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    IGF 08 Interviews Part 4


    Myopic Rhino
    Welcome to this year's series of IGF finalists interviews. In previous years, I have talked to dozens of developers from across the globe who have all shared a common achievement, being selected as a finalist for the Independent Games Festival. Getting this far in the IGF is quite a boon to these developers, many scrapping along as best they can to complete the game they've always dreamed of making. The support they receive as a result of being a finalist is far and beyond what any of them ever expect. These days, mere entry into the event is enough to spike page views. Two of the more notable things about this year's IGF awards are the inclusion of well-known indie developers on the judging panel, and the release of the judge's feedback to the entrants, which is something long requested by developers.

    Unlike in previous years where I've posted up interviews individually, this year I'll be compiling them into 4 parts of 5 interviews each. All the interviews share a core set of questions, several have additional follow-up questions to bring out more information on interesting topics.

    If you're attending GDC make sure you stop off at the IGF Pavilion to meet the developers and try out their games. Even if you're not attending GDC, you can still vote for your favorite game in the Audience Choice Award category.

    • [alink='syn']Synaesthete[/alink]
    • [alink='fez']Fez[/alink]
    • [alink='glo']Globulus.com[/alink]
    • [alink='ove']Axiom: Overdrive[/alink]
    • [alink='gum']Gumboy Tournament[/alink]


      [size="3"]Joseph Tkach, Zach Aikman, Andrew Maneri - DigiPen Institute of Technology

      [size="3"]Who are you and how are you involved with Synaesthete?

      Joseph: I am Joseph Tkach, and I am the game designer for Synaesthete. I came up with the original concept, and did most of the concept work. I also wrote the graphics engine, and created most of the particle effects. I did not do any of the character design, however, and although I wrote all the logic for the particle systems, many of the emitters in the game were designed by other team members using a particle editor created by Andy Maneri.

      Zach: I'm Zach Aikman, the Producer and one of four programmers who worked on Synaesthete.

      Andrew: I am Andrew Maneri - I am one of the four main developers of Synaesthete. I worked on the character designs, boss battles, AI, physics and random graphical flares.

      [size="3"]What sparked your game development flame?

      Joseph: I really couldn't say. I've wanted to make games as far back as I can remember.

      Zach: I've been tinkering around with game development since I was about twelve. A few years before I started attending DigiPen, it just became perfectly clear to me what career I wanted to pursue. Game development was the only thing I could see myself genuinely enjoying thirty years down the road, so I sent in my application to DigiPen and the rest is history!

      Andrew: Early exposure to video games and my grandfather getting me into programming. There wasn't really a time I remember where I didn't want to be a game developer.

      [size="3"]What set you on the indie path?

      Joseph: The curriculum at the DigiPen Institute of Technology requires all students to assemble into small teams and make games. So I guess the answer is: school.

      Zach: By definition, DigiPen students are indie developers - independent of a publisher or development studio that has creative control over the project, and lacking a budget with which to fund the title.

      Andrew: I just sort of ended up there. I did a lot of hobby game programming before going to school, and once you're there you really can't (and don't) focus on getting publishers for these things. Indie is nice though; there is a lot to be said for creative control.

      [size="3"]In this day and age, how would you define an independent game developer?

      Joseph: The obvious answer, to me, is anyone who makes games for no monetary compensation. You have to love making games if you're ever going to do that seriously.

      Zach: Having creative control (and properly utilizing that opportunity) is a crucial part in being an independent developer. There's a lot of stagnation in the industry as we continue to rehash the same types of games in the same predictable genres over and over again. Since publishers aren't often willing to fund forays into the uncharted waters of innovative design, it seems like this will continue to be a recurring trend in the mainstream market. Indie developers have the unique advantage of being able to make whatever they want. The budget is usually drastically reduced for such projects, but there are very few boundaries when it comes to what you can and can't do in the indie community.

      Andrew: I think there are two qualifiers: First is being a game developer whose resources or decisions give them the ability to make independent decisions; someone can't go in and say "hey, change this level" or "this boss is too scary looking". The second is more of a disqualifier. Once a game is published, I think it stops being indie at that point (By published I mean go to a console rather than PC distribution which is where most indie games start).

