like that.

Tony Morelan 01:28

That's great. And now we also are joined by Peter home. Tell me who is Peter Holm?

Peter Holm 01:36

Well, self-taught game design, usability, user experience, business, creative direction type of guy. Yeah, I enjoy making games.

Tony Morelan 01:47

Wonderful. So Toby, let me get back to you. What is your role at biodome games?

Tobias Thorsen 01:53

I'm the lead programmer, and gameplay and vendor and then I'm a co-founder,

Tony Morelan 01:58

wonderful. And Peter yourself, what is what exactly is your role?

Peter Holm 02:04

Aware of many hats. I'm the CEO formula. Game design, producer, artist.

Tony Morelan 02:13

So let's talk about the history by a dump. Because I know that you guys were acquired by Fr VR and actually recently changed your studio name to spell Blanca. But I understand that your history goes way back that you guys were actually friends in kindergarten. So give me that full history of, of the two of you how you guys started working together, and how that led up to Biodome Games and eventually now spin like a studio.

Peter Holm 02:38

Well, it all started around the Lego bricks in kindergarten.

Tobias Thorsen 02:45

It's true, somewhat,

Peter Holm 02:47

somewhat true, at least professional working together, but started animation studio and could make where we did 3d animation and space, spare time we started making a game. And that spare time project kind of got out of hand and turned into a game that we actually released. And that was 24 years ago or something?

Tobias Thorsen 03:10

Yeah, we released it in 2000.

Peter Holm 03:14

No, no, no, we didn't. The first one was in 98. It was really.

Tobias Thorsen 03:20

So long ago.

Tony Morelan 03:23

The internet was just, you know, starting out what was the process for releasing those games?

Tobias Thorsen 03:29

Well, the game was kind of an experiment. It was called chases. And I was just getting into game development. While working at his animation studio, where Peter also works. I kind of pivoted back to programming, which I did a lot of when I was a teenager. So I tried experimented with programming, a small game, which was at first only meant for our own enjoyment. I wanted a top-down shooter that I could play in split screen with my friends. So I made that, and it was quite fun. And it just turned more and more advanced. And like when you're young and new to project like this, it just takes it on its own life and you develop and develop. And then at some point, we figured that, hey, this is a product, we are having so much fun playing it. Every weekend, we played it and so we figured that other people could enjoy this. And so we decided to do it ourselves. And back then it meant making our own CDs and sending them by mail. So there was quite a task, but there was really there was how game distribution was done back then. Wow. And

Tony Morelan 04:38

what was the platform that you guys built it on? That was

Tobias Thorsen 04:40

windows and to my great regrets. I programmed everything in Visual Basic because that was the language and you back then. Yeah, and Visual Basic was definitely not made for game development. So I had to do all sorts of tricks to make it work and it just got more and more advanced. And then at some point, we figured now it's enough and we made the CDs. We made 1000 CDs and sold them one at a time from our website.

Tony Morelan 05:11

I know my brief experience with gaming back in the late 90s was using flash. And I understand that you guys have some experience also, using flash back in those glorious days of the of the late 90s.

Tobias Thorsen 05:26

Yeah, well, after, after our Game Chasers, we sold like 200 copies. And we kind of realized we couldn't make a living from that. So we had to get a real job. So we started doing advertisement games and other flash games. And that that was really the platform for gaming back then on the web was flash.

Peter Holm 05:49

And it kind of happened by accident that that what we did back then turned into becoming an actual game company. Because I think at that point, from my, my perspective, at least, making games was kind of a side gig, hobby, hobby thing. But what I was desperately into was actually flesh and getting 3d animation onto the web using Flash magic. That was kind of the big thing back then.

Tobias Thorsen 06:17

Yeah. Fancy UI designs and stuff like yeah,

Peter Holm 06:21

fancy UI designs, and wow, transitions. And whoa, what not? Common colleague, and I found a company focusing on just that, and, and we kind of figured out along the way that hey, wait a minute, maybe we could just do some flash games. And it seems like people want to buy those, and so on. All of a sudden, we had a gaming company, with a ton of clients all over the world. And

Tony Morelan 06:45

that was fun. And what was the name of that gaming company?

Peter Holm 06:48

There was a tunic, like Titanic but cartoon instead, so

Tony Morelan 06:53

Okay, yeah. And the success Yeah, the success of that, did that go down?

Peter Holm 07:00

It went down? Eventually. Yes. But I will say that we left it to be as an AI, we left the company in 2007. A year after that it went down. So nothing on us. It was a series of unfortunate events that led to the company crashing.

