This article was originally written by the Chinese media Game Grape (游戏葡萄) and translated by PandaYoo.com after it was licensed. Copyright belongs to the original author and it is forbidden to reprint without permission.
Author: Liang Zi & Feisi Miao
In October this year, Party Animals became popular. Its demo was tested on Steam for a week, and the peak number of online users exceeded 135,000. As a result, this Chinese game once ranked the fourth most popular in the world.
With the popularity of the game, the life of Luo Zixiong (Pumel), the founder of Source Technology and the producer of Party Animals, has changed a lot. His schedule was filled, and countless people met with his team, including Steam, China, and overseas mobile game publisher. Zixiong told game grape that almost all the publishers in China and abroad that we could think of had visited.
Perhaps no one would have thought that the VR company, which was originally independent of Smartisan, would be a blockbuster in the Party Game field. With investors, cooperation seekers, and visitors, Zixiong received numerous Wechat friend invitations overnight. He woke up to find that the number of notifications on WeChat became an ellipsis.
In order to meet everyone as much as possible, Zixiong planned no more than half an hour for each meeting on his schedule. Even so, there were so many people waiting to meet that they even lined up at the door communicating with each other. The quiet office of Source Technology has suddenly become a lot noisy.
Our meeting with Zixiong was made after 8 o’clock on Friday evening, which was a rare and complete time. When we saw Luo Zixiong, there was an obvious look of tiredness on his face. He showed us his sleep statistics for the last week: an average of four hours in bed and an average of five and a half hours of sleep. In other words, he didn’t know where he fell asleep for an hour and a half.
“Sometimes when I wake up, I ask myself the three philosophical questions of life-who am I’, ‘where am I’ and ‘what am I doing’. “
The place where Zixiong was in a trance for a moment is precisely the curiosity of the outside world about them. In this conversation, Zixiong told us about the background of “Party Animals”, the process of product development, his personal game design concept, and the current and future of the technology he is thinking about.
When the game is recommended by an online influencer
Game Grape: How many people have you met recently?
Luo Zixiong: We meet a group of people every half an hour. From 10 o’clock in the morning and no longer seeing people at about 9 o’clock in the evening.
During the week of the game test, the time was basically running out. Sometimes when you talk to people for a little longer, you will see two groups of people waiting outside. The two groups of people exchange business cards there and start talking to each other first.
Game Grape: Get anything?
Luo Zixiong: Almost everyone wants to publish Party Animals. The game companies you can basically name have been found. But we want to do it ourselves, both at home and abroad.
Game Grape: How do you communicate with the game influencer?
Luo Zixiong: This kind of communication does not mean that we say to them, “come and play our game.” But after the influencer broadcast Party Animals, we need to communicate with them.
Game Grape: You didn’t pay for the influencer?
Luo Zixiong: Do you know PewDiePie?
Game Grape: Doesn’t have a bigger game influencer than him.
Luo Zixiong: He played our game. One day, we saw an email in our mailbox. It was sent by PewDiePie. He said that he liked our game and that there were several influencers with tens of millions of fans playing with him. But the email is very strange, the sender address of the email is a series of numbers with Gmail end, which looks like spam, so we didn’t reply at that time.
A day later, he sent another email saying that he was going to do a live broadcast and asked if we had any needs. He also posted the live link. We click in to have a look, the live broadcast is about to begin, and there is really PewDiePie on Youtube. He really broadcast an episode of Party Animals, which received millions of broadcasts.
Game Grape: This is the charm of the product itself.
Luo Zixiong: PDD is also playing, and Xiao Tuan Tuan is also playing. I don’t really watch live games. Once, a friend told me Xiao Tuan Tuan (A Chinese game influencer with millions of fans) broadcast our game. I thought this girl was too cute, so I took the initiative to contact her and said that you helped us promote the game, and I should give you a fee. Her manager said, take a look at their quotations first. And then, I said we’d better wait until we get rich later.
Game Grape: Have you raised money now?
Luo Zixiong: We completed financing before the game started testing. In fact, after the test, the top-dollar venture capital institutions have talked to us, and all the world-class game companies, you know, have also found us.
