He is a proof that you don´t need to do only one thing professionally, life is long enough to try many others. He has been building apartments, creating sculptures, launching gaming companies – the very first one in Australia where he studied design. What did his path from oil paintings to games look like? What does he consider the most crucial in gaming industry? What does he spend the most time doing? Juraj Andrascik.
What have you been working on in Functu recently?
We are working on games for kids in several categories worldwide as well as on a Slovak game called Legendarium. Kids have to visit real places in Slovakia to gain new attributes in the game. This way we help families with what to do in their free time and also support travel industry in Slovakia.
You are a game developer, currently based in Presov. But you started with caricature drawings and oil paintings. What´s your background and what did your path look like?
I have always been an artist and a programmer, as well as a dreamer and a businessman. I am a little better artist than programmer but I could connect those two roads together. Later I started to learn about business and psychology and the result was my big interest in the game industry. After the fine arts high school in Slovakia I moved to Sydney where I studied design. I was 18 at that time. There I established multimedia company Graphinence and made some money for my school and living. In Sydney I also had an art exhibition at Sydney Opera House and sold paintings therefore I didn’t have to work for one year. After that year I came back to Slovakia and made my first commercial flash games, programmed my own engine and employed artists from other countries. We made about 100 games this way and won several prizes.
Have you ever thought of moving your company abroad to pursue the game development business in other country?
Few years ago we thought we will support Slovak talents but it is really hard to find someone truly talented in such a small country like Slovakia. So now our team is also in India, Russia, Ukraine, USA, Canada. We use time tracking software for this kind of work and have pretty good results. Of course, the core of Functu is based in a really nice office in the historical center of Presov.
Recently you have left the position of CEO of Functu, correct? What made you to take this step?
I have many other interests and other businesses around. I build and rent houses as a small developer, currently I work on the second sculpture for my hometown which will be placed in the center of Presov. I felt it is the time to let smarter people than me become leaders. Lubo Rojak has been working with me for many years and I have recognized him as much more suitable person for this position than me. We also made a gentleman’s deal about his share in the company. Now I am his adviser and we discuss business issues from time to time. After few months Functu seems to be in a better condition than ever before so I am happy we have all made the right decisions.
If you were given only one year to become a great game developer, what would be the key steps you would take? What are the most crucial skills to have or to gain?
I believe success in the game industry is in psychology. In fact games equal psychology. Nothing else. So if a developer is thinking about making a game he likes, then he can make several big mistakes. Game development nowadays is about research, consulting, correct game design, selling tricks, marketing and testing, testing, testing. These are the true key steps.
If you think of 3 best games you have ever played what comes to your mind?
I am a big fan and player of Starcraft 2. I use this game instead of a coffee because your mind has to be so quick to win the game. So after 20 minutes my brain is boosted to do a super quick multitasking for the rest of the day. I use it for my brain training and extreme multitasking. It works. I have played many games but nothing brought me more pleasure than Starcraft 2. In my childhood I played also Diablo and Tycoon Transport a lot.
You are a co-founder of OneClickDog – a studio that had a contract with Disney and cooperated with Microsoft. How can a gaming studio get to cooperate with such big players? What is the “secret” essence?
We were so lucky that we made the game called Little Wheel which was totally different from others of that time. After winning MTV Game Awards it was easy to get in touch with big names. We used different technology to make the 2D game converting 3D animations to 2D vector animations which looked absolutely different and the benefit was that we could keep the size of the game up to 10 MB. The story, the look and the feel were also among other qualities of the game. Great fit of music, too. This way we received several small and big prizes and huge amount of players.
You have founded or co-founded 3 companies in the gaming industry. Correct me if I am wrong, but in such case you are more of a business person than a game developer. Which role suits you better?
Before, I was building companies only as a product to sell. Functu is now my love and we are not thinking about selling it, maybe only if some fantastic offer comes. For several years I have been asking myself who I really am. But now I don’t care if I program, paint, sculpt in some 3D software, manage a development of apartments, lead a team or negotiate with a client about the price. Everywhere I feel comfortable. Everything activity is creative and is giving me new ideas and experiences. I don’t believe in the myth that you can only be good in way one. Life is long.
What are the lessons you have learnt on your way from the 12-year old caricaturist to a gaming developer and company founder?
Relax. I don’t think you must work hard to become successful and happy. Just don’t spend time with processes that are not effective. Find the right person or software and delegate it. My parents are another important part of this story. They always supported my creativity and freedom. I had great conditions and no limit to do whatever I wanted. Parents´ wisdom is really important. A parent is not a boss but a partner full of love and service to develop skills and talents of the children. My childhood was just like this. I have always been convinced that traditional way of thinking is wrong and I need to find another way. When I was about 7 years old I was talking about things as if I had already achieved them as an adult and I just knew that will be my reality. I was talking about building many houses, making computer games and being an artist. Now my family is wondering how it is possible that all this is happening. It is all about dreaming and the vision. In my childhood I always used imaginative meditation technique. That time I didn’t know how it was called. I even use it now when I imagine my present and future the way I like it. Everyday, almost all the day I dream with my eyes open about new businesses, about new ideas and possibilities. However, it is also very important to be in the present with your family to have a purpose and meaning for your life.
Where do you think the gaming industry will globally evolve in the future? What can we expect?
Gaming industry is currently not very nice. It is all about tricks and psychology. We can use the word manipulation of human mind to get money from players. I don’t like this trend. In the near future it will be hard to say what is a game and what is virtual reality. In the future, the “word” game as we know it now will die. But let’s keep our minds open. Do you want to make a successful game? Read books about psychology, manipulation, marketing, selling tricks. Later, when you have a spare time during the weekends, you can read books about graphics and programming. Did you study psychology and marketing? You are a game developer. Now you just need few artists and programmers.
Any future plans you can share with us – e.g. starting a new gaming company?
I don’t think about another gaming company. Functu is on a great track. I plan to spend more time making metal sculptures and this summer I will build another 3 apartments for rent. I am also thinking about a new company in the furniture industry in the future. Maybe it is hard to believe but most of the time I spend with my wife and daughter, doing yoga, sitting in the sun or making some vegan or raw food. And this is what I plan to do.
Photos: Juraj Andrascik