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Introducing a special guest Max Fink, one of the developers behind the steam sensation, Battle Bit Remastered. Pham and Max delved deep into the world of indie game development, discussing everything from the inception of the game to its surprising success.
Max Fink, originally from a modding background, joined the Battle Bit team a year after its formation, bringing his extensive experience in vehicle development to the team. He was immediately drawn to the team’s ambition to create a game that could provide the same exhilarating experiences as larger games, but with the capacity to run on low-end hardware.
“I joined the team one year after they initially started… they only had really bad hardware and they all wanted to play squads… they just came up with the bright idea: okay, we know how to do some things in game development, why not just make it ourselves. This is basically where it started,” Fink said.
Interestingly, the Battle Bit team originally consisted of three members, Fink, and developers Okyanus Mutlu and Uladzislau Shalashou. In a twist to the usual narrative of game development, the three decided not to contract out large portions of the game’s development but instead opted to learn the necessary skills themselves. As Fink elaborates, “We have some people sometimes we’re just too bad in some topics so we get help from outside… but apart from this, that’s pretty much it. Everything else is there’s people that come in and like ‘hey, I work in this field, I know exactly what I’m doing… let me just help you with that.”
Battle Bit Remastered was initially created in 2016, with Fink joining the team in 2017. Throughout the years, the team diversified their skillset, handling everything from art to sounds, most of which were purchased online for licensing. The game was built using Unity, although Fink pointed out that many of their systems are custom made to support the game’s ambitious scale of supporting 250 players concurrently.
“The core idea of the game [is] to make something that delivers the same experience but on the very lowest end of hardware that makes sense to me. It’s quite a simple formula, not gonna lie,” Fink said. This approach echoes strategies employed by gaming giants such as Valve, known for their emphasis on performance, even at the expense of graphics, in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).
In fact, their team took a lot of inspiration from games like CS:GO and other tactical shooters, such as Battlefield. The philosophy behind this approach was to create an experience accessible to those with lower-end hardware, similar to how Riot Games designed Valorant to run on minimal specs.
Despite the success that Battle Bit Remastered has seen on Steam, Fink was humble in his assessment. “I don’t think [we’re] number one. I think we will never be able to beat CS:GO in that field,” he said, but conceded that outside of Valve’s sphere, Battle Bit was indeed popular among users.
Surprisingly, when asked about the planning phase of the game, Fink revealed, “We never planned to release the game… It was always like us pushing the limits of what we can do because it’s fun to find out there’s like no one that restricts us from anything.”
In this freewheeling ethos, the Battle Bit team found a powerful way to engage with their community. Fink shared that the team plans to host open development talks every Saturday on Twitch, where they would discuss new features and gain valuable player input.
This community-driven approach is an integral part of the team’s development process. By involving their player base in the decision-making process, they not only improve the game in real time but also build a strong bond with their audience. It’s a win-win approach that nurtures their community and also refines their game based on the players’ feedback and insights.
What’s also worth noting is that Battle Bit Remastered is the first game released by this indie team. Despite their lack of prior experience in publishing games, they’ve achieved tremendous success. This feat is a testament to their dedication, creativity, and the power of community involvement.
“The original idea is still just a game that we enjoy playing, and that’s still how we develop this,” Fink explained. This attitude of passion-driven development, combined with an open ear to their community, has no doubt contributed to their game’s popularity.
Although Battle Bit Remastered has already become a hit on Steam, Fink and his team remain grounded, always seeking to learn and improve. Their journey is a poignant reminder that game development can be both an art form and a journey of continuous learning and growth. Despite the challenges that indie developers often face, this trio has proven that with creativity, determination, and an engaged community, success is within reach.
Community-Driven Game Development
Max spoke candidly about their journey. “We go back and forth with our community until we find a feature that they would like, and we would like, so we have the perfect middle ground of what we want to do.”
Such close interaction with their player base helped them fine-tune the game before its release. From internal testing with friends and family to engaging a small community of players, the team relied heavily on feedback to shape the game. “It was actually fairly small… we just played, everyone knew each other. It was a really cool, close thing,” Max recalled.
The game had a soft launch around the end of 2016 and early 2017, and slowly built a small but dedicated community. However, things changed dramatically a year and a half ago when the game suddenly saw a surge in popularity. The catalyst for this growth was an unexpected one. According to Max, “Some other game company did release a game that people didn’t want that way, and our game blew up.”
This sudden spike in interest and player base was both a surprise and a turning point for the developers. It was a moment of realization, both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, as they saw their servers, which used to host two games at best, suddenly flooded with 600 players. It forced them to reassess their development approach and switch to a steam playtesting model, allowing more players to access the game.
Steam playtesting is a feature introduced by the platform that allows developers to offer a separate testing application for players, enabling them to participate in the development process without owning the full game. This move proved to be beneficial for ‘Battle Bit Remastered’. It led to an increased level of accessibility and subsequently a rise in the number of active players.
