Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Video Interview: Student Developers of Morose Marauders

Two students at GDC talk about how to develop a game outside of class...while still in school...

Show Notes:
Interviewer: I'm here at the Game Developers Conference and with me today are some special guests. How about you introduce yourselves?

Apollo: My name is Apollo Keno[?].

Craig: I'm Craig Cashin [?].

Interviewer: You guys developed a game while in school, like student developers.

Craig: It is a side project as opposed to our other school projects.

Interviewer: Well, walk me through this side project.

Craig: Basically, it's just a pretty simple third person run around and shoot stuff.

Interviewer: So, your goal was to do like a 3D shooter.

Craig: Yeah, with some magic.

Apollo: We were pretty tired with first person games, so we just made it third person. Basically, just run around.

Interviewer: And the graphics - How did you guys - They look pretty nice. How did you guys do it?

Craig: We kind of faked associating just using the art style Photoshop. The characters and the enemies have an outlining, kind of a cartoon outline to them. It's not real associating but it simulates it without giving the engine performance hits.

Interviewer: OK.

Craig: There's too many of them.

Interviewer: How many levels are there right now in the game?

Apollo: Right now, it's just this one demo level. You probably if we wanted to go back and add more levels, that wouldn't be so bad now that we have every single game mechanic working.

Interviewer: Yeah. What are the core game mechanics then?

Apollo: Basically, the game actually started with the camera itself and the way the player moves. That was the base, the spine I guess, that everything had to be done, but the whole look where you're pointing, where the cursor's at, wasn't really built into the engine. Since we decided to take basically a first person engine, we made it a third person. Once that was done, stuff just started laying down as we needed it.

Interviewer: Can you talk about then the development of what you actually had to do to make this game and some of the challenges because you guys did this outside of class, right?

Apollo: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah, well, oh Jesus, there's so much to it. Where to begin?

Interviewer: Sure.

Craig: First of all, the camera angle was a big issue because it was hard to see the enemies at some point, so we had to play with the camera over and over to get the feel right. We spent weeks modifying the engine to get the character to look wherever the mouse was.

Interviewer: Oh, go ahead.

Apollo: No, I was just going to say basically it started with an idea and eventually it just steam rolled. We just started doing stuff and we got together.

Interviewer: How long did it take to get a prototype up?

Apollo I'd say it probably took us from the initial camera and starting to drop assets in, I think it only took about a month and a half and then we had basically the game. At that point things started changing real fast.

Interviewer: A lot of student developers talk about making a game. How did you keep the motivation for the first month or month and a half before you didn't have anything going?

Craig: We'd keep motivating each other back and forth. We worked outside of class with each other on this. We called each other up like, hey can you get this done? Yeah, maybe, I'll try it.

Apollo: Some days you'd just run into a problem or something like that and you've got school work to do. A couple days off and all of a sudden something clicks and you find a fix for something and then you're kind of like, you get the sparks back into and let's get this done now.

Interviewer: How did you balance school with this project because this project wasn't for any class credit, right? It was a side project.

Apollo: Just separate basically. It was a slow process at the start, and at the end we ended up meeting and we stayed up late nights and stuff like that, any time we weren't working or in school.

Craig: At the end of the process our lives pretty much consisted of school and then working on that and catching five hours of sleep, back to school.

Interviewer: Can you talk about how you actually learned this technology? What technology did you guys use to actually make this game, and did you learn it in class? How did you teach yourself?

Craig: We originally learned it to work in class, but they only teach you so much. We had to search resources online relentlessly, too.

Interviewer: So, it was pretty much teaching yourself.

Craig: Yeah. As far as 3D aspects and Photoshop, that's a whole other story.

Apollo: We just thought the best and fastest way was to do it yourself. Online there's great creative assets. There's tons of people on there. There's tons of people that have questions. Tons of people in online forums that help you.

Interviewer: Sure.

Craig: If you like modeling, if you like texturing, like focus on that. Focus on that as much as you can along with the actual game design.

Interviewer: Sure. Did you guys have to recruit other people? Did you have more students... Did you have other issues with people not doing work? Have did you guys handle that issue?

Craig: On previous projects for school, we did have a bunch of issues with people not doing work, so that's why we decided to go on alone on this.

