Gfycat Blog

Hidden Variable Studios, an Independent Game Studio

Part 6 in our Creator Spotlight Series

It’s 4pm on Monday, and I should be working. But I’m not. Instead, I’m playing Skullgirls. Skullgirls Mobile is an RPG fighting game developed by Hidden Variable Studios, and it’s fast-paced and so addictive that my “research” turned into total absorption. I’m no gamer, but even I was hooked.

Hidden Variables has been around since 2011, and for most of its existence has focused on creating puzzle games, like Bag It!, Threes!, and Tic Tactics. Their latest offering, Skullgirls, is in an entirely different genre. It features a complex backstory, unique hand-drawn art, dozens of playable characters, and moves reminiscent of Street Fighter.

“We really started diving into the world of GIFs when production of Skullgirls Mobile began,” said Nick Ahrens, Executive Producer at Hidden Variable. “We knew we wanted to show off the game’s dynamism as much as possible so the idea of using GIFs in place of screenshots was extremely appealing. Now we use them for showing off new features, characters, community content and more.” One such new character was recently unveiled: Squigly, an undead girl inhabited by a parasite.

“People are inherently visual when it comes to video games. We feel that creating those visuals is one of our strengths as developers. For Skullgirls Mobile, this means showing off the hand-animated art and depth of the mechanics quickly. It’s always been a draw of the game, and Gfycat lets us highlight that aspect of the experience,” said Ahrens. In fact, Skullgirls’ stunning visuals have led to the game recently being featured as the App Store’s “Game of the Day,” just one of many successes for the game.

Ahrens thinks the appeal of GIFs for gamers is all about sharing the immersive visual experience of a game. “We are at the point in the evolution of the industry where we can create amazing visuals on devices that can fit in the palm of your hand. When you can create these moments in time as a player, it is natural that you want to share them with the people around you. This leads to videos of characters skydiving through a donut in GTA 5, pulling off a crazy goal in Rocket League, or even creating a 30 hit combo in Skullgirls that no one’s ever seen before. These are the moments that are unique to the interactive medium, and a GIF allows others to feel like they were right there when it originally happened.”

When I asked Ahrens about his favorite GIF, though, it didn’t directly feature gameplay. “It’s of one of our developers, Liam, winning a live Skullgirls match. He was participating in a national fighting game tournament, and he made it to the finals, performing like a true sportsman. We christened it ‘The handshake heard ‘round the world.’ It’s also, ironically, the only non-game GIF on the channel.”

You can find Skullgirls Mobile in the App Store or Play Store.

Skullgirls Hidden Variable