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A week of Glory

 How Siberian «Rabbits» have recieved recognition in California  07/30/2012, 07:02
A week of Glory
Photo by Sergey Mordvinov

Once upon a time in spring, 2012 in one Apple’s mysterious department, which selects the best applications for iOS (operating system for iPhones and iPads), a proud title of «the game of the week» among 70 countries around the globe was given to the game, developed in Novosibirsk. Russian games had had such a success only twice. The first one was brought by the game «Cut the Rope» by ZeptoLab from Saint Petersburg, and the last one — but not the least —by Grizzly Jr studio, which was a real debut. Sib.fm correspondent learned how to make a game that will be sold out around the whole world.

There is a steel silence on the third floor of the Novosibirsk System research institute, which nowadays works mostly with property rent. You could hear a pin drop here, but on this occasion I would say: «you could hear how a pencil moves, drawing the shape of a new animation game character». For the Russian tax authorities and other official bodies — it is an office of an individual entrepreneur Morozov. As for users of «apple devices» (iPads and iPhones) and general population of virtual worlds — it’s Grizzly Jr. studio. Grizzly Junior is a fluffy creature on the company’s label. It was founded by Mr. Alexandr Morozov and his friends last spring.


User base in Apple Store is about 200 million people. Normal price of the program is $ 0.99

Grizzly Jr. studio meets the description of an average small business company in Novosibirsk: experience is slightly more than one year, 5 employees, office in Academ Gorodok (Akadem Gorodok is a part of Novosibirsk, located 20 km south of the city center. It is the educational and scientific center of Siberia). But if you look deeper you’ll see few contracts with the leading Russian game publisher and developer — Alawar Company. Besides, there is a game Robber Rabbits, where rabbits knock items on the shelves with bottle plugs. The game Robber Rabbits brought the glory to Grizzly Jr. Studio when it became the game of the week in Apple Store. It means that all Apple users among 70 countries during several weeks could see Rubber Rabbits produced by Siberian studio on top position in Apple Store.

— We have a small canteen here on the ground floor. It really looks like if we are back in 50’s. Everything seems to be from 50-s: the dishes, the cutlery and even ladies behind the counter. It’s really funny to catch a break from scientific Apple technologies and to have lunch here, shares Mr. Alexandr Morozov, while we are walking to the holy of holies of this soviet building, where unexpectedly a studio, famous for funny drawn rabbits, has been settled.

The office consists only of two rooms. One room is a conference room and a kitchen at once. You can choose any tea you want or any type of nibble here. And the second room is a business incubator: everyone is able to speak up their mind, but final decision and responsibility is after Alexandr. That’s how he describes the main rules in the office.


Students from Faculty of Information Technology of Novosibirsk State University are usually trained by specialists from Intel, Parallels, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Google and other well-known international companies

The idea of Grizzly Jr. has been growing ripe in the minds of students from Faculty of Information Technology of Novosibirsk State University. Most of the people from so-called Novosibirsk IT-Elite have graduated from Novosibirsk State University (NSU).Though, the owner of Grizzly Jr. is from Omsk. He admits that he has passed his exams to NSU only from second attempt.

— 

I was supposed to enter the University without trial tests, as I have taken parts in lots of student’s scientific conferences during my years in school. But I didn’t due to the reasons that have touched my vanity. So I went back to Omsk and entered a local State University there, the Mathematics Faculty. I spent year and a half there and then I got bored. There was only mathematics, followed by other mathematics, and I started wandering when the programming would begin so that I could develop myself as a programmer. As a result I went back to Novosibirsk, to NSU, instead of passing my summer exams. It’s a bit of a confusing story, — Alexandr smiles while he is telling me this.

The word «bored» is quite often during the first half of his narration and it has a motivational effect on Alexandr. First he was bored in Omsk State University, then in Novosibirsk State university and after in web-development.


Omsk State University has the name in honor of the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The writer spent 4 years in Omsk prison: from 1850 until 1854. That is how much his exile in Siberia lasted

— 

There were a lot of useful and important things, of course — says Alexander— but more often you had either to convert a 5-column table into 6-column table, or to modify and finalize something inside the code of the program, so that one module would work faster on 10%. That was a task for the whole day. You see, I just couldn’t come home and say: "Hey, mom, look what I have done!«I was interested in the area, where you could see the result straight away, like, for example, in mobile applications.