But we feel that the core question now is not how much investment can be obtained. No matter how much financing, it will not make us very happy. Making your own money is the key. But whether we can make money or not depends on whether we can make this product well.
A team that has never made games.
Game Grape: Do you think the popularity of Party Animals is amazing? When we met in 2018, there was a lot of uncertainty in your game at that time.
Luo Zixiong: You can think of Party Animals as a game made by a group of Android engineers and a group of recent graduates. There are only three of us who have actually made games before. One has made hardcore games, and the other has just made slot machines.
We are a lucky indie game company. We chose this direction, that is, I wanted to play games with my wife and my children, but there were no products on the market to meet the demand, so we made Party Animals.
As a matter of fact, when I was doing Party Animals, I didn’t think of a name at first, and I even lacked confidence in the type of Party Game.
A weird thing happened when we released our first Demo in March 2018 until May. During that time, I looked for games and played games on Steam every day, and as a result, a party game called Pummel Party appeared in front of us.
My English name is Pumel. Isn’t this game called Pummel Party equal to “Luo Zixiong Party”? However, this is not the weirdest thing. Our game studio is called Recreate Games, and the developer of Pummel Part” is also coincidentally called Rebuilt Games.
Game Grape: How did you feel at that time?
Luo Zixiong: When we doubt ourselves, there is a game called Pummel Party online. When we look at the name of the developer, it is very close to our studio. Both Recreate and Rebuilt have the meaning of re-creation. Maybe that’s what fate is trying to tell.
Game Grape: But it doesn’t make sense for you to say that this is just luck. Other teams may not be able to achieve “Party Animals” popularity through luck. And your team has never played a game before.
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Luo Zixiong: I believe that human IQ has a normal distribution. All the non-cutting-edge knowledge we know can be get through learning. In our company, the last words I want to hear are “I won’t” and “I didn’t do it”. How hard is it to learn?
In our company, no one really does audio. I taught myself, I taught myself FMOD, I taught myself dubbing engineering. I played all the sounds in the game, including the sounds of those small animals (quack twice). The test of Party Animals began on October 5th, and we didn’t match all the animal calls until October 3rd. Finally, I screamed for two days before I found the right feeling.
Game Grape: What else are you satisfied with the current situation?
Luo Zixiong: We think the insight and execution of the team are very good. We wanted to sell one or two million sets, but now the number of Wishlists is the third in all Steam. It’s a little more than we thought. But we told others before that I would sell one or two million dollars, and no one believed it, just no one.
Those people say that the most popular Chinese games in Steam now are more than 1 million sets, no more than 2 million sets, and no more than 400,000 sets of wishlist at most.
A medium-sized publisher talked to us earlier. He said that we will release it to you, we had better sell 150,000 sets of games on Steam before. Then I asked how to distribute the profits. He said that we are share in three and seven, with the rules of the industry. Seven for them, three for us. I don’t know where they got the courage. I said yes, I’ll talk to you later.
At that time, no one believed the game we made.
From being unfavored to the fourth place in the world of Steam
Game Grape: When did you start to have confidence in the product?
Luo Zixiong: Actually, we knew about it in 2018. We officially started developing Party Animals on March 18, and in August of that year, we brought the game to Dice Con. At first, none of us dared to go to the game fair, but we went to the board game fair. Of course, we also felt that board game users were more in line with our target group.
On Dice, Party Animals was the only item that needed to be queued for more than half an hour to play. We originally prepared a questionnaire, but then we didn’t think it was necessary. If you looked at the expressions and smiles of the players, you would know that the feeling of the game was right.
Game Grape: When did you realize the game was really popular?
Luo Zixiong: I knew it on the first day of the game test. Because the server exploded on the first day, the server exploded again on the second day, the game was tested for a week, and the server exploded every day.
Game Grape: What was your state of mind at that time?
Luo Zixiong: We were very nervous. Because we kept having problems. At that time, my friends told me that PDD was going to broadcast our game live. My first reaction was “who is this guy?” He said that this man is a world champion, and he has tens of millions of fans.
Then I had to have a look. Party Animals had a lot of problems with the network function at that time. I was worried that something would happen to the great player when he was broadcasting our game. Because a live broadcast is an advertisement, if something goes wrong with the advertisement, the problem can be big or small. So we were nervous the whole time.
