October 27, 2022
Three Questions to: rose-engine - Makers of the Sci-Fi Horror Hit SIGNALIS
Yuri Stern and Barbara Wittmann have been creating games together for 8 years now, on October 27 their Hamburg-based studio rose-engine is releasing their latest game SIGNALIS. Published by Humble Games, this dark Sci-Fi horror game with its retro optic has already stirred up quite a buzz in the international gaming press. We took this opportunity to ask them about collaborating for so many years and how the match with their publisher came to be.
You have been developing games together since 2014, how and where did you start out collaborating and how's your journey been in the past 8 years?
We are originally from Bavaria and moved to Hamburg to study Illustration at HAW Hamburg. Here we attended a games class initiated by Michael Benrad (Beardshaker Games) and later led by Mareike Ottrand (Studio Fizbin). At that time we developed our first prototype of what would turn into SIGNALIS.
Back then there was no game development funding in Hamburg yet, so we worked part-time while studying and working on the game. Once we had signed with a publisher in early 2020 we went into game development full time. SIGNALIS was developed entirely from within our bedrooms and production took place during the COVID pandemic, pretty much in isolation aside from contact with our friends online. Shout-out to fellow Hamburg developers Steven Kaule, Pia Heugel, and Studio Monstrum, who we all met in the HAW games classes, for keeping us sane and helping us with playtesting! Another small game called “Insect Builder” we did on the side was part of the exhibition “Facettenreiche Insekten” this summer at the Zoological Museum in Hamburg.
Your upcoming game SIGNALIS will be published by Humble Games, how was this partnership formed? Do you have any tips for other indie devs on how to approach an international publisher?
In 2019 we had a vertical slice and trailer we felt confident in, and a rough idea of the game’s scope and costs, and finally felt ready to approach publishers. We were granted travel funding from Kreativ-Transfer, which allowed us to go to gamescom to talk to publishers. Humble Games was one of them and they later followed up with a very good offer.
For us, what worked was to create a game which has a lot of visual appeal and is a modern reinterpretation of an established but underserved genre, in our case, this is classic survival horror. We also combined it with dark sci-fi anime and retro pixel art, both of which have a sizable fanbase. We are also quite passionate about all of these things ourselves. Our vertical slice showed off how the visual style, its core mechanics, a few examples of puzzles and combat, and how we use perspective shifts and cutscenes to evoke a mysterious feeling. Knowing your niche probably helps with identifying a publisher who is serving this kind of game. Once you are in talks with a publisher, don’t be afraid to negotiate, ask other devs who are signed with them about their experience, and listen to your gut feelings. Don’t sign a contract you will be unhappy with. And if it doesn’t work out, have a backup plan like an indie fund, crowdfunding, or working part-time. Don’t quit your job before the contract is signed, some publishers just vanish.
Now that SIGNALIS is in the hands of the players, what are your plans for the future of rose-engine? Can you give us a teaser of something that might have sparked your interest already?
Right now, we’re still processing the reception of SIGNALIS with players.
rose-engine managed to secure their deal with Humble Games by meeting them at gamescom, where they travelled to with the help of the Kreativ-Transfer. Since then, Gamecity Hamburg has established a similiar program for the industry, the Games Transfer funding program!