Tony Morelan 07:21

So I understand that you guys built a company, Cape Copenhagen, correct. That actually, like flourish, you had, you know, lots of employees over 30 employees. You learned a lot of lessons from that company. And some of the challenges that came out of that. Tell me Tell me a little bit about Cape Copenhagen.

Peter Holm 07:38

Yeah, so Cape Copenhagen came out of the out of chasis. The first game we've made way back, and Titanic. So actually, we left that company in order to make a new version of Chase as that was the big dream, we established the company that in turn turned into Cape Cod. And that company was focused on chasis to begin with, and we worked on a demo for a long time, and we pitched it to publishers, and we didn't seem to be learning the right deal at any point. So we left it and returned to flash games,

Tobias Thorsen 08:12

I fell into the trap that many game developers to programmers, particularly that I want to make my own engine. Sure. That was possible back in the 90s, and beginning of the 2000s, but at that point, 2008 it was the scene was so diverse with graphics cards, and sound cards and hardware all over the place and multi-platform. So it really was a too big of a task. Again, I made a lot of programming that turned out to be dead code, because you can't maintain such a big code base for so many cases and get out into all the corners with your own tech. At least not one guy.

Peter Holm 08:54

Yeah, we painted ourselves into a corner with that project and

Tobias Thorsen 09:00

share Yeah, multiple times.

Peter Holm 09:03

So learning from that we return to the stuff that worked in Titanic and return to making Flash games for clients. And then at some point later on, we finally made the jump to unity and 3d games

Tony Morelan 09:21

and was at the beginning of biodome games. No, the

Peter Holm 09:25

beginning of Biodome Games is later so KeepCup magnet almost existed for 10 years. Wow. And I think we were almost 40 People at the peak. And at some point we had a lot of stuff lined up but it all fell through and having a business that rely on client work and all the client work disappearing. That's, that's not really healthy. Sure. And we hadn't really managed to build a really solid foundation because I think we wanted too much on the same time. really wanted to do great plant work. But we also wanted to make our own games, which is by definition underfunded. Yeah, so that was a very difficult balance to strike

Tobias Thorsen 10:11

for 10 years, we kind of swapped between the two, and we couldn't make a clear path. We didn't really want to focus entirely on client projects. And we didn't want to take too much funding and get economically dependent by taking big investments and not having our own company. Yeah, sure. So we were kind of flip flopping around for 10 years, until we could no longer flip flop.

Peter Holm 10:38

Yeah. So we were stubborn, and flip flopping and refusing to take other people's money and so on. So it was it was kind of yeah, maybe not that smart of a choice. But anyway, it was fun.

Tobias Thorsen 10:53

It was it was a great company. I really loved my colleagues, amazing company.

Tony Morelan 10:59

So it sounds like then eventually, there came a moment where you decided that it was best that you just close the company, correct?

Peter Holm 11:07

Yeah, at a at a at some point. It was basically out of our hands. We had, within the same week, we had three almost signed deals that disappeared. And that was really enough to take us out of business. So we had to close down. And that was the beginning of Biodome Games.

Tony Morelan 11:28

So then, so then you InterBase decided to still continue working together, you obviously are determined to find success,

Peter Holm 11:37

we actually had a conversation at some point where we were looking at each other than just meeting room and things were just collapsing around us and we kind of okay, so what we're going to do get a job. I don't know how to get a job. We basically we were unemployable at that point, I guess we didn't have a choice.

Tony Morelan 12:01

So that was it. It was just you looked at each other and said Well, you've got me and I've got you so let's figure out

12:07
something like that

Tony Morelan 12:11

so with the with the closing of Cape Copenhagen was that the beginning of biodome games,

Peter Holm 12:17

at Cape Copenhagen we had a third partner who, Brian, who we work with for many years, he had left the company I think, one and a half years before we went belly up. Basically, he had to he had to do something else with its life at that point he was he was kind of burned out on client work and stuff like that. But around the time that we went belly up, and we had the infamous conversation and in the meeting room about having no choice but to start a new company, he had probably around that time joined, joined a little startup called FRVR. And we kind of followed along and looked at what they were doing while we were doing other stuff. Because we still wanted to do our own games. We had a client project that could get biodome games running, so we didn't have to take any funding and stuff. And that was basically our plan just to chug along, do a project end and then fund another game that we wanted to do.

Tobias Thorsen 13:22

Yeah. And I remember Brian liftin, in melta, at that point, and he was back in Copenhagen. And he was really, really trying to sell this idea that we should work for FRVR. Very hard. We are skeptical. What's, what's this? And it's hypercasual? And is that really our gig

Peter Holm 13:43

instant games? What is this? Yeah.

