From upstart indie titles to AAA studios, TruePCGaming will always offer the best PC developer interviews available. Not only will you read about how your favorite titles began and their technical successes, you will see the human side to PC gaming development. Everyone has a story and TPG will attempt to capture the essence of emotional and financial struggles all PC developers face.
I wanted the world to feel ruined, old and bleak. I wanted to instill a claustrophobic feeling of being in this maze-like underground world made on old broken technology with strange wildlife creeping in from even bigger underground world.
We spent a lot of time stuck in the traffic, talking about many things. After playing some other indie visual novels, we started entertaining the idea of making our own, but with higher production values. Gracjana suggested it should be a re-telling of a classic fairytale, like Cinderella. I really liked it, as I had a nice idea for a feminist spin of it. When Codeminion closed its office later, and we decided to go indie, this seemed like the natural choice for our first project.
I’ve made challenging games before, and after realizing how few people actually beat them, I changed my attitude to allow more people to at least complete my games. This created a shift from challenge to getting a wholesome experience while playing, hence my focus on character development and memorable visuals/moments.
To have courage to continue on this on my own, as no one in my community support me neither my family nor most of my friends. Sometimes I got really depressed because there is no community here about gaming where people meets and talks and show each other our games and support each other in developing them.
I guess the only difficulty we had in creating a demo is that it was another thing to create and have to test to make sure everything about it worked properly. Overall, though, it fit nicely into our production pipeline so it wasn’t too big of a deal.
It went from a small marketing game to a full production in a small amount of time, and in the end we are pretty happy on how it turned out. The game seems to polarize the audience completely, some people love it unconditionally and other people hate it with all their might. I like to think that’s because we managed to squeeze in a different and somewhat quirky approach to classic shmups mechanics.
I’m all for a strong female. There are so few titles that have any type of independent, intelligent and confident females, let alone having one as the main protagonist. I’m extremely grateful that I get to design for a series that does.
Listening to feedback really helps. Early on I was sort of stubborn about changing simple things people pointed that could be better like the control scheme. At the same time it was important for me to be confident in my direction for the game and just move on with development or I would never finish. Also, as a new developer I didn’t fully appreciate the saying that 90% of the development is the last 10%.
By far, the toughest aspect for me is the workload. I’m fairly certain I have trimmed 10-15 years off my life from the stress of working on my projects over the years. The long hours, lack of sleep, and constant to-do lists have taken a toll.
We get it, some people have more than one machine and want to be able to use their license on various machines. We’re totally cool with offering DRM free especially when it’s there for the right reasons.
The level design is based mainly on the progression of the story. We develop the levels to fit with the heroes being introduced. We’re aiming to have some free DLC released every once and a while that continues the story in some sort of episodic manner.
Wizorb was fully funded from our own pockets. While some might think I’m crazy for dropping a well-paying job at a renowned studio most were pretty positive and supportive about the venture. We’re still hoping Wizorb will finance our next project but we’re not fully there yet.
In terms of DRM in particular, I think it’s a bad idea and we don’t do it. I think that the AAA folks are barking up the wrong tree and alienating consumers. I think that pirates are also in the wrong if they think that they can just take what they want because “information should be free,” though.
I think they’re very cool for getting more exposure for indie games, but I hope it doesn’t get to the point where people see the bundles as the only way to get indie games. I’ve been contacted by a number of different bundles about including Waveform, and I’m sure you’ll definitely see it bundled somewhere in the future.
Whether or not you become popular quickly is often simple luck… and sometimes it’s about having other more popular indie developers as friends to give you a shout out. If Tiy was making Starbound without Terraria existing first, he would be facing a huge issue right now of nobody knowing about all of his great work. So a lot of it is sadly hand-me-down popularity, the playing field isn’t exactly level, and if you aren’t lucky enough then your fight for people’s attention will be uphill. An 89 degree incline. In the snow.
It’s not complete, but it matches my vision to the degree that it’s finished. When I look at the imported world, the flora, and the controls, I’m seeing my vision in reality. When I see the server handling events and zoning, it matches my hopes for it.