Interviewer: Because you could trust each other to do the work.

Craig: Right, right. No one else showed much interest in helping us.

Interviewer: Did you guys show them a prototype?

Apollo: No, we just knew the students that we worked on previous projects, and really what it boiled down to was a lot of people say they wanted to make games but not everyone was willing to put in the hours at night to get it done and throw some finished product out.

Interviewer: Can you talk about winter break and exactly useful that was and if that was important for getting things done?

Craig: Our break was, besides Christmas, winter break was not winter break. It was working.

Interviewer: OK, good.

Apollo: That pretty much kicked off basically the point in the game where we really started spending tons of hours. At that point we had an idea and some cool mechanics that we wanted to eventually get together on a game. Come winter break, we had more time during the day, and we just started really putting stuff together.

Interviewer: Did you guys do any kind of... Were you in close personal proximity during winter break, or was it over IM or how did that work?

Apollo: We did some IMs.

Craig: I was out of town, not too far away but far enough where I can't just go over to his house and so, yeah, IM was good.

Interviewer: Do you guys then have any last words for student game developers out there if they want to get started and actually finish a game?

Apollo: It's all about just putting in your own time. I mean, learning everything you need to on your own and just as much as you want to. You can pretty much do what you want. You just have to find what it is.

Interviewer: What about working with a partner versus working alone?

Apollo: It's definitely a lot nicer. There's just so much involved. If you sit there and you have to do everything, you can easily lose yourself in small problems and spend days, weeks trying to do little things. With someone doing something else, you can come back together and you can both collaborate or have fixes for things.

Craig: Or bounce ideas back and forth. You've got to do that. Have a passion. Have a passion for making your game.

Interviewer: Thank you very much.

Take care,

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Video + Podcast Interview: Experimental Game, Shadow Physics

Scott talks about the experimental game Shadow Physics. Check out the video interview + demo and then the audio interview with more details...

You can download the additional audio interview here...

or listen to it here...

Show Notes:
Interviewer: I'm at the Indie Developers Conference and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?

Scott: Yeah, I'm Scott Anderson. I'm working on a game called Shadow Physics where you play a 2D platform similar to Mario and the shadow is projected by a 3D world. So, here's a guy who is seen walking around in the shadow not on the actual objects, and he is projected on the wall. He can walk alongside the wall and back in the wall.

Interviewer: Cool.

Scott: A bunch of interesting game play mechanics came out of that basic idea, like if you push the object the 3D object itself falls. You just have to solve this puzzle here.

Interviewer: Aw nice, it's tight, dude.

Scott: Then, we have some other mechanics. The interesting thing about being in a world created by shadows is that if you move the light that the shadows are being cast from, you are changing the entire world underneath the guy. So, we have puzzles where you can manipulate the world to get the guy to a different place.

Interviewer: Sure. How do you go about manipulating the objects? Is that hard to do considering that you're also controlling the character?

Scott: Yeah, it's a little hard to do. So right now, it's basically left play.. It's really hard to play on a track [?]. It's left play and then drag to move the light around and the character controls a very simple platform and controls these arrow keys and space jumps.

We're still working on the control stuff, especially the camera stuff. It just seems a little awkward. Right now, it's just a free camera. We're looking at other alternative camera means so we can stay kind of hands off.

Interviewer: Sure. How close are you then to completion?

Scott: I'd say, at least, a year or two off.

Interviewer: Wow. OK.

Scott: The game is still very early. We're still exploring a lot of the mechanics.

Interviewer: Sure.

Scott: Here's another example of things that come out of the system. There's multiple lights. So, there's a light here and a light here.

Interviewer: Sure.

Scott: And that projects two shadows. You can kind of from a single set of objects kind of jump over here on the platform over here.

Interviewer: OK. Any other game play mechanics that are interesting, emerging properties that came out of this rule set?

Scott: Yeah, Here's one more where we had enemies that war just existing shadow objects like you, and you get hit by the guy. You can actually crush these guys, too, just like you get crushed yourself by shadows.

I don't have a good example of that right now, unfortunately, but hopefully we'll have that soon. Here's another light manipulation puzzle where he creates stairs by moving away.

Interviewer: Oh, tight.