      [size="3"]Every year the difficulty bar lowers on making small games. How do you view the landscape of game development when everyone can make a game?

      Joseph: Even seemingly simple games take a lot of work to do well. I think most people could learn enough to make a fun prototype, but developing a fun prototype into a full game still takes a lot of time and dedication.

      Zach: I think that the greatest strength of lowering the difficulty of video game production is that it allows for the rapid development of design prototypes. Once we start unlocking the mystical realm of game development and allowing more people access to the tools necessary to make even the simplest game, we're going to start seeing a sudden surge of ideas that no one has ever seen before.

      Andrew: The technology hurdles for making games have always been the least difficult ones. Creating games that are polished and feel good are much more challenging. Anyone can pick up a pencil and paper and start doodling, but not everyone is going to make works of art.

      [size="3"]What's one thing you value most about this industry as opposed to other forms of entertainment?

      Joseph: I honestly don't spend all that much time playing games, though the time I spend is very good. I guess film is a great medium if you're an actor and painting is a great medium if you're an artist, but what I love is making games, so for me, game development is simply the place to be.

      Zach: There's a constant sense of innovation in the video game industry. Movies have been around for several decades and books have been around for far, far longer, but video games are still relatively new. As such, there's still a lot of ground to explore - we've just barely begun to scratch the surface of this new medium.

      Andrew: That we measure our success in 'fun' (and money, of course).

      [size="3"]Where and when did the concept for Synaesthete originate?

      Joseph: A few years ago I played Geometry Wars and I thought: it would be really nice if this were set to music. There were many things that inspired the concept; the perspective came from my obsession with Diablo 2, and the music game aspect was inspired by Beatmania, but it didn't happen all at once. It took a lot of iterations.

      Zach: The original design concept for Synaesthete was Joe's baby. Andy created the main character and fleshed out his back-story, did some sketches and threw together the model for the Zaikman. It fit pretty well with the theme of the game, so we just went with it.

      Andrew: I don't quite know where Joe (our designer) came up with the original idea, but he pitched it to me on the way back from teriyaki during our sophomore year of school. It was an amazing idea, I asked to join the dev team right then and there.

      [size="3"]Over the course of development, what was Synaesthete's most serious issue and how was it resolved?

      Joseph: We never ran into any really serious technical issues. Some things had to be re-done several times, but such is life. We did have some difficulty balancing the amount of flashing lights on the screen. To some people's taste, there are probably still too many, but for others, there could be even more. The biggest problem for me is always time, and it was resolved by the inexorability of the IGF deadline.

      Zach: I think the biggest issue we had to deal with was finding a way to make Synaesthete's unique gameplay accessible to as many people as possible. Admittedly, it can be pretty tricky to multitask between controlling the avatar with one hand and matching beats with the other, but we didn't want to alienate gamers who have never played a rhythm game before. We sort of saw this as an opportunity to make a music game that could appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers, depending on how they approach it.

      We achieved this by eliminating the penalty that most rhythm games impose upon players when they miss a note. In Synaesthete, you don't have to hit every note. In fact, we strongly encourage that you don't, because it actually makes it harder by pulling your attention away from dodging enemies.

      Andrew: When we started development some of us took on systems that didn't engage us. I was doing networking, and for an artist/programmer hybrid this is extremely unrewarding work. In the end, Synaesthete didn't need multiplayer and in the end I regret not putting more time into making really epic boss battles. Another example was physics, which every other member of the team tried and hated. I actually enjoy those kinds of systems and when I traded dropped networking for physics, the game came together that much more. The moral of the story is don't be afraid to try new things, but if it's not working out, deal with it early on.

      [size="3"]What's one thing you did wrong that you feel could have been avoided?

      Joseph: We certainly didn't do everything right, and if I were to do it over again, it would be with a much more informed perspective on the technical and design aspects of the project, but to say that we could have avoided our mistakes seems to ignore the reality of the process of game development. We're all students, so every part of the development is educational.

      Zach: In retrospect, it would have been nice to have some more variety in the levels. Each level in each of the three Visions is mostly indiscernible from the next in the set, differing only by the song that drives it. Unfortunately, art and time resources being what they were, we didn't have enough time to go back and improve upon that.

