After a long hiatus since the release of Globosome: Path of the Swarm, Navel are back with a bang! The indie studio’s latest iOS release, Mimics (out now, free), is currently earning rave reviews for being a uniquely fun and wacky take on the multiplayer party game genre. I recently had the opportunity to have a chat with Navel’s Fabian Schaub about Mimics and a lot more besides. You can check out the interview below.
Please note: This interview was originally conducted a few weeks back, which is why Mimics is referred to as an upcoming game throughout.
Thanks for joining me today, I really appreciate you taking the time out of what must be a busy schedule to answer my questions. For any iFanzine readers who may be unfamiliar with Navel, could you please start off by introducing yourselves and providing a little background information on your studio?
Hi! We’re a small game development studio, founded by Thomas Krüger and Fabian Schaub. We met in our studies, when we started to work on little prototypes and projects. We started working in our living rooms until we finally managed to afford an office™ in an old industrial complex that we share with other local game developers and media producers.
What is Navel’s mission statement as a company?
We tend to make a LOT of prototypes (we made about 40 experiment in the past year), some of which never see the light of day, some of which we pursue further and develop into full-fledged games. We always try to find a core of an idea that we consider fascinating and develop further from there.
You guys’ first (and last, to date) iOS game, Globosome: Path of the Swarm, hit the App Store all the way back in 2014. What have you been up to since then?
We’ve made a lot of game jams and prototypes until we finally came up with the idea of Mimics at one of those game jams. Some of those prototypes might well turn into our next project.
As a small indie with that long of a development period, we also had to do contract work on the side and taught game development at universities in our region.
I’ve played a pre-release version of your upcoming new game, Mimics, and I think people are going to absolutely love it! Would you mind providing our readers with a quick pitch of it and how its gameplay works?
Mimics is an online and local multiplayer game about imitating cartoon faces with your own face. Players imitate drawn face and their team-mates have to try and guess which face they portrayed out of a selection of three.
Mimics is based around such a unique and amusing idea. Where did the inspiration for the game come from?
We actually conceived the idea in a game jam (an event where you develop a game in a short period of time) with the theme of ‘memes’. We thought it might be funny to force players to make meme faces with their own faces. From there on, we just had to find the rules that would lend themselves for that purpose.
There’s a ton of fantastic original artwork and photography featured in Mimics. Would I be correct in saying that quite a few different artists were involved in its creation?
Totally true! We wanted to have a variety of styles in Mimics, so people would continuously be surprised when they imitate faces. We asked three of our close friends of whom we appreciate the style to contribute to the project. For the fourth artist, we were lucky to find an artist on Twitter, who also contributed the pixel art as a nice addition to the variety of styles.
I believe you travelled to various games conferences and festivals to show off a prototype of Mimics while you were working on it. How important is the feedback you receive from attendees at these type of events?
True! The feedback we received during those conferences and festivals was invaluable in the design of Mimics. After each event, we took a few days to iron out things that irritated players, add features players desired and highlighted aspects that were especially well received. That way, with every iteration we came closer and closer to the version of Mimics you can play today.
Mimics, like your previous iOS release, was initially conceived as a premium/paid game. However, at some point during development you decided to go the free-to-play, ad-supported route with it instead. What was the reason for that?
Although we love local multiplayer games, at some point we decided it’s a good idea to include an online mode with Mimics, so people can play with their friend or with strangers over the internet. As the game could be played more this way that opened up the possibility of an ad-supported free app. This also lowers the barrier of entry immensely, so it takes less to ask a friend to join in on the fun.
I know your focus is probably solely on getting Mimics out the door and in front of customers at the moment, but I can’t help but ask… Can you reveal if Navel currently has any future games in the works or planning stages?
We’re currently still working on content updates for Mimics, so you can expect the game to be improved on a regular basis. However, we do have a few project ideas in our desk drawer, two of which we’re determined to turn into full-fledged games. As we’re still figuring out the specifics though, we can’t say anything more concrete about those yet.
You guys have quite a few finished games (on iOS and elsewhere) under your belt at this point. So, based on your experiences, what advice would you offer to anyone who may be thinking of getting into games development as an indie?
Start small is probably the go-to advice in a small studio/starting environment. Finish a few small projects and get the hang of how things work in every department. By collecting that experience, you can gather the expertise, perseverance and foresight to pull off something bigger.