Scott: And there's other mechanics that we still haven't explored yet.

Interviewer: Sure.

Scott: One example is to use bright light to white out shadows so you can fall through things or fall slower. Another example is to use different colored lights, and the different colored lights would have different physical properties.

Interviewer: OK.

Scott: So, maybe, gravity is reversed or maybe in one light, for example, blue light, you can swim in the blue light without falling into this. That's pretty much the game.

Interviewer: Cool.

Interviewer: I'm here at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?

Scott: I'm Scott Anderson and I'm working on a game called Shadow Physics with Steve Swink.

Interviewer: And you had a game in the Experimental Game Design?

Scott: Yeah, Shadow Physics is in the Experimental Game Play Workshop. It's a game about playing a 2D platformer in the shadows created by a 3D World.

Interviewer: How did you come up with the idea? What was the process?

Scott: Steve actually had the idea years ago when he was first working at Neversoft. They were working on a game that had shadows, and he was looking at the shadows and the programmer spent a lot of time, spent like a month or two, just getting nice shadow technology. All it ended up doing was looking a little bit nicer than other shadow techniques would have. Steve was thinking about ways of doing game play ideas with the shadows. He spent so much time on it you might as well use it for game play.

Interviewer: Sure.

Scott: So, he wanted to do a game where you could play in the shadows. When I moved to Arizona a couple of years ago we had a meeting and we were talking about different game ideas that we had and he pitched the idea to me. I was like, oh that's a pretty cool idea. Maybe, I'll do it.

Fast forward, like a year later or more and I actually sat down during TIG Jam and implemented an early prototype of it and it was a pretty cool idea. We've just been working on it ever since.

Interviewer: How long did it take then to implement the first basic prototype because it seems kind of complicated in the sense that you have this 3D world and you have to kind of run off the shadows or something else like that.

Scott: The game is actually using semi-advanced technology. It requires high end hardware. It's all shader model 3 stuff because we're doing collision attraction, like classic per pixel platform collision attraction against the shadow mat that is generated in Real Time and using standard shadow mat techniques. The original prototype took me about three or four days to put together, actually.

Interviewer: Awesome.

Scott: But, it was three or days of straight up crunching because it was during TIG Jam. It was a game jam. People were pulling all nighters. I pulled near all nighters, so I was basically working the whole time. Then, it went through multiple iterations. I took a week off of work at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment and worked at Flashbang Studios, basically, a full time week and got it to close to where it is now. Then, I've worked other weekends and part time on it.

Interviewer: During that week you took off, did you just work with Steve and just iterate over it? How was that development process then?

Scott: Yeah, I worked with Steve and we iterated and showed him stuff. A lot of the stuff, the technology is still in development. There aren't many tools right now, so it's a little harder for someone to get in and work the game. Steve is technical enough that he can do stuff with it because right now it's all super script driven. We still want to improve the tool so that it is easier for people to build on it.

Interviewer: Can you talk about the technology that you used then for the game?

Scott: Right now, it's DirectX.

Interviewer: OK.

Scott: It's Direct 3D. We use bullet physics for the physics engine.

Interviewer: Sure.

Scott: F-mod for audio engine.

Interviewer: Cool.

Scott: Lua for scripting, as I mentioned before. It's a mish mash of digital technologies.

Interviewer: What is the scripting, the Lua Scripting, used for specifically?

Scott: Right now, it's used mostly for level design, actually.

Interviewer: OK.

Scott: But, also for game play scripting stuff and their ideas are to expand it more.

Interviewer: Sure.

Scott: So it can be used for more things, and a lot of the game play code will probably be written in Lua as well.

Interviewer: Have you ever done any user testing then? I mean, have you had other people play it? And what's the feedback?

Scott: Yeah, we've had a few people test it. Right now, we know a lot of the flaws, especially with the control scheme. Those things will be buried because there are other things to look at the game. We want to iterate on the control scheme some more and then have more people try it out. Obviously, Jonathan Blow and a few other people in the Experimental Game Play Workshop have played it, and a few guys from Flashbang played it.

Our biggest concerns are just camera and light manipulation, so it's control stuff right now.

Interviewer: So now, what's the next step? I know you said it's going to maybe take one or two more years, but what's the next step to get this thing out?

