Songs Of Silence Developer Says Publishers Rarely Support Innovative Ideas Now

Innovation carries risk, and it's not something publishers can afford.

Story Highlights

  • Songs of Silence is a strategy game developed and published by Chimera Entertainment.
  • The studio recently started a Kickstarter campaign for the title, which gathered over €100,000 in funds.
  • We spoke with Alexander Kehr, Creative Director at Chimera Entertainment, over an email Q&A session.

Songs of Silence is a strategy game set in a fantasy world that is being devastated by the all-devouring Silence, a dark power that is consuming the world. It has a simple concept and comes with a lot of ambition, and Chimera Entertainment — the game’s developer and publisher — has all hands on deck to make this project as enjoyable as possible.

It features a mix of turn-based kingdom management, hero development, and auto battler contrasted with intense real-time battles. Chimera Entertainment recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project’s development. While the studio clarified that it would release Songs of Silence regardless of meeting the pledged goal, the game has garnered over €100,000 from fans, nearly 5 times higher than the initial goal of €23,000.

In order to learn more about the game’s development process and the recent Kickstarter campaign, we spoke with Alexander Kehr, Creative Director at Chimera Entertainment, over an email interview.

Songs of Silence
Songs Of Silence Was Fully Funded On Kickstarter Within 8 Hours – Image Credits: Chimera Entertainment

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Songs of Silence?

Alex: I’m Alex, Creative Director at Chimera Entertainment. For Songs of Silence, I am responsible for the so-called “Vision Keeping.” I came up with the game idea about 4 years ago, but at that time, the entire game was pure design theory and mockups in black and white. My job is to keep everybody aligned and focused on the game we want to build. This is sometimes easier said than done. For the first years, a game is often in a very rough state, and even our own team members can have a hard time imagining what the final game should be like.

Congratulations on starting the pre-registration of your Kickstarter campaign. Was this something that the studio had always planned to do, or did the state of the gaming industry make you consider it?

Alex: Thank you! We decided relatively early that publishing the game on our own was a good option for Songs of Silence. Finding a publishing partner who really understands our vision and provides good terms for all involved parties while also retaining our own creative freedom is difficult at the best of times. The current state of the industry really didn’t help, so Kickstarter became an attractive option for us.

What would you say are the biggest benefits of a funding campaign like Kickstarter, especially for emerging game developers?

Alex: While Kickstarter is a good option to raise some more funds, this is not the main draw (at least for a mid-sized studio like us). The budgets raised on Kickstarter may sound high, and they do help for sure, but game development is really expensive. Most people seem to underestimate the cost of a game like Songs of Silence. For us, Kickstarter was an opportunity to get more attention to the game and gather more feedback from players who tried out the demo or joined our closed beta test. I think this is the true benefit: Getting the chance to make improvements based on community feedback.

Songs of Silence
Many Fans Consider Songs Of Silence To Be A Visual Masterpiece – Image Credits: Chimera Entertainment

Songs of Silence will still be released regardless of meeting its funding goal. But does that mean a compromise in the quality of some parts of the game? Or is the Kickstarter solely for additional fun stuff that will enhance an already great experience?

Alex: We have been working on the game for nearly 4 years now. The game is in good shape, and as we said, the success of the Kickstarter campaign was never the make-or-break deal to release the game. However, we have very high-quality goals for our passion project. And “a little bit of extra time and budget” to polish the game can go a very long way in making the entire experience much better. The Kickstarter budget is mostly spent on improving the quality from good to great… and adding a couple more fun things we wanted to build for a long time but couldn’t afford!

Did you receive any help from the Kickstarter staff when starting the campaign? How has the experience been so far on the platform?

Alex: Our experience with Kickstarter has been great so far. Since we did not have any experience with it before, we asked some other developers and gathered a ton of valuable insights. Not everything went perfectly smoothly, but for our first try, we are very happy with the results.

Do you think Kickstarter scams in the gaming industry severely hurt the platform for indie developers? And how would you say one can safely market a genuine project and receive support from the community?

Alex: I do think that “scams” have hurt the game development community, especially smaller indie developers. Backers have become more careful and are less likely to find truly great and honest games in a sea of less attractive options. Another key problem is that backers can be uninformed about the true costs of making a game.