I think piracy is always going to be a problem. However, I think gamers still need to be educated properly on the damage it does to developers. Gamers think of publishers or retailers, not developers. People who support piracy are usually pretty selfish. However, they bring up very valid and compelling letters that can win over the masses more than guys in suits can. It’s a battle that will go on for a long time… but in the end, it will always be the developers that suffer. Not the publisher or consumer.
I was honestly shocked by the reaction that I had received. I kept expecting people to say, ‘you’re wasting your time. There’s already this great website that does exactly what you’re trying to do!’ In many ways, a wiki for PC game fixes is an obvious solution to the problem, and I’m genuinely surprised that it hasn’t been done already.
The final 1000 Amps is very different from what I had originally envisioned, but in a good way! With my original prototype, the game was much more linear, you tackled it level by level. You couldn’t die, and key mechanics like the teleport hadn’t even popped into my head yet. It wasn’t until I had people playtest it that I realized they wanted something more expansive and significant.
Generally the games are full and completely enjoyable without the DLCs but I guess it’s really cool that players, who really enjoy the main game, can extend it with buying extra content. Also, when a developer company is working on a game for years, there are many great ideas, which they need to cut from the story but later they can work it out in one or more DLCs. It gives special experience and depth to your gameplay for a smaller amount of additional money than the original game was cost. So I think DLCs are very good both for the players and for the creators of the game.
A demo is important for me. I would personally never buy a game if I can’t try a demo first and be sure it’s working great on my system. I remember essentially having fun with shareware titles when I started using a computer (When I was 16, sadly).
The obvious inspiration are the epic movies set in Ancient Rome from Hollywood’s Golden Era such as Quo Vadis. Personally, I am a big fan of history. So it has always been my dream to create a story-led combat racing game set in Ancient Rome.
Our pricing is a compromise between what the game is worth for the time we invested in, and what similar games cost and most people are willing to pay. Every now and then we love doing sales when there is a chance to do them (for events like the birthday of our company), as they bring additional attention.
I don’t have anyone paying me to do this so I’ve no idea if it’ll pay off or not. Sometimes I struggle working from home as well. I miss interacting with people on a daily basis and talking about what I’m working on.
I take all reviews seriously, whether professional or enthusiast. If we see a common thread of complaints, that’s a signal that we may need to make adjustments; however, of course, you can’t let feedback distract you from your core goals.
The imposition of strict control has never led to anything good. In this case, the prohibition of uploading a Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage video by some individuals is really meaningless because it is a free promotion of our game. We are definitely not against it.
As for bundles, I think we’re experiencing “bundle fatigue” right now with the enormous glut of copycats trying to follow the Humble Indie Bundle. It’s still a cool idea, but the novelty is wearing off here too. I’ve heard a lot of indies wondering whether bundles and Pay What You Want are pushing down prices.
I would say that Star Sonata 2 far exceeds the initial vision of it. The main thing we wanted was 3d graphics, and we have that. But we also ended up doing a major UI revamp along the way and ended up adding graphical effects that really surpass what I had in mind. I think the game as a whole is really beautiful now, and I’m quite proud of it.
Sometimes I slump so low in my chair that I can’t reach my coffee any more, and those times, I am sad.
The over-intrusive DRM and paranoid pirate protection irritate me. There is a line that should be observed: as soon as the game activation becomes even the slightest problem for a legally acquired copy, this is wrong. Limiting the number of installations and associating them with a certain system will definitely lead to problems and limitations for many players.
When it comes to failures, we’re learning a lot right now. We never considered how difficult it would be to get the proper exposure for our game as an indie-developer! Now, we work around the clock simply trying to get websites to acknowledge our existence! It is very frustrating but we have worked far too hard and far too long to give up now!
As for funding, well I don’t think indie development needs to cost much except time (although that in itself is worth money). We both have a full time job which means we can pay the bills work on the project as long as we like. We’ve also taken advantage of open source software and this brings development costs down a lot.
Well we always take our hardcore fans opinions to heart and try to build around what we think they’ll appreciate most. Our goal was to make a true Serious Sam game with all the trademark elements and integrate some new features and gameplay mechanics. Based on early feedback we think we’ve done very well, but of course want to continue to monitor fan feedback to see where we might want to improve with our next Serious Sam title.