Scott: The idea is to flesh out some of the extra mechanics that we're looking at, things that have to do with colored lights and a few other things. And then, after that work on control scheme stuff; work on lots of content for the game; work on polish for the game.

The game doesn't really have a set visual arts style right now. It looks very prototypy and something with simple shapes. We may do something like that, but we do need to flesh it out.

Interviewer: Is your goal then to release it on PC or Xbox Live or what?

Scott: I mean, in the worst case scenario we come out with the game. It's polished but not something we want to release commercially. We'll just release it for PC. Not as many people as we'd like to would be able to play it just because of the hardware requirements, but a decent amount of people will still be able to play it. It's just kind of the thing - it's a cool game. You can play it for free.

Ideally, it would be a really cool game and we get commercial release on Xbox Live Arcade or PSN or Steam or even some of those other platforms so that we can get more exposure and make some money off of it.

Interviewer: And you talked about TIG Jam and just pulling all nighters. What if you pulled an all nighter for the next three weeks because you've got a daughter?

Scott: I could probably get a lot of the technology done, but I might die in the process. I'd probably get a lot of the technology done, but I think a lot of the things like working out the controls and building levels aren't necessarily going to benefit from an all nighter. They're going to take a little more time.

Interviewer: What about TIG Jam? You talk about that more, whether you benefited from it. How your split was?

Scott: Oh yeah, I definitely benefited from TIG Jam. I met a lot of indies that I had just known about from online from all the forums or whatever. I met Derek Yu. Russell was there, you know, a bunch of people. It was a good thing. It was like a mini GDC almost for indies.

Interviewer: Did it last for five days or what was that?

Scott: It was a weekend. I think it was a three day thing. It was in Phoenix at Flashbang Studios.

Interviewer: Gotcha. Does that happen yearly? If other indies are interested, how do they get involved?

Scott: It happened last year, and that was the first one. That was the first yearly TIG Jam. Since then, people have created local TIG Jams so there's been a TIG Jam UK in the UK, and there's been a TIG Jam Midwest, and I think that was in Iowa, some place in the Midwest. I don't remember exactly where it was.

We're looking to a TIG Jam East, actually. Since I'm moving out to New York, I was talking to Brandon and he's in Baltimore and he's talking about starting a TIG Jam East.

Interviewer: OK. Cool. Alright. Any last words then for other indie game developers who want to do their own game?

Scott: Keep at it. Keep trying different things. I've been doing this for a while now, probably about four or five years. I've had a lot of failures and some successes, so just keep doing it. That's all I can say.

Interviewer: Thank you very much.

Take care,

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Podcast Interview: Arthur from Last Day of Work

Arthur, from Last Day of Work Games, talks about their current games, integrating stories into games, and how indies can succeed...

You can download the podcast here...

or listen to it here...

Show Notes:
Interviewer: I'm at the Game Developers Conference and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?

Arthur: Hi, I'm Arthur Humphrey. I'm the founder and lead designer and lead engineer at Last Day of Work.

Interviewer: And you focus on specific types of games. Can you talk about the genre that you do?

Arthur: Yeah, we specialize in virtual life sense and virtual pets, and we disguise them as adventure games and tycoon games and a variety of other genres. So, we really aren't a hybrid but at heart the games are virtual pets that run in Real Time like a Tomagatchi.

Interviewer: I interviewed you a few years ago. What have you been up to recently in terms of games that you are releasing and platforms that you are on?

Arthur: Well, we're still here.

Interviewer: That's awesome to hear.

Arthur: It's a great start. We are expanding some of the franchises that we talked about back when we talked before. The leading franchise is always Virtual Villagers, and we've done three chapters of that now and brought two of them over to iPhone, one through a license and one we've done in-house. And, they've both done really well. We brought Fish Tank over to iPhone, and now we're trying to create something new again.

We're creating what I describe as the game I always wanted to make, and it's a virtual life simulator that, at first glance, probably resembles the Sims. It's a family in a house, but mechanically from a gamer design perspective it's much more emergent. It's much more of a simulation. It's very sandboxy, and we're really excited about it.