Due to how the platform works, projects aim for low initial funding goals and then try to “over-back.” This leads to the impression that developers get more money than needed and that games should be built with relatively small budgets. In truth, Kickstarter funding is only a small part of most games’ development budgets. But after years of seeing this trend, asking for realistic budgets may not be feasible anymore…

My best advice to successfully get support on Kickstarter is to have an experienced team that knows what they are doing and already has a strong game to show even before the Kickstarter campaign starts. For a new indie team starting out, the most likely route to success is showing off their amazing vision. Videos and gameplay are indispensable.

Songs of Silence
With Support From The Fans, Developers Have Several More Features On The To-Do List – Image Credits: Chimera Entertainment

Considering the number of well-established strategy games, what was your approach to making Songs of Silence different from others?

Alex: It was never our idea to “make everything different” just for the sake of being different. We had some clear inspirations and wanted to improve on a couple of issues we had with those games: Focus on fewer but more impactful decisions and less micro-management. Large-scale cinematic battle simulations. An overall fast pace (for a turn-based strategy game), with the goal to complete an entire map in a single evening.

We also had a truly unique and interesting setting and story in mind: Two separate worlds to travel between, with their own distinct cultures and races. Both worlds are threatened by purgatories, huge “black holes” that spread deadly Silence. All of this, combined with our beautiful art style inspired by Art Nouveau and an epic soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto, made the game a distinct and recognizable experience.

Hopefully, if the game does incredibly well and goes beyond its funding goals, what other aspects of the game are you planning to expand?

Alex: We have a long list of content and features we would love to add to the game. We have several new factions completely planned out, including their own faction mechanics, heroes, cards, locations, and units. Additional campaigns or special challenge maps would be cool. We would also love to bring in new features ranging from a full battle sandbox mode to dynamic events that can happen on all map types. Only time will tell if we can support the game in the long run, but this is definitely our goal.

The gaming industry has been volatile in the last few years as we have seen notable publishers lay off staff or close entire studios after a single bad project or sometimes for no apparent reason. Have you seen its effects on the indie side, where developers heavily depend on seeking support from publishers for their creative concepts?

Alex: Sadly, yes. Our studio has been relatively stable for a very long time (Chimera has been in business for around 17 years), but even we had to let some of our staff go due to canceled projects and the difficulty of signing new ones. Currently, it is incredibly difficult to gain the support of a publisher (with reasonable terms and budgets), especially if your game is based on a new IP or carries even the slightest innovation (risk). Songs of Silence is our hope to get us through these difficult times.

Songs of Silence
Despite Its Simple Premise, Songs Of Silence Might Just Inspire Future Strategy Games – Image Credits: Chimera Entertainment

Do you think indie developers will have an even more tough time pitching their ideas in the coming years?

Alex: I would like to spread a message of hope, but to be frank, I think the coming years will be tough for smaller studios. Money is tight, and there is an overwhelming amount of competition, all vying for limited attention. New technology allows to cut corners, potentially devaluing some of the incredible talent found in smaller indie studios. Really good ideas will always have a chance, though. But be prepared for an arduous pitching process. We found that having “innovative” ideas is a very tough sell for most publishers. People like to minimize risk.

There are various projects or places where you can showcase your work as an indie developer and learn a lot; one that comes to my mind is the Indie Game Academy. Do you think having more things like that would make at least this part of the gaming industry prosperous?

Alex: Yes, for sure. Making a game is a much more complex task than coding some fun core gameplay and making it look cool. This is something a lot of inexperienced indies tend to underestimate. And there is no shame in seeking out help. In a time where classic publishing deals are difficult to get (and all of the great expertise and help they can provide), having options like the Indie Game Academy (I don’t know them specifically; I only had a quick glance at their offering) sounds great.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers? Something we haven't touched upon yet.

Alex: Don’t let the doom and gloom of the current state of the industry put you off. With the right team, making games can still be profitable and great fun! I also feel that more and more gamers are turning towards small but great game experiences outside of the established mainstream and AAA. This plays into the strengths of indie developers.

YouTube video

Songs of Silence is a strategy game developed and published by Chimera Entertainment. It is scheduled to receive an early access release on Steam on May 23, 2024, with a full release on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 and 5, and PC in Q4 2024. We thank Alexander Kehr for answering our questions and Dan Pearson for helping us.

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Mudassir is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the stories behind our favorite virtual worlds. Armed with a trusty notepad and a keen curiosity, he dives headfirst into the gaming industry's most exciting personalities. His knack for insightful questions and his ability to connect with developers and gamers alike makes his interviews a must-read. While on the lookout for the next person to interview, Mudassir keeps himself busy by writing news surrounding the gaming universe. Experience: 4+ Years || Senior Journalist || Education: Bachelor's in Psychology.

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