Ville Rauma
Chief Operations Officer
Fingersoft
Мы пообщались с Вилле Раума, Операционным директором студии из Финляндии - Fingersoft. Fingersoft создает игры для мобильных устройств. Они известны своими всемирными хитами для мобильных игр Hill Climb Racing и Hill Climb Racing 2, которые в совокупности собрали более 1,9 миллиарда установок на разных платформах и более 150 миллионов евро чистого дохода.
How did you get into GameDev? Did you finish a games related university?
I have been interested in game development since I was a kid and I learned to program with my friends as a teen. I studied computer sciences at the university of Oulu and got my first job in games through a course that included training in a company and there happened to be a small game startup that I got into. After the training period I got a paid job there as a game programmer around 2007 and from then on I’ve been working in the games industry in several different companies and roles ranging from backend developer to now COO.


What do you think about the gaming industry in Finland? What distinguishes it from American or Russian?
The industry in Finland is small in terms of number of people, a few thousand as far as I know, but it’s also extremely experienced, networked and friendly. I think one of the biggest differences to many other countries is that Finnish game companies and developers collaborate and share a lot of knowledge. There are probably a lot of reasons for that like for example IGDA, demo-scene, Assembly event and Nokia but also the fact that most developers I’ve met and worked with deeply care about games and want to be a part of the awesome experiences that our industry creates.


Do you feel the lack of some specialists on the market?
Well of course there are some specialist areas that are difficult to hire for such as backend programmers, graphics programmers, technical artists, data scientists and AI/ML specialists.


Fingersoft


What are your responsibilities as a Chief Operating Officer at Fingersoft?
I’m overseeing all of our game development teams, QA, Liveops and brand development teams. We operate on an independent teams model which means that our teams are highly autonomous and my job is mainly to help the teams realize the vision that they are working towards in any way I can. To give some examples I help team leads and producers with creating and maintaining a vision and strategy, building team & recruitment, setting goals, planning resourcing, facilitating cross-team collaboration etc.


How often do you get applications from Russian developers? What do you think about their skills?
We do get applications from Russian developers quite often, I think there are a lot of great developers in Russia, I think we mostly get applications to programming and art related jobs.


What specialists are usually in high demand at Fingersoft?
Currently we have Lead Artist 2D and Data Scientist positions open but I think pretty soon we’ll also need more 3D/Technical artists and programmers as well.


What skills make some candidates stand out from the others?
We have several areas that we evaluate but some of the important ones are creativity, teamwork, communication, learning, independence, initiative and cultural fit. My general advice to candidates is to be yourself, do your homework and upkeep a portfolio which showcases the types of things that somehow match what we are doing and looking for. A good example question might be that does your portfolio contain good up to date examples of 2D art if we’re looking for a 2D artist and does it match what you think we might need based on your research of our products and the career posting.


What difficulties did Fingersoft encounter, developing Hill Climb Racing?
One of the legendary stories is that when the original Moon level was created the developers didn’t realize that you could grind coins so easily in the low gravity of the moon so the update broke the economy of the game. They then quickly fixed the economy which unfortunately led to an immediate negative reaction from the players, bad reviews etc. So they then quickly reverted the update back to the version which had a broken economy and that then was received extremely well by players. Ever since those events the original Hill Climb Racing has had you collect and use millions of coins which wasn’t originally intended. But it’s now a recognizable part of the experience.


What made this game so popular?
There are several things of course but we think that the “cerebral” feeling of the carefully crafted physics based gameplay, rough cartoon humor -and graphics were some of the important things. Of course the timing of the release on new mobile platforms was important as well. We were also early in utilizing cross-promotion from our other apps as a tactic that worked great.