      Andrew: The above problem; we should have reacted to some of the misplaced programming tasks earlier.

      [size="3"]What's something you do as a team that helps you to remain focused and productive?

      Joseph: Our team keeps things very light-hearted. We mess with each other's computers a lot, and put whimsical messages into the build log. We also spend a lot of time enjoying internet memes.

      Zach: Goofing off in our spare time, believe it or not. Having a strong team dynamic really helped us finish the game that we all wanted to make. I think that a strong relationship between indie developers working on the same project is crucial to achieving the goals you've set for yourself.

      Andrew: Mostly playing jokes on each other, and talking about the amazing food we will be getting at dinner time (usually Chipotle). We have a competition of sorts of seeing what how ridiculous of something we can make into a running gag.

      [size="3"]How long was Synaesthete in development? How much development time remains?

      Joseph: The project is done. We worked on it for a year and a half, give or take, and as our class schedules permitted. As much work was done in the last four months as in the entire first year, but that's just because we had a lot more free time over the summer.

      Zach: Synaesthete was in development from September '06 to October '07, so about thirteen months. As of the IGF submission deadline, we're finished with the project.

      Andrew: Synaesthete was in development for about a year and a half. Hopefully, it's done, although we do occasionally release a new bug fix if any show up.

      [size="3"]What was used to make the game and what tools aided in development?

      Joseph: We used Visual Studio 2005, 3DS Max, Photoshop, Subversion and TortoiseSVN, Fruity Loops Studio 6, and a few other apps that aren't really occurring to me at the moment. We also used lots and lots of post-it notes.

      Zach: FL Studio was used for composing all of the audio. Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Assist X were both used for all programming tasks, along with TortoiseSVN to keep track of our source code repository. Adobe Photoshop and 3DStudio Max were used to create our art assets. We used Microsoft's DirectX 9.0 as our graphics API and Microsoft's XACT audio authoring tool to import audio assets into the game. Finally, Lua was used for scripting and TinyXML for parsing XML files. Beyond that, everything we did was our own work.

      Andrew: We developed the game in C++ using Direct X and Lua Scripting. We use Visual Studio for development (along with Visual Assist, probably the best programming investment we made).

      Art wise the school gave us access to Photoshop, Flash, and 3d Studio Max. The school also gave Will access to Fruity Loops for his music-creation needs.

      [size="3"]Is there anything about Synaesthete that you would like to reveal to other developers?

      Joseph: Nothing comes to mind.

      Zach: Playtesting is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your game.

      Andrew: Many of our cool particle effects we stumbled onto by accident. For example, our electricity, butterfly and shimmering particle effects were originally discovered when we wrote incorrect or garbage data into the vertex or index buffers.

      [size="3"]What's next for you?

      Joseph: That really depends. I'm about to graduate from college, so hopefully a job in the industry. I'd really like to do the kind of work where I still have creative input into the project.

      Zach: A couple more months of college and then years of adventure on the high seas!

      Andrew: I'm not quite sure myself. We (the team) have a lot of opportunities now, and we're hoping that GDC will make things a lot more clear to us.


      [size="3"]Phil Fish, Renaud B?dard - KOKOROMI

      [size="3"]Who are you and how are you involved with Fez?

      Fish: My name is Phil Fish and I am designer and artist on Fez.

      Renaud: My name is Renaud B?dard and I'm the programmer.

      [size="3"]What sparked your game development flame?

      Fish: growing up playing and making games on my black and white Macintosh, becoming a game designer was pretty much my version of becoming a rockstar.

      Then I started working in games, and the flame nearly died. That's when I discovered the indie scene, and fell in love all over again.

      Renaud: I learned how to program before making games. In fact I haven't made a serious game project before Fez, I was more involved in graphical/3D programming. But of course making something interactive and fun to play with makes everything more exciting.

      [size="3"]What set you on the indie path?

      Fish: a very strong desire to do whatever I want. A yearning for total creative control over something I care deeply about. It's all about the love.

      [size="3"]In this day and age, how would you define an independent game developer?

      Fish: I wouldn't. Finding out who's indie and who's not really isn't something I'm interested in. It's certainly a label I associate myself with. I consider myself an independent game developer. But I'm not interested to know where that label ends or begins.