Tobias Thorsen 13:48

It felt like a return to something that we left many years ago in Titanic and Flash games. Sure. So we weren't, we were not really convinced in the beginning. And we had some other projects and very artsy projects lined up for ourselves. And I remember we made this calculation at some point, if we're going to succeed with our own game and distributing it and making a Steam version of that game and becoming a hit. It was it was really unlikely. And the numbers just told us Well, we really just have so much better chance of succeeding if we go with prime. And this

Tony Morelan 14:26

is because I mean, it's really was just the two of you. Still, I mean, it's not like you had employees. It was the

Tobias Thorsen 14:31

two of us. Yeah, yeah.

Peter Holm 14:33

Yeah. And then we really tried to stick to gut feeling about making our own game and realizing our artistic ambition through that game, but as at the same time, we really wanted to achieve that commercial success. And I think the message that that Brian came with, why don't you shove your artistic ambition and allow yourself just to be commercial for once, sir. And I think, as you said, to be as that it would be a marathon to maybe get the game finished and maybe get it shipped and so on. But because the scope was smaller, and the tech was more accessible and they had good channel relationships and could get our game out there, I mean, that would just make a lot of sense. And it played to all our strengths and so on.

Tobias Thorsen 15:23

It turned out to be a no brainer, because what we lacked they had, we didn't have any connections in the industry to publishers, and we didn't know how to put a game on Facebook instant or steam and let alone

Peter Holm 15:38

Samsung Galaxy store. Yeah.

Tobias Thorsen 15:43

So we kind of saw well, maybe we don't have to sacrifice our artistic integrity just because it's an instant game or just because it's a small casual game, who still make something that that would be ours and feels like something we want to work on. So

Tony Morelan 16:01

sure. So then you decided to work closer with FRVR and they acquired biodome games?

Tobias Thorsen 16:08

No, not at this point. Okay,

Peter Holm 16:11

actually, we decided to enter a publishing agreement with them. So we basically made an exclusivity deal with them. We got to use their tech. And in return, they promised to try to publish our games if we made something good, of course. And that was just a huge relief to take that step and start making small games. And then yeah, fast forward two years and four games, and they acquired us because we had proven that that we have something that actually worked.

Tony Morelan 16:48

And just so I have a good understanding. FRVR is basically handing like the publishing and the marketing but that you guys are still pretty much a standalone team, your own your own studio, correct?

Peter Holm 17:00

Yeah, the new setup is, is 100% FRVR own studio, but we have full autonomy. We can do what we want basically, as long as we try to make long term business sense. Of course, in our industry, it's a first party studio, meaning that the publisher owns the studio. And we keep working on our games on the games from biodome games that would transfer to this new entity, it feels like our studio and be treated like our studio.

Tony Morelan 17:30

Now. Now recently, you decided to change the name from biodome games to Spelunka Correct?

Peter Holm 17:37

Yeah, that was that was part of the of the setting up a new studio. So Biodome Games guild formerly exists now it's basically a holding company. Okay. But, but yeah, so the new studio is called FRVR Studios belong?

Tony Morelan 17:53

And what is the what is the meaning? What is the thought behind spelunka?

Tobias Thorsen 17:58

spelunka means cave exploration and if you go spelunking you explore caves. No, it's quite suiting for gold digger.

Tony Morelan 18:08

Yeah, is very appropriate. I myself actually have spent a very little time but did one day of spelunking definitely was during my, my youth when I didn't have a fear of small spaces and claustrophobia. I can't imagine getting back down into the earth like I did when I was younger. And climbing around those caves is exhilarating.

Peter Holm 18:31

I wouldn't last a second environment; it would be so horrible.

Tobias Thorsen 18:38

It's good thing we can do it in a games and

Tony Morelan 18:41

Yeah, wonderful. So tell me now about spelunka. How many employees are you guys?

Peter Holm 18:48

for? So us and two other guys. And we were still looking to hire more people with can still kind of figuring out what kind of people we need. But more developers needed? Yes. Yeah, we

Tobias Thorsen 19:02

are three programmers now. And then Peter. So we are going to need some more assistance with the graphics and game design and these parts

Tony Morelan 19:13

Wonderful. Well, I know a lot of people who listen to the podcasts are always looking for opportunities for work. So I'll make sure to include links in the in the show notes. Are there any links that we'll be able to share related to maybe applying for a job at Splunk and studious?

