Based in South Africa, Stormcraft Studios is a well-known game development company founded in 2016 by seasoned game developers. Their goal is clear: create memorable experiences, strong characters, and immersive gameplay. And that's not it, they do it cross-platform. Their partner of choice is no other than Micrograming.
We are chatting with Terence Igesund, an Executive Producer at Stormcraft Studios. He spends a massive chunk of his time designing and engineering incredible RNG games and tells us more about what goes on behind the scenes.
Please introduce yourself and tell us what does Stormcraft Studios do best?
Thank you so much for this opportunity to engage with your readers. My name is Terence and I have been designing games for Microgaming since the early days of the internet, almost 25 years now. Over the years, my team and I have had the privilege to work with some awesome licensed brands, including Tomb Raider, Jurassic Park, and Game of Thrones, to name a few. We have also originated many successful slot brands for Microgaming, like Avalon, Thunderstruck and Thunderstruck II, Immortal Romance, and Mega Moolah.
Stormcraft is a multidisciplined, multinational collection of people from around the world, with our HQ located on the east coast of South Africa. Collectively, we have over 500 years of industry experience in the studio and produce everything in-house. What Stormcraft does best is build compelling narrative-based games around charming characters and entertain players with engaging features and mechanics, supported by captivating music compositions. At Stormcraft, we don't just make slot games, we craft memorable gaming experiences.
The most commercially successful Stormcraft games thus far have been Fortunium, Fire Forge, and our recently-released Thunderstruck Wild Lighting, which also happens to be my favorite. Please don't tell Jungle Jim as he can be a little sensitive sometimes. 😉
What is the studio's relationship with Microgaming, how did it come about and how has it helped you in your mission to create amazing entertainment?
As I have already mentioned, I have been designing games for Microgaming for 25 years, so it goes without saying that we have a good business relationship based on years of experience and many commercially successful collaborations. Microgaming has afforded us an incredible platform on the world stage to showcase our studio brand and gaming products, for which we are very appreciative.
The team at Stormcraft Studios has helped participate in building blockbusters games like Jurassic Park and Mega Moolah. What have these team members learned from such epic games?
Working on high-profile titles is always intimidating as well as exciting. What we have learned over the years is that you are only as good as your last game, so stay humble, assume nothing, focus on quality, and always believe the best is yet to come! 😊
A lot of iGaming studios and RTP game developers are based in Malta, near massive gambling operators. How different is it for you to operate from South Africa?
Our sales manager is based in Malta, ensuring that we are directly connected to that operator hub.
Operating from the southern tip of Africa can be challenging, as we are far away from where most of the industry is based. The one thing you should know about South Africans is that we are a determined and hardworking bunch that have had to endure and overcome many challenges. Therefore, we are not afraid to fight for what we believe in and do whatever is necessary to succeed on the international stage.
What is your hiring process, and what does your studio value in new hires beyond the obvious raw skillset? How important is company culture?
At Stormcraft, we will always hire attitude over aptitude. Many of us have achieved self-taught expertise in our various fields and we prefer to work with like-minded people who strive to be the best they can be while supporting and mentoring those around them.
Our studio values of Innovation, Craftsmanship, and Entertainment, underpinned by the essential core values of Ownership, Passion, and Care, determine the culture of the studio. At the end of the day, our people are our business and we are very aware that great games don't just happen… they are made by great people!
Stormcraft Studios make such immersive 3D slot games like Jungle Jim, what goes into crafting these very unique and advanced experiences? How much more difficult is it from regular 2D slots?
Can I just start by saying how much I am loving these questions! 😊 Thank you for acknowledging what so many tend to overlook. Creating immersive gaming experiences with engaging characters is what we do at Stormcraft and how we chose to differentiate ourselves from the hundreds of other game suppliers in the online space. Our games do take much longer to create as quality takes time, and what we are pleased to see from the numbers is that our games have staying power and longevity in the marketplace.