Considering that I also work as a software engineer, one of the toughest things for me has been to find the energy to work on my own projects after spending nine or ten hours programming at work. You are more invested in your own projects, but sometimes there are boring things that you just have to overcome – luckily I have Juha to tell me when he needs something so it is only a matter of discipline.
I’ve got a bit of money saved up, so I’m living off that and what comes in from the pre-orders. Everyone’s been very supportive, and I’m thankful for that – quitting my full-time job was not an easy decision, and I don’t know if I could have made it without my family’s moral support.
For me the toughest aspect is having the occasional thoughts and feelings that the project will be unsuccessful and/or that no one will like it or even find it in the first place; the thoughts to take the easy route out and to quit. The positive aspect of these thoughts is that they connect me to other individuals past and present, the realization that to create something, usually, takes a lot of time and effort, these things cannot be avoided, even when creating a game, there is a lot of “actual damned work” work involved.
I have always been fascinated by the game Dwarf Fortress, even though I have never played it in a devout manner. It’s due mainly to its steep learning curve. One day I found a series of Spanish tutorials on Youtube (a 40 or 50 videos series), where I could get a hold of the basics. From there on Towns began growing in my mind little by little.
The successes would be creating the entire game without using a programmer and finding the right people for each task. Failures would be time management and underestimating how long the game would actually take to make. This is primarily because this was our first game.
One of my favorite NES games growing up was The Adventures of Lolo. To this day I still have every level from the first game memorized. When I started work on Crystal Hunters, I took the concepts from that game and went from there. Little things evolved out of the design, such as lasers, doors, and switches.
I’ve learned a lot in terms of design and technique. I basically had to teach myself intermediate-level AI programming to make this game. This was difficult, but I think it was ultimately worth the time investment. The enemies in Telepath RPG: Servants of God are good at seizing on small mistakes in the positioning of your characters, so tactical planning is important. I’m very proud of that.
I have always been interested in computers and computer games, ever since I got my C64. When I was at university, studying computer science, I got in contact with Paradox Games and they quickly turned into my favorite past time. I also participated in a couple of Paradoxes beta tests. A few years later when I was looking for a job I saw that paradox needed programmers. I applied and have been here ever since.
Many of our friends are also working in the game development, or close to that, so they can understand our problems easily. We have lots of common events with the colleagues and the friends, like Board-game parties, hangouts, laser tag battles and stuff. So we know each other very well in any kind of situations, and it makes us something like a huge, geek family.
What it really comes down to is that when you consider our original goal of simply “completing a game”, these kinds of decisions (who gets access, when, and why) aren’t that big of a deal. Let’s let people have access to the game to help us make it better and not worry about what anyone says about the game.
I don’t care about piracy. If people pirate my game, I’ll be proud, because it shows me that people want and like my game. Of course, I’d rather get paid for it, but I know that a pirate is going to pirate and that’s that. I can’t stop them and I’m not going to try. We’ll put a serial key on the software to make it harder, but I expect that will be cracked in short order.
There aren’t official plans for Team Nitronic to create a studio, but I would definitely be looking out for this team in the future. While some of the artists and musicians on the team are already working on new game projects at DigiPen, there is a good possibility for a few of the developers to be working on new projects down the road.
Biggest success I would say is the fact that we finished something which is a really good feeling. We have been working on our other big project, Pirates of New Horizons, for about a year and we still have a long way to go there before release. So Planet Buster was a nice change from that, as the overly long productions was one of my original reasons for leaving triple-A and starting an indie studio.
The biggest success of GOCL is that it was actually completed and released, it’s really hard for a small startup game dev to complete a project of that size and scope. I think for a small garage type team this was a huge accomplishment and I`m proud of it. There were to many mistakes done to list but that’s the process of learning. You can only avoid mistakes by doing nothing.
We love to get people’s feedback. We do our best to monitor all the forums that cover our games, looking for bugs or problems that people have with our games. When we find a bug that a lot of people are hitting, we try to fix it as quickly as possible. Personally, though, I also look for player feedback on what they liked or didn’t like about the game. As people are trying out my last game, I’m usually working on one or two more – the notes players give me on one game will likely make it into the next one I make.
