Mito Studio learns to walk
An overview of what we’ve been through in a year.
One of our most fun projects has just been released! Totemori is available now on Steam for free. We are proud of our first desktop game and if you are interested in the process and learnings of making and releasing a game as an independent studio, an in-depth review is on the way! If you follow us on Medium, you won’t miss it.
But first, let’s see what else have we achieved since we decided to put more focus on our own ideas and be more persistent in executing them. As you might remember, in the beginning of the year we were thinking a lot about how we should lay down the foundation of a new team focusing on idea generation and experimentation and we came up with a concept that seems to be working. We finished some earlier ideas that we did not want to let fade into oblivion, and launched several new projects. And we learned a lot.
Let’s have a quick review of the most important stuff we achieved and sum up the learnings of the previous year when we started to learn to walk.
Projects we started and launched (or didn’t)
At the very beginning we started an in-house knowledge spreading endeavour on our internal blog by collecting each week’s most interesting, inspiring and informative content. We also realised that a huge list of links is not the ideal solution without proper curation, so we rather reduced the amount of content and added a personal description or insight to each link.
After a short while we realised that the our little initiative grew really big within Mito and the value created on our in-house channel is truly valuable, so why not share it with everyone who may be interested. This took us to our next step when we moved the content from blog posts to a newsletter allowing anyone to sign up. This was the first Mito Studio product to be launched publicly and we learned a lot on the way from curating content, through finessing the maintenance and workflow, to distributing and evolving our product. We also realized that we have a lot of good friends on whom we can rely to give us immediate feedbacks very willingly. Thank you guys!
The content is Hungarian-only at this point, but you may want to keep an eye out because English version is on its way.
If you are interested, have a look!
No Hope for Us
No Hope For Us was made during a previous Mito Hackathon as one of many awesome projects born in this 24-hour jam, where a company of coders, designers and other professionals push themselves to deliver something cool in just 24 hours without any sleep.
We played around with the idea of a possible zombie attack and decided that our best chance to survive such an event was to stay in the office and try to defeat the threat together. Hence, the pixel art version of our office building and its surroundings was born.
The game was built on top of the Phaser game development framework, multi-player is powered by a custom Node.js server, and original controls (the ones used at the hackathon) were built with Makey Makey.
Are you up for facing a horde of zombies? Ok, try to stay alive!
After 101 years we finally can play through Kafka’s most depressing short story. Some of Mito Studio’s creative minds and skilled developers thought that the world should not keep spinning without a game that would faithfully reenact Gregor Samsa’s dreary story.
In Metamorphosis the player navigates the protagonist to his bed by typing in the words of the story’s text. The correctly typed words become solid platforms on which Gregor Samsa, our hero, can crawl. These can also be used to stop him from advancing in the incorrect direction, or preventing him from falling too deep and dying upon impact.
For developing this game we used Phaser again. This tool not only simplifies deploying and moving elements; it also makes handling animations and sounds simpler while providing gravity, collision monitoring and other practical tools for building a platform game.
Prepare for a dark and gloomy experience.
We launched an initiative to encourage anyone to learn a new skill or experiment with an idea. That became the Study Group where you could spend your weekly 4 hour playtime with your project. We had a showcase every two month. Awesome ideas and projects were born like Farvel, Footprint, Gotham Slab Font, the Mito Darts App, Mito Life Cinemagraphs, HabiTwo and Gabor’s Instagram Experiment. Some of the projects are still under development since they have such value they’re worth some extra effort and work beyond the 2 months of the Study Group period. Like we did with Totemori.
Studio is responsible for the ecosystem of softwares that keep company processes up and running. We have our own timesheeting solution, a software to handle every project’s lifespan from quoting to invoicing, reporting for our account and project managers, personnel records for our HR team, and so on. We also have a bunch of fun apps like a quiz with the face and names of all the people to help newcomers learn the people quickly, an interactive map of our office, a map of all the good food places around, a timeline of our history and moments together, and a nice dashboard to have all the most important information in one place in a personalized way. In the last months we changed the engine running our internal blog (Mito Log) entirely and the backend of the fun company timeline (We Are Mito) and had plenty of updates and new features in our main project administration system (Mito Project). Also, we killed hundreds of bugs to achieve smoother running and better performance in all of our internal systems.
The topics of Mito Hackathon were digital art and free-to-use tools. Despite the serious sleep deficit, we had fun. And it was really awesome to see that year by year the teams are getting better and better in coming up with feasible ideas and project scopes that are achievable in the strict 24-hour time limit.
This year’s winner is a good example of this:
Budapest nights are (in)famous. We as mito went, died and survived several times in the downtown party block, and one thing is clear: communication is not easy to operate in that timeframe: we’re drunk, disoriented, louder than necessary and short-term memory tends to fail a lot. That’s why we created OTT TALI, the ultimate sticker pack. With around 130 unique stickers including restaurants, pubs, cafés and famous party slangs to replace long and confusing texting, helping to survive the night.
As mentioned earlier, Totemori is our very first Unity-based desktop game. The idea came from a Study Group project. The concept is simple: play against each other or the computer, grab stones and throw them upon each other to build towers while the clock is ticking. Control the highest towers to win. The game got greenlit superfast on Steam and we just released the final version a few days ago! This was the biggest Studio project so far and we are really proud of the game. If you are interested in building towers or throwing some rocks at your opponents and thus create a true arena experience, check out the game!
