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How to build great games as an African

How to build great games as an African

At Deluxe Studios, they focus on crafting authentic African narratives into their games. “It’s all about filling a gap in the industry where these stories are often underrepresented”.

Edu Shola, the founder, describes himself as a passionate, relentless, and driven creator whose love for games started young. He’s drawn to post-apocalyptic, open-world themes like Days Gone, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and GTA, as well as diverse titles such as Stickman Fight, FIFA, EAFC, Riders Playground, Mortal Kombat, and Tekken. His artistic journey began early, from drawing comics to sculpting with clay, reflecting a lifelong dedication to creativity and DIY engineering. His fascination with games naturally led him to explore creating his worlds and characters through animation, eventually culminating in the development of interactive gaming experiences.

Shola’s creative process blends structured brainstorming with open-ended exploration, drawing inspiration from films, cartoons, and games. The creator defines and writes down the core concept and narrative, then collaborates with the team to flesh out the mechanics and visuals. However, he also leaves room for improvisation and experimentation to spark new ideas. “We did that with a soccer dribble run and some upcoming casual games we are developing.”

A great game, for him, is a beautiful blend of engaging storytelling, intuitive gameplay, and stunning visuals. He strives to incorporate these elements by starting with a narrative that captivates players.

“Never stop learning and building,” is Shola’s mantra. He emphasizes the importance of honing skills and understanding technical aspects while encouraging other creators to explore online tutorials, attend workshops, and not be afraid to experiment with small projects to build their portfolios. 

With this core foundation, the founder and his team are currently building 4 projects namely Adventures of Chike Lost in Meta/Lagos, Urban Fury, Riders Playground, and Rasta Santa.  His games are usually influenced by other games. For instance, his upcoming game, Urban Fury was influenced by Tekken while Chike- Lost in Meta was influenced by Super Mario Odyssey. Out of these awesome projects,  Shola shares with Leti Arts, that he is particularly proud of Chike – Lost in Meta. It is a new 3D platformer set in the metaverse and the second original 3D platform game in the Adventures of Chike series which is also a sequel to Chike Sky Raider (2017) coming to PC & Xbox then mobile. Furthermore, Shola and his team are infusing a lot of cultural background into the development and the great thing about it is it’s going to have a limited animated series that’s currently in production.

What’s more, at Deluxe Studios, they prioritize creating games they believe in, but they also understand that business is just as important. They achieve this balance by focusing on stories and games with universal appeal while weaving in cultural elements that resonate with a specific audience. “This way, we can target a niche market while still creating something commercially viable. You can see that with our stickman games and Chike – sky raider”

“I remember when we released Adventures of Chike in 2017, I simply didn’t sufficiently understand how ad earning worked around the world at that time. On launch day we had about 130 installs with 98% within Nigeria and the rest from the US. On checking the statistics and earnings for that day I realized our 2% installs from just the US is significantly higher than what we got in Nigeria. Then I decided to do more research. That’s when I learned about eCPM. The eCPMs in the United States are way higher than in other parts of the world. This is because the United States has a larger and more developed digital advertising market than most other countries. I learned an important monetization lesson and that has shaped how we target user acquisition campaigns based on the goals we want to achieve.”

Nonetheless, every great story comes with its challenges. For Shola, obscurity has been his biggest challenge while creating and releasing games in stores. He realized that making a game is much easier than getting it discovered to play and much more difficult to earn from the said game. It’s still an ongoing challenge but Shola and his team found a way to mitigate the situation by doing proper app store optimization(ASO), Digital marketing, and User acquisition campaigns. By researching what players would want to play, Shola centers his games on those findings.

“The issue with this approach is that it’s easy to get caught up in trends or chase after the “surefire hit” formula. So we try to balance that a lot. Also let’s not forget that developing a game, especially with a focus on unique narratives, can be resource-intensive. Overcoming this means getting creative! We leverage every team member’s skills, look for cost-effective tools, and sometimes even find ways to outsource strategically”.

Amidst the challenges, Shola leverages existing communities like Africacomicade, Gamic, Nexal Gaming, NaijaGame evo, Gamr, etc. He believes that building a community is all about fostering a positive and interactive space for players. Successful communities achieve this through social media channels, in-game forums, and even hosting online events. 

“I’m aware that a strong community would benefit us by providing valuable feedback, helping spread the word about our games, and most importantly, creating a sense of belonging for the players which will lead to a strong following. We intend to focus on building this when our team strength improves before the end of 2024.”

Looking ahead, the game creator looks forward to collaborating with Carry1st and developing some titles while they publish. Additionally, he is an admirer of Comic Republic’s characters and their authenticity in the African roots and hopes to churn their comics into games. 

With an eye toward the future, Shola is poised to embrace the rise of console and PC development in Africa especially the Xbox console, which can be linked with the work of the Xbox expansion team in Africa, led by Temi Afolabi. However, the mobile platform is exciting and continues to grow since it allows more people to access games without expensive hardware. 

“I’m also interested in the potential of AR/VR to create truly immersive gaming experiences. The gaming industry is going mobile-first and super immersive (VR/AR).  More people will make games, so expect fresh ideas! To stay on top, Deluxe Studios is exploring new tools and keeping the focus on great stories, for everyone while also stamping our feet on console games and esport titles,” Shola concluded.