We’re Innovation Partners, Purveyors of a New Development Services Model for Creative Industries
Amber is a development services agency built by a collective of artisans, originating in Bucharest, Romania. The company concept was inspired by the decades of industry experience of its leadership, as a sincere effort to offer the games industry a better development services platform. To this end we defined a series of operating principles that stand apart from the current service landscape. We dare say that over time these principles made us into a unique presence in the industry:
> Contained Distributed Development: We’ve created a system that better enables distributed development for its partners, by placing our consultancy branches in the proximity of our internal clients. Since the overwhelming majority of our partners are currently based in California, we’ve opened offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. This is unusual for offshore vendors, who tend to concentrate their workforce in low-cost locations and build a Sales/BD presence in their client markets. In contrast, we have no formal Sales/BD organization, but rather we hire producers, project managers, specialists in proximity to our partners. This allows our clients to more naturally interact with our staff and we can thus reduce the inherent friction resulting from external development.
> Innovation Partner: An indirect consequence of our hiring philosophy is that we can assemble the best collection of game dev specialists in the industry to solve complex problems that most service vendors cannot hope to unravel: to support product innovation by providing elegant solutions to technology challenges, feed game design experimentation via rapid prototyping, or supporting business model innovation. This implies that we must show remarkable flexibility, dedication and skill in adapting to our partners’ needs.
> Continuous Improvement: Amber’s Kaizen is a central organizing principle for our internal operations, since each team maintains a complex roster of process improvement initiatives which are refreshed on a quarterly basis. We’re focused on pursuing a higher standard in our service delivery through innovation and dedicated focus. Furthermore, through our consultancy arms we aim to inspire process improvement for our partners, pursuing more transparent and detailed reporting, project set-up procedures and sophisticated planning for resourcing and risk mitigation.
> Partner Focus: The history of games development is littered with external development horror stories and from inception we wanted Amber to stand for a higher standard. To do so, we’ve adopted an obsessive focus on the customer, which is expressed in regular partner surveys of our performance directly tied to staff compensation, frequent due diligence visits to the partner location, but most importantly in always providing honest estimates on effort and cost required to deliver our projects. Our pledge of integrity means we’ll only take on projects we know we can deliver on-time, on-spec and on-budget, with resources we know we can secure, on the basis of cost that will not be artificially revised later on in the project lifecycle. We want to be the partner you always love to work with, because we’ve earned your trust and we’ve always delivered with high marks.
> Hiring the Best: You’ll be hard pressed to find a vendor who would say their aim is different, but in our case, we actually mean it. From inception, the company has hired the best game developers it could find in its local market. As the company developed, we’ve extended this principle to our US-based locations. It’s a tough choice to make if you follow it to its logical conclusion – this implies paying top salaries for the most senior and accomplished staff we can recruit. In turn, it means we can no longer compete on cost, but rather on quality. As a result, we prefer to bid on complete projects, rather than work on the basis of hourly cost, since we can deliver faster and smarter than our competitors, due to the quality of our talent.
We’ve created systems for improving the operational conditions of game development and to this end we offer the following services to our partners:
> Full Game Development: Our specialty resides in delivering bespoke experiences to our partners in a manner that respectfully leverages their brands. We’ve delivered a line-drawing puzzle game for Disney on mobile, a text-based simulation for Glu on smart watch and an original puzzle game design for Carbon. Several other projects are now in the works. As you can see, we’ve established strong expertise in the puzzle genre under the F2P/live service model, so if you have such products in your portfolio, Amber should be on your short list of studio candidates.
> Co-Development: This is a core specialty for our team. Amber has had co-development projects since the beginning and thus the opportunity to hone its skills over the years. We’ve supported Scopely and Kixeye on various projects and we have people, systems and tech to enable a seamless collaboration across timezones, when augmenting an existing team’s capacity.
