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Interview with Daniil Sanders, Creative Director at Foxium

Interview with Daniil Sanders, Creative Director at Foxium

As part of our latest interview with Daniil Sanders, Creative Director at Foxium, we had an opportunity to learn more about the company’s most recent and future plans, as well as the upcoming release of their new game. In addition, the interview brings super valuable information and predictions regarding the iGaming industry in general.

1. Foxium is about to release a new game named Astro Legends. What are your expectations?

Astro Legends is a marquee game for us in several ways. It’s the first title built on our new in-house engine, which supports detailed 3D models with real-time animations - a real breakthrough in pure HTML5 slots. Astro Legends also marks the first outing for our achievements system, and showcases an amazing adaptive soundtrack, where the score rises and falls dynamically depending on the on-screen action. All of those technical developments have made Astro Legends truly special in its own right, but have also laid the foundations for future games.

As I mentioned, we see Astro Legends as the Launchpad for new technologies, but we’re also looking at the game as the potential first entry in a series. Foxium is a story-led studio, and we developed a lot of background material in-house for Astro Legends. The story bible contains a detailed universe that draws on the best of golden age sci-fi and blends it with 70’s funk styling, and while this game focuses on two main characters - Lyra and Erion - we have many more potential avenues we’d like to explore someday in this setting.

In brief, the first Astro Legends tells the story of Lyra, lead singer and keytar player travelling with her synth-funk band The Astro Legends. Lyra is also perhaps the last of the race of ancient guardians called Starchildren, who can heal, manipulate the elements, and shapeshift – all with the power of music and a resource called stardust. As the game begins Lyra is on the route to a rehearsal with her bandmates, when a centuries-old AI (who’s more than a little eccentric, and is a big fan of synth-funk) diverts her to his planet and forces her to perform a private gig that may never end. Over the course of the game, players will help Lyra work to collect stardust, play blistering riffs, and eventually escape Erion’s planet.

In the future, we might look to explore the lives of Lyra’s bandmates, delve further into the history of the planetary AIs, or the Starchildren, or even follow Lyra on another musical adventure. Stay tuned!

2. Where did the inspiration for the slot come from?

I’m a huge fan of classic and retro-inspired movies, TV, console games, and music. The initial idea for Astro Legends came from my favourite cartoon series, Steven Universe, which isn’t exactly retro, but which uses a simple story and gentle humour as an entry-point to a complex, galaxy-spanning plot. After watching that show, I started to think about what a slot game set in a similar universe where everyday people can have world-changing powers, would look like.

The key to Astro Legends is that the game and the story don’t take themselves too seriously. We thought long and hard about the scientific side of our world-building, but our main characters are a woman with a pink afro and a keytar, and a mad AI with a body made of pure crystal. That’s a delicate balance to strike, but I’m very happy with the results. Astro Legends takes the spirit of the Golden Age of science fiction and marries it to seventies-style sass, contemporary cartoons, and classic anime, giving players the chance to save the galaxy and enjoy groovy synthesiser music. I think we got the best of both worlds.

3. Foxium is famous for creating slots with stunning graphics and amazing soundt­rac­ks. ­What does the process of games creation require and how long does it usually last?

We always start from an initial spark, and then try to develop a strong story around that before we go any further. If we feel as though the story warrants it, we then write a game bible and start to devise a maths profile and game mechanics.

From there, we split our production process into three key stages. First, we develop the story and the mathematics. Second, we build a prototype and start testing the theme and the maths, which is a vital stage, because balancing game maths can be both an exciting opportunity – a forge for new ideas – and a serious challenge. Third, we move on to the visual design process. We’re a relatively small team, with three designers including myself, so there’s some overlap between those stages, and we have to be as agile as possible. 

Fourth (but by no means the last in importance), is the music. We work very closely with our composer, so we can share ideas and sketches throughout the design process. So while we’re working on graphics and maths, our musician is sending over sample loops that we can tweak or develop further, and once we even went back and restarted an entire soundtrack because it didn’t fit with the way the game was developing. For Astro Legends: Lyra and Erion, though, we all knew from the start what sound we wanted. We started from inspirations like Daft Punk and Future Cop, and used retro-sounding digital and analogue synthesisers to achieve the right sound.

