Clam Man: Exposing fishy business in Snacky Bay
This point-and-click adventure game by a small Finnish indie developer is a witty and easy-going tribute to the classics of the genre.
A recent example of this is Clam Man, a quirky adventure game released in May this year. The game was created by a three-person team – Team Clam – who started developing the game as a hobby and turned to crowdfunding to finalise the project.
The game tells the story of – yes – Clam Man: a half-clam, half-human character, who in the beginning of the game gets fired from a comfortable office job at a mayonnaise manufacturer. This starts Clam Man’s adventure, during which he meets various colourful personalities, discovers an evil conspiracy, and confronts the dark underbelly of Snacky Bay, the town where he lives.
As the brief description perhaps suggests, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously but is steeped in absurd comedy. Indeed, Clam Man is a laid-back experience that focuses on story and humour, and mostly shuns head-scratching puzzles that some gamers might expect from the point-and-click genre.
Delicious homage to classics
Martin, the writer and designer of Clam Man, says that he and his brother (who worked as a programmer on the game) grew up playing a lot of point-and-click adventure games. Particularly LucasArts’s games such as Monkey Island 2 and Sam & Max Hit the Road were an inspiration to the team when it came to making their own game.
Although puzzles were a staple of these games, “they never were what we remembered or liked about those games – it was always about the comedy and the characters,” Martin says. So, when Clam Man started to take shape, “we decided to play to our strengths, which in this case was a particular style of humour and comedy, and then build the game around it.”
All in all, the game took about a-year-and-a-half to create, including the crowdfunding campaign. “We didn’t expect much from the campaign, but we were lucky to have so many wonderful people donate and help us out,” Martin says.
He adds that the success of the crowdfunding effort improved the final version of Clam Man, particularly as it allowed the team to hire a composer to score the game.
Small fish in a big pond
While major game studios can invest greatly in marketing, smaller developers have to find more economical ways of getting the word out. A crucial part of this is an active promotion on social media, and engagement with the audience by posting regular updates and participating in discussions.
Martin says that for a small game developer, this part of the business can be overwhelming: “We wanted to make a game, not get six months of marketing experience!”
“But when you’re an indie dev, it’s mandatory and unavoidable, and if you’re a small-time indie, like us, then doubly so!” he says. “On the plus side, we did get to meet a lot of wonderful people who have helped us on the way, so in the end it is really all worth it.”
Although the Finnish gaming industry is mainly based in Helsinki, Martin says that smaller teams of game developers exist all over the country. (Team Clam was based in Vaasa during the development of the game.) But as creating connections is a key aspect of the business, travelling to face-to-face events such as trade shows and workshops may be needed.
“That said, it’s important to remember that today, the gaming industry and market are global, digital, and open to pretty much anyone. So technically, you can make an amazing game and make money off it, no matter where you are,” he says. “You just need a computer. And your game needs to be really good too. That’s kind of important.”