      [size="3"]Every year the difficulty bar lowers on making small games. How do you view the landscape of game development when everyone can make a game?

      Fish: I think the medium is going to benefit a LOT from that. Right now, only a "certain type" of person can make games. And those are the people with the knowledge and skills. And, well, it seems that a vast majority of these people are only interested in making the same crap over and over again. The day my mom can make a game she enjoys without having to know C#, it will be a great day for games.

      I think the moment games open up to the masses like that, we're gonna start seeing a whole lot of new kinds of games we hadn't thought of yet.

      Renaud: I don't think it's really close to this state now. People have the illusion that XNA or other SDKs will allow just about anyone to create their dream game in a short timeline... but it clearly still requires solid programming knowledge. Even scripting or modding needs a LOT of time, focus, and structure.

      And artists. Most programmers starting with simple engines lack the art to make their project come alive, and that shows in the product more often than not. So I'm lucky. :)

      [size="3"]What's one thing you value most about this industry as opposed to other forms of entertainment?

      Fish: interesting that you used the word industry. That's certainly one aspect of games that I don't like. What I do like is that I'm in this very special position, at this very special point in time where games are just starting to mature and become something respectable. I'm convinced videogames is the next big dominant medium. I think I'm lucky to be making them right now.

      [size="3"]Where and when did the concept for Fez originate?

      Fish: the original idea to make a 2D/3D game came from Shawn McGarth, who I was working with on a game that would later become Fez. Then, the whole 3D pixel aesthetic just kind of happened one night. It was a flash. From there on, it was just iteration and a slow but steady evolution of the concept and aesthetic. That's one thing that's nice about indie dev, is that we had time to let a lot of stuff just ferment and get better.

      [size="3"]Over the course of development, what was Fez's most serious issue and how was it resolved?

      Renaud: I don't think one issue stood out as "the" major issue.

      Collision was a big issue, because it's not as intuitive when you work in a hybrid 2D/3D world! And I had never really worked with sliding box-to-box collision before, so there was a steep learning curve for me. Performance was a big issue with trixels, just so because it was necessary to have some polygon reduction algorithm. And it took me about 2 weeks and many cries of help fellow co-workers and friends over MSN to figure something decent out.

      And shader model 2.0 compatibility was a big issue as well, since I decided to go with hardware geometry instancing from the beginning without realizing it's a SM3.0-specific technique. Unfortunately about 75% of the world still has a SM2.0 card, it would seem. So the last couple of weeks were engine-rewrite hell.

      For all those issues, the XNA forums were of invaluable help. That, Wikipedia and pen/paper.

      [size="3"]What's one thing you did wrong that you feel could have been avoided?

      Renaud: We should have focused on the content pipeline earlier on. I should have, in fact.

      The way things worked in the editor, Fish had to have a copy of Visual C# installed on his laptop to compile content that the editor exported, to something that the game can load. I view this as a problem with XNA; you can't compile XNB content files without the C# IDE!

      But I could've made an application to simplify the process, just didn't take the time. And leaving Fish inside a C# editor and having to explain how it all works and debug the code remotely by email when it goes wrong (a couple of times a week) was stressful and unnecessary.

      [size="3"]What's something you do as a team that helps you to remain focused and productive?

      Fish: since the team is pretty much just me and Renaud on production, we'd meet every other week or so at a bar or something, bring our laptops, show each other what we had been doing, and decide what we'd do next. Pretty simple, really.

      Renaud: Also, we had no real deadlines in first few months, so this allowed us to let go for a couple of days or weeks, then come back to the project with fresh ideas and renewed optimism!

      [size="3"]How long was Fez in development? How much development time remains?

      Fish: it was in development for exactly 101 days before the IGF entry deadline. We made a demo, a kind of prototype proof of concept, and that was it. I'd say we prolly have around a year to go before the game's all finished and sexy.

      [size="3"]What was used to make the game and what tools aided in development?

      Fish: on my side of things, for all the art I used Photoshop to create all the textures, which I exported into Fezzer, our homebrew game editor.

      Renaud: I used Visual C# Express 2005 with XNA 1.0 Refresh for all the coding. I made most content pipeline tools with XNA as well, like a cubemap assembler (for the trile textures), a volume map assembler (for the sprite animations) and the level editor (Fezzer) like Fish mentioned.

