Interview with Cubus games

I

t’s unlikely that we need to explain what gamebooks are. Only 18 months or two years ago, people might have needed a reminder, but the genre has returned to strength as classics like Fighting Fantasy and Sorcery! have received epic digital reimaginings, while brand new titles have recaptured the excitement of RPG reading fans.

Cubus Games is part of the new breed of gamebook creators.

Five app icons from cubus

1.       Hello guys, thank you for accepting our invitation for this online interview! You seem to have the dream job of all gamebook fans, so, tell us, who are the guys behind Cubus games, what kind of team is needed to bring such great projects to life?

Hello good people of Bulgaria! Thanks to you for your interest in our work! Yes, we have an awesome job! But the road to here (has not been/is not being) easy... 

  • Quim Garreta:started with the idea to make the music and sound (he’s a musician) but rapidly he played the role of the “hello guy” too. That means that besides the music & sound he’s in charge of the marketing, he’s in touch with external people, from authors to journalists, and he makes talks and presentations when necessary. He’s good looking and sociable, so he’s got the aptitudes to do it.
  • Jordi Solà: started with the idea to make the graphic design (he’s a graphic designer) but rapidly he played the role of the “project manager” too. That means that besides the graphic design (GUI design, flowchart of the games...) he manages all the team, organizes the work, places deadlines... or he tries, at least (we’re rude workmates!) He’s also good looking and sociable, so many times he helps Quim in presentations and other social events.
  • Jaume Carballo: started with the idea to make the creative direction (he’s a creative guy) and because he’s got no more useful aptitudes is what he does (he just knows things about gamebooks, gaming, writing, illustration, philosophy... a waste.) He’s not so good looking (fat and tall like a troll) and has several social phobias and anxiety disorders that make him a hater (he hates almost everything) so you’ll never see him on a social event (unless it’s a 2 people social event –and he would say there’s one left).
  • Albert Pons: started with the idea to make the programming (he’s a programmer) and because he can’t do anything else (well, he’s a drummer too) is what he does. He looks like a Viking (without muscles) and is almost as hater as Jaume (he can’t catch him because he knows nothing about philosophy), so you’ll see him on an event only if there’s free beer.

 This is the core of the team (now you’ll understand why the road to here has not been easy). What keeps us working together is our taste for video games, RPGs, gamebooks... for the freak side of the world, let’s say.

 

 App preview of Heavy Metal Thunder2.       How did you start it all? Were you aiming big since the beginning or you just wanted to have some good times with your hobby?

There was a pretty long pre-Cubus era when this was just a hobby. We just wanted to make an Android gamebook for fun and then see what’d come. After several attempts, turns and changes in the line up, we finally took this with the serious mood it demanded, put some money over the table and we transformed the hobby in a company. Now we have an office with Macs, a funny job, a ping-pong table and a little debt with the bank (almost paid!), so we’re feeling positive about this.

 

 3.      And how did you manage to do it? What is the best way to fund such start-up and projects?

You must have an important lack: lack of fear (this sentence should be saved on a quotes website or be printed on a coffee cup). Also, you need:

  • llusion (we had)
  • Hard work (he had)
  • A competent skilled team (we had)
  • A lot of money (we hadn’t)
  • Experience (we hadn’t)

We filled the “money” and “experience” holes with a bank loan and tones of illusion, hard work and skill, and we’ve learn several important issues:

  • Be under-optimistic about what will happen. If you think you’ll sell millions of copies of your first game, you’re probably wrong. If you think a task can be done in a week, will probably last for a month. If you think everything’s gonna be all right, better think in Murphy’s Law. You’ll notice the moment when you can stop being under-optimistic: the moment when you make as money as the company spends or the moment when the company closes in bankrupt. For now we’re in the first case (touch wood)
  • To make the game means nothing if nobody knows it exists (marketing!)
  • If your game looks like a pharaonic work and you don’t have tons of money to make it, you better change your mind and think in KISS (Keep It Super Simple). Making a game is a creative work and everybody knows how creative minded people think: I’m not going to write a novel but a trilogy, I’m not going to record a short movie but a trilogy, I’m not going to make a minimalistic video game but a 3D FPS trilogy... Trilogies everywhere... like if it was easy to write The Lords of the Rings, to film Back to the Future or to make Doom (well, Doom already is more than a trilogy.)
  • Sure we’ve learned a lot more things but now I can’t remember...

 

 4.        What is it like to work in Cubus games? Is it a full time job, is it a side project?

It’s a full time job. This is another thing we learned (I know I was forgetting something): if you’re going to try go all the way (no, wait, this is the quote in my coffee cup). If you want to get something you need to risk something, if you want to succeed you need dedication. It was a side project during the pre-Cubus era, and didn’t work.

 

 5.       Which is you most successful gamebook so far?

 In terms of downloads/money, Heavy Metal Thunder by the crazy American badass Kyle B. Stiff is the most successful gamebook so far. However, we are so proud of all of our titles since we’ve learnt a lot in each development process and release. All of them are so special and unique.

 

A map of sorcery world

 6.       And which project was most enjoyable to work on?

 The fact that every project is different makes us enjoy each one. Every team member has it’s own favorite, but I think we enjoyed the combat testing of Necklace of Skulls. We created a combat system based in movements and stamina (you lost or got some stamina depending on the moves) and it was pretty like a rock, paper and scissors game we loved to test.

 

 7.       When did you feel really popular for the first time?

 I’m afraid we’ve never had this feeling... yet. Anyway, we feel good when we get reviews from the media or prizes. Our gamebooks receive a pretty good coverage in the specialized media and three of our gamebooks have prizes from Pocket Gamer. We also get the “Digital Publishing Innovation Award Emprendelibro” a couple of weeks ago (a Spanish prize). Cubus has been featured in several local newspapers, TV programs and radio shows. But we don’t feel really popular.

