An Interview with Dámaso Benitez, Artistic Director at Genera Games

We speak to Genera Games’ artistic director about working in mobile game design

Dámaso Benitez has been working at Genera for the past eight years, and in that time has witnessed the full scale of smartphone revolution. From the early days of text-message ringtones, to the first smartphones and apps, he’s been behind the scenes working in the artistic department – of which he is now the head. We speak to Dámaso about working at Genera Games, and what it takes to join the artistic department.

Tell me about your career at Genera Games.

I’ve been working here for seven or eight years, from when the company made content for WAP mobiles, which like that ‘send a message to this number to receive the ring tone’, which was more for the first mobiles that came out.

Then we started working more with smartphones, and from there we started to make applications for mobile, and then we started to direct ourselves more towards games. I’m not one of the first that came into the company, but I’ve been here for quite a while, and I’ve lived the whole course of mobile phones; from the simplest to smartphones, that now have more possibilities in terms of videogames and capabilities.

What does your job consist of?

My job involves coordinating all of the artistic departments at Genera, validating the projects like the ones we have for Disney, or for Gladiator Heroes, which are really important launches. There’s a lot of production involved, and several have taken many years to produce. My job consists of coordinating all the parts in order to mark out quality channels so that everything that Genera does comes out the in the best form possible.

What’s your education background?

I did a course in applications, programming and IT, and then I also did a Master of Design, but I don’t have any direct speciality in relation to fine arts and things like that.

What kind of education or training would someone need to work in the artistic department at Genera Games?

It’s interesting because out of the team that we have, the majority haven’t obtained any kind of overall training, being something so dependent on the visual and the artistic. It’s a talent – it’s something where some people know how to see what they have, and others don’t.

I think that above all, the most important thing is that once someone wants to start working in this kind of field, they need to have a good portfolio that shows their capabilities and from there they can start acquiring more knowledge, and have a team that can guide them surrounding them. It’s true that in videogame development you need to have certain technical knowledge in order to deliver the resources a the programming teams.

One really important quality that someone would need to work here is that they have to be comfortable working in a team, they have to know how to work in a team and get along well with other people, and have a fluid personal relationship with others. In my department it’s especially important, because we spend a lot of time together and we go through high-pressure periods. I think that if everyone fits in personally, then that’s the first base that someone needs to have.

Where do most people start when they begin working with Genera?

Most people we have working in the department began working with marketing resources. In this position they start a bit more with composition, and understanding a bit more about mobile resolutions, which is quite extensive, and then from there familiarising themselves with the material and gaining more experience to be able to take on more responsibility.

Run me through the typical process of a new game: from its initial conception to its design.

We start with the aesthetics, in which we figure out, for example, that we want the audience to be women over 40, or 14-year-old boys and so on. From there, we decide on the appropriate aesthetics and we normally do tests on Facebook. A campaign is made, where four different designs are uploaded and tried between different people within our profile, so that we can see which works best.

Genera Games puts a lot of effort into making a fun working environment for its employees. What are some of the things you do for fun at work?

We play a lot of games to discover new mechanics. One thing we do is, every Thursday when Apple release their recommended games in the App store, is play the new games. Friday afternoons are normally spent playing new games, to get ideas.

We also have a beer together from the office beer tap on Friday afternoons, and play the gaming console or table soccer throughout the week to help us relax.

An Interview with César Ríos, development team lead for Gladiator Heroes

We sit down with César, who heads the development and design team behind Gladiator Heroes, to talk about the game’s initial conception, development, and their plans for the future.

Where did the idea for Gladiator Heroes come from?

The idea for the game came when we finished the last project we were working on in 2014. The team finished and we had to start working on the next game.

So, we evaluated the options and knowledge that we had in the team, and where the market was at that time. We saw that the games that were always among the top positions were strategy and city-building games.

We started to look for an idea that could fit within that stream, while giving it its own, unique personality.

We came across the idea of battles between gladiators, in which you have a city to keep developing your gladiators, then send them to combat against other players in multiplayer mode, or against the game itself.

How did you start developing the characters and gameplay?

The game’s development process at first focused on the combat system, which was our base. We had the art team and the programming design team. So before we even started to program, we began to design the game with paper and pencil.

We bought gladiator figurines, dice, cards, and with that we printed on a piece of paper the scene for the game and we started to plot out the game design process: how the characters moved, how they attacked, what types of characters there were.

Once we had all that polished, we began testing it with people and changing our ideas.

When we saw that people were starting to like the game, that everyone was entertained, and that instead of developing a game we were actually playing it, at that moment we said “we have something good, we’re going to stop here, and we’re going to begin programming it”.

At the same time, the art team was looking for a graphic aspect of the game that both adults and children would like. They started to look for a cartoon aspect, that wasn’t too childish, but not too realistic or ‘adult’ so that kids didn’t like it either. That’s how we arrived at the imagery that we have today.

Why is it worth the wait for the global launch of Gladiator Heroes?

We’ve had the game in various different countries for a bit more than a year, making sure that all the systems we have – multiplayer, all the game parametres – work correctly so that everyone enjoys the game, and so that we don’t have any problems when the game launches globally.

Apart from this, we’ve been collecting all the feedback that people have given us about the game, and we’ve been adding improvements that they’ve requested.

“We need a forge”, so we added a forge, or: “We need multiplayer”, so we added multiplayer, so we’re really open for everyone to propose changes or improvements in the characteristics of the game to include them.

We’re really happy and looking forward for the game to come out so that we can see the reaction that it gets once it’s available globally for everyone.

What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face in the game’s development?

The biggest challenge that we had with the game was that we had to take a lot of risks with the combat system.

When we started working there was a trend to create the same sort of combat system, which a lot of different games had success with, but we didn’t want to follow this path – we wanted to innovate and go beyond.

We had to design a completely different combat system, and we had to work really hard to make sure that it made sense, so that it was simple to play, but also that if you’ve been playing for a year there will still be challenges and you can still improve your statistics and strategies.

This has probably been the greatest challenge we’ve had with the project.

Can you tell me a bit more about the multiplayer system – how does it work?

At the beginning when the game was launched in a few countries for testing it didn’t have multiplayer mode, because we were basically just testing all of the simple characteristics of the game, the combat system and the city, but we quickly began to receive feedback from users that they wanted multiplayer, that they wanted to compete with their friends and on a global level.

We started to design the multiplayer combat system. Right now, you can battle your gladiators against any other user in the world, and you have rankings – online, locally, and with your friends on Facebook.

In the near future, there will also be the possibility to unite your gladiators in clans with your friends and colleagues and engage in clan-versus-clan duals on a global scale to see who is the most powerful clan in the world.