      [size="3"]Is there anything about Fez that you would like to reveal to other developers?

      Fish: I'm very proud of the fact that Fez is being made (mostly) by 2 guys, in their spare time, for and with absolutely no money.

      Renaud: With the huge intro screen images and sound/music removed, the game weighs 848kb! And I blame that on my poor use of XML, because it should be closer to 500kb. It's that small because the textures are microscopic of course, but also there is no external geometric content. Everything is generated procedurally!

      [size="3"]What's next for you?

      Fish: More Fez.

      Renaud: Ditto!


      [size="3"]Alexandre Houdent, Olivier Besson - GlobZ

      [size="3"]Who are you and how are you involved with Globulos.com?

      Alexandre: I am Alexandre Houdent, general manager of GlobZ. We are a small team and everybody is deeply involved in Globulos.com. I am a producer, game tester, I answer emails, I throw some new game ideas etc...

      [size="3"]What sparked your game development flame?

      Alexandre: I think entertainment is a very important thing in life. Most people are concerned mostly by very serious matters. Making games, especially on the web, is a way of offering some fun to everyone. The only problem when it becomes a job is that for us it is a very serious thing now to entertain people ;)

      Olivier Besson adds: at GlobZ we don't have uniform experiences and feelings about videogames. But it's the arrival of Fabien Riffaud and Laurent Fernandez, in 2001, which contributed the most to focusing on games, probably because they were already great game makers.

      [size="3"]What set you on the indie path?

      Alexandre: The taste of freedom. I have worked 3 months for a big company ten years ago. That's all. I started GlobZ with Olivier Besson, and it was the same for him. Since then, "indie" has been more a matter of remaining small, which is surprisingly one of our corporate goals!

      [size="3"]In this day and age, how would you define an independent game developer?

      Alexandre: I would say any team from 1 to 10 people working on any kind of game. Being small means short budgets but lots of freedom.

      [size="3"]Every year the difficulty bar lowers on making small games. How do you view the landscape of game development when everyone can make a game?

      Alexandre: Competition is always good, even for us. The only issue might be the "quality standard" and game sessions that are evolving. Games are shorter, simpler, which is also a good thing.

      Olivier Besson adds: with the arrival of Flash, we ourselves benefited from this bar lowering, therefore it would be strange to be negative about this ;-)

      Alexandre: But more seriously, as the Flash scene shows (and perhaps like other tool-oriented communities like GameMaker), the more the game designer base grows, the more fresh original ideas can emerge. The more crap too, but that's logical and not specific to video games.

      For the designers, it's fun because they can experiment [with] their own ideas and - hopefully - create something innovative. In the 80's many games were one-man projects. For the players it's beneficial because they can play new good games (astutely selected by portals and reviewers).

      [size="3"]What's one thing you value most about this industry as opposed to other forms of entertainment?

      Alexandre: The word "industry" always sounds strange to me. Cars are designed and built in an industrial way. Our games are more like craftsmanship and we publish on the internet, so there are no boxes etc.

      We have a direct relationship with the players, which is very valuable. Most of the time it is difficult because for 1 person saying "this is great" you have 99 that say "it could be better" ;-) But still it is very exciting to have that direct relationship with the players.

      [size="3"]What made you decide to enter Globulos.com into the IGF?

      Alexandre: Since we are working on a new major release of Globulos.com I was hoping the IGF dates would speed us up but in fact we got to be finalists with the current version of Globulos.com, which is a great accomplishment for us.

      [size="3"]Where and when did the concept for Globulos.com originate?

      Alexandre: The first prototype was made by Olivier Besson. He had marbles in the sand in mind mixed with some biological cells. The first game was supposed to be a racing game. The racing was not [much] fun so the prototype was left as is. Then Fabien Riffaud added the "Arena" game, which was great. Then Olivier said "let's do a soccer game" and Fabien did a great soccer game with the funny rules. Then I said "let's do a croquet game". Fabien turned that idea in another great game. Then Laurent Fernandez added the graphics and animations and Globulos was born.

      [size="3"]Over the course of development, what was Globulos.com's most serious issue and how was it resolved?

