IGF 2010: Dejobaan Games
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The IGF Awards take place on the evening of the third day of Game Developers Conference, and are a major celebration of the best in indie gaming, with thousands watching the award presentation before the Game Developer's Choice Awards are presented. The 2009 IGF Awards, including custom interstitials from Mega64, are available for online viewing. All GDC visitors can attend the awards. [From IGF about page]
About AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
The jumps you make off buildings floating above Boston, Massachusetts are all about style and timing. You perform stunts, weaving around the bustling City for points, making split-second decisions:do you snake around those girders to earn a dozen "kisses," or glide along the side of that steel super-skyscraper for massive "hugs"?
Aaaaa! then throws in the spectators -- as you fall, give fans the thumbs-up and protesters the finger. And if you're hungry for a bit of civil disobedience, you can even ready the spray paint and tag government buildings for points.
The game will also teach you how to debristle a pig. [From IGF info page]
Interview with Ichiro Lambe
Who are you and how are you involved with "AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity"?
Ichiro Lambe (Founder, President, Dejobaan Games, LLC): I'm Dejobaan's founder and president. As with many small studios such as ours (4 developers, of which only two are full-time), I wear manyhats. For Aaaaa!, I created the prototype, led development, and worked closely with our PR/Marketing guy, Leo, to create a marketing plan. He's here today, and is chiming in as well.
How did you become interested in game development?
Instead of getting me a softball when I was a kid, my father got me a brand-new TI 99/4A. My God, what an experience that was. I loved to create, but forget the finger paints and construction paper-- give me the Extended Basic cartridge. Mind you, I'm awful at Softball and anything that requires coordination, but them's the breaks.
How and when did the concept for Aaaaa! originate?
In December of 2008, Dejobaan's Gameplay Architect, Dan Brainerd, sent over this YouTube video. We were gobsmacked -- people in paper-thin wingsuits flying down the sides of mountains, an arm's length away from jagged rock? How can we capture this as a game? Is it possible to convey the excitement of wind in your face and the potential for grievous bodily harm on a 21" screen? We had to try.
Do you feel as if you were able to capture the feeling of the original video that inspired you in Aaaaa!?
The final game definitely feels a lot different than the videos we started from. Watching the videos conveyed to me a sense of soaring, wind-in-the-hair, "Will I hit that mountain down there?"danger. With Aaaaa!, I ask myself, "Can I pull this series of stunts off while planning ahead to buzz that building while putting myself in a position where I can spray graffiti on that wall?"
Over the course of development, what was Aaaaa!’s most serious issue and how was it resolved?
Whenever we create a game, we're aware that we're competing with a bunch of other things for player's attention and dollars (both of which are finite). A copy of Aaaaa! is really up against experiences like a movie ticket or dining out, so it's even more directly up against big, highly-polished AAA titles.
Our biggest issue was how to stand out against all of that, and the solution that worked was to make the game as remarkable and interesting as possible. That meant giving attention to detail and taking some risks. What other game includes a guided meditation track, in case you're too keyed up to relax? I think it even shines through in the name -- AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity -- is something we had fun with.
What’s one thing you did wrong (individually or as ateam) that you feel could have been avoided? How?
Leo Jaitley (Biz Dev Director, Dejobaan Games, LLC): We think the game demo is either the thing we screwed up most OR the thing we least understand. Based on our conversion rates and comments along the lines of "Played the demo... Meh... Then saw the Steam deal and bought it... OMFG, that was so much better than the demo!!" OR " Played the demo and kinda got my fill." We often wonder, how many other people were not impressed by the demo, but would have loved the game, or how many more people could we have got to buy the game with a shorter but more awesome demo?
If there was one thing you could look back on during development and say “that was really cool” – what was it and why?
We were just blatant about having fun with it. The main game mechanic involves creating stunts to earn "hugs" and "kisses," and flipping people off for points. To mirror the relaxing guided meditation track, there's an anti-meditation, which convinces the listener that s/he's covered in bugs. Our pitch to players to buy the game is a tall tale about how Dejobaan uses pixies as slave labor to create its products. We weren't afraid to imbue the game with character -- so, there's a lot of us in it. And that was absolutely delightful.
How long has Aaaaa! been in development?
9 months. And we're now prototyping an iPhone version with fellow indie Koduco Games. While we haven't announced whether that'll officially become our next title, we expect the playable test to be done within a few months.
Are you using any existing engine technologies for your iPhone version?
We're easing into iPhone development via Unity 3D. So far, it's been an excellent engine.
How different are you finding iPhone development when compared to developing for the PC?
There are, as always, little road bumps we run into in developing for a new platform -- memory limitations lead to smaller and fewer textures; the control scheme requires us to tweak and test; and so forth. But the platform's surprisingly powerful -- we thought we'd have to cut down a lot more on the level geometry to keep the frame rate up, but seeing the game's full first level up and running fluidly, was awesome. We're especially lucky to have fellow indie Cole Krumbholz from Koduco Games on development for this project.
What was used to make the game and what tools aided in development?
We used a German 3D engine called 3D Gamestudio, with Visual Studio 2005 for our C++, Maya for modeling, and Adobe Audition for audio.
How did you learn these tools? Did you have any issues with them that made you consider other technologies during development?
Central to the game was our choice for 3D middleware, which I've been using for years. I learned my way around that by doing, starting with smaller games and working my way up to more complex ones-- Aaaaa! is the fourth title we've shipped using the engine. The biggest issue with it has been the art pipeline. Adding a new model, for example, involves an export, conversion, import, scaling,and texture tweaking, which is much longer than we want.
What's the main thing you think makes your game fun?
The game offers a short intense arcade-style experience. For many it, offers respite from day long sessions of CoD MW2 or a quick nugget of fun between changing (your kid's) diapers. I think that,coupled with the nonchalant, irreverent humor (that you will never find in a AAA) really helped capture people's attention and gave them entertainment value that was (dare I say) just beyond what they expected in a game.
Besides the IGF, what else have you done to get your game before players? What’s worked the best?
We worked our tushies off from day one to get the word out. In short, we assumed nobody knew us or wanted to write about us, so we needed to capture their attention and build on that. We put out press releases at various stages -- prototype, closed alpha, open beta, etc. We also dabbled in social media, and worked on a fairly regular dev diary, first on Gamers Daily News and later on our own blog and ModDB. The things that worked best were the press releases, the launch on Steam, and to some extent, word of mouth on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
Is there anything about Aaaaa! that you would like to reveal to other developers?
Marketing and game design overlap more than many developers realize. The game mechanic of flipping people off was something we came up with while writing the announcement press release, because it sounded fun.
How did you feel about the judge’s feedback for your game?
We received great feedback this year. The judges have a lot to look at, so we really appreciated the comments and critiques they made.
Is there any one critique that you really found valuable?If so, what was it and why?
Sure; there were some notes on how we might improve the metagame (where you unlock new levels by spending teeth). But what was most valuable was the overall picture. The judges liked that we took chances with the game's tone, and that's something we intend to expand on in our future titles.
What’s next for you?
In our 14th title, you fly through a floating city, mixing music loops together to the delight of millions. Fade in a bass line, kick off the drums, then bring in the vocals. It's a game about creating music!