Waves was mostly an accident – I was fiddling around the Unreal Dev Kit one weekend and ended up with a ball rolling around a level collecting glowy balls. I messed around with this a bit more and thought I could maybe make a physics based puzzle game from it. The problem was I got very bored trying to make a physics puzzle game. I don’t enjoy designing hundreds of subtly different levels I like creating systems that will themselves create content and fun.
I would say getting the word out. And creating a good trailer video. Definitely not my best skill, but I need to improve. So maybe if I could fix the latter, that would fix the former. I’ve got the impression some websites are more into appearance than actual content. It’s a bit sad but it is as it is, you have to play a game by its rules, I guess.
It started in January 2011 at the Global Game Jam. The theme was “extinction.” We scoured the internet for an interesting use of the word that didn’t have to do with post-apocalyptic scenarios. We discovered a neurological disorder called visual extinction and started developing the core gameplay from there.
In my opinion cyberpunk is not exploited enough. We wanted to use a totally different setting than all the modern mainstream fps shooters. No world war 2, no Iraq or modern war. Since I’m personally a fan of Phillip K. Dick, cyberpunk was the obvious choice. Thus the idea behind Hard Reset was born.
As with any developer, we had to start from somewhere as well. While most of us have experience from before, this was the first time we’ve worked together. In addition, a lot of our team members worked remotely, making communication tricky. We managed to sort this out really well and I think we’ve worked out a great way to cooperate from distant points of the Earth very well.
We believe the “pay what you want” methodology is part of that sharing culture I was talking before, and sure the HumbleIndieBundle as well as IndieRoyale and others understood that. We’d definitely love to be part of a bundle. Also, look at the IGF Pirate Kart! it’s a great way to bring this idea of a sharing movement to a higher level. It’s not a cheap way to get to the IGF but it’s a way of saying this is what we really are, we are a group and as a group we can shine.
I have a lot of difficulty accurately balancing games that don’t rely on numbers, and I know I’m not a good meter of difficulty, so I listened to the playtesters I had, and when I hear “it’s difficult, but not ‘cheap’ difficult, it’s just hard because I need to get better” I feel like I’ve done something right.
When I first started making this a commercial project, I had some money saved and paid for everything myself. Since then I’ve funded everything out-of-pocket or with game sale shares. We are still small and not turning a huge profit but it’s getting better as we get on more platforms. My mother has been my biggest fan and source of encouragement from day one.
We were really pleased with how much game we were able to put together at a very high quality level in about a year of development. As we went into the game, it was unclear what could really be done in that time. We learned a lot about how to think with a triple-A mindset on a smaller, downloadable game, and about how to be honest with ourselves about what we could and couldn’t get done in that time frame.
Modders can make a huge contribution towards the longevity of a game. We’ve tried to make Distant Worlds mod-friendly from the outset, releasing our first modding guide before we released the game itself. Our next expansion pack “Distant Worlds – Legends” dramatically increases the moddability of the game. We’re hoping to get our updated modding guide for this out before release.
Paid DLC makes sense as a business model but it’s often detrimental to the overall game experience. DLC should be a significant addition that expands on the original game, like a new single player campaign. Anything else can make the player feel like they are missing out on some of the complete experience. DLC also really shouldn’t be a part of multiplayer games. Everyone should be on the same playing field, and even things like cosmetic DLC can make other players feel left out, and also erase any sense of elegance and consistency to the game world.
A lot of my successes were actually born from failure. One failure I had was the loss of a computer which I used to host project management software. It kept me extremely organized, and definitely assisted with my work. However, backups were not enabled properly, which made the loss pretty devastating.
Big budget studios don’t need to release demos because everyone is talking about their game anyway. They don’t have to rely on demos to make sales. Indies though don’t receive the same coverage so offering demos is a way to convince people they should buy their games. If you can’t read any review of a game then at the very least you’ll want to try a demo.
Well we knew from the start of development that Dungeon Defenders was going to be a co-operative game. Our team has experience doing multiplayer games, so it wasn’t incredibly difficult. First we had to get the basic networking up and running and then optimize it so people could play co-op on their phones via 3G. Then we had to iterate on gameplay. The real challenge with multiplayer was balancing it so each character class had complimentary towers so playing co-op was fun and balanced.