It's got some really crazy features that hopefully will create some emergent narratives that really represent the drama that life gives you, you know, the ups and downs and the big themes, like a family, career, happiness, health, death.

Interviewer: You know, since the last time we spoke, have you, I guess, come into any other realizations about how to effectively communicate simulations to your audience, or some of the... I know you have this underlying algorithm that you have to constantly test as you're balancing your game. I don't know if you tweak that or come to any other new realizations or understandings related to that.

Arthur: There are a lot of levers that we've discovered in the design of this type of game, and one of them relating to what you are mentioning is how much do you want the game to be emergent, how much do you want to let the algorithms tell the story and how much do you also want to put in a handcrafted, let's call it pre-rendered, story.

Interviewer: Sure.

Arthur: And we've done both and we tried to mix these. Basically, if you put the lever all the way to the handcrafted story you get a rich wonderful story that engages the players and you get zero replayability.

Interviewer: Sure.

Arthur: And if you put the lever the other way you get maximum replayability, but the story becomes a little bit generic as the player can quickly break it down into these thesis that the algorithm is putting together for the narrative.

Interviewer: Sure.

Arthur: So, we try to kind of do both. In Virtual Villagers we did that by having a meta story but leaving the game sandboxy so that the way they unlock these chapters of the story as they play are completely order independent and a lot of emergent stories can still come out of the game like members of your tribe that are very quirky, that will do this and that and they start to bond friendships. People come up. They fill in the blanks with these stories that happen in the game.

In fact, people do this and focus so much on the families in their tribes that we realized we needed to make a game that was just about these family units. That's what led us to the idea of making a family simulator.

Interviewer: Yeah, I was visiting your Virtual Villagers forum, and I was just amazed at how many people are actually writing stories about their families. What trends have you noticed with that, and do you see any kind of direct correlation as you actually tweak, I guess, some of the features so that if you're going more story oriented you're going to write less about their family? If you're going more sandbox oriented, they are going to write more about their family. I mean, do you notice any kind of correlation?

Arthur: You know, we don't do a lot of data gathering on that, but I would totally agree with what you are saying. I think the more you write the story for them the less they are going to fill in the blanks.

It's just like when you see a movie about a book that you loved, and they take away all of the parts that you can imagine and they play all that for you. So, we definitely want to leave some parts of the game to the imagination, let's say. That's where we come in with gaps in the story and emergent elements. I totally agree with that.

We listen to these narratives as players, too, and to us it's much more informative than asking them what they want in a game. If you ask them what they want in a game, they inevitably are going to be like, we want pets. We want them to have a kitten, and the kitten should have a pet mouse. It's kind of funny.

We listen to them and we want to put these things in, but then we look at what they really talk about and what they really care about, and it's always these fictional marriages between tribe members. That's not even supported by the code, and so we're like, that's what they really want. They are asking for this. You give it to them and they're like, OK but you could have done it better. Instead, we're trying to give them what they really want not what they think they want.

Interviewer: Sure. Can you talk about what they really want? I mean, you talk about the marriages. Is there anything else that you've seen that has resonated with your audience?

Arthur: I think that players ask for things they absolutely don't want, and this is something we've learned and it's very interesting as a designer to try and come to terms with asking a player what they want. A lot of players will say I want this to be easier. I hate it when this happens, and if you remove it, you take the soul out of the game. When you remove consequences, you make the victories meaningless.

Interviewer: Sure.

Arthur: So, we pride ourselves in not giving them what they ask for instead of giving them what I think they want.

Interviewer: OK.

Arthur: Apart from that, we do see them talking about families and marriage and, you know, they are kind of playing doll with the Virtual Villagers which I love. And so, let's put them in a dollhouse, and we're not trying to be the Sims. That's not the Sims. The move you look at it, the more you realize the game runs in Real Time. They have a very finite life. It syncs night and day cycles to your local time, so at night it's dark in the game and they are sleeping.

The game is not about buying IKEA for your house and decorating. The game is about being happy and making a family and finding a compatible spouse. And there's kind of a dating algorithm, and it gets harder the longer you wait, and there's an illness algorithm where people catch a cold that goes through the house and you have to deal with that.

There's a lot of these aspects that people are writing about on their own, and we're giving them algorithms to support that dialogue and that narrative.