The real development work, though, starts when the graphics work is completed, the music is on-message, and the maths profile has been established. I know I’m not the first one to say this, but there’s nothing quite like seeing something that you and your team have worked on in separate parts coming together to form a cohesive whole. And I feel privileged that we get to repeat that cycle every three months!

4. By offering top-notch games, you’re among the most welcomed game providers on any of the gaming platforms. How hard is it to be successful in the gambling industry nowadays?

The recipe for success is simple, but actually making it is not. If you have an original theme, a strong story, unique game mechanics, and a compelling maths profile, then you have the seeds for a successful game. 

The difficulty lies in being able to create all those things – brand new themes, entirely new gameplay innovations and so on – according to a very strict development calendar. That takes discipline, talent, and creativity – and above all it takes a great team that shares a common vision.

5. Featuring outstanding graphics and superb sound effects, games like Vampire: The Masquerade™ – Las Vegas, Adelia The Fortune Wielder, and The Lost Riches of Amazon are known as some of the most successful of Foxium’s video slots. Which one would you single out as the best you’ve created so far, and why?

I believe that, as a studio, we have been making progress with every new release. I have a couple of themes that were closer to my heart, personally, but as game creators in a market that’s hungrier than ever for quality, I think we’d be failing at our jobs if every slot wasn’t better than the one that came before it. So I’m always the proudest of the work we’re doing right now.

6. So far, your games have been available across numerous online casinos, including Betsson Casino, Cashmio Casino, Bitstarz Casino, and various other platforms. What is Foxium’s main market, and are you planning to start a partnership with more casinos?

We are constantly working on making the deals with new casinos, yet it is not an easy task. The most significant challenge for a new studio is to convince an operator to believe in your games and to give you a shot. We are so far represented in more than 100 different casinos and aiming for this number to increase in the nearest future. We greatly value our partners’ trust and confidence in what we do as a Foxium Team.

7. Since you’ve been working in the gambling industry for a while now, do you have any favourite slots powered by other game suppliers? And if so, which ones?

The market demands a lot of new content, so it can be difficult to keep up with what is being released. There is one recent release that has stuck in my mind, though, and that was Fat Rabbit by Push Gaming.

8. Are you satisfied with Foxium’s ongoing cooperation with Velo Partners, as well as your integration with Microgaming’s Quickfire platform?

Yes, we definitely are. They have the same values, culture, and vision as we do. Through Velo Partners and the RNG Foundry, we are able to strengthen our company in some critical areas, specifically speed to market and distribution of our games.

This deal with Microgaming’s Quickfire platform provides Foxium with the chance to produce better games and reach more operators. We have great respect for the team at Velo Partners and RNG Foundry. Together we see great potential in our studio.

9. What are your plans for the second half of 2018? Can you reveal some of the things Foxium will be working on throughout the year?

After Astro Legends: Lyra and Erion releases, we have two more games planned for this year.

The first will come out quite quickly after Astro Legends, and will be a game called Albini The Great, with expanding reels and mystery re-spins features. That game will be quite volatile, and will also introduce our brand-new “feature buy out” mechanic alongside our signature 3D graphics, real-time animations, and amazing soundtrack. 

The second game, which is further out, will remain a secret for now - but I can tell you that you can expect something truly innovative in terms of game play.

10. What do you think of third-party casino portals such as AskGamblers?

I think your portal has become an engagement channel which is great. By saying this, I refer to the content that you create and conversation that you have with your audience. Players can read and comment on upcoming slots, keep themselves up to date when it comes to the latest development in the industry and can even have a discussion.

In my opinion, it is a very informative, useful and entertaining way of keeping us and players united at one place. You provide us with all the necessary information and updates that help us to be more competitive in the iGaming world.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us, Daniil. We wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing which new online slots Foxium is going to launch in the near future.

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