Peter Holm 19:28

Yeah, I think we have one opening now on the fob career side. But I think we'll add some more in the near future.

Tony Morelan 19:37

So let's talk about the relationship with Samsung. How did that actually come about?

Peter Holm 19:41

Again, we have to point to two FFVI they seem to be really amazing with the challenge relationships. And that's, I mean, that's a huge win for us because we can really focus on game development. That that relationship with Samsung that FFVs been able to build them? In part on our behalf? Is it something that we're really grateful about?

Tobias Thorsen 20:06

Yeah, I think at first our games were mostly published on Facebook. And then when they were kind of proven that they worked and the generator revenue they expanded to the newly formed channel on Bixby I think back then. It's a couple years ago.

Tony Morelan 20:25

So I wasn't familiar with that. So Bixby, our voice assistant, is that what you're referring to?

Peter Holm 20:29

Yeah, I think there's still on older devices that hadn't received updates, you would still be able to swipe right. And then you would open a discovery surface called Bixby as well, where the games will be featured. And that was the first appearance on Samsung devices. To my knowledge, so yeah, it seems to be a lot of Samsung channels that the game is feature.

Tony Morelan 20:58

So last year, you guys were the winner for the 2021 Best of Galaxy store award. Best instant play game. Tell me tell me what did it mean to win that award?

Peter Holm 21:11

That was pretty special. I'd say we had not seen that common. I mean, we hadn't imagined in a million years that we made an award-winning game. I mean, we knew we made a great game and a fun game, but we haven't seen it as a as a game that would win an award. So it was super happy about it.

Tobias Thorsen 21:32

In retrospect, I could see that the game stands out a bit. It's a combination of gameplay and, and style. That's that I haven't seen many places.

Tony Morelan 21:44

So let's talk about gold digger. I mean, I played it because I was part of the team that was going through all the nominations and selecting who was going to be a winner. It was a very addicting game to play. But tell the folks out there what actually is gold digger.

Tobias Thorsen 22:00

I remember when we when we came up with the idea, because we were I think we were talking about digging game.

Peter Holm 22:08

Yeah. You mentioned you mentioned boulder dash. As I remember it, you look over your screen and say, you remember the

Tony Morelan 22:15

Boulder dash? I love that game.

Peter Holm 22:17

As a Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, that was that was a great game. Maybe we should do something like that. Use it. And I said, Oh, yeah. And we can that match three elements. So you match the gems. And I think that was the conclusion of our game design and brainstorming session, as I remember it. It was

Tobias Thorsen 22:37

very, very brief. And which, which is, I guess, a good thing that you could describe a full gameplay with the one minute of talk. Hey, let's try that. That could work. And I

Peter Holm 22:48

think it was only a couple of days later, you had the first prototype running us, I remember it at least. And then of course, a few months until we had

Tobias Thorsen 22:57

playable in the FRVR Bible when they recommend gameplay ideas to pursue. One of the key points is mashups of, of different genres. So not don't make a clone but try to mix and match different areas and see what that leads to.

Tony Morelan 23:18

So the gameplay there's this little there's like this old man miner who's going around smashing rocks looking for gems Correct?

Peter Holm 23:27

Actually, when you play this kind of a fast-paced mining game, which is kind of a maybe because mining is, is in real life, it would be really slow pace. But I guess that was the inspiration we took from balderdash that we wanted it to be speedier and like an explorer. It's so it's I think it's as much an exploration game as its mining game, taking game. But yeah, you view push rocks around and match them up. And when you align three or more rocks, they explode and, and help you excavate. And then there's a lot of stuff to discover and pick up, buy and sell.

Tony Morelan 24:07

So I remember seeing at the time when you win the award, you guys produced a meme a great photo graphic of your first dollar that you earned on gold digger side by side with winning the Samsung award. Tell me about that.

Peter Holm 24:23

Yeah, it was quite a revelation for us to allow ourselves to be focusing totally on making something that made money so making our actual first dollar was quite an event. So we made ourselves an award to celebrate the moment and we awarded it to us. So thanking us for the award so yeah, that was that was how it started making our own awards and how it's going winning actual awards from Samsung. That was that was quite a

Tobias Thorsen 24:58

in many ways goes to go. has become the game that we dreamed of making for many, many years all the time in Cape, we were talking about how it would be so great to have just a small game that would make a little bit of money to support one guy who could work on this. And it took the end of Cape Copenhagen and the rise of a new company before it actually happened for us.

Peter Holm 25:20

In a way you could say we've been working on this game for 22 years.