      Alexandre: The most serious issue was the fact that the simulations are made on each computer (only the "orders" are exchanged). Between a PC and a Mac we had some differences due to some floating point calculations differences! The trickiest part was to find out the reason [why] we had some differences! And such a small difference could mess all the game. Like the "chaos theory"!!

      [size="3"]What's one thing you did wrong that you feel could have been avoided?

      Alexandre: Forgetting the audio. That's always our big problem. As we do everything in house and as we don't have a full time musician our games are really weak on the audio side. Jeremy Damon has joined the team after the launch of the first Globulos version. He is a graphic designer/animator/game designer and does some great music too.

      [size="3"]What's something you do as a team that helps you to remain focused and productive?

      Alexandre: Mmmm... nothing in particular... sometimes we spend the whole day just speaking about the game, going to the restaurant etc... ;)

      [size="3"]How long was Globulos.com in development? How much development time remains?

      Alexandre: It is almost impossible to answer this question ;) The very first version appeared on the internet in 2003. The next (huge) release is coming very soon in beta! To have a sneak peek:

      Clip 1
      Clip 2
      Clip 3

      [size="3"]What was used to make the game and what tools aided in development?

      Alexandre: Everything is made with Flash. The graphics are made using FreeHand and then imported in Flash. For the server side we use the Flash Media Server. For the database we use PHP/MySQL.

      [size="3"]Is there anything about Globulos.com that you would like to reveal to other developers?

      Alexandre: Never start working on a multiplayer game! It is a nightmare ;-)

      [size="3"]What's the main thing that you think makes your game fun?

      Alexandre: The fact that there is consistency and variety at the same time. All the games share the same core gameplay mechanic, which is great for the user. Once you have played one game, you know how to play all the games. However, the games sessions and strategies are really different between the games.

      [size="3"]What's next for you?

      Alexandre: The next version of Globulos.com is going to enter beta soon. We are also working on a Nintendo DS version of the game, as you can see in this video. Fr?d?ric Nouel (Lead) and C?dric Bourse are working on the DS game development.

      [size="5"][aname="ove"]Axiom: Overdrive

      [size="3"]Tony Barnes - Reflexive Entertainment

      [size="3"]Who are you and how are you involved with Axiom: Overdrive?

      Hello, I'm Tony Barnes, [the] Lead Designer, Lead Artist and Musician on the project. I essentially take all of the exciting assets and ideas and collate them into a cohesive, polished game.

      [size="3"]What sparked your game development flame?

      I started in the 6th grade (some 20+ years ago), when they put Apples into Bay Area schools. Always wanting to be an animator, like Ray Harryhausen (Clash of the Titans), it was exciting, because I got things moving on the screen in less time, with less people involved. I could draw little sprites on graph paper, program a bit and see things moving and interacting in no time. My friends would come over and play my games constantly. Eventually, I realized that making games was what I was born to do.

      [size="3"]What set you on the indie path?

      Well, being crushed by "the machinery" of retail development, really. Poor management, lack of consumer understanding, misplaced energy and misguided goals lead to very long hours and a lot of frustration. I got to the point where I threw out a lot of really good ideas; because I didn't think they'd "work" in a "real game". When I found myself playing more indie games, because they were more fun, that's what started me down the path.

      [size="3"]In this day and age, how would you define an independent game developer?

      That's interesting. For some, to be an "independent developer" means you have to be a 1-2 man shop, starving, never working on spec (licenses, etc) and only making games that are low-res and/or off-the-beaten path. I consider those people "hobbyist", not "independent developers". I consider an independent developer someone who is wholly owned by themselves and not a publisher, usually self-funds and controls their own destiny. Independent developers are where I look for original IP and generally more focused gameplay.

      [size="3"]Every year the difficulty bar lowers on making small games. How do you view the landscape of game development when everyone can make a game?

      I say, "Bring it on!" One of the reasons I've essentially returned to small teams and independent development is because the barriers have been lowered, enabling you to get to "the game" faster than before. When technology and process gets in the way of creative, nothing good really comes from it, except maybe a neat tech demo. Good gameplay comes from being able to get to "the creamy center".

      [size="3"]What's one thing you value most about this industry as opposed to other forms of entertainment?