At Stormcraft, we are aware of the power of brand building and Jungle Jim is a good example of that. We always have a long-term vision for our game characters and invest time in their backstories and their personalities, using our social media platforms to build awareness beyond what can be communicated in-game. Did you know that Jim has his own Instagram account? Search for him at @jim.ofthe.jungle on Insta to see what he has been up to and where he might be adventuring next.
It's fantastic when we receive direct feedback from players that confirm and corroborate our strategic vision. Our latest 40-payline game Thunderstruck Wild Lightning has just gone live, and the game received the following player feedback: "It's the best online game I have ever played! It's simply a work of art! The several dimensions at play make it feel more like a strategy game, and the graphics make you feel as though you are part of a futuristic surreal adventure. People need more entertainment beyond the gambling aspect. I've never played a better slot!" Getting direct feedback like this makes all the long hours and late nights totally worthwhile! 😊
What does the organization think are the most important facets in a real money slot game: the story telling, the audio and video experience, or more basically, the RTP and volatility?
Simply put, you can't have one without the other, as all the aspects that you mentioned play an essential part in the player's journey. We see our games as living ecosystems, and a great deal of time is spent ensuring that all the basic elements are operating in a balanced and sustainable manner that will ensure the longevity and commercial success of the product.
On average, how many games do you release each year? Do you ever lack inspiration for new games, or is it the complete opposite and you need to be strict on filtering the team's good ideas?
It is definitely a matter of so many ideas, not enough time! Stormcraft produces between four to five slots a year. As previously mentioned, we have a long-term strategy, but we also try to keep space open in the roadmap for potential opportunities that could arise. In order to stay relevant as a business, it's critical that we keep an eye out for new trends or shifts in the marketplace and are able to respond timeously to these if required.
What are the steps each game has to go through from ideation to launch, from engineering to marketing and compliance? Are you constantly iterating over this process to make it more efficient?
Wow, that is a huge question that would take a couple of hours and a few beers to unpack completely! 😊 What I will say is that efficiency is critical to the successful creation and production of a Stormcraft game. Due to the depth and level of complexity of our games, any changes to the mechanic or dynamic will have a significant ripple effect across the production pipeline and could cause delays in delivery.
So, our ideation and prototype phases are very thorough with the specificity of our technical documentation paramount to ensure our developers have everything that needs to start coding. Quality assurance is not something that we do at the end but is built into every discipline and phase of the project to ensure that we can sign the game off after only one test cycle.
Ok… get ready to geek out!
The frontend and backend tech stacks are both proprietary and are completely decoupled from each other. We utilise a third-party backend and the game interfaces to this via a set of APIs. The front-end tech stack is engineered and maintained in-house using industry best practices. At its core, it has a gaming engine customised for efficiency and premium game performance.
The tech stack extends beyond the engine and is supported by an array of processes and tools to optimize game development, integration, testing, and a continuous build pipeline. The tech stack provides us an effective end-to-end solution to take a game through the Software Development Life Cycle as efficiently as possible.
So, after Thunderstruck® Wild Lightning launches globally in a few weeks, we will be sending Agent Jane Blonde out on another exciting and volatile mission. After that, we have something really special in the pipeline, which is a high-profile movie brand that Microgaming has previously collaborated on with NBC Universal. More than once.
That's all you're getting. 😊
Where do you see Stormcraft Studios be in ten years with all the new tech growing such as AR, VR, or even 5G speeds?
Stormcraft is essentially a technology and data-driven business. When we saw the numbers shifting from desktop play to mobile, we flipped our creative process around and began conceptualizing and designing our games in portrait before solving landscape layouts. The technology that drives our games has been evolved and optimized for mobile gaming, ensuring the best possible user experience, from download to feature triggers. Given the range and diversity of devices that we support, our technology needed to be adaptive in order to balance the user experience against the device performance.
Our technology teams have played around with a VR version of our Jungle Jim slot, which was a really fun and entertaining experience, but not very commercially viable. Same with augmented reality tech… lots of fun at trade shows but beyond that, very limited business potential. It's difficult to predict what the next big technological breakthrough is going to be. Considering the high-fidelity games that Stormcraft produces, we look forward to greater advancements in network connectivity, as well as the affordability of more powerful mobile devices improving.