Tony Morelan 25:28

So I understand that gold digger is not the only gold game in your in your franchise that you have another game called Gold Train, FRVR. Tell me tell me about gold train?

Tobias Thorsen 25:39

Yeah, that was the first we made it was. It's a more traditional, proven gameplay in many ways. It's a based-on Pipe Mania, also a very old game where you match train tracks to make the train run. Okay. And since we kind of knew what kind of game we were doing with, we chose that game for just getting to know the tech from FRVR. So it was kind of a training game training Train Game.

Tony Morelan 26:10

That's great.

Peter Holm 26:11

At that point, we had decided, of course that we wanted to make a game that would make us money. So in order to cast the rights bill over the game, we needed something with gold. And it seemed to work. Okay,

Tony Morelan 26:25

so tell me what is the platform that you're building your games on

Tobias Thorsen 26:30

html5, and built on the engine that FRVR provided. It's all JavaScript, very old-style JavaScript, so no modern shenanigans. It's, you have a script as it looks 1015 years ago. So it's in many ways, it's, it's very easy and very simple to get started with. But when a project gets really complex, it's it has its own challenges as well.

Tony Morelan 26:57

Yeah, I think there'll be a lot of limitations with it. But you guys have found a way to work within those limitations to create something that's that successful.

Tobias Thorsen 27:05

Yeah, I'd say some of the bigger challenges has come now that we've hired new programmers who has to take this two-year-old code base that I've been working on exclusively, and try to figure out what's going on our first-time employee, he was really, for a month, and he was so confused. So we decided to make a major cleanup of the code. And we've been working on that for a couple of months. Now,

Tony Morelan 27:32

how funny I can take that as like, you know, you take this really top-level auto mechanic, and then you throw an old Ferrari at them and say, Alright, yeah, get this going here.

Peter Holm 27:45

But about the limitations, I think part of the charm of working with this is actually the limitations that you have to impose on yourself and your ambition. And that's, I think, part of the reason that we can make it work.

Tony Morelan 28:00

It's interesting, because, you know, my, my background truly is in graphic design. And I often teach the opposite of that, in the sense that, you know, when you're creating a logo, you don't want to limit yourself by diving right into a program, like Adobe Illustrator to start designing your logo that really, you should grab pencil and paper and start sketching so that you don't have any limitations. But it sounds like you know, your approach having to work with him in this JavaScript, you've got some limitations. But I would think that, you know, that that must trigger certain parts of your brain where you really have to think like, how are you going to get this done?

Peter Holm 28:39

Yeah, I think I think would you say about logo design is totally true, I would definitely go for a pencil first. But again, that's the pencil is a conceptual limitation that you put into the process at that point true. So I totally agree with that one. But in this case, I think one of one of the great benefits about the limitations we have on the platform is that there's a lot of stuff we just can't do. Period. So we don't have to get distracted by Ambient Occlusion or real time shadows, or HDR lighting or stuff like that. That's completely irrelevant to the gameplay. But if we had every single tool, we could so easily get distracted by stuff that's not super essential to get right.

Tobias Thorsen 29:27

Yeah. But essentially is it's a sprite engine, you can display sprites, and you can display a lot of them. But that's it. There's no spinning stuff, and no 3d had hardly any animation system. We had to make that ourselves also.

Tony Morelan 29:45

Oh, wow. So I would think that the process I mean, tell me is it would you say it's quicker. I mean, I know that some of these game developers that I've that I've chatted with, it takes them years to go to market on a design that they're working on. Those limitations actually help speed the process could you can't go down all these different avenues and work on things such as 3d and lighting. Yeah, definitely.

Tobias Thorsen 30:06

In the beginning, it's a, it's very, very fast to make a prototype and try something out. And I think the challenge really comes when you're when you're continuously working on a project, and it gets more and more complex, because then yeah, this group really has its limitations. Sure.

Peter Holm 30:25

Yeah. And I think the platform's says a lot about your shadow choice as well, you wouldn't, you wouldn't go ahead and make a first-person shooter. And that wouldn't make sense. I mean, you wouldn't have you would pick another tool for it. From the first prototype until gold digger went live. I think that was about three or four months or something

Tony Morelan 30:44

like that. It's so quick.

Peter Holm 30:47

Yeah, and it's a great joy to work with that quick turnaround, because you get something done, right?

Tony Morelan 30:54

Yeah. And you get the feedback so quick, because as soon as you put it out there, you start. I mean, you had mentioned that you would first release like on Facebook instant. I mean, you almost using that as your testing platform. So you release it quickly like this, you get that feedback. And now you can get back into the studio and start finding ways to really improve on it before it gets out to the to the larger audience.

