I'm Simone Odoardi, originally from Rome, Italy, but I've been living in Stockholm, Sweden, since 2008. I'm a father of two, and my life has always been about balancing my diverse interests with my family commitments.
My academic journey led me to attaining my Master's degree in Political Science, but after completing my studies, I discovered a strong inclination towards programming. This shift in career took me into the world of IT consultancy, where I spent several years honing my skills and gaining valuable experience.
However, my creative side was always calling. So, I eventually made the move into the gaming industry, combining my technical expertise with my passion for storytelling and design. Here, I've found a fulfilling way to express my creativity as a game designer.
Beyond my professional life, I'm deeply passionate about music and writing. I also coach a junior football (soccer) team, which is a great way to stay connected to the sport I love. In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, board games, and immersing myself in movies and books. These hobbies not only entertain me but also inspire my work in game design.
The answer is deeply rooted in my lifelong passion for game mechanics and the gaming world, a journey that began in the early 90s with my first Commodore 64. It ignited a spark that would grow into a blazing fire over the years.
As a child, exploring the myriad worlds contained within those pixels and codes, I was captivated by the endless possibilities of storytelling and interactive play. This early experience laid the foundation for my deep appreciation for games, both as a form of entertainment and as an art form.
My journey to becoming a game developer was a convergence of my early fascination with video games, my varied creative interests, and my technical background.
In my company, my role has changed a bit over the years. Initially, as a solo developer, I wore many hats – from design to programming, marketing to social media management, and from graphics to writing. Now, as the CEO of our small but growing studio, my responsibilities have shifted. Although I still take on a significant portion of the workload, I'm fortunate to have a partner and a little team to support our projects.
Regarding the traits needed for success in game development and marketing, I'm still on a learning curve myself. However, I firmly believe that passion is paramount. In this industry, doing what you love is crucial because the journey is demanding and challenging. If you're not deeply invested in what you're doing, it becomes increasingly difficult to weather the ups and downs and to stay creative and innovative.
Bumblebee Studios has a story marked by persistence, evolution, and ultimately, success. Our journey began back in 2013 when a friend and I ventured into the world of casual mobile games. In those early days, we focused on creating games that were critically well-received, yet we faced challenges in translating that acclaim into sales. After about four years of navigating these challenges, we decided to put the venture on hold.
However, the dream of Bumblebee Studios never truly faded away. In 2021, fueled by the lessons learned and a renewed vision, I decided to reboot the company. The following year, we launched 'Abeyance', a title that showcased our growth. But it was with 'Vaudeville', released this year, that we achieved our breakthrough.
2023 also saw an exciting development for us – the joining of Lautaro Ariño as a partner in Bumblebee Studios. Lautaro brings a wealth of experience, having worked on notable titles like 'Hero's Hour' and 'Obsidian Prince'. His expertise and insight have been invaluable as we continue to grow and develop new projects.
I find myself drawn to two very distinct types of games that exist on opposite ends of a spectrum. On one hand, I have a deep appreciation for games with very clear and strict rules. These games provide a structured framework within which players can strategize, make decisions, and experience the consequences of their actions. This clarity of rules creates a foundation for meaningful gameplay and strategic depth.
On the other hand, I am equally captivated by games that completely break the rules. These are the games that defy conventional expectations, experimenting with form, narrative, and mechanics in novel ways. 'Vaudeville' is probably a good example of this. It steps away from traditional game design paradigms to offer something unique and engaging, challenging players in unexpected ways.
As a fan of roguelikes and roguelites, I value games where every decision counts, where strategy and adaptability are key, and where the element of risk and unpredictability keeps the gameplay exciting. The appeal lies in the challenge they present and the sense of accomplishment derived from navigating their often unforgiving environments.
Simultaneously, I'm drawn to heavily narrative-based and unconventional games. These games prioritize storytelling and often experiment with how narratives are integrated into gameplay. They offer immersive experiences where the story and characters can have as much impact as the gameplay mechanics.
At Bumblebee Studios, our specialization in game genres is driven by two core principles: our passion for the games we play and our expertise in creating them. We focus on games that engage players intellectually, requiring them to think, plan, and strategize. Our portfolio predominantly features genres like simulations, 4X, RTS, and turn-based roguelites.
These genres are chosen not out of a sense of elitism, but from a genuine love for the depth and complexity they offer. We believe that every genre has its value and unique appeal, and we don't consider any genre to be 'dumber' or less worthy. Our goal is to create games that are not only challenging and thought-provoking but also enjoyable and immersive.
A key aspect of our development process is that we must enjoy creating the game. This enjoyment is crucial because it translates into the quality and passion evident in the final product. If we're not fully invested and excited about a project, it's unlikely to resonate with us or our players.
My ideation process is, in essence, an exercise in filtering and organization. I draw inspiration from a myriad of sources, which means I'm often inundated with a plethora of ideas. This abundance is both a blessing and a challenge, as it requires a disciplined approach to navigate effectively.
To manage this, I've developed a system of sorting and storing these ideas. It's crucial for me to stay focused on one project at a time to ensure its successful completion. Given my tendency to be easily captivated by new thoughts and concepts, this disciplined focus is vital to prevent spreading myself too thin across multiple projects.