Interviewer: Now, are you doing anything where players can socially interact with other players within the context of this game, or is that even happening? Or how does that work?

Arthur: We are inching towards connectivity. We are not going to have a large connective element in this game, and partly that’s because of philosophy. When we first design these games, we call them single player system for two worlds.

Interviewer: Sure.

Arthur: It came out of my enjoyment of playing World of Warcraft, but going somewhere all by myself and doing something on my own but knowing that the world was persistent, and I enjoy that so much. Sometimes, I didn't want to see the other players. I just wanted to be in a persistent world, so we tried to create that in a single player game.

So, all the games, obviously, when turn them back off and back on, time has passed. The children are a little bit bigger. Everyone is a little bit hungrier or wealthier or deader. It depends. And so, we're kind of embracing the single player persistent world. We tampered a little bit. We kind of experimented with connectivity on Virtual Villagers by letting people exchange stats and compete with our kind of arbitrary game stats.

Since then, we've come to the belief that it's one of those things that you should really dive in and do really well or really steer clear of it. For now, we've staying in the single player persistent world, but we have some plans for later in the year for some really connected products that were really designed for a connectivity point of view, unannounced products though.

Interviewer: Sure. Can you talk about the - you said there was a meta story or meta template. So, you have that lever between pure sandbox versus story. What are the templates that you are using in terms of the story, and can you talk about the specifics in terms of how you're actually balancing out pure story versus pure sandbox?

Arthur: Absolutely. You know, if you look at a game that's pure sandbox, like SimCity, you get a certain emergent story. Like, you build some really weird city and you can come up with some of the parts, but it becomes a little bland in a way because it's so emergent that every game is totally different but in a way totally the same.

With Virtual Villagers 3 as an example, we put in a story that continued the first story, and it's kind of a story that you can compare to the TV show "Lost" where there is this mysterious island and we're continually giving them little bits of background of who was there before. They're rebuilding ruins. There's a lot of mystery, and we let them rebuild the ruins in whatever order they want or not rebuild them or do this or that.

So, the game is basically sandboxy but they hit milestones where we actually will pop in a cinematic screen. This pre-rendered story is really important in these indie casual developers, and they need to understand that it's great to give a little more soul to the game, but it's also important from a branding perspective. If you make a strong story like this, you can copyright it, and people won't try to clone your game and copy your story exactly but try to make their own story.

If your game is successful, people will start to care about your world, and it's the number one defense against people copying your game. These stories and the story of Virtual Villagers takes place on an island called Isola, and about the third or fourth chapter people care about this island. They want to know what is going on here. They don't care what's happening on the clone island that someone else came up with.

It's just like Harry Potter. People read book two and they get into it or read book one and they want to read them all, and they don't want to read some other copycat story. They care about Harry and Harry's world. So, it's effective as a mechanic, and it's effective for branding.

Interviewer: Can you talk about other things that the indie and casual game developers could use to either appeal to their audience more or cater to their audience more?

Arthur: I think that we're seeing another kind of emergent demographic within the casual demographic that people are calling more and more the enthusiast players, and this is an open door for any developers to get into these casual portals.

The portals are becoming more and more open to it. When we started launching these games, they were a bit too poor for the portals, and we had a real fight to get them listed, but we're almost surprised at how well they did.

I think that indie developers like myself need to put on the sheep's clothing and start really accepting that their game can be a casual product and be involved in casual distribution and the wide distribution that's available there. I think the traditional indie gamers tend to be a little proud and put their game on the indie sites, and I think they need to wrap them a little differently, get the casual game's best standards in there, where the buttons should be, just to make a few tweaks and realize that these are the best casual games that there can be.

The casual games that are being created as casual games often by suits are a bit repetitive and unimaginative and they are profitable and they make their money and then go on. But the indie games that are in the casual space have legs. They sell and sell and sell.

Interviewer: Can you talk about other tycoon or simulation games you've seen in the casual game space that either inspired you or that you found compelling?

Arthur: Yeah, well, there are certainly other successes in the Sim genre casual, and you look at games like BuildALot by Headsoft. We're friends with them and we think that we made it a little easer for them to distribute their arguably Sim title. They made a real accessible game that casual players love, and it just has a huge tale. It sells and sells. That's a great example.