Peter Holm 31:13

Exactly. Exactly. And you have actual people playing it and having opinions about it and telling you what, what they think about it that that's just so much more fun than sitting deep in the trench working on the same project for two or three years without it seeing any type of reality.

Tobias Thorsen 31:35

And a lot less risky, of course, saves a lot of money, too. I

Peter Holm 31:39

would say yeah. Oh, yeah, definitely.

Tony Morelan 31:43

So I'd like to talk a bit about the marketing. I know that FRVR is handling all of this for you. What were some of the tools that work because I've seen some banners that you guys have done on Galaxy store.

Peter Holm 31:54

Yeah, for us at least privileged situation that that FRVR handles most of that. And we basically just supply them with, with assets that they can they can build banners and stuff from

Tony Morelan 32:07

the end if some of these banners were related to different seasons, whether it's Halloween or Valentine's.

Peter Holm 32:13

Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So what we did recently was, was some seasonal updates for the game. We had a super nice Christmas update for it with a snowy landscape and you could explore the mine and find Christmas decorations and stuff. And I think you could even get a Santa hat. And yeah, I think we had a very nice feature from Samsung on that. And of course, that's so nice to see that they will Yeah, spend some nice storefront for the game.

Tony Morelan 32:58

So tell me, are there other games that you guys have produced outside of gold digger and gold train?

Peter Holm 33:04

Yeah, we have. We have two other games. We have the pot rush, cool rush mini golfing game and a pool game.

Tobias Thorsen 33:13

It's a very casual approach to pool and a very casual approach to mini golf. It's a sure something that a hardcore pool player Woods would find appalling. Because you just you just sit there and you shoot balls, if the balls and get them in that into the hole. It's very simple. And it's not even on a pool table. It's an endless trek.

Tony Morelan 33:40

LSA. Check that out. Tell me so where are you guys getting your ideas for games?

Peter Holm 33:45

I don't know. I mean, sometimes it's just like what we talked about with gold, they got this two reference points, and then they have a weird connection. Other times it's, it's more like, what type of interaction would be fun? What would feel good? Okay, and then in turn, how could we turn that into a game? I think that the pool Russian Portrush games kind of grew out of that approach. We kind of wanted a very simple interaction that would be fun and quick to repeat. I think we had a few iterations of that before it kind of gelled into a pool game and a mini golf game.

Tobias Thorsen 34:28

And it was very much inspired also by one of our VRS biggest hits, which is a basketball game, where the only thing you do is to flip basketballs, okay, and have to hit the hoop. So the gameplay style is quite similar. You just shoot balls again and again and again. You can get really good at it and you can suck at it.

Tony Morelan 34:52

I remember there was a game a long time ago, very similar where you would just throwing trash into a little trash bin.

Peter Holm 34:57

Yes. Yeah. I think that That's that, for me at least that's been that's been kind of a fascination all the way back from the first flash games that how much can you boil down the experience? How small can we make it and still make it enjoyable? I still think that's very much motivation for me at least two or a driver for me at least to see how, how tiny Can you make it? How much of a great experience can you make with the smallest mechanic possible, basically?

Tony Morelan 35:28

So tell me what is your process for designing, developing in and then publishing a game, if AR

Tobias Thorsen 35:35

VR has a set of goalposts, you have to reach First you make a prototype that the guys there review their game designers, and they look at the game and try to give their input on whether or not it would succeed, or if it has potential than if, if they approve it, and think we might be able to do something with that we make a prototype, and it's been put out on a very limited market. So there's a small subset of players who get to play it. And then during this process, the retention is measured. And you see how many people are actually returning to it. And these are paid users, they are advertising, and people come and play. And then there are a set amount of iterations where you try to improve in each iteration to see if you can get the game sticky enough. And this process is, in large part to avoid working a lot on a game that doesn't have potential that's not going to work in the real world. So if you pass through these goalposts, you, it's published to a wider audience worldwide.

Peter Holm 36:41

Okay. And I think and I think if we should just talk a bit about our internal process as well, it would be more something along the lines of running with a gut feel, up until the point where we felt we have something that would show some kind of potential. Yeah, and then trying to find the smallest subset of that, that we could take to a level where it could actually be tested in in live circumstances.

Tony Morelan 37:11

So we've seen a lot of success around gold digger, can you tell me like how many active users do you guys have playing the game?

Peter Holm 37:19

Across Samsung channels? I think we're seeing about Of course; it goes up and down with stole features and stuff, but an average about 100,000 active users a day. Wow. So that's, that's pretty neat.