Interestingly, when the game first blew up, the developers didn’t monetize it immediately. “That official blow up was the first time we thought, let’s put a price on it. But we actually lowered the price before releasing the game, with how many people we were getting, we could go for a lower price, which made it more accessible,” the developer explained. They ensured those who supported them during the development process were rewarded by giving them game access at half the current price.
This unconventional journey of ‘Battle Bit Remastered’ from a pet project to a major game title is a testament to the power of community engagement and agile development in today’s gaming industry. The developers went against the grain, eschewing traditional publisher-investor models and instead financing the project out of their own pockets and with community donations.
Despite having regular day jobs, these three developers managed to capture the hearts of thousands of players across the globe, forging an authentic connection through their inclusive design ethos and community-oriented approach.
“When did things change for us, you ask? It’s funny because two of us, me included, still have a main job. We still have a nine-to-five. Yet, we devoted our time to this game, simply because it’s something we love to do,” Max mentions. Being situated in Germany, he juggled the game’s development with his pursuit of becoming an engineer.
The secret behind the massive success of this simple shooter game lies in their passion for the project and commitment to serving their community. With over 87,000 daily active players in their growing community, the developers understood the importance of moderation to ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience.
Moderation is a significant challenge, given the size of the player base. The team behind the game found an elegant solution, growing a volunteer team of 50 moderators from their community to maintain a safe gaming environment. This community-driven effort reflects the game’s core ethos – a game developed for the community, by the community.
“There’s quite a big team now. Like 24/7, if you report someone in the game for saying bad words or something, someone will check this and work on this,” Max explained.
The moderation team’s creation was an organic process, responding to the needs of the burgeoning community. As the game’s popularity skyrocketed, so too did the need for a scalable solution to keep the environment safe and fun for all players. Today, they are processing thousands of reports an hour using internal tools specifically developed for the task.
Despite the workload and scale, the developers remain committed to their vision and uninterested in conforming to traditional industry models. “We’re not planning to hire x amount of people; we’re not planning to expand like this. We want things to stay the same because it’s a passion thing.”
This sentiment resonates with many seasoned game developers, who recall their college days when making games was purely for the love of it, rather than business considerations.
In an era where large studios often release glitch-ridden, half-baked games only to spend months patching them up, these developers offers a refreshing contrast. It was built with a focus on inclusivity, ensuring it could run on all systems without requiring high-spec PCs, which is not always the case with many current games.
The developers also attribute their success to their commitment to responsive and iterative design, driven by player feedback. They continually adapt the game based on what their community expresses, ensuring that their game always meets players’ evolving needs and wants.
When asked about their game’s increasing popularity, Max humbly responded: “We have made a thing that we think is funny, and I think other people just think it’s funny too.” He credits their growth to their unwavering focus on the community and on making the game as enjoyable as possible.
While he admits they are still figuring out why players choose their game over others, one thing is for sure: Battlebit Remastered has touched a nerve in the global gaming community. By rejecting the traditional business model, focusing on accessibility, and valuing community feedback, this small team has created a worldwide phenomenon that’s not only challenging preconceived notions of what makes a successful game, but also paving the way for other indie developers to do the same.
As the developers continue to interact with their community, tweaking and improving their game based on feedback, they’ve managed to keep their player base engaged and invested in the game’s future.
The journey of this ‘simple’ shooter game has several lessons for both indie and triple-A developers. It highlights that high-end graphics and expensive marketing campaigns are not always the keys to success. Instead, accessibility, community engagement, and a genuine passion for the game can also captivate audiences and keep them coming back for more.
The success of this game is proof that the gaming industry is an ever-evolving landscape, and innovation can come from the most unexpected places. Whether you’re a giant game developer or a small team working on a passion project, what matters most is how you connect with your players and how you foster that connection to build a community around your game.
At its heart, gaming is about having fun and engaging in a shared experience. This German indie game, with its simplicity, passion, and community-centric ethos, has managed to encapsulate that sentiment perfectly, making it not just a game but a global phenomenon.
Finding Success in their own Battlefield
The immersive feeling of warfare, in addition to the 200 plus people that one can play with, drew comparisons to games like Valve’s Day of Defeat. However, the true standout aspect is the feeling of camaraderie among players, fostering a sense of belonging to a “squad” in war – an element seemingly missing from most modern first-person shooters.
While it may seem like this indie game has hit a golden formula, Max seems surprised by their success. “I’m the last person to tell you if we did something right or wrong… I would never be someone that reviews my game.”
Even more surprisingly, none of the developers had prior experience in the gaming industry. Instead, their motivation for developing the game was simply the “pure pleasure of playing it.”
Developed over seven years, the game’s success also raises interesting questions about the conventional game development process. The team never sought publishers or investors, nor did they look to monetize the game until they felt it was ready.
“We just never cared,” Max explains, “I have a job, I earn my money. I made this when I came home from work and I do this for fun.” The small team developed the game on their own schedule, ensuring they were completely satisfied with the result. This is a stark contrast to the industry standard where games are often rushed to meet publisher-set deadlines, potentially compromising their quality.
