Kim Valori – Global by design.

When Kim Valori started working with his classmates on Shadow Bug they had big aspirations. They didn’t just do their Master’s thesis, they dreamed big and created one of the year’s most globally recognized games in the process.

It pays to have lofty goals, but Shadow Bug designer Kim Valori doesn’t really think about the world that way, “for me, it’s about making a great game experience first. Once you believe in something, in the quality of it, then it will find its audience. Which, if you build it right, is limitless.”

If you are into games, you have probably heard about Shadow Bug already. If you haven’t, here is a summary: you play a ninja hero and you need to save your home forest from an evil factory by slicing monsters to pieces. You move by tapping the touch screen. It’s simple, engaging, and beautifully rendered.  This ingeniously intuitive and easy user-interface was probably one of the reasons why the game became such a massive hit in Apple’s AppStore, scored well across Metacritic, and was chosen to showcase at the Pax East festival, one of the largest game events in the US.

Shadow Bug was developed at Aalto University as a Master’s Thesis. Besides Valori’s coding skills, Juha Ylimäki (art) and Veli Laamanen (sound) were involved in the project as well. Now, Valori and Ylimäki run a company called Muro Studios. For Valori, games were the thing from very early on: “I’ve always been into all kinds of gaming. I used to play card games like Magic the Gathering.  I also have a background in computer science and I’ve been playing all kinds of games since I was a kid. When it comes to design, I’m quite the mechanical thinker.”

There are a lot of games in Valori’s portfolio already. All of them display a quirky sense of humor and a bizarre way of seeing the world. The Sheep Game is about guiding a bunch of sheep to a rocket by using wind and dynamite. Bro Fist Simulator is about fist bumping. Valori says and laughs, “yeah, that one does not make much sense!”

Valori says that in game development, it is crucial to keep it real. He expands, “if you are an independent studio like ours and try to make too many compromises or focus on trends, the audience will sense that and abandon your game. It’s important that you attempt to make something truly original, or at least honest.”

“I love that here you can easily be part of the scene, but I also think that you must look beyond what has been done before and not be too comfortable. For example, with Shadow Bug, we built it knowing it would be more than just a school project. We knew we were going to be global. Nothing else would have been an option.”

What advice would Valori give to someone interested in game design? “Always be true to yourself. Make games that you like to play, no matter how crazy they would seem. The world is full of crazy people.”  

More about Muro Studios.

 

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