Apaja Game Campus


How did Fingersoft come up with the idea of Oulu Game Lab? Why is it important for you to gather developers together?
Just for clarification we founded Apaja Game Campus, Oulu Game Lab is a program of University of Oulu Applied Sciences. Because Fingersoft is located in Oulu far away from other big cities, we’ve always seen building a thriving game development community here an important goal. So we’re constantly looking for ways to help game developers succeed in our area. We had an idea to try to build a local center for game development, and have several companies and potentially schools present there. We saw many benefit for doing that, for example increasing business opportunities via more visibility, increasing recruitment potential by growing and attracting more game developers etc. Once we grew to a size that we needed to move to bigger offices, we were looking for some property in a good location in the Oulu city center, were lucky enough to find an awesome place and have been operating here ever since.


What do developers do on the campus? Do you measure the results they achieved?
Well of course first and foremost it contains a lot of office space for companies to work from. There are also communal spaces like auditorium, a cafe and a sauna/bar area which are utilized frequently. We’ve had several companies rent office space and also the Game Lab of Oulu University of Applied Sciences used to be located next door. They’ve moved to a different location since due to internal reasons but the collaboration was excellent while they were close by. We took part in student project reviews and hired many graduate students from the program. In addition we often organize events such as summits in specific areas of game development and of course have parties of which our annual Block Party is my personal favorite. We take over the block where the campus sits and usually have a band, DJ, saunas, pools, food & drinks etc. I suspect the 2022 party will be a big one due to our 10th anniversary and of course all campus collaborators are invited as well as friends and colleagues from around the world. We didn’t originally set up the campus to somehow numerically measure success but more to generate an environment where collaboration opportunities increase, environment for game development improves and Oulu as a game development city gets more recognition. I think it’s safe to say that it has worked quite well.


How do you collaborate with universities?
We have and have had several students making their thesis work on various subjects and we collaborate with universities in studies where it can be useful for both parties. For example, at the moment we are taking part in a project headed by University of Tampere which aims to develop practises and tools to improve brain health, work wellbeing and organizational success.

In addition to developers, what specialists do you invite?
We’ve held summits for game executives, data scientists as well as game developers so far.

How tough is the application process? Do some people get priorities?
At the moment we don’t have any open space available but in general we’ve favored game studios first and other game development related businesses second.

How many games have been made on campus so far? Do you have your favorite ones?
Good question, depends what you count since for example students have made a lot of games. But if you count only released fully developed titles I’d say around 6-10 so far. Many more are under development.


Postmortems


How do you do postmortems of the games? Is there any checklist or rules for the team?
Yes we do. So the way we do it is that the team in question will first hold a few workshops internally and with any other teams that they worked closely with on the game. The point of these is to go through the project timeline and highlight big decisions, problems, turning points and other things of note. Then collect thoughts on what could have been done differently to perhaps get a better result. The team will then generate a presentation on most important learnings and mistakes made as well as any ideas for the future. For example there could be an opportunity to use some of the technology made, make a sequel or something of that nature. For us it’s important that the post mortem looks like the team, so format is free-form and creativity is encouraged. The post mortem will be presented and shared to the whole company to impart as much of the learnings as possible to everyone.


According to your experience, what mistakes do developers often make creating a game?
● Not creating and upkeeping a clear enough shared vision, what are we actually making?
● Not doing your research well enough - who are we making this game for, who are the competitors, what KPI’s do we need to be profitable, do we have the capacity to make this game?
● Not setting clear internal milestones and goals - what does the next version look like, what will it prove, how do we measure success?
● Not accepting reality soon enough - if the KPI’s are not there, can we realistically get there with our time/resources, what is required, is it still within the vision?
● Not being able to actively acquire, evaluate and integrate honest critical feedback into the development process


And what mistakes are common for bad management?
● Not upkeeping clear focus (on the big picture, on the next milestone etc.)
● Not doing enough active listening -> trying to really understand other’s views
● Not getting to know and develop team members as individuals and as a team (1-1s, team building events, etc.)
● Too hands on, too hands off -> wrong balance for the team or individual in question
● Not understanding and handling leadership situations correctly -> do we look for consensus, do I need to decide, do we have all the input and data we need etc.


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