Sweden isn’t just one of the most picturesque countries in the world, it’s also home to tons of talented game developers — especially those at Level Eight, creators of Protostrike, Modern Command, Robbery Bob, and more.
We asked Level Eight CEO Patrik Knutsson what makes his team from Umeå tick, and how they bring their unique experience to mobile games.
Level Eight was founded in 2011 by a small core group of eight who already had extensive experience with handheld gaming.
“Within Level Eight we narrowed it down and mainly focused on mobile games since devices were constantly evolving and the ability to make games increased,” Knutsson explained.
“After being active for so many years in the industry it is amazing to see how far the technology has come,” he continued, “With new hardware – bigger screens and faster CPUs, we can now develop games to compete with console and PC games.”
That passion and drive to compete with the traditional games market have led Level Eight to try a number of different genres and push the creative bounds of each one. From the comical, light-hearted stealth of Robbery Bob to the incredibly detailed 3D battlefields of Modern Command, Level Eight is genuinely trying new and interesting things in each of their games.
The team has also committed to supporting their titles with additional languages, continually broadening their audience.
And it’s paid off.
“We recently got a big surprise when Robbery Bob: Man of Steal went straight to sixth place on the chart list for the most downloaded game on iOS devices in China,” Knutsson said, “Besides that, we have over 5 million new players each month in our games!”
Not bad for just 15 enthusiasts in Sweden!
Growing the Team
According to Knutsson, Level Eight is a flat organization where each member is a critical part of the company’s “soul and success.”
“Right now, our team consists of 15 people, but we’re on the lookout for a couple more to join our goofy group,” he said. “The most important thing for us is the balance. While the game industry is famous for long work hours, we’re doing the opposite and have a non-crunch policy,” a welcome statement for many potential Level Eighters.
Knutsson said a healthy balance between work and free time gives the company more energy. “This lets us perform our best, both on and off work,” he said, “When taking away the stress crunch hours might bring, we can relax and have more fun together. We have noticed the more fun we’re having, the better games we make.”
Knutsson says he would describe the company more as a group of friends rather than co-workers. “Our common interest in gaming brings us together and we enjoy spending time together outside of work,” he explained. “Our regular After Works always start in our gaming room. One contributing factor might be that our special fridge with all beverage being placed in there… It is not unusual finding us laughing in a pub, hearing us cheer each other on during lunch play sessions or terrorizing each other with (mostly bad) puns.”
“In the nearest future,” Knutsson continued, “We’re mostly looking forward to our traditional ‘fika’ on Fridays. We all go on a break together, sip coffee and eat a slice of cake, bun, or other tasty things.”
Level Eight’s games may run the gamut of genres, but there’s a thread that runs through at least a few of them, even though it’s not a firm constant. “You may say we rock the top-down-angle!” Knutsson laughed. “We use it in Robbery Bob, Modern Command, and our upcoming game Protostrike.”
“We have done games with other angles though!” he’s quick to add. Knutsson explained that the team uses an appropriate art style depending on a number of creative factors that come up during the game development process. “The art style differs depending on the game and what kind of experience and feeling we wish to communicate,” he continued. “One of our strengths is the broad variety of styles we can pull of, so we don’t have to limit ourselves to one art style.”
When it comes to taking those ideas and building them into games, Knutsson explained the process almost as a kind of wish-fulfillment for the team.
“We mainly get inspired by games we would like to play but aren’t on the market yet. When starting a new game title, we take a couple of ideas and brainstorm some more until we get a sense of what we should aim for,” he said.
“We always strive for creating something unique,” he added, explaining the process the team went through to created Robbery Bob, a successful game that spawned a sequel as well. “It started as a classic ‘Cops & Robber’- type game, but we turned it around and made our thief Bob the main character. Turned out it was a big success!”
Developing a game isn’t a smooth ride, Knutsson warned though. “You don’t just go straight from an idea to a final product,” he explained. “You’ve got to test everything, all the time. Don’t be afraid of making necessary changes to improve your game, even if it means more work.”
“It is easier to change it sooner than later. If something didn’t work during testing, it won’t work when you release it either,” he concluded.
Clearly, the experience within the team has paid off. That willingness to experiment, test, revise, work hard, and create the experiences the team wants to play that have led the team to success time and time again.
Growing and Engaging with Purpose
Making a great game isn’t enough though. There has to be a growth, engagement, and monetization strategy if you want to keep making more games!
“With our early game titles, we have been very lucky to get players without an active strategy for user acquisition,” Knutsson said, explaining that organic growth was enough when the company was founded seven years ago. “Today’s competition is fierce, however,” he continued, “We’re still working on finding a strategy suiting for us and our games.”