> Custom Engineering: This is Amber’s foundational service, the driver of our company’s growth to this very day. When a new partner considers Amber for an engineering engagement, a clearly delineated custom project is usually the first step. Whether this means developing a modular feature, integrating a service, or even bug fixing on an existing project.
> Tools Engineering: During the course of delivering engineering services for our partners, we created a series of proprietary tools to help us work faster and smarter. In time, we discovered our partners needed such tools, so we had to either build new ones from the ground up or customize tools we already had (i.e. device performance testing, inventory, reporting dashboards, live ops automation, etc.).
> Live Ops: Live ops represents a major focus and area of investment for Amber. We’ve created this specialization in response to requests from our partners, but we decided to not only respond to demand, but to create the best turn-key live ops solution for mobile F2P titles the industry has ever seen.
> Quality Assurance: The caliber of staff we’ve assembled in our QA leadership team is world class, most of them having led teams of hundreds of testers for large publishers present in Bucharest, Romania. This is a very senior, battle-tested team and we’ve adopted the “Hire the Best” principle for QA as well. We try to recruit experienced testers within the Amber team and then offer them a career growth path in our studio (production, project management, design and engineering are the most logical paths).
> Quality Engineering: Adding automation to our offering was not simply a means to augment our QA practice, but rather we wanted to change the ways games are being developed, by making engineering more effective. We wanted to deploy scripts that allow developers to check the integrity of the code before the builds ever got to QA. Also, to system test the integrity of back-end system under simulated heavy load conditions and to automate core functions of game development.
Through these solutions, Amber delivers a comprehensive development services platform for game developers worldwide. We’ve built a company meant to last, which has the objective of creating a framework for continuous improvement in development services. We’ve already begun investing in customarily neglected areas of opportunity in game development, such as:
– Evolving the QE discipline beyond QA task automation and leading into development transformation (QE as a means to make development more efficient).
– Creating engine-specific test harnesses in order to reduce the friction resulting from system integration.
– Automating the functional tasks required by live operations, such as AI-driven content development.
– Creating tools to support the mechanics of live ops, such as automated server deploys, web tool templates for campaign management and player profile editors for CRM.
A Method to Awesome
Amber’s staff hails from some of the greatest names in the games industry: Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Gameloft, Namco, and others. We’ve delivered complex projects for all major mobile platforms, PC and console. We’ve employed development frameworks and utilities such as Unity3D, Unreal, Cocos2D, Marmalade, FMOD and proprietary engines. We have a deep understanding of cross-platform development, parallel launch strategies, game mechanics, freemium monetization systems, product analytics and live operations.
Our objective is to complement the product vision of our clients, seamlessly blending into the cultural fabric of the teams we collaborate with, learning from their varied experiences and achieving perfect synergy in pursuit of our clients’ business objectives. Every project is a unique opportunity to explore the many ways we can exceed our customers’ expectations, but this creative journey is guided by a strictly rational framework. While we recognize no process can be a substitute for deep experience combined with unrelenting commitment to the product, we are proficient at both waterfall and agile methodologies, deploying either depending on the nature of the project.
> Communication: It is extremely important for us to meet our client’s expectations in terms of product vision, schedule and quality. Transparent and constant communication is enshrined as one of the company’s core values and we’ll customize the information flow to match the project needs.
> Evaluation: Based on the project scope, we evaluate and analyze all the development variables: from risks and dependencies to goals and requirements, all assembled in a detailed execution plan.
> Execution: The magic of crafting spectacular products lies in the various methodologies we’re using according to our secret Amber recipes. Our team of experienced professionals can handle anything, from retro-tech to next-gen, they’ve seen and done all.
> Delivery: After completing the previous steps in the development lifecycle, upon meeting all product requirements defined by our customers, we move to deliver the final package.
Using this methodology, we believe Amber is primed to revolutionize creative industries by offering the full range of turn-key software development and live service solutions outlined above.
We hope you’ll offer us the chance to show you the Awesome.