There are some other tycoon games out there, but I think BuildALot is a great example and I know their story is fun, too, because they created a game that was based on Warcraft, the original not the MMO.

Interviewer: Sure.

Arthur: They created a game that was the building part of Warcraft, that kind of ends when the war begins. It just boils down the construction and infrastructure part of that game, and they made it casual. I think that's exciting and I like how they did that.

Interviewer: Let's talk about, now, new platforms for your games. You talked about iPhone. I know before you were kind of talking about you had some demos in flash. Are you now embracing some of these more web friendly platforms so that you can implement the kind of social activity that you're talking about that might happen in future games? How is that working out?

Arthur: The web friendly is one of our Achilles heels because we're known in the casual space, but we're kind of an indie developer, and our games have a little more under the hood than flash wants to let us do. It's a little tougher for us to bring them into web label. We have done it historically.

Other platforms like iPhone are another story. The games were actually conceived on the Palm Pilot years ago, so the innate design is touch screen friendly and they're just a natural fit for iPhone. So, what we're doing now is jus bringing in a whole catalogue to iPhone almost as is, a few adaptations for the hardware and people are loving it.

That's kind of the first thing we are doing for in-house alternative life form work. After we finish bringing the catalogue over some time this year, that will include Virtual Villagers 3. Virtual Families will come to iPhone immediately after the desktop launch in about a month or six weeks. We're aiming for kind of a May 1st rollout for Virtual Families, then probably Virtual Villagers 3 after that.

Then, we'll start to implement some exciting custom designs for iPhone. It will be smaller, evolving games with more connectivity, a little bit more experimental, and we can do that because the development costs are still relatively low on that platform.

Interviewer: OK, great. Any last words then for other indie game developers out there who want to make an impact?

Arthur: I like to talk to the indie gamers, and I've spoken at the Indie Summit, and I really connect with these developers the most. I hope that I can be an example for them, that you can take your indie game and turn it into a casual game. You're not selling out. You know, you're just, maybe, making more money.

We're seeing some people start to do this, and some runaway indie hits, like World of Goo, and they're starting to crossover, but I think it could be done a lot more. I am going to be evangelizing that as well all year. I'm going to keep telling people that until their ears bleed.

Interviewer: Great. Thank you very much.

Arthur: Thanks.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Podcast Interview: Adam from

Adam, from, talks about a good way for indies to make money off their games...

You can download the podcast here...

or listen to it here...

Show Notes:
Interviewer: I'm here at the Game Developers Conference and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?

Adam: Hi, this is Adam Schroeder from

Interviewer: What's your site about?

Adam: Basically, we're a marketplace for flash developers. You can upload your game to our site. We put you in front of hundreds of different buyers. They bid on the game, and we get you the most money possible for it.

Interviewer: So, if an indie wants to actually... Why would an indie use this site aside from, I guess, getting more money? Are there other benefits to reach this site?

Adam: Yeah, in the whole community there's about 4,000 developers now. We have really active forums. You can get feedback on your game or coding help. We have a sister site, FlashGameArtWork, where you can look to find artistic talent for your games.

We have a first impression service where you can quickly order reviews of your game and get sort of iterative feedback within a very short time period, make changes to the game, run it again, make sure people are understanding the directions and the game play, and sort of getting into it really early.

Interviewer: How much is the sponsorship range in terms of prices that games can get on the site?

Adam: The prices range all over the place. A really high end flash game can make 5, 10, 15, 20, even more money. What we try to do for the really high end content is structure a deal where the amount that an offer receives is directly proportional to the value that the sponsor gets on the game.

Usually, that's under some sort of CPC model where you get, say, 5,000 upfront and then five cents per click for a certain period of time. Under that model, a really popular game can really generate a lot of revenue.

You can also put in-game ads within the game which can generate lots of money. There's lots of different ways of licensing the games. What we really push people towards is what we call primary license where the person is sort of buying the rights to brand your game for the general distribution, sort of the free version of the game that can go all over the Internet.

Interviewer: Sure.

Adam: But, you still have full rights as the developer to sell versions of the game to single sites that remove all of that branding or make any other change you want as long as that version of the game is locked to just that single site, that single domain. Of course, you have full rights to sequels and anything else you want to do.