Tony Morelan 37:33

Yeah, that's, that's crazy to guys just creating a game like that. And you've got over 100,000 people playing it daily.

Tobias Thorsen 37:40

It feels really weird in the beginning, when it started to take off. And I remember, at the start, we were extremely popular in Vietnam, and Poland.

Tony Morelan 37:51

Really, yeah,

Tobias Thorsen 37:52

there was some strange demographic that we never fully discovered why, but yeah,

Peter Holm 37:58

yes, sometimes like that, you suddenly get a spike in in a market that you didn't expect at all.

Tony Morelan 38:03

So obviously, revenue needs to play a part somewhere when it comes to the success of a game. So tell me what is it that you guys are doing to help generate revenue while playing gold digger?

Peter Holm 38:15

Well, the very basic stuff is, of course, that the main revenue is coming in from ads, we try to find convenient, or you could say, quote, unquote, natural places to show ads. And hopefully, some players would click those ads. And when they do that, that generates some revenue back to us also on platforms that support it we have in game purchases, so you could actually pay real money to buy stuff.

Tony Morelan 38:46

So what are your What are your key learnings? When it comes to IAP?

Peter Holm 38:49

The key learning I think, is that people actually want to pay for stuff when they enjoy the game. So if you make a great game, people will definitely pay for stuff in the game.

Tobias Thorsen 39:00

I remember in the beginning when these in app purchase issues came up with some Smurf game where people bought Smith berries, and I was very skeptical of them, but who's paying for this? But again, it's uh, if you make something that's actually fun, and people want to play, then they'll pay

Tony Morelan 39:19

Yeah, I was listening to a podcast once different market that they were talking about IP in a sense that, you know, they could have hundreds of 1000s of people interacting with this, but all it takes is a small percentage that are willing to pay and that truthfully can generate a decent amount of revenue that because the reach is so big, and it's a global audience, that it just takes a few people you know, interested in actually paying the they can really help bring some money your way?

Peter Holm 39:46

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It is. It is a game of volume, because you need a lot of ads to be shown and you need a lot of players to have enough players that would actually want to spend money on it as well.

Tony Morelan 40:03

So one of the things that really stood out for me when I was playing gold digger was the music. So let's talk a bit about the music of gold digger.

Peter Holm 40:11

We're fortunate to work with a really great composer that is also happens to be a friend and former colleague, his name is Rasmus HDMI, and if anyone is out there listening and wants to music, you should definitely know because this is so great. Actually, we work with him in our past company and, and he's, he's working with the fob as well.

Tony Morelan 40:34

Yeah, so the song that we just heard leading up to this question that was from gold digger, and a few of the other songs. That one that we started the podcast off with, and one that we'll be closing with. Those were from gold train. So yeah, absolutely beautiful music that you guys are creating there. And FRVR It's

Tobias Thorsen 40:52

actually something that people come and done. We get a lot of feedback where people say, Hey, what's up music?

Peter Holm 40:59

Actually, there's a funny story about that composer back in the day, we made a game for Lego. And it was for a Disney themed IP. And we needed some music for that game. And our composer was Patmos, who made the music for these games as well. He made some Disney inspired music that was completely original. He made it all from scratch. And once Disney had to approve the game, they were kind of going out. Okay, where's that music from? What movie? Did you rap?

Tony Morelan 41:35

Really?

Peter Holm 41:36

Oh, it's totally original music. It's. So they were they were kind of impressed with him. So

Tony Morelan 41:44

Wow. So he does music for not just you guys, but for many of the other franchises underneath. Fr VR, correct? Yeah.

Peter Holm 41:52

Yeah. He said, I think he's the closest thing they get to a house composer.

Tony Morelan 41:57

So what advice would you give developers looking to bring their games to Galaxy store?

Tobias Thorsen 42:02

Work with a great publisher?

Peter Holm 42:05

Yeah, the advice we took was, was work with FRVR. Yeah,

Tony Morelan 42:10

that's great. And I love hearing about that. Because I know a lot of indie developers, their challenges, they've come up with a great game. But these are not marketing people. These are not publishing people. I mean, these really are great game designers. And then where do they go? How do they take their game out to the public? So it's wonderful to hear that there is a resource with a company like FRVR that these indie developers can turn to, they can actually bring their game to market.

Tobias Thorsen 42:35

Yeah. And it's hard work doing publishing. And it's hard work to maintain the relations with different outlets like the Galaxy store, it's not something that you just walk in from the street and say, hey, can you put our game on the store and featured? I think a lot of game developers forget about it. I did for many years, I thought it would just make a great game, then it'll all come by itself. That's not true.