Game Grape: Haven’t you had a moment of complete excitement so far?
Luo Zixiong: I know our game will reach 100,000 peak concurrent users on Steam, but no one believes it. We tested it once in June, and the data reached 7,000. I told the server provider that the next test would have to be prepared by 100,000 people. He should think I’m bragging.
We totally understand. 100,000 is equivalent to the top 10 of Steam in the world, while the highest in our first test is only 7000. who would believe that? As a result, we (the game) really exploded.
Game Grape: In the first test, the user feedback had reached your expectations, so you dared to open your mouth to prepare more servers?
Luo Zixiong: Actually, there is another reason. The highest PCU of “Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout” in Steam is more than 170,000. We think that the quality of Party Animals is no worse than that of “Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout“, so why don’t we dare to prepare for it by 100,000 people. As a result, our PCU exceeded that number and reached 135,000.
In the last two days of the Party Animals test, it reached the fourth peak of Steam in the world, surpassing “Among Us“, “GTA” and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege“.
Game Grape: How long do you have to do to get the product to a level sufficient for official release?
Luo Zixiong: To be honest, I don’t know. My ideal state is that the official version is at least twice as good as it is now. I want people to think that this is not just a good game, but a revolution in the industry.
How to surpass your teacher in learning
Game Grape: When Talks about learning ability, I actually noticed a phenomenon. There is talk that you have copied “Gang Beasts”, but some players will voluntarily defend you, explaining the difference between the two games.
Luo Zixiong: We have learned “Gang Beasts”. There is no need to hide it. But we not only learned it, but we also learned “Super Smash Bros”, “Human Fall Flat”, “Stick Fight”, “Splash Fighters”, “Kirby Fighters”, “Duck Game”. We learned a lot of games. If we only say that we have learned “Gang Beasts”, it is unfair to other games.
“Gang Beasts” is a game without any fighting skills and depth. It’s more like a Prototype. We take a prototype a step further, adding some gameplay, some strategic design, some cute and funny elements, which is what we do.
We are actually quite sorry that almost no one in China has accused us of plagiarizing the “Super Smash Bros”. But we do learn a lot of concepts from this fighting game. We have dodging, footsies, strength… Our many tests have shown that as long as the network is equal, a novice with 8 hours of game time has almost no chance of winning in the face of a 200-hour master confrontation.
When Lirik broadcast lives on Twitch’s last day, he offered a reward of $15 to each player who beat him, and he lost only three games in one night. This does not include the strategy of grabbing the depth of the flag map. These skills and map depth strategies are not available in “Gang Beasts”.
Game Grape: How do you consider the boundaries of learning, borrowing, saluting and plagiarism?
Luo Zixiong: I have always thought that all content creation industries can be judged by one boundary: whether you can do better than before.
Suppose I launched a modern version of Need for Speed in the era of “Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit“. When you see its advanced picture and dynamic system, will you think it is plagiarism?
That’s the way it works. If the world is not allowed to use for reference, how can there be “Quake” and “Unreal Tournament“? Both series are FPS games, but each series has its own ideas and creations.
Game Grape: You mentioned that you have learned a lot of classic elements of the game, such as the easy-to-use and difficult-to-master elements of Nintendo games, so will you follow certain design principles when mixing these elements together?
Luo Zixiong: There are no principles. Just keep trying and overturning. The programmer on our team said that the boss always asked me to change my needs, which is very annoying. I said, you have the nerve to say so, you don’t write the code all at once, why can you change it, and why can’t I change it?
I will have a prediction, and my prediction is based on my existing experience. We haven’t made a game before, so there are a lot of things that we don’t know if it’s right until it’s really made.
Three years to polish maps and characters
Game Grape: In Party Animals, which part of the design are you more satisfied with?
Luo Zixiong: What I am more satisfied with is the restriction mechanism of the submarine map and the aircraft map. They’re intuitive. As the sea overflow, everyone feels that they had to run to the height of the submarine; the wings of the plane are frozen, so it is natural for everyone to avoid the frozen part.
