If Diceroll Studios needs an introduction, that will only be the case for a short while longer. The brilliant minds behind Umiro, the astonishingly good $2.99 gem available for the screen on your desk and the screen in your pocket, kindly consented to be riddled with questions regarding their lovely masterpiece as well as their past and their path forward. If you haven’t already done so, do give Umiro a whirl — it’s a truly masterful work of art that shines well beyond its meager price tag. In the meantime, hear a little from the pint-sized team behind all of the colossally good magic.
What is Diceroll Studios’ origin story? Did all four members of your team meet at the Game Innovation Program? How did you meet, if otherwise, and does your whole studio call Singapore home?
Diceroll Studios started after all of us completed the Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Game Lab’s Game Innovation Programme in 2015. It was an internship where we were put in groups to create games that fulfilled the needs of a specific client. We were still students back then (and one of us is still a student now). Two of us knew each other before we entered the internship and we met the other two during the internship.
Singapore is very much home to all of us. We have amazing food here that I think everyone should come over and try out!
What is Umiro’s origin story? When did you decide to take the leap with your own indie, and how did you decide that the direction Umiro took was the one you wanted to go?
During the aforementioned internship, we had the task of designing a game that was supposed to teach financial literacy to players. That included concepts such as investment, insurance and how to balance risk and reward. This resulted in us creating a game called “re:color” which is also the predecessor of Umiro. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the client that this game was designed for did not pick it up for continued development past the internship.
On our end we were interested in continuing to work together after the internship ended as we felt that the team dynamic was right. Since “re:color” was perceived as the “best game” from the internship (some folks at Ubisoft were the judges that decided this), we decided that we would bring it to fruition and release it to the public.
We liked the core mechanic of the game but we had the most trouble squeezing in the financial literacy concepts. Since we were now free of that and were able to do what we wanted with it, one of the first things we decided to ditch was the financial bits.
There was a lot of discussion about how the tough the game should be. We took it to a convention called Casual Connect Asia and it was clear that the version of the game we had back then was extremely tough and frustrating. So we went back to the drawing board and made changes to streamline the game. It ended up getting better reception the next time we demo-ed it in public and it gave us the confidence to proceed in that direction which is what you see in Umiro now.
As for the story, we wanted to keep the mysterious vibe that the art evoked so we made it vague and open to interpretation.
Where does Devolver Digital fit into the picture? Devolver Digital is a well-known indie developer and publisher, and they were the publishers behind your Umiro. How and when did you decide to team up?
About a year into the development of Umiro we were still thinking of how to give the game the greatest exposure we could. Amongst the list of options was getting a publisher onboard. The trouble we had thus far was that the mobile gaming landscape was filled with publishers that favoured free to play games (not without reason of course). We had plenty of mobile game publishers coming to us and telling us to make the game free to play so that they could be our publishers. Sadly it wasn’t something we were keen on as we felt that it would spoil the atmosphere of the game. Instead we went through potential premium mobile game publishers and Devolver Digital came out as a favourite for us. Their success with other amazing premium mobile titles like Reigns and Downwell told us that they knew what they were doing in that space. Luckily for us they took a shine to Umiro as well!
Were there specific games or other media that inspired Umiro? Umiro does a phenomenal job of initiating and executing a vague, minimalist story complemented by precise gameplay and clean visuals. Were there any games or movies that inspired this particular style?
Thank you! We were not sure if the ambiguity of the story would resonate with players. We’re really glad that some people liked it. There’s definitely an element of having to interpret what is going on with Huey and Satura or what the land of Umiro is yourself. However we have our own (I guess you could say “official”) version of the story and if you pay attention to a couple of the cutscenes you might be able to come to a realization or some sort… Also you might want to check out an awesome TV show called Life on Mars for no particular reason, hint hint 😉
I think almost everyone can tell with one glance that Umiro‘s art style was inspired by Monument Valley and the reason for that is that it just felt good and appropriate for our game. Journey influenced the design of Huey and Satura to some extent too. Some people have asked if Huey’s look was based on Professor Layton and the answer to that is no unfortunately hahaha.
What’s still in store for Umiro, if anything? We know you’re already working on some very interesting new updates. Do you have more large projects with Umiro that you want to accomplish, or is it now mostly in its final form?
There is more coming for sure! We’ve seen the response to Umiro so far and we want to address the common issues that people have with the game. We’re working on a couple of exciting new features right now. I won’t reveal too much about it right now but there will be more puzzles to solve for sure!
And after Umiro? With such a promising start, the sky’s the limit for Diceroll Studios. Are you already conceptualizing a new entry, or are you pausing for the moment to focus on Umiro post-launch?
Our attention is currently on Umiro but we always have plenty of ideas for other games. Whether we’ll get to those any time soon remains to be seen 😛
What’s the hardest part of being a small, independent studio? And, naturally, what’s the most rewarding?
For us specifically the hardest part is not that we are a small studio but that we all have different schedules to work with. This was true for most of the development of Umiro as we were all in university and had varying schedules and lots of projects to deal with. However this also meant that we had to put in as much of our free time as possible together on the project and as a result we became a more closely knit team than before. Being able to work with such a talented team is in and of itself a reward!
What would the one thing you’d want potential new players to know about Umiro be? And about Diceroll Studios, as a brand-new game developer?
If you’re into a different kind of puzzle game, check Umiro out! As for Diceroll Studios, just keep an eye out for us, who knows what cool stuff we might get up to in future 😀
A thoroughly grateful thank you is due Diceroll Studios for participating in this interview. Folks, this is one studio you need to be watching.