      I love how free and dynamic this medium is. Even when doing large-scale over-documented crunch-fests, you can still be a bit spontaneous and reactive to the game, adding, tuning, and implementing new ideas. Also, it's so exciting to be able to affect so many different senses at once. Sound, visuals, interactivity; no other medium combines these aspects into an interesting and dynamic package.

      [size="3"]What made you decide to enter Axiom: Overdrive into the IGF?

      Just seemed right. It's a great example of the indie spirit. A small group of people working really hard on something they have passion for and it would've never happen inside a major publisher, because it just doesn't fit into one of their predetermined bins.

      [size="3"]Where and when did the concept for Axiom: Overdrive originate?

      Axiom actually started as a slightly different game. It was based on a 1-day prototype put together by Producer / Lead Programmer Simon Hallam (Producer / Lead Programmer / Designer of Wik). The 1-day prototype was based upon one of his favorite games; Thrust. When we got into making that game, I was going about making it the way retail games are made, where you work on a ton of assets and maybe a month before it's done you look at the game and all of a sudden, it's fun. Up until that magic moment, it's a mess and you just assume that your plan is sound. Reflexive doesn't build games that way (and I suspect most indie developers and hobbyists don't), so we kind of went back to the drawing board and went for the prototyped "fun" first and the rest followed. Form followed function. It opened the game up for a ton of different and fresh experiences that wouldn't have come otherwise.

      [size="3"]Over the course of development, what was Axiom: Overdrive's most serious issue and how was it resolved?

      Well, besides the aforementioned reset, which came half-way through the development, one serious issue was under estimating the difficulty of implementing network multiplayer for XBLA. It's almost a requirement at this point, like an options screen, but it's not that easy to implement. And considering we were building a new engine, new IP and network play all at once, it's not something I would recommend people try.

      [size="3"]What's one thing you did wrong that you feel could have been avoided?

      Not cutting things sooner. We have a lot of content in Axiom and some of it's there because I didn't want to hurt the feelings of the people who made it. But really, when it comes to content vs. time, it's a losing battle and sometimes you have to kill someone's baby (figuratively speaking), for the greater good of the product.

      [size="3"]What's something you do as a team that helps you to remain focused and productive?

      One thing standard developer/publisher development has is "milestones". These little checks are usually set up so the publisher can keep track of what you're doing and the developer can beg for the money to put food on the table. Now, when not abused, they're a great thing. It's good to have mini goals and make those goals something substantial that everyone can see and measure. Don't make a goal of "50% chairs modeled and textured", because that's not as meaningful as say, "Can start game, go into room filled with chairs and break them." The 2nd goal is tangible, even to people who don't know the particulars on assets or technology. They can see it there, working. Of course that goal has to be broken down into "get GUI working, make room, place chairs, do break code, physics, etc" but having a goal that's tangible and interactive helps a lot.

      [size="3"]How long was Axiom: Overdrive in development? How much development time remains?

      Well, Axiom: Overdrive has been in development for a little over a year. The game we were working on before the "reset" had around 8-9 months on it. As for how much, well... umm... "It's done when it's done?" ;)

      [size="3"]What was used to make the game and what tools aided in development?

      The engine for Axiom is a full-featured, all next-gen bells and whistles singing, self-developed engine that includes next gen rendering, scripting, physics, particle systems, etc. Other than our in-house engine, we use the standard tools for development; Photoshop, Maya, XSI, SketchUp, C++, etc.

      [size="3"]Is there anything about Axiom: Overdrive that you would like to reveal to other developers?

      Besides the advice and warnings above? Hmm... Well, don't always try and get EVERYTHING you want in one game. That's not to say don't go for your vision, but if your vision is too big, break it up into many smaller games, until you're ready to make your "Magnum Opus". I find so many people never actually get things finished, because they're too busy trying to do it all. Game making isn't a one-time endeavor; it's something you can do over and over again, as long as you get the first one done. ;)

      [size="3"]What's the main thing you think makes your game fun?

      The kinesthetic feel. You can feel your craft, you can feel the things you interact with and it's all dynamic. It's just awesome taking a bomb and lobbing it into a wall, watching it explode and crash all over the place. I love watching people pick up the controller, latching onto a large object and "forcing" the stick harder, because they "feel it" too.