Interviewer: How much does it cost an indie to use this service or to put it on the site?

Adam: It doesn't cost anything to use the site. If you sell the game through our site, we assess a 10 percent commission. But other than that, there's no cost to upload it and get the feedback from developers.

Interviewer: Do you know what games, I mean, does it change in terms of what games are getting sponsored recently? Is it like, genres have their own trends or how does that work?

Adam: Yeah, any really good game is going to find a lot of interest. I guess some of the hot stuff right now - tower defense games are still real popular. Physics games using the box 2D engine are very popular.

Interviewer: What about multi-player games?

Adam: Multi-player is much harder. I mean, the big issue with the multi-player game is supporting that back end server. It's a lot less of an open market on a multi-player game. You almost have to pick the publisher that you're going with before you build the game in order for everything to work out and scale correctly. It makes it a lot harder to just build a great game and get the most value out of it because you're kind of got to make a deal ahead of time.

Interviewer: Now, sometimes indies will just put together a game in a week or a few days. Is this even an appropriate site to try to get sponsorship for that, or what's the type of quality that you guys are expecting?

Adam: The brilliant thing with flash is how fast you can really put together a game, and obviously production value is important. You need to have that initial first impression of someone that it's going to be a quality game, high quality graphics, but it doesn't take a lot to really make a great game. Just a simple game mechanic that it might only be a day to put together and just build something around that. It can be a very successful game.

Interviewer: Can you talk about your sister art site? How many people use that, and how can it help indies then?

Adam: Sure. The Flash Game Art's a new site we just launched. We're just getting started. Currently, it's just a way to upload portfolios of your work. We have a really active collaboration forum on Flash Game License, so that's where people are connecting. Then, if you can link to the FlashGameArtWork, people can see all of your work.

The future edition of the site will have more work flow and product management pieces, but currently it's just kind of a portfolio...

Interviewer: Can you talk about the community and the forums then for Flash Game License in terms of how it can better fit indie game developers?

Adam: Yeah, I mean...

Interviewer: And is it Flash Game License or Flash Games License?

Adam: It's Flash Game License.

Interviewer: So, corrected. OK, cool.

Adam: Yeah, the community is very supportive of one another, and it's definitely something that you want to take advantage of and use our site. One, you get free feedback from other developers that play your game. If you have any specific programming challenges, you can ask in the forums and get answers to that.

There's all sorts of articles and resources people have linked to, so you can just really get a nice start to everything.

Interviewer: Is this then a place for part time indie game developers, or are there people doing this full time, or is this a way for indies to go full time with their flash games?

Adam: Potentially, if you have really high end content, you can definitely support yourself full time with it. Most of the flash developers now are still doing it part time or hobbyists. There are a lot of college students or even high school students that are coming out with really good games.

Interviewer: Oh, really? OK. Are there any last words or suggestions you have for indie game developers who are interested in getting their flash game sponsored?

Adam: Check out Flash Game License. In the past, even just as short as a year ago, there were only a few sites that people really knew of that were sponsoring flash games. So, the developer didn't have a lot of options, and those sites had a lot of power and weight over the games they take and what they pay for them.

At Flash Game License we now have hundreds of buyers that are interested in flash games. We've sort of opened up the marketplace to really anyone that wants to buy flash games could come to our site and compete within it where before they never even had the opportunity to do so.

Interviewer: Compared to other sites, what's the benefit of going to your site versus some of your competitors?

Adam: There really isn't another marketplace for flash games, so you can't really get what we have anywhere else right now.

Interviewer: Sounds good, so

Adam: Yes.

Interviewer: Thank you very much.

Take care,

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Video Interview: Developer from Tag: The Power of Paint, 2009 IGF Student Showcase Winner

Hey folks,

The GDC interviews are about ready for release...keep a lookout for the 50+ interviews coming out soon on the show :)

Here's the first one...winner of the 2009 IGF Student of the developers of Tag: The Power of Paint

Btw, if you want help out the show by doing an interview, post a comment with your e-mail info. The comment won't be published, but I'll be able to take the e-mail address and contact you :)

Take care,

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Sponsored by Curiosoft Kids Games