The early access launch of “Relic Hunters Legend”, at the end of September, was a milestone for Brazilian studio Rogue Snail. From public notices to international investment, the company’s journey to create the game is an example of the sector’s growth in Brazil and an example for thousands of independent developers who dream of launching their games commercially.
Continuation and improvement of “Relic Hunters Zero”, the studio’s inaugural free title, the game became the main driver of growth for the company, founded in September 2014 by Mark Venturelli (game designer), Betu Souza (art director), Raphael Müller (sound designer) and Caio Cesar Lima (programmer).
With an idea in mind, but no money in their pockets, the founders of Rogue Snail went looking for financing. The initial incentive came from a games notice opened in 2016 by Spcine, an organization linked to the Department of Culture of the City of São Paulo, which earned the studio R$150,000.
“Many of Brazilian companies start based on a notice. I think it’s something for us to be proud of in our country,” says Renata Rapyo, who replaced founder Mark Venturelli as CEO of Rogue Snail in July this year — as well as the other founders, he continues to collaborate with the company in his area and on a newly formed board of directors.
“This money is not enough to make a medium and large game, but it allows them to start and make their first prototypes.”
It was no different with Rogue Snail. The money received from the city hall, together with around R$170,000 obtained through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter at the end of 2017, enabled the company to develop the first versions of the ambitious project represented by “Relic Hunters Legend”. .
“The pillars of the game have remained the same since the beginning. The idea was to take ‘Relic Hunters Zero’, and make it bigger and better”, says programmer Gabriel Leite, one of the first employees hired by Rogue Snail.
Just like the studio’s first game, “Legend” is a “looter-shooter”, in which the objective is to kill enemies to obtain more powerful weapons. The game’s story also departs from what was created in “Zero”, adding elements from RPG games, as well as new narrative plots and characters.
The biggest changes are the adoption of a more modern artistic direction, which mixes 2D and 3D elements, the implementation of a cooperative online multiplayer mode and the intention to launch a “live service” title, which will be updated over time with new content. , inspired by the success of series like “Destiny”.
“An online RPG has many complexities. We already knew that, but it’s a business that grew and grew… And we started to realize that the game, to be a success, had to be bigger and bigger”, says Leite.
This would only be possible with the help of a large publisher, capable of helping with the development of the game with technical and financial support.
“We already had all these dreams, but, being realistic, we held back. We created fewer mechanics, fewer game modes. When Gearbox came in, we felt we could finally unleash the full potential of the game”, he says screenwriter Pedro Falcão, narrative designer for the series.
Contact with Gearbox, known for the “Borderlands” series, came at PAX East 2020, held in Boston. In search of an international partner, Rogue Snail took advantage of the gaming event — one of the last before the Covid-19 pandemic — to showcase the “Legends” prototype. He ended up winning the heart of Steve Gibson, president of the American publisher.
“When we first met the Rogue Snail team, we were immediately drawn to their exceptional talent and enthusiasm for creating games designed with an extremely high level of care and love for players,” Gibson said in an email interview. “The more we talked to them, the more excited we became.”
In addition to Gearbox, the studio also closed a deal with Netflix. Through investors who had invested in the studio at the beginning of the project, Rogue Snail learned that the streaming giant was looking for quality mobile games to offer its subscribers.
With this, “Relic Hunters Rebels” was born, which became one of the first Brazilian games distributed on the streaming service and gave the company the chance to further develop the franchise’s universe.
“It was very interesting because we were able to place the seed of what would become ‘Relic Hunters Legend’, as a ‘prequel’ to what happens in the story”, says Falcão.
More than that, partnerships with Gearbox and Netflix allowed the studio to grow quickly. Shortly after completing nine years, Rogue Snail already had 55 employees. This also resulted in changes in the way the company was organized.
“There are a lot of things that work well in a small team, because you can have much more agile, much more transparent communication. But when we start talking about 20, 30, 50 people, things have to be more documented to that everyone can find themselves”, says Rapyo. “I think that’s been our biggest growing pain, and the biggest learning as well.”
Even so, the company still tries to maintain the indie spirit, with greater freedom for employees and horizontal communication and organization practices. Game designer Beatrice Ribeiro, who between stints at Rogue Snail did an internship at Blizzard, owner of “World of Warcraft” and “Diablo”, sees the main advantage of this format in greater agility in solving problems.
“In other companies, you have a whole path to get from point A to B, with a lot of stops. You can’t skip anything. In our company, you can cut down on a lot of bureaucracy,” he says.
“We have direct communication with anyone”, adds Giulia Yamasaki, Chu, who works as a technical artist on “Relic Hunters Legend”. “It doesn’t have to be passed on to a superior, who will communicate who I don’t know to someone, so that in a month they can find out what I have to do.”
The studio has operated completely remotely since its founding and, at the beginning of the year, implemented a four-day-a-week working format.
Another aspect of the indie culture that the company tries to maintain is the spirit of collaboration with other national developers. Rapyo highlights Rio’s Double Dash and Copa Studio (partners in the game “Irmão do Jorel and the Most Important Game in the Galaxy”) and Pernambuco’s PUGA Studios, which outsources resources for game development.
“We want success not only for our studio, but for our country. As it is a new industry, great Brazilian talents have left. If we grow together, this will help these people to return here, bringing with them the knowledge that they acquired abroad”, says Rapyo.