 

 8.       Which are the favorite gamebooks of your team? 

 

  • Quim Garreta: The Cave of Time from the “Choose your own adventure” collection (because I discovered this kind of narrative through these books –the nostalgia factor, you know)
  • Jordi Solà: Heavy Metal Thunder (I love the way KBS writes Scifi)
  • Jaume Carballo: Paper (old): Heart of Ice / Paper (new): Infección (only in Spanish –a gamebook full of zombies and dark humor) / Digital GAMEbook: Sorcery! saga / Digital gameBOOK: The Orpheus Ruse
  • Albert Pons: any title in the “A Case for You and the Tiger-Team” collection

 

 9.      And what about your favorite games overall?

  • Quim Garreta: Classic: Chess / Board game (old): HeroQuest, Risk / Board game (new): Mansions of Madness / Card game: Magic The Gathering / Video game (old): Flashback / Video game (new): The Wolf Among Us
  •  Jordi Solà: All the saga from "Age of empires", the RTS that has followed me from primary school to university. Neverwinter Nights (RPG), and all the wasted hours playing DOTA and League of Legends. And also lots of casual games with a great design behind like Year Walk or Monument Valley. I also flirter with tabletop games like Mansions of Madness.
  • Jaume Carballo: Board game (old): La Mansión de los Fantasmas (only in Spanish), HeroQuest, Risk / Board game (new): TLOTR / RPG: The Call of Cthulhu, Dungeons & Dragons (Forgotten Realms) / Video game: Alex Kidd in the Miracle World, Silent Hill 2, Year Walk, Rusty Lake Hotel
  • Albert Pons: Classic: Chess / Board game: Risk / Card game: Magic The Gathering / RPG: LOTR, D&D / Video game (old): Barbarian, The Lost Vikings, Blackthorne, Alone in the Dark, Simon the Sorcerer / Video game (new): LoL, all Diablo video games, all Warcraft universe video games (Warcraft 1, 2, WoW, Hearthstone, HoS..)

 

 10.   Recently a very interesting project of your was funded in Kickstarter – Frankenstein Wars, a story conceived and designed by David Morris – probably the favorite foreign gamebook writer of the Bulgarian audience. Can you tell us a bit more about it? How is the project doing and when can we expect it?

Yes, Dave Morris is a great author (and a great person, too!) We adapted his Necklace of Skulls, we had dinner with he and his wife at their home when we attended the Fighting Fantasy Fest a couple of years ago, so yes, Dave’s someone special for us.

 Dave developed the concept of The Frankenstein Wars when he was working as a game designer in the video games industry some time ago (he worked at Eidos and Microsoft). The original idea was for a millionaire production, but I think the idea was too new for this industry that time and the video game was never developed. After talking with him, we decided to take the TFW idea to make a gamebook. Unfortunately, he was very busy in other projects and he didn’t have the time to write it, so Paul Gresty entered as the main writer, using some original storylines set by Dave himself like the basis to build the narrative.

 The project is doing slower than we expected, that’s for sure. There are several reasons: we decided to move our engine to Unity 3D for this project and Paul Gresty is writing TFW and Fabled Lands: The Serpent King’s Domain at the same time. The Unity engine is almost ready (everything is implemented and working but some things must be polished), the illustrations are almost ready, and Paul is progressing well with the text. We hope TFW will be launched next autumn.

 

 11.   So, when “Frankenstein wars” is ready, what will be next for you?

 In fact we’re already working on side projects. We can’t stop launching more gamebooks, so while working on TFW we’ve used our basic engine to build Deadman Diaries, a noir CYOA where you have to find the single good ending and all the death endings. We’re launching Deadman Diaries both for iOS and Android on the 7th of July.

Deadman Diaries app promo

 12.   Can you add something about “Deadman Diaries”?

“Deadman Diaries” is an introduction to Gamebook genre (an evolution of popularly known “Choose-your-own-adventure”), so the game has been designed to be quick and easy to read. This story is staged away from the typical worlds of sci-fi and fantasy to present a contemporary ‘black’ and neo-noir thriller drawing from referents like the cinema of Scorsese and the Coen Brothers, and TV series such as The Sopranos, without ignoring the influence of the most classical cinema ‘noir’ and the thrillers of James M.Cain and Patricia Highsmith.

Great care has therefore been taken over the presentation and the graphic appearance with classical style illustrations by Gerard Freixes, which stage the different endings, its own soundtrack with airs of free jazz and views of “Round About Midnight” by Miles Davis.

Using the form of a personal diary, something new in the gamebooks world, readers are immersed in the life of John Riggs, a bank worker who has to pay off a gambling debt that will lead him to different illegal, and often lethal, situations.

Readers are given different options and can choose between trying to save the character or killing him off in as many ways as possible.
“Deadman Diaries” is available in English, Spanish and Catalan for iOS and Android mobile devices. The special launch price is $0.99 / €0.99 / £0.99  both on AppStore and GooglePlay.

 

 On the behalf of the gamebook fans in Bulgaria, thank you for your time and insights, you’ve been great. We are wishing Cubus all the best and don’t forget to share those Kickstarter campaigns ;)

Thanks to you! It’s been a pleasure to share this time with such a nice people. Keep supporting the gamebook genre! Long life to the geek!

  > Official Cubus games site

  > Read more about the gamebooks in Spain

 

( 23 August 2016 )

Cubus games team

Back