      [size="3"]What's next for you?

      More indie games. Probably looking at platforms other than X360 / XBLA, to take advantage of their hardware. I'm also personally interested in making many "little games". These are games that take a very simple play-mechanic and just work every permutation of it. I used to do these games "back in the day" on my Atari 8-bit, but I thought I was just making games.

      [size="5"][aname=gum]Gumboy Tournament

      [size="3"]Lukas Macura - CINEMAX

      [size="3"]Who are you and how are you involved with Gumboy Tournament?

      My name is Lukas Macura and I'm cofounder of CINEMAX, s.r.o. So I'm the producer of project Gumboy Tournament.

      [size="3"]What sparked your game development flame?

      In 2006 we finished and released Gumboy Crazy Adventure. We got a lot of feedback from press and players and so we had a lot of ideas for a sequel. We began development and during prototyping new ideas for the sequel we found that playing multiplayer in a world of gumboys can be very addictive and also we found that we are able to make good bots for single player.

      [size="3"]What set you on the indie path?

      As I mentioned, I'm cofounder of CINEMAX; so CINEMAX is privately held - most of the games we are developing or producing are indie. We find that through the indie way we can implement our ideas and make games we like.

      [size="3"]In this day and age, how would you define an independent game developer?

      I think that for indie game developers it is all about the game in the first place. It's about trying something new. Yes, it can be hard to find the money to fund this and it's not guaranteeing profit, but personally I think that making a unique game is better than commercial success.

      [size="3"]Every year the difficulty bar lowers on making small games. How do you view the landscape of game development when everyone can make a game?

      It's good. Everyone can try and everyone can be surprised that implementing a good idea is usually harder that beginners think. Even with small games there are a lot of issues (mostly on gameplay) which must be solved and it's really hard without any experience in making games.

      [size="3"]What's one thing you value most about this industry as opposed to other forms of entertainment?

      For me, and I hope the same goes for our employees and freelancers, making games are fun, sometimes stressful, but still fun. Other entertainment industries often offer very boring work :)

      [size="3"]Where and when did the concept for Gumboy Tournament originate?

      Well Gumboy Tournament is a sequel; the original Gumboy was inspired by old game called Elastomania. Miroslav Adamus is big fan of this game and is also a very good programmer, so we invented the idea of Gumboy and showed off his first amazing tech-demo in 2003.

      [size="3"]Over the course of development, what was Gumboy Tournament's most serious issue and how was it resolved?

      We find that for a game like this it's really important to have good gameplay, so we spend a lot of time testing the game over LAN. However sometimes we have other employees not 'test' the game, but just relax and play. And I think that members of other dev teams from our company were really happy that they can join for testing ? It helps confirm that we are on the right path to making an addictive multiplayer game. (And feedbacks from IGF demo version players confirm it too). From a technical point of view, the biggest issue was multiplayer - synchronizing physics over LAN/internet. It's really hard to use physics (elastic strain and spring power) for multiplayer gameplay; most multiplayer games use physics for just visual effects which doesn't affect gameplay. We were definitely successful with this task (our physics engine is solid, stable, consistent and predictable) and I think that is the reason why the IGF jury chose our game as a finalist in the Technical Excellence category.

      [size="3"]What's one thing you did wrong that you feel could have been avoided?

      Communication with the press and our audience; we are very busy with developing the game and we don't get a lot of time to focus on public relations, but we're doing our best on it :)

      [size="3"]What's something you do as a team that helps you to remain focused and productive?

      We are organizing team-buildings and a lot of brainstorming. We discuss gameplay issues across the whole company, not just within the core game team. Everybody has had a chance to push their own ideas to our games.

      [size="3"]How long was Gumboy Tournament in development? How much development time remains?

      It's been approximately 16 months and we should have the final PC version in 1-2 months.

      [size="3"]What was used to make the game and what tools aided in development?

      We don't use any special tools. We use just Photoshop for preparing textures (no other 3rd party tools).

      [size="3"]Is there anything about Gumboy Tournament that you would like to reveal to other developers?

      Making a unique game is big challenge, I can recommend to all developers.

      [size="3"]What's next for you?

      Now we want focus on Gumboy for DS/WII/XBOX360.

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