Many of my game ideas are long-term fermentations. They've been tucked away in a drawer or corner of my mind, sometimes for years, maturing and evolving with time. These ideas don't get lost; instead, they simmer in the background, gradually shaping themselves. When the time is right, they resurface, often finding their way into my current projects, either in whole or as fragments that contribute to the larger picture.
Winning the NYX Game Awards is a significant milestone for us at Bumblebee Studios. It’s a validation of our team's hard work, creativity, and dedication, and we are incredibly honored to receive such recognition from an esteemed jury in the gaming industry.
However, the most rewarding aspect for us is the direct connection and appreciation we receive from our players. Hearing from individuals who have been deeply impacted by our games, whether through emails, at expos, or via our Discord channel, is incredibly fulfilling. It reaffirms our belief that game development is about creating meaningful experiences that resonate with people, rather than competition.
Winning an international award has provided us with a straightforward and effective way to showcase our value. It's a quick, clear point of reference we can use to demonstrate the quality of our work to others. Essentially, it's a way of saying, "We've produced something noteworthy, and with the right support, we're poised to continue creating quality games."
This recognition is a helpful tool in our ongoing efforts to grow and sustain our projects.
Developing and marketing our games presented different challenges, primarily due to our status as a self-funded and self-published studio. The financial aspect of marketing, in particular, has been a significant hurdle. The funds we allocate to marketing are either derived directly from our sales revenues or from our own pockets. This makes each marketing decision crucial, as missteps can be costly. It's always a risk, and seeing money go to waste on ineffective marketing channels can be particularly disheartening.
However, we've also experienced the brighter side of marketing, where success isn't solely tied to financial investment. We've been fortunate to receive substantial free publicity, thanks to renowned streamers like MoistCritikal, HasanAbi, WillNeff, and Videogamedunky. These influencers discovered our game, found it interesting, and chose to endorse it without any solicitation from us.
Their support has been invaluable in boosting our game's visibility and appeal, demonstrating that sometimes the most effective marketing comes from genuine enthusiasm and organic endorsements.
Being based in Sweden has been a mixed experience in terms of its impact on our ideation process. On one hand, Sweden's reputation as a hub for successful game development has been incredibly stimulating. The country is home to many renowned game studios, and their success stories serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for us. This vibrant ecosystem fosters a culture of creativity and innovation, which indirectly influences our thinking and approach to game development.
However, when it comes to direct support from institutions, the scenario is quite different. We haven't found much in the way of financial assistance or other initiatives from the government or related organizations to support game developers.
Ironically, one of the biggest influences has been the Swedish weather. The long, cold winters and the extended darkness have kept us indoors more, which has actually given us more time to focus on developing our game prototypes.
The indie movement: This is a personal favorite because it represents a space where creativity and innovation can thrive without the constraints often found in larger studios. Indie developers bring fresh, diverse perspectives to the gaming world, often exploring unique ideas and storytelling methods. This movement has drastically changed the gaming landscape, introducing games that might never have been made under a traditional studio model.
The technological advancements: The rapid pace of technological innovation in gaming is incredibly exciting. From advancements in graphics to the integration of AI and VR, these developments continually push the boundaries of what's possible in gaming. They not only enhance the visual and interactive aspects of games but also open new avenues for gameplay and storytelling.
The democratization of publishing: Today, more than ever, it's become easier for developers to publish their games. Platforms like Steam, itch.io, and the Epic Games Store have made it possible for smaller studios and independent developers to reach a global audience. This democratization has led to a more diverse array of games being available to players and has given developers of all sizes a chance to showcase their work.
My key advice is to embrace a hands-on, experimental approach. Continuously engage in the process of creating, experimenting, and even failing, then take those lessons and apply them to your next project. Don't worry too much about adhering to industry standards. Instead, focus on discovering what works best for you. This means finding the tools, systems, and working environments that suit your style and needs.
If you're struggling to find the right team or collaborators, don't be afraid to tackle projects on your own. There's immense value in learning through personal experience. Most importantly, be patient with yourself and your progress. Game development is a journey with its highs and lows, and maintaining a clear vision of your goals is crucial. Stay committed to your path, and don't lose sight of what you're striving to achieve.
I've always been inspired by polyhedric individuals, those who don't limit themselves to just one pursuit in their life. People who are constantly exploring, pushing boundaries, experimenting, and questioning themselves resonate deeply with me. I admire those who embrace a wide range of interests and skills, as it reflects a certain fearlessness and a commitment to personal growth.
While I tend not to idolize specific individuals, there are certainly many whom I hold in high regard. However, I prefer not to name anyone in particular, as my inspiration comes more from the qualities and characteristics of these people, rather than their individual identities.
I believe it's a bit bold for me to claim I know the key to success, especially as I don't consider myself to have fully achieved it in the realm of game development. I still see a long journey ahead before I can confidently label myself as a successful game developer. However, in aspects like being a father and in other areas of my life, I feel a sense of accomplishment and success.
From my experience, the closest advice I can give is to emphasize the importance of action. Success is often a result of doing – of actively pursuing your goals and believing in them. It's crucial not to let others discourage you and to maintain a balance between working hard and not overextending yourself. Perseverance and belief in your vision are vital, but so is taking care of your well-being.
Simone Odoardi, the founder and CEO of Bumblebee Studios, a game development company, has consistently navigated a life that involves harmonizing his wide-ranging passions with his family responsibilities.
Read more about this interview with Alex Lu from China, the Silver Winner of the 2023 NYX Game Awards.