From the start, I knew I wanted to have a very unique art style. In the game, your character is part of the Dark race. These people live in darkness, and so they see things differently. To us, absence of light makes everything look pitch black. To them, absence of darkness makes everything look pitch white. To us, when a light source is blocked, it creates a black shadow. To them, when a darkness source is blocked, it creates a white shadow. So, in the game everything looks reversed, but it’s not a simple color inversion.
As the game was itself too hard, I had to redistribute the castle dividing it in sectors (initial version you could go wherever in the castle), create the “Normal” and “Easy” levels of difficulty (the current hard one was the default one), give lot’s of clues for quests, ect. As the second year some friends played the game, I paid attention to all their comments and problems, and I took them as reference.
One of the starting points for IndieCity was that we didn’t want to be the gatekeepers, we wanted to be the one stop shop for all things indie gaming. This means we want all the titles we can get onto the site! We have a Community Approval Process where selected members of our community test games on a number of criteria, mainly making sure the game is functional and matches up to the description the developer is selling the game under.
We have a very open door policy regarding games. There are obviously quality checks that go into place, but for the most part we don’t judge games that much based on gameplay. While I may not personally be into a Sudoku/Arkanoid hybrid game, some people out there are and those people will buy and enjoy that game. If a title is too buggy, or doesn’t work on any of our test machines, we won’t release it. We have rejected games in the past for being simply too poor quality, but for the most part people have only submitted decent games.
We aren’t too concerned about ourselves becoming experts at the game since we will have people of different skill levels testing it. We also happily take any opportunity to play the game with varying degrees of inebriation in order to simulate slow reaction times and poor judgement. We plan to adjust difficulty with things like the aggressiveness of enemies instead of the lazy method of multiplying hit points or enemy accuracy.
The idea for Intrepid Void came from our love of games such as Civilization (and its numerous iterations) and Sins of a Solar empire; strategy games that thrive on planning and forethought. We wanted to take that experience and translate it into a massive open world setting that occurred in real time. We started mentioning the idea to friends and coworkers and they were all very enthused and excited by the prospect so that’s when we decided to do a little more thinking about the game.
Piracy is a huge problem, no matter how some people will try to hand-wave it away. No, the crazy piracy rates would not magically convert into sales if piracy were suddenly eliminated. But the reason we’re seeing these despicable, intrusive DRM schemes and a move to online-only games is because the number don’t lie: As you do make piracy more challenging, sales jump. It only takes a tiny fraction of the pirates going legit to make a huge impact in sales.
There is a saying that all publicity is good publicity. While this isn’t entirely true, I can’t think of any situation where we would want to forbid a fan posting videos of our game. Doesn’t matter if it is criticism, showing bugs or a tribute to how awesome Magicka is. If you were to make money off your footage, you already have to ask, so I can’t really see the problem that the bill is supposed to address.
Try to get other people involved with your game as early as possible. Whether that means letting people test the game or showing off your work in progress, having a community of people who are interested in the game’s success will motivate you during development and help propel the game once it is released.
The idea evolved from the desire of several founding members to provide thought leadership for PC Gaming and to deliver 2 things: 1) Bring about a stable games platform spec to the PC. 2) Another founding charter item was to turn around the negative propaganda that was plaguing the PC gaming ecosystem at the time. There was a lot of misinformation being spread about the ‘death of PC Gaming’ while nothing could have been further from the truth.
Don’t underestimate the level of polish required to have your game accepted by large publishers or distributors. Camy Adventures is our most polished game so far, and we still have to go quite a long way to get to that 101% level of polish. Another important factor, one that we are focussing on for some upcoming titles, is to have a truly unique gameplay mechanic in there that will instantly draw attention to the game… a kind of “hey, this is pretty cool” response where people want to show the game to their friends.
We wanted the game to breathe classic adventure splendor, so the art style and music had to go along these paths. A comic-like touch to the environments and characters made the production quicker and the visuals more clear and easy to distinguish from each other. When producing levels, sometimes it started off as a rough sketch on a piece of paper or sometimes with a general feeling of an idea. Sometimes they just started building and the level sort of evolved after meticulous testing.