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The Independent Games Festival was established in 1998 as a forum for independent developers to exhibit their work, receive recognition, and meet with commercial publishers. Finalists to this event attend the GDC and compete for several awards and cash prizes. This year's Seumas McNally grand prize is $15,000.
With the IGF Finalists recently announced, I convinced Drew to let me interview the team behind the amazingly addictive Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. They were more than happy to do an interview with me, and now all you little reader-folk can reap the benefits of my labor. Read on.
The Digital Eel Team at a glance:
Rich "zdim" Carlson Age: 45 Years Developing: 6 Job: Professional Dreamer; Digital Eel wrangler Favorite game of all time: Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
Iikka "Fingers" Keranen Age: 25 Years Developing: 6 Job: Valve level designer Favorite game of all time: Civilization
Bill "Phosphorous" Sears Age: 49 Years Developing: 12 Job: Artist Favorite game of all time: Our next game.
Thanks for talking with me, guys. To start us off, could you each give me a little information about yourself?
Zdim: I'm a musician. Sometimes I like to make games, like lately.
Fingers: I'm just a Finn and I've always made games
Phosphorous: Old guy. Designer. Trend monger.
Fingers: When I was young I gave my games out for free, but now I make Americans pay for them
Phosphorous: I'm a survivor of third party development for the last several years.
What originally inspired you to start developing games?
Fingers: I was too little to remember
Zdim: Risk. I used to make alternate Risk boards when we were kids.
Phosphorous: It's a natural process. I can never remember not thinking about games.
And to pair with the previous question, is there any single game that has influenced you and your work more than any other?
Zdim: Infocom's Zork.
Fingers: Let's see... if I have to think of a single game, I'll go for Master of Orion... before that, Elite
Phosphorous: Dark Tower and Green Ghost.
Zdim: Doom, Heretic, Quake, and other idgames, as well....
For lack of a way to make it a longer question: How did you three meet and decide to form a team?
Fingers: Rich lured me to the US with false promises of getting paid to play games all day
Zdim: Iikka and I had known each other from other game company jobs. We came to Washington, met Phos at the company we were working at together, and decided to make stuff as a trio.
Bribery is a good tactic for putting together teams indeed. As a final quick question about your histories; What was the first game you each created independently and professionally?
Zdim: In the mid 80's I made an Ultima-style game with EA's Adventure Construction Set called Master of Two Realms. It was awful!
Zdim: Professionally, Daikatana and Anachronox.
Fingers: Hm... assuming this is computer games and not the childhood die-rolling games... I made a C64 "hangman" game when I was 10, in 1987 (the kind where you try to guess a word one letter at a time)
Fingers: My first "professional" involvement was doing a couple levels for a Doom engine game called HacX... I don't think it ever sold
Phosphorous: When I was a kid I made a game called Death Maze with crayons and notebook paper.
So tell me a little bit about where the idea for Strange Adventures In Infinite Space came from.
Fingers: Well, Rich and I started working on a galactic scale 4X strategy game in 1999, that we never finished... but we really liked the universe we made up
Fingers: So we later decided to make a more manageable sized game using material from it
Zdim: Ever since I played a little board game in the 80's called The Voyage of the BSM Pandora; I wanted to make a game like SAIS. Starflight and Star Control 2 were similar, but huge. I wanted to make a beer and pretzel version, just like Pandora.
For those readers who haven't played the demo yet, how would you describe SAIS?
Zdim: An instant space opera for people who don't have time to play games.
Phosphorous: It's fast, weird and fun.
Fingers: It's a hybrid between Minesweeper and Master of Orion
What were all your assigned duties with the project?
Zdim: We each do what we do best. It's very natural, and our skills overlap somewhat, so it works out nice.
Zdim: I wrote texty stuff, made sounds and music, and worked on the game design.
Fingers: Rich made all the sounds, I did the programming... Phos made alien portraits and splash screens and stuff...
Fingers: But everybody did a bit of everything
Fingers: For example there's art from all of us in the game
Zdim: The background, the back story of the Purple Void universe, was made up when we were working on the 4X game.
I was wondering what you felt the major differences between indie development and more 'professional' development were.
Fingers: Indie development is much more professional than the "professional" kind
Zdim: No deities to serve. No deadlines. Complete freedom.
Phosphorous: Making art (indie) or making a paycheck (prof). Total control vs. out of control.
So do you feel it's possible, in these days of multi-million dollar budgets, to make a living creating games with little or no budget?
Phosphorous: When phones have games everybody's screaming for good fun content. Of course. Absolutely.
Fingers: Yes, definitely possible... I think that guy who made roller coaster tycoon is making a living off of it
What development tools were critical in creating SAIS?
Fingers: Pretty standard stuff... all the code was done in MSVC6, art was Photoshop and GFX2 for 8bit pixel pushing