The gamers keep coming in though, and that means the games need to stay fresh.
“With new players finding our games every day, the games need constant updates to give players the best possible experience,” Knutsson explained. “Not only with new content but also balancing and adapting.”
The CEO explained that after noticing a rapidly growing player base for Robbery Bob in Indonesia, the team made the decision to translate the game into Indonesian, improving the experience for players in the region.
“Even if it is important to update the game itself, we believe the social aspect is just as important,” Knutsson said, remarking that the team isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun at their own expense. “When a Robbery Bob player finds a bug in our game, we use it as content for Robbery Bob videos, in what we call ‘Bugs & Bloopers.’”
By including the community in these transparent and open conversations, Level Eight encourages players to report bugs and take an active part in the development of their favorite game. “Our Community Manager Theres tries to watch as many gameplay videos and another kind of content as possible and give feedback to show how much we appreciate them,” Knutsson added, noting “It is a simple thing to do but means so much to the player.”
With their upcoming mobile online arena shooter Protostrike currently in beta, Level Eight has taken their engagement strategy to the next level, streaming while playing with their testers, and extending the reach of the title before it’s even officially launched.
“Besides that, we create music videos and other kinds of content on social channels to keep the players engaged,” Knutsson added. No doubt it helps with the user acquisition as well!
Protostrike is a multiplayer game for a hardcore audience with unique features. “It emphasizes on co-op and strategies,” Knutsson said. “We believe the timing for this kind of game is right. Players don’t longer see mobile games only as something to play on the go but are willing to invest their time and play longer sessions,” he continued.
That sentiment isn’t out of left field either. With Epic Games introducing Fortnite to mobile earlier this year, as well as their hardcore tactical role-playing game Battle Breakers, Arena of Valor from Tencent, Rules of Survival from Netease, and VainGlory from Super Evil Megacorp, the market has proven there’s room for more hardcore titles across a variety of genres.
Level Eight’s expertise across a variety of genres and years of experience is putting them in prime position to take advantage of that demand in the market with Protostrike.
Knutsson said Protostrike that has been in development for about two years and that the team is really looking forwarding to the full launch of the game. “Even if we will continue updating it over the coming years, it is a big milestone to launch it,” he said.
“When it comes to monetizing, the earlier you think about implementing it to your game the better,” Knutsson said, explaining the ins and outs of preparing an app for the market. “No matter how you do it, monetization must feel like a natural part of your game,” a wise sentiment other talented game developers have made, again and again, both at industry talks and in other AdColony Publisher Spotlights.
“If you wait to the end with monetization, you end up creating a system separated from your game,” he continued.
“The need to monetize can never overshadow the user experience,” Knutsson explained. Since Level Eight specializes in free-to-play games, the company needs players to spend both time and money in apps in order to keep the company doing well and give the team the opportunity to keep making great games.
“If we hide the content behind paywalls, players will get upset and seek out other games instead. In all our games, players can access everything but it may take some time to unlock items or chapters but we think it is a fair deal and something our players accept,” Knutsson explained, delving into the philosophy behind the company’s F2P strategy.
“If the player gets a positive user experience, it will help us monetize,” he concluded.
Level Eight is also working on another new title, but one they’re not quite ready to talk about. Knutsson said it will be very different, but more casual and super engaging. “We can’t say much more about it but we think many of our earlier players will enjoy playing it,” he said with a smile.
“We also hope to get started designing for a sequel to Robbery Bob, he added, ”Our players are begging for a follow up so once we have time, we’ll sit down and start with the planning.”
Stay in Touch with Level Eight
On the company level, Level Eight keeps in touch with its players across many channels. From the main website along with the standard Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for Level Eight. Of special note is the company’s the blog, where different members of the team take the helm from time to time to share different parts of the game development process.
The company’s Audio Director Josef Falkensköld, goes by the handle @Falconshield. “Some, especially League of Legend players, might recognize the name from famous game related music videos on YouTube Josef produces with his band Falconshield the Band,” Knutsson noted with a smile. “With his music skills in our team, no wonder the music video we created as an official trailer for Robbery Bob 2: Double Trouble has over 1 million views on YouTube!”
Players interested in signing up for the Protostrike beta can also apply to join in the fun on the Protostrike home page as well.
Level Eight is also looking for a Game Art Generalist and Game Programmer, which you can find on their jobs page.
Join the Conversation
Ready to sign up for Protostrike? Ready to join to Level Eight team in Sweden? Tweet us at @AdColony. For the latest AdColony mobile news and updates, follow @AdColony on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect on Linkedin.
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