I’m Natalia Figueroa, co-creator of Fran Bow and co-founder of Killmonday Games.
The other half of Killmonday Games and co-creator, husband and best friend is Isak Martinsson.
As you might already know, we released Fran Bow on August 27th, after 3 years of development and we wanted to share with you what we have learned through this journey.
You can listen to the Fran Bow Soundtrack here while reading this post, if you like <3
Finishing the game
Finishing the game was one of the hardest part of development, there is always things you can improve in the game, but on the other hand time and money wasn’t on our side.
When you have a total amount of 28,000 dollars in a country like Sweden, you have very little to go around. We were too positive about that amount when we asked for 20,000 dollars on IndieGOGO and we were really, really, really new in the whole “making games” industry, so we knew nothing! But those 28,000 dollar were stretched so much, that we ended up living with 1,200 dollars a month, from which 700 of it went to rent, 400 to bills and 100 for food. We weren’t even riding the bus or meeting people because that was a TOO expensive. But you know what? We learned that having this little amount of money each month was great, we had everything we needed and it taught us to be more responsible with our resources. Personally I felt responsible for my acts and that was a very illuminating experience.
When we were about half of the game, Isak’s grandfather died and it was pretty hard times for us both. I felt so much for Isak and his family. One of the nicest things was that Isak’s grandfather left him a part of his life’s savings which also helped to develop the other half of Fran Bow, because the IndieGOGO money were almost gone. We saw a light at the same time we saw somebody fading away and we are greatly thankful for him and knowing that his savings went to a dream come true for us!
The journey of Fran Bow has been an amazing, both sad and happy.
When we were coming to the end of development, Isak and I had an extreme break up. The stress that money gives is… satanical! It destroys so much of the beauty. The survival instincts don’t see love or compassion at all! But we came back together when we realized that life’s meaning is the one we give, we felt that; fuck the system! We didn’t want to follow the absurd rules of consuming and social status, so we kind of just forgot about money, we still had very little to finish the game and we were so positive about Fran Bow and we trusted in Fran Bow fans!!! And at the end, we were still alive, and if we needed to give up our home, we luckily still had our moms to go to! So we came back together and tried with our best efforts to finish the game!
After a few months of testing, changing and adding small details, the game was already out.
We almost couldn’t believe it until today and that’s why I’m writing now… After one month I can say that I feel happy that we completed this game and that the journey itself was the biggest reward I’ve received in my entire life and I speak for Isak too.
In a puzzle game, you just don’t want to have puzzles coming from no-where. I really wanted to play a game that felt like everything was connected and highly organized and that’s what I worked the hardest on to achieve in Fran Bow.
My goal was: To write a story that felt complex, both in lore and characters. The problems in the story are what I would transform into puzzles and in that way progress in the game without going outside the story. It’s very time consuming making a story-puzzle based game but I think is my favorite thing to do at this point of my life and Isak’s too.
- Time and organisation:
Time is absolutely the most valuable thing we have. Life evolves around it and making Fran Bow was an eye opening experience when it comes to time. We were working around 12 to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. We had to change many of the old habits we had when it came to food, exercising and resting. First, we became vegan, so we could improve our health. Within a week of being vegan, our heads felt so much clearer and we had boost of energy! We also started to exercise daily, because we were sitting too much and our bodies were feeling anxious because of that. So that also helped a lot to improve our health and mood. We also stopped consuming legal drugs as, cigarettes, alcohol and “snus” which is a Swedish tobacco thing, very gross.We had a monthly schedule where we planned what time to go up, eat, etc so we could use the time in a very effective way. It wasn’t hard because we really wanted to do the best we could to achieve this game. It actually was amazing and we felt proud of ourselves being able to manage our own rules.
The technology utilized in Fran Bow is pretty simple.
We have 2 computers with Windows, each with two screens. Only one of these screens was bought at full price, because the other 3 were second hand purchases.
A Mac-mini and one laptop with Linux.
Isak used GameMaker Studio from Yoyo Games to program the game.
I used Photoshop to draw and animate some things, like water and effects.
AnimeStudio to animate characters.
A Bamboo Wacom tablet, to draw.
H4nd Zoom; sound recorder
One midi-keyboard to make music.
Cubase, music program to edit and record music.
Public relations and Availability:
When it comes to get your game noticed, damn! It’s a great casino. Sometimes it works, sometimes it feels like you are doing everything against a wall. We kind of tried our own ways, making what felt honest to do. That’s why we did some videos, introduced Mr. Red to the world and we tried to have fun with something we think is not so fun, like asking you please, to buy our game.
We didn’t have money to spend on ads or a PR company actually, not a single penny. So it was mainly the whole time just us two e-mailing magazines, trying to reach out somehow or the other, but always in a very open and honest way and we are amazingly thankful for those who put their time to play and give a review of the game. Many of our fans write to tell us that we should get more attention, but we don’t know what else to do.
We send e-mails from MailChimp and from there you can see who opens the e-mails and who doesn’t. So we know that the majority we’ve send information, have opened the e-mail even more than once but even so, haven’t answered to us or written an article on the game.Thanks to the fans, we got the game Greenlit and because of that, the game is available on Steam. GOG also accepted the game and after release we turned to Itch.io and Humble store. Right now we are talking to get the game into GreeManGaming as well.
Many of sales are because of word of mouth spreading and we are super thankful about that!
- Money spent:
IndieGOGO : 28,000 US dollars
Personal savings: 24,000 US dollars
Total: 52,000 US dollars.
Under the first month we have sold around 10,000 copies of Fran Bow. Yay! Woho! Super hyper!!!!
This is an overall about the personal journey while developing the game. We also did a series of development videos while making the game if you are interested.
You can also check out Fran Bow website and help us spread the word about Fran Bow <3 Thank you!
Thank you for reading this post and thank you for your support and we hope, if you already played Fran Bow, that you liked it. Isak send his greetings and hugs to you!
Many hugs and love to you!
Have a lovely time!