Peter Holm 43:03

Selling is hard, right? It's not something you want to do next to you making the game job. You want dedicated people to take care of that.

Tony Morelan 43:12

Yeah. And I would think that really game developers they've got that their brain is wired for being creative in wanting to code or, you know, figure out the technology behind it. The last thing I want to do is like get on a phone and try and start doing the marketing. Yeah, making those phone calls to try and you know, get their game out there to be seen.

Peter Holm 43:32

Yeah, exactly. It's, it's liberating to hand it off to someone who knows what they're doing.

Tony Morelan 43:38

So what is in the future for spelunka?

Peter Holm 43:41

Well, the near future is way more gold digger. And I think we have a lot of fun ideas for making the game. Even more fun for players. And yeah, and we're just looking forward to dive deeper into it.

Tony Morelan 43:57

And I know you guys are a small company, you just are a few people. What are in your future plans related to diversity and inclusion?

Peter Holm 44:06

Well, right now we have to be totally honest, which is for white dudes all the same age, all sporting the same beer guard and stuff like that. So it's kind of I mean, it's not really diverse, but, but we really want to change that up. We strongly believe that diverse teams make better decisions and better games. Sure. And we're super happy to first experience when the game kind of came out that it is a very even 5050 Split male female really, okay. Yeah. And it's a rare thing to get something like that. Yeah. So we really want to emphasize that and I think the age wise the audience is extremely wide as well. We have young kids playing it and we recently had a very nice letter from 70 something year old gentleman who We enjoyed playing it with his wife. Wow. So I mean, it's a, it's a very, very wide audience and we want to cater to that.

Tony Morelan 45:08

Yeah. Yeah, that is that is very unique now and the game is very new. I mean, it is it is a young game, do you have plans of maybe like offering the ability to skin your character to be able to create something that maybe somebody relates to a little bit more?

Peter Holm 45:21

Yeah, I don't think everyone wants to be that red bearded, grumpy old minus. I think it would only be fair to enable people to make their own characters and so on. That's, that's part of it. Of the scope as well as some points. Yeah, definitely.

Tony Morelan 45:38

So to me, it's tell me what is it that you do for fun outside of work, I understand that you actually are a pretty artsy person.

Tobias Thorsen 45:47

Well, when you sit all day and program and stare into a screen, it's quite nice to do something physical. So I've been doing lots of stuff over the years with the painting and arts and lately I've been doing a lot of comics, so it's quite new hobby for me.

Tony Morelan 46:04

Ceramics really? So pottery. Yeah, pottery

Tobias Thorsen 46:07

and modeling and doing crazy sculptures. I've never thought much about these things. Until I really tried it. And when I when I held an item that I made, which was all glossy and looks totally finished, yeah. But it was quite a nice experience. So I dove more into it. It's very rewarding to have to eat out of a plate that you made yourself.

Tony Morelan 46:40

That is wonderful. So and Peter, let me ask you what is it that you do for fun outside of work? I understand that you actually like to pretend to be a lumberjack.

Peter Holm 46:50

Yeah, I do. I do. I have a big, big, badly maintained garden and a small strip of forest that that I can joyfully call my own. And once in a while we have a storm that that troubles a tree and I get to cut it up and chop it for firewood and stuff like that. So I really enjoy. You could say rough gardening like that. Also woodworking, artsy, artsy, do it yourself projects with all the kids, which of which have four.

Tony Morelan 47:26

Wow, that's excellent. So I have one more question for you. Since you guys became friends. You said back when you started kindergarten. Tell me who is better at sharing to be or Peter

Tobias Thorsen 47:40

sharing.

Tony Morelan 47:42

Yes.

Peter Holm 47:44

That's definitely to be as to be as a very, very generous soul that shares all these good ideas.

Tony Morelan 47:55

That's great. You guys, it has been absolutely wonderful to chat with the two of you. You guys are doing great work at Splunk. And I'm looking forward to seeing much more down the road on Galaxy store.

Tobias Thorsen 48:06

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Peter Holm 48:07

It was a it was a pleasure to talk to you.

Closing 48:09
Looking to start creating for Samsung. Download the latest tools to code your next app, or get software for designing apps without coding at all. Sell your apps to the world on the Samsung Galaxy store. Check out developer.samsung.com today and start your journey with Samsung.

Tony Morelan 48:26

The Samsung Developers podcast is hosted by Tony Morelan and produced by Jeanne Hsu.