We love to run, we love technology and arts as well. Runiverse was born in this constellation on a Hackathon to bring a brand new experience for runners to see running data through an artistic visualization rather than plain numbers . Unfortunately this was one of the projects that we put aside in order to focus on the other ongoing works. But running weather is returning slowly, so we’d like to finish this one pretty soon. :)
Some of us are smoking. Belly is full? Let’s light a cig. Friday boozing with the friends? Let’s puff a few. Cup of coffee in the morning? Works best with a smoke.
But that’s bad. That’s why we came up with a free app that helps fighting against Smoky, the embodiment of the inner temptation of lighting a cigarette. Unsmok’d helps in the very moments when it’s the hardest to resist. With the app you can count little victories over the craving, be proud of your results and enjoy the hilarious contents you get as a reward.
The initial plan was launching the app at the end of December to help the tsunami of new year’s quitters but we were just short of the necessary resources. Christmas time can be seriously crazy to plan because of other Mito projects and Xmas holidays. But we haven’t given up! The app is almost finished, we are launching it in the following weeks. Stay tuned!
Idea Box is a quite simple and straightforward tool to gather ideas within the company. Everyone has ideas, right? We can help in bringing them to life. Just throw them in the box and let’s talk them through. Sounds simple. But we faced that without a proper definition of the ideas we are expecting, without continuous communication and without a simple but structured form of submission, it’s not working. We got several good ideas, but we haven’t got anywhere close to what wanted. We’ll definitely improve this tool and the process.
We were quite busy with doing things, but of course it’s also important to talk about the stuff we are working on. We attended several conferences like Internet Hungary and Stretch. It was great to see that many attendees were interested in the Mito Studio concept and we had several inspiring conversations about goals, plans and the future we should head towards.
Keeping in mind that we are a 4–5 member little team, it’s clear that the work above is a lot. But our goal for the first year was to push as many projects as we can, as hard as we can and learn a lot in the doing. And of course, we had some really good times, but sometimes we failed. And failing teaches us and makes us push harder next time.
Have a core team and dedicated time
There are problems that pop up when you don’t expect them. One of our key members left the team last year, so we have to reorganize the core of Mito Studio. Now, a new UX designer is part of the team, but we realized, that we should involve as many people as we can to have a buffer, so we hired a project manager dedicated to manage inner developments, and a Studio intern who can manage a lot of rebound tasks.
Hackathon is still a good hatchery for ideas
It is fast and concentrated, 24 hours for a project can be enough, as we saw in the above that lots of projects started (or were executed) on these events earlier. Hackathon is one of our most successful formats, so it has to be scaled up in the future: involve more people and execute more ideas in this 24-hour race.
Set the rules clearly
Framework is important. With strict rules, dedicated time and other sources you can go farther, but sometimes we needed to let some project go free and watch how it developed and just support it. Like for a child: if rules and caring is too much, failure has a higher chance. You have to find the right balance.
No deeper KPI’s
This was cool, but hard as well. For example, we didn’t learn how to price our products. We didn’t need to align them with hard numbers and earnings. There was no money involved in the projects this year, but there were lot of learnings, gained reputation and fun. :)
The best things are the problem solving ones
Insight is also important. If a project is art-related, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need a strong insight or a basic problem to solve. That’s why Runniverse has been slipping since the beginning. It has a nice artistic image, but no strong insight behind it.
Product management is the key to execute
Fortunately people in Mito and Mito Studio are passionate and care about each other and the projects they own or even not own. And that’s the point: every project needs an owner, a manager, who pushes the chariot as hard as they can, and holds the reigns as well. Totemori didn’t have a project manager at all, so participants needed to push it forward and sometimes participants didn’t know what the next step was or saw the overall picture. Besides, they needed to take more tasks they can execute. That could have killed the fun part. Fortunately it didn’t, but we have to pay attention to it.
Show and tell is a must
Many people didn’t know what was happening is Mito Studio. Many people came to us during the last year in person with the question: “How can I join?” Of course, we had some posts about Studio on our inhouse blog, but that was not enough, as we could see. How can we expect them to participate, if they don’t know what’s happening, and don’t know how to join in? We have to show and tell them as many times as we can what is going on and how can they play or even chip in.
Give our products to people as early as we can
After 3 months of developing Totemori, we went to meetups and gave it to friends to play, and we had a lot of learnings. Of course, what we wanted was to have a clear picture and needed to set the line of maximum features, so we tried to stick to the plan, but also hear players and users’ voices. That was was the good choice at inner developments: involve users early and get valuable feedback.
Plans for 2017
Gathering problem-solving ideas and involving people even more. To get there, we need to focus on these two things:
- Being transparent so that people can see what’s happening.
- Make it super easy for people join a project or contribute with an idea.
That’s why we decided to make an internal online hub, where our colleagues can dive into the Studio related projects, join the ones they like or get inspired to kickstart new ones.
As you can see, we experienced plenty of diverse projects, explored a lot of fields from gaming to the world of the weekly newsletters, and we learned a lot. That was our main goal for the first year, and we are looking forward to the next one when we utilize this knowledge and make more clever things.
This post was written collaboratively with Tibor Lakatos.