Interview with Starborne: Frontiers Product Director, Stefan Fridriksson
Today we continue our conversations with the Solid Clouds team members by having an interview with Stefan Fridriksson, the CPO of the team.
What are your responsibilities at Solid Clouds?
I could summarize it as me overseeing the direction of our game, but to be more specific, as the head of product, I manage the design team and am responsible for the overall quality of game design, monetization design and user experience. I am also involved in the marketing of the game, because mobile games do a lot of performance marketing, where the design of the marketing and of the game itself have to be very aligned. There are even examples of successful mobile marketing having a direct impact on gameplay changes, like for the game Homescapes from Pixonic, which is one of the highest grossing mobile games of recent years.
What sets your game apart from others in the same genre?
Firstly, the tactical nature of the gameplay, which blends together traditional turn based squad rpg mechanics and placement based mechanics similar to autochess. On top of that, we have the Abyss, which is a near-endless gamemode with a huge amount of semi-randomly generated content which changes every month.
What are the next steps for Starborne: Frontiers?
First and foremost is to globally release our newest game, Frontiers. Most mobile games are first released in a so-called soft launch, where the game is released in a handful of countries without much marketing. This is so that we can collect data on how players use the game and make decisions about what to improve before we fully release the game. What makes this job and the mobile game industry so interesting is that you are constantly learning and improving. When a game is released, that is just the beginning. After that, we apply data science and AB testing to the game and the marketing, with each iteration improving the whole product.
How do you balance the need for monetization with providing a fun and engaging experience for players?
That depends on the type of game you are making. In our case, with Starborne: Frontiers, we start by making a great journey that takes a long time to complete. Then we allow those who would rather skip to the end to spend some money to make that journey faster and more convenient.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the mobile gaming industry?
Mostly I just play the biggest titles from our competitors and try out new games and games in soft launch. I also listen to the “Deconstructor of fun” podcast and browse LinkedIn to see what other people in the industry are sharing.
What have been the most challenging projects for you lately?
When the whole company I worked for (Rovio) switched to fully working from home during Covid, I was the game lead for Angry Birds Match. Moving all of our processes and meetings to remote while keeping up morale in the team was very challenging. We decided early on to minimize 1 on 1 chats (in Slack) and instead talked more in shared channels with specific topics. This was to replicate the team environment at the office, where you are often pulled into short chats about certain problems or solutions.
What are your main interests?
I’ve always enjoyed videogames and the collectible card game Magic: the Gathering, which is actually also a video game these days. But what I spend the most time on is audiobooks and podcasts. If I am doing any activity that doesn’t require much thinking, like walking, taking the bus or doing household chores, I’m always listening to something at the same time, with a strong preference for non-fiction and sci-fi / fantasy. I also play basketball every week and follow the NBA.
What book has had the most impact on you?
That has to be Flow, the psychology of optimal experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He was a pioneer in the study of happiness and creativity. Flow taught me a lot about both game design and also about how to live your life in the present and be happy.
What is your morning routine like?
It really depends on the day. On most work days, I start with a cup of coffee while preparing breakfast for my two boys. Then when they leave for school, I take a shower and then have more coffee (yes, I have a coffee problem) while taking a look at the NBA results from last night. After that, I go to work.
What is your favorite city?
Reykjavik without a doubt. After traveling widely and living in Atlanta for two and a half years and then Helsinki for over 9 years, I still feel most comfortable in my home town of Reykjavik. I did miss some huge changes that resulted from the tourism boom, so many things have changed, but it’s still my favorite.