We don’t even need to tell the players anything. Players will gradually learn what the challenges of each map are. For example, the submarine map tests the player’s climbing ability, while the aircraft map tests the player’s physical strength skills.
Game Grape: How long does it usually take you to make a map?
Luo Zixiong: Very slow. We have done it for three years, but so far we have only made eight maps, and we finally want to make more than a dozen maps.
Game Grape: Which map has been made for the longest time at present?
Luo Zixiong: One year. The map of the candy factory you see in Demo is not the final version yet. It has been overthrown three times, and we may have to overthrow it again at the art level.
Game Grape: Why did it take so long for to modify?
Luo Zixiong: It is a strategic map. So when you adjust it, you should design obstacles for shortcuts. If there are no obstacles to shortcuts, everyone will take shortcuts. In addition, we also need to adjust the numerical balance in each place to ensure that players will not ignore the importance of small candies while grabbing big candies. We need to make the map have more room for strategic games.
Game Grape: So for you, the balance adjustment of the map is the most difficult.
Luo Zixiong: The hardest part is the process from 0 to 1. No one has ever made such a flag-grabbing map, and everyone can pull the candy to see who has the strength. There are nine candies in our field, and players can even take one candy in each hand, just like holding a shopping bag. No one has ever done this before.
Game Grape: How long does it take you to design a character?
Luo Zixiong: I really don’t know. If we are lucky, two weeks; if we are unlucky, half a year.
Game Grape: Which role in game need to be done for half a year?
Luo Zixiong: Our penguins have been designed for more than half a year, and we have to continue to change them. Nemo– our first character, a Corky, also worked for four or five months. However, some characters are done quite quickly, such as crocodiles, which can be done in less than a month. In short, this is not an easy thing to quantify, it depends on the feeling.
Game Grape: How do you design these characters?
Luo Zixiong: We will find a lot of references, and then draw the appearance of all kinds of animals, and then draw lessons from the cuter features in those references and adjust them.
The duck we designed was said to have copied Psyduck by the players. But I’m really not plagiarizing. No matter how I draw it, it looks like Psyduck. The proportion of all our characters is fixed, and when you change the role to a duck, as long as its head is round, it is Psyduck!
Game Grape: No matter what the animals look like in the real world, they are actually a kind of body in your game.
Luo Zixiong: Yes. But I really want to make a giraffe.
Regard “taste” as the core competitiveness
Game Grape: What is the whole structure of your team? For example, how to divide the work between planning and art.
Luo Zixiong: It’s all me, because there are too few people on the team. So there is no so-called director, I control everything.
Game Grape: If you need to increase your internal capacity in the future, you can no longer create it entirely by yourself, right?
Luo Zixiong: It should still be me. I think it’s like movie creation, everyone is an extension of the director’s personal will. It’s hard to have two directors in a movie, they separate the upper and lower half of the film. That’s not the case.
People ask me what is the core competence of Recreate Games. Our answer is taste. You can’t expect a team doing numbers games to copy our work. In the process of plagiarism, it is bound to go the wrong way. With their taste, they don’t know what users of such games need. Of course, I can’t make numerical games either.
In my opinion, there is no right or wrong taste, only bias and choice, I think the unique taste is our core competitiveness.
Game Grape: Which player group do you think your taste corresponds to?
Luo Zixiong: It corresponds to a group of people who have fun in games and appeal to emotion. I know how to guide the emotions of these players.
Most games in China will cause people to fall into anxiety, anger, and even want to recharge and vent. In competitive games, you may not be happy if you win, because the other person is scolding you. Our games are different, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, even if you are scolded, the feeling may be different.
So when it comes to emotional control, I don’t think anyone can do it well, just like there is only one director in a movie.
Game Grape: Do you think this is your natural self-expression, or are you trying to empathize with a particular group of players?
Luo Zixiong: I think all your expressions come from your input. What kind of novel you can write depends on what kind of novel you have read and your life experience.
My unique life experience makes me such a person, so I can output such games. For example, choosing to fight in the ring, choosing Sichuan Mandarin as the language of narration, and so on, this series of choices are all based on the orientation of my personal experience. I don’t think this is something that can be done by a planner who plays a numerical game. They may not have a sense of humor.
