John Dexter, aka d000hg, sat down with Patrick and Joe from Insert Coin to discuss their IGF entry Rumble Box, which was nominated for Innovation in Game Design.
[size="3"]Who are you and how are/were you involved in Rumble Box's development?
Patrick: I'm a recent DigiPen graduate who did the physics engine in Rumble Box along with all of the animations, scripts, artwork and a general half of the programming.
Joe: I am also a recent DigiPen graduate who did the graphics engine, the UI, the combat system, the AI, and the color schemes. And the other general half of the programming.
[size="3"]Congratulations on reaching the finals. What caused you to enter in the first place, and did you hope or expect to do so well?
We finished Rumble Box last spring with the intent of submitting to the IGF. We knew early on that we had something special, so it gave us the motivation to make it even better. Getting nominated for Innovation in Game Design is everything we could hope for.
[size="3"]How and when did your team get together? Can you give a brief history of the team?
We worked on a school project previously, and wanted to do another project before graduating. When the idea for Rumble Box came up, we knew it was the right game for our senior project. We originally had a third team member, but we lost him before coding began, so it ended up just being the two of us.
[size="3"]Are you guys working as indies full-time, or around other jobs/studies?
Rumble Box was developed during our senior year at DigiPen. Both of us are now currently working at Rainbow Studios.
[size="3"]Do you plan to return to the indie scene, or was Rumble Box primarily created to get you into the industry?
Rumble Box was originally conceived as a demo to propel ourselves into the industry. That being said, we have kind of fallen in love with the indie scene and the freedom it allows, and may choose to return to indie development at some point.
[size="3"]Would you say your team runs more like a company, or more like a group of people making games for fun?
Definitely for fun. We followed a very organic process in developing Rumble Box, allowing it to change as we found better ways to do things. We were making the game that we wanted to make, and I think this shows in the final product.
[size="3"]Where did the idea for the project come from originally, and has it changed much since its conception?
We wanted to challenge the notion that enemies in video games disappear when defeated. We thought that if the characters were made of simple objects, we would be able to pile up hundreds of them in the level at once. All that was left after that point was to make a game out of it. The original concept contained more platforming elements such as a jump key, but when we discovered that the boxes tended to pile more terrain-like, without big columns of blocks, we removed the jump and focused on the combat mechanics. Much of the design also changed based on feedback from over 60 focus testers, allowing us to adjust the game as we discovered what people did and did not like about it.
[size="3"]It's certainly novel! Did the name come first or did you have to find a name that fit your ideas?
I wish we had one of those really cool answers like "I had a dream about box men, and the first thing I saw when I woke up was the word Rumble in a magazine", but it was really just a good name. Patrick really liked the word "rumble" for fighting, and once we had the basic idea of box people fighting in a giant box, the name Rumble Box just made sense and sounded good.
[size="3"]What were the biggest obstacles to making this game, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle was definitely the color schemes, both for the characters and the backgrounds. Because we made a firm decision early on to not texture map any of the objects, we were essentially working with ten to fifteen pixels when choosing colors for the characters, which made it difficult to create a believable "humanoid" figure. We also had to choose color schemes for the backgrounds that didn't clash with or hide the characters, and with 13 color schemes of various themes it became quite a task. As a side note, we have found that one of the biggest obstacles has arisen since development has ended, which is taking good screenshots of the game. In motion, it is easy to see the humanoid shapes due to animation, but as a still screen it often just looks like a mess of blocks.
[size="3"]What were the best and worst points of development?
Patrick: The best was the first time I saw the spin kick in game.
Joe: The best was the first time I threw a bomb-head into a group of enemies.
The worst point of development was when an obscure camera bug surfaced about halfway through the project, and happened so rarely that it took us months to finally track down.
[size="3"]How long have you been working on this game?
We worked steadily on Rumble Box for nearly 14 months.
[size="3"]What do you think makes your game stand out? Is this intentional?
The graphics, sound and overall presentation catches a person's eye, but the unique concept of piling up your enemies really makes the game stand out. The challenge was to ensure that the presentation matched the quality of the concept. We spent a lot of time creating the user interface and transitions to ensure that every motion in the game was as interesting to watch as it is to play.
[size="3"]I really like that - for me it's the little details which often get me hooked on a game.
Yeah, it was interesting because some of the best graphical details came by complete accident, but once we discovered them we ran with it. The checkerboard pattern and of the background came from a physics demo where the different "squares" represented the table that we used for physics culling, and this style later led to the "outlined" style that defines the games graphics style. The comic-book "BOOM!" that appears when a bomb explodes was just trying to recreate in 3D a rough 2D MSPaint mockup that was never meant to be the "final" design. It's very interesting to put something in for debugging or brainstorming purposes and later have it praised for originality and design.
[size="3"]What have you learned from this project?
We learned the importance of testing and focus groups, making sure that the interface and controls are accessible and intuitive to as many users as possible. At every step of development we would take a step back from it and let a number of other people play it, often pulling in people who have never seen the game before. This allowed us to catch both high and low points in the game quickly, and many of our best features were suggested by our focus testers. (Props to Kevin Prior for the idea of the bomb-heads)
[size="3"]What are your goals for the future and how has making the IGF finals changed things for you?
We are both interested in game design as a career path, and being nominated for Innovation in Game Design with our first project is a promising start.
[size="3"]What tools and 3rd-party libraries/software do you use for programming, modelling, artwork etc?
All of our code was written in Visual Studio. The animations were made using a custom tool, and all of the artwork was done using Microsoft Paint.
[size="3"]MSPaint - Excellent!
We have a running competition for what the best free graphics software is: Patrick refuses to use anything but MSPaint, Joe swears by The Gimp. We apologize now to everyone who had to sit near us in the lab and hear the constant jabs back and forth: "You know, if you were using Gimp you could do a Select by Color...", "...but in Paint I can draw shapes other than lines!" and on and on...
[size="3"]Do either of you have any advice or wisdom to share with all would-be indies who are looking up to you?
Play to your strengths! It's rare to find an indie developer with the resources to rival the AAA titles in terms of content and size, but the tighter development cycle of indies is a great way to get some outstanding core gameplay. A unique idea, coupled with strong gameplay, will often garner more of a following than any amount of glitz and glamour could produce.