“Everything to this point, it’s just, I think in marketing terms, it’s called guerilla marketing. It’s more or less mouth to mouth,” explains Max about a game that currently boasts 80,000 concurrent players, with their breakthrough attributed to word-of-mouth endorsements rather than traditional marketing methods.
One pivotal player in this growth was the content creator, ‘Blue Drake‘, whose enthusiastic promotion of the game helped kickstart its rise in popularity. “He did a huge thing, but overall, everyone who wanted to play something like this, everyone who’s interested in that field, found the game himself,” the developer explains. The game’s appeal to major streamers, such as xQc, summit1g, Shroud, and Lyric, has also played a significant role in its growth.
Significantly, these high-profile players came to the game on their own volition, purchasing it themselves without asking for promotional keys. It’s a testament to the game’s intrinsic allure and indicates the growing trend of organic discovery within the gaming community.
Interestingly, the game is still in early access, implying that its growth potential remains largely untapped. The game’s popularity has been cultivated by constant interaction with the community, seeking feedback, and incorporating new features based on that input.
The gaming industry’s traditional model of developing games in relative secrecy, releasing them into the market, and hoping for the best is a far cry from this approach. The team has instead embraced a high level of transparency and community involvement, a process that involves them in the creation and evolution of the game. It’s a path that more development teams should consider, given the ability to build strong rapport with their player base, encourage patience, and foster loyalty.
For aspiring developers, Max offers some advice, underscoring the importance of community building. He recommends starting to build a community early on, as feedback from players can heavily influence game development. “Community will heavily push for you, will heavily push you in what you’re doing because it’s really fun to work with the community,” he states.
Embracing transparency to an unprecedented degree, tMax has even live-streamed their development process, offering an inside look at what it takes to build and update a game. “If people ask me, okay, what does it take to make a weapon… it still takes eight hours, just for the base model… there’s 25 hours that have been put into this one weapon before it is actually in the game and you play with it,” explains the developer. These insights demystify the development process and cultivate understanding and patience within their community.
The developers are continuously innovating ways to increase community engagement. He plans to launch a podcast and plan to continue live-streaming development updates. He even venture into public chats to discuss player opinions, experiences, and desired features.
It’s an unorthodox approach to game development, akin to the ‘influencer’ style of the broader entertainment industry, with a focus on transparency and engagement. The developers aren’t just creating a game, they’re fostering a community that grows with them and participates in their journey, shedding light on the trials and triumphs of game development along the way.
However, the journey doesn’t end here. The developers are constantly fine-tuning and refining their game, staying attuned to their player’s feedback, and adapting it into the game’s evolution. Their player base isn’t just a group of customers; they are valued participants in the game’s development. This creates a sense of belonging and fosters loyalty, enabling the game to withstand the ebb and flow of the ever-evolving gaming industry.
In a world where success stories often revolve around significant financial gain, Ma’x perspective is distinctly unpretentious and humble. “We don’t care too much about money… Even with our massive success, I wouldn’t even call it massive… I will continue to be the same person,” he explained, reflecting a grounded approach rarely seen in tales of rapid success.
Indeed, the team’s journey has been anything but traditional. What makes their story stand out even more is their decision to share their development process openly with the world. In a daring move, they have decided to tear down the curtains of game development secrecy, inviting players and enthusiasts alike into their creation process. Streaming their development sessions on Twitch, they have allowed players to gain a unique insight into the usually concealed world of game development, creating a tight-knit community around their project.
Their dedication to transparency extends to plans for future physical meetups, intending to attend Gamescom in Germany, hoping to connect with their fanbase on an even more personal level. “I will most likely be at Gamescom if you want to meet me in person,” Max promised, sharing his excitement for the possibility of a community meetup.
Yet, despite the success he’s found, he is steadfast in maintaining his humble and down-to-earth approach to their craft. “I still go to school, I’m not like, ‘Oh, we won like shit tons of money, now we will never go to school again.”
The unorthodox methods of these developers are certainly turning heads within the gaming community. Their desire to share their progress openly and invite players into their development process has proven to be a successful formula, fostering a tight-knit community around their game. It’s a bold move that has undeniably paid off, demonstrating that indie developers can break the mold and redefine traditional gaming industry norms.
Moreover, their ongoing commitment to education and personal growth, despite their success, emphasizes the importance of staying grounded and focused. Their humble attitudes and commitment to remaining unchanged by success sends a powerful message about staying true to one’s values.
Their story is an inspirational beacon for aspiring game developers, showing that age, location, or size of your team don’t define the potential for success in the gaming industry. It emphasizes that passion, dedication, and a community-focused approach can forge a successful path in game development.
The gaming industry will undoubtedly be watching as these young developers continue to push the boundaries, reinventing the rules as they go. Their journey is a testament to the power of collaboration, transparency, and the simple love of gaming, offering a refreshing perspective and inspiration for game developers around the globe.