Only five people left the company five years after its establishment
Game Grape: How many people are there now?
Luo Zixiong: There are still about 30 people. We haven’t been able to hire anyone for a long time.
Game Grape: Is it because your recruitment standards are relatively high?
Luo Zixiong: Just no one sent a resume. But now the situation is much better after the popularity of the game, and some people are even willing to take a pay cut to join us.
Game Grape: You are currently recruiting, which positions will be more important?
Luo Zixiong: we are short of people for all kinds of positions. I am also a cashier of the company. Business is also me, HR I also have to do.
Game Grape: You may be the busiest boss in the game industry.
Luo Zixiong: All startups are busy. But other bosses may not need to take care of the cashier. I have to take care of money and financing. But we really need to recruit an art director, engineering director and so on. I am also an art director at present.
Game Grape: How big do you plan your team to grow?
Luo Zixiong: It may be kept at the scale of 60 people. I prefer small teams. We may also look for some full-time outsourcing in Europe and North America and Australia.
Game Grape: What do you value most about hiring?
Luo Zixiong: World views. It is most important for the candidate to be consistent with our team’s values. What are the world views to me? I believe in universal values and I believe in goodness.
Game Grape: What do you think of whether he is kind or not?
Luo Zixiong: This matter may not be able to be chatted out. But if he keeps talking to me about money and the value of ARPU, I will think that we are not the same kind of people.
Secondly, I think learning ability is also very important. We were a group of people who had never made games, and as a result, the first game we made became popular. We don’t know anything. We didn’t even open Unity before we started this company.
Third, we call it the pursuit of excellence. The pursuit of excellence is an attitude. That is to say, I got 80 points today. Don’t think you are better than others. You must compete with yourself.
Game Grape: Do you ever get it wrong?
Luo Zixiong: Very few. It has been almost five years since we set up the company, and only five of us have left. Our team is so stable that as long as an employee has stayed with us for more than two years, he basically won’t leave.
Because our company’s team atmosphere, values, the pursuit of things, may not be given by other companies.
The new game maker who wants to change the status quo of the industry
Game Grape: Do you think making games will be happier now than when you developed VR?
Luo Zixiong: Actually, they are all quite happy. Now there is a lot of user feedback, will be happier than before. To tell you the truth, everything is fine except that the company hasn’t started to make money yet.
Game Grape: Are you worried about commercialization right now?
Luo Zixiong: All we care about is whether we can make the best products in the world. As long as we make top products, making money is an absolute thing that will happen.
Game Grape: Will you use a timetable to plan the rest?
Luo Zixiong: To be honest, there is no timetable. I think Party Animals has conveyed the first layer of my personal ideal: It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. Everyone had a good time in the course of the game. This part is already very OK.
At the same time, as a company, we also have an obligation and responsibility to make the world a better place.
Game Grape: I don’t think this is something your company needs to consider at this stage.
Luo Zixiong: We are a very lucky company, because there are some game influencer played our game, we are trending, we no longer have to worry about marketing.
In the last Steam Game Festival, the number of Wishlists, PCU, and downloads of Party Animals is the first rank. So Steam gave us a big banner. When I saw it, I e-mailed them to help remove the banner.
Game Grape: Why? It’s against common sense.
Luo Zixiong: Because we no longer need this banner for the attention we have gained. The people who come to the Steam Game Festival are all small and medium-sized indie game companies, everyone is very miserable, and there is no effective channel to get traffic. And we didn’t need more traffic at that time.
In the three days before the end of the Party Animals test, we did another thing, put a banner in the upper right corner of our game, and you click banner, to jump to the Steam Game Festival.
About 8-9 thousand new games hit Steam every year, but there are always about 100 games exposed on the home page of Steam. The other 8900 games are very painful, and there is no effective channel to get visitors on PC. Even if you want to spend money on accurate advertising to get others to click in, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Game Grape: You asked Steam to remove your banner because of such an idea?
Luo Zixiong: Of course, we should help others. In the future, when we have the conditions, we hope to use some tools to change the status quo of the industry, so as to help small and medium-sized game companies, teams like Black Myth: Wukong, and teams like Boundary.
Try to compete with Nintendo
Game Grape: Is it because your game are so popular that you have more sense of responsibility?