The path to the fulfillment of that desire was passing next to the NSU, in Novosibirsk Technopark, where a «Winter School» opened its doors for students in the beginning of 2011 («Winter School» is a scientific school for young inventors, where they attend public lectures of leading scientists of the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences). It was the place, where Alexandr together with his two acquaintances — an artist Miss Alyona Essina and a programmer Mr. Alexandr Ivlev, developed a game prototype, where a boy slings in different subjects. It was a distant ancestor of the «rabbits’ that finally became famous. Producers from Alawar noticed the potential in guys. There was only one big doubt: would the studio without much experience be able to make a high-quality graphics. Alexandr and his team have convinced Alawar produced only after a month.

— A difference between bad and good programmer is the time consumption: a bad one writes a code three times longer, than the good one. But the bad artist will not be able to perform this job, no matter how hard he tries.

We persuaded Alawar producers that we have a good artist. We signed a contract in one month, and we got our advance fee for the development of the first game— those award-winning «rabbits». It was in April 2011.

Artists are valued more than the programmers — here they get in average on 20% more than artists in other studios, whereas the salary of the programmers is equal to the general market level.

In December, 2011studio introduced new product. A boy turned into rabbits, who, according to the game legend, rob the shop. The Rabbits are the only characters who appeared haphazardly.


Due to Yandex research, an average salary of programmer in Novosibirsk is around 45 thousand rubles (1070 Euro)

— We needed a character, who could meet two conditions. First of all, he had to be short, so that he wouldn’t take much space on the screen, and secondly he had to have physical ability to throw subjects up. There was my personal third condition, though; — he had to be cutty — cute. You know, cutty-cutes are very popular this season, — Alyona smiles.

— We released them on the 16th of December, — Alexandr continues. — There was a feeling that we have done everything right, that it would be very noticeable and we would laugh and dance till the end of our days. But nothing happened. Like we’ve just sent the game to nowhere.

One day we got 6 Dollars, the other day — 20 dollars. When we made first update there was a small surge of interest and then again silence.

It was a difficult time for us. I believed that we had done everything right and produced a good product, but there was no result.

I wanted to give up and quit, but only one man, Mr. Alexander Yegoshin, our producer, believed in success and encouraged us to move on. We made a second up-grade in February and that is the time when our game was noticed by Apple. The game appeared under the «New and interesting» section in 70 countries and then became the game of the week. Unfortunately we got bored by that time. But our producers from Alawar kept saying again and again: «Don’t you understand? Your game is the «game of the week»! You are the one of the two coolest Russian companies that has received this status!

The game has paid for itself in two days after the event. No one provides you with exact numbers here, just like in other similar companies. To get the general picture you should know, that a game development costs around 15-20 thousand dollars, which actually returned to producers and developers in two days. Only in China alone the game had second highest number of downloads in three weeks. It is still been downloading. The last major surge of interest occurred on July 24 — it was the day when Alawar and Grizzly Jr earned 2.5 thousand dollars. I think that some famous blogger must have posted a link to the game in his message and recommended it to his subscribers.

thousand US Dollars in general costs a gamedevelopment for mobile devices

The resounding success of the first project of a young studio is very cheering up, but the question is whether they will be forever associated with the image of «rabbits». Just like actors Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer are forever associated with their characters of Joey, Chandler and Ross in «Friends». I have to mark, that no one seems to be afraid of such «association» in Grizzly Jr. studio.

— During next month, we will launch next project — where a person will have to deal with the invasion of zombies. I think that it is better than the «rabbits», — says Alexander. — But nothing and no one can guarantee, that this game will become a game of the week. It is gambling. It all depends on taste, which we just cannot know, of some person in California. We clearly have not become bored with games. We have people with passion for games. For example, our artists have passion and inspiration to create some weirdoes or funny scout creatures for games.

I’m anutopian; I believe that people should do what they like.


This publication has been translated by experts from Uni languages service school

Today Alexandr definitely has what to show to his mom. By the way, she is the person who tests new game, when Alexandr visits Omsk. He says his mom really likes the «rabbits». Developers themselves say they like the «rabbits», but not only as funny characters of successful game, but more as a symbol of growing market for mobile devices.

— This is exactly the time for those, who are willing to start up their business in the field of mobile application development, — Alexander explains. — This is the time of small studios. It used to be the same with computer games. You don’t need a lot of investment now. You need a bright idea that would be converted into the program code and introduced to all famous producers. Someone will definitely get interested. Let it be a small propaganda, but all you need for startup is an artist and a programmer.

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 This publication has been translated by experts from Uni languages service school.
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