Luo Zixiong: There has always been a sense of responsibility. The first layer of responsibility, we are responsible for the users who buy our products. We can’t live up to other people’s expectations. It’s like I bought a bottle of mineral water. I know it’s safe and clean. I can quench my thirst by drinking it. If I drink the mineral water, it has radiation, make me diarrhea, then this is the product that is irresponsible to the user.
Second, we should be responsible for our employees and provide them with a stable environment so that they will not be in a state of anxiety. You know, the middle class in China is only one serious illness away from bankruptcy.
I have never been short of money since I was a child, and I have always been in a state that I don’t care much about money. But not everyone’s family is like this. So I need to provide a stable environment for my employees, which is the second layer of responsibility of the company.
The third layer of responsibility of the company is to be responsible for the shareholders.
They invest in us, and we have to make money for them. Shareholders still have LP (limited partners) to make money. If our shareholders invest in 100 projects, 98 lose everything and only 2 make money, then we have to be one of those two.
The last layer of responsibility is the responsibility of the company to the society. We have an obligation to change the world and make it less cruel.
The biggest difference between humans and animals is not intelligence. It is that human invents tools that make us free from animality. Animal nature is the law of the jungle, and those with big fists have a say. But human beings have invented all kinds of things in history to separate us from animal nature.
The shareholding system is a good example. I went fishing and came back with 100 fish. We distributed it with everyone according to the proportion agreed before. After the joint-stock system was invented, it avoided the cruel side of life, it made everyone eat part of the fish, but also avoided letting one person own all the fish.
I think Party Animals has made the world a better place. In the process of playing this game, people are very decompressed, so that they will not abuse each other because they have lost.
Can we go further? I want to try. When we have enough abilities in the future, we should find ways to make the world less cruel. These are the four major responsibilities that I think enterprises should bear.
Game Grape: What kind of scale do you want the company to develop?
Luo Zixiong: We hope we can eventually become a company like Nintendo. Our target is Nintendo, and we want to be a great company like them.
In my opinion, China’s game industry is very much like the mobile phone industry ten years ago. One of the important reasons for the rise of Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo is that Motorola, Samsung, LG, and Apple have built the foundation of China’s mobile phone manufacturing industry. We no longer start from scratch, you can make a decent Android phone through your own design and market operation.
The same is true of the game industry. You will find that there are more and more game talents in China now. One of the reasons is that China’s early overseas-oriented game companies trained a lot of excellent game designers and engineers. And big companies such as EA and Ubisoft have also trained a lot of talents in China. Coupled with the existence of Unity and Unreal engines, the whole level of the project is very flat, and everyone is about the same.
At this point, you will find that we actually have a chance to compete with companies like Nintendo. The reason is that you can now compete through creativity or the entire production pipeline.
We can give it a try and fight against the game companies that we thought were immortal when we were kids. Just like you who have been watching Michael Jordan in your childhood, one day you are sent on the field, the opponent is Jordan, he is responsible for defending you. That’s the feeling. It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. You’ll want to try it anyway. You always have to have a dream, what if it comes true.
Source Technology is currently recruiting, engineers, art, planners, administrators are all recruiting, each position is short of people, the work location is Shanghai. Welcome to send your resume to email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
 PDD: real name is Liu Mou, Chinese mainland “League of Legends” professional player. When he served in the Invitus Gaming team, he won many international championships. The game influencer has 7.77 million followers on Weibo.
 Yi Tiao Xiao Tuan Tuan OvO: The game influencer on Douyin, the voice actor of some female characters in the Chinese version of AFK Arena. She has 44 million followers on Douyin and 3.71 million followers on Weibo.
 Number game or Numerical game: A commonly used category of games on the Chinese mainland. It especially refers to the game which takes numerical planning as the starting point and matches a set of mathematical formulas with different arts and plots. Game companies can use the same set of mathematical formulas to produce dozens of games and continue to stimulate players’ consumption. Accounts for the majority of Free-to-Play games in China. And therefore despised.
 In 2016, when Luo Zixiong left Smartisan Technology, a Chinese smartphone company, it founded a company that focuses on the Virtual Reality industry.