Words For The Weekend: An Evening With Mr. Moose

By: George Weidman


By the end of my time playing Puce Moose’s New Vegas mod, my whole world was on fire. I had to contact this man. I’ve played other Puce Moose mods before, but this one in particular reshaped my whole opinion about where a game’s story is supposed to be, and what role the player shares in shaping it. I let him know. The ensuing conversation was steamy and intense.

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Fillogic Developer Interview

Conducted By Adam Ames

TPG was delighted to interview Nathan Home, founder of Pingbit Games, and developer of the fascinating nonogram puzzle game, Fillogic.  You will read on his thoughts about the PC gaming industry, development of Fillogic and much more.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Fillogic.

My name is Nathan Horne and I am the founder of Pingbit Games, which at the moment is just myself and the occasional contract worker. I worked full-time as a programmer in another industry before quitting to do freelance work and spend more time making games. I was responsible for all design and programming for Fillogic.

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Relive The Classics DRM-Free: GOG.com Interview

Conducted By Adam Ames

Good Old Games (aka GOG) is one of the few places online you can find classic PC games from the 80s and 90s.  Not only are the game available work on modern systems, there is no DRM to worry about.  TPG was honored to have Marketing Manager, Lukasz Kukawski, participate in this interview.  Lukasz give us a glimpse at the inner workings of GOG.com as well as his opinion on the various hot button topics in the PC gaming industry.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of GOG.

My name is Lukasz Kukawski and I’m PR and Marketing Manager at GOG.com. So my duties include promoting the service and the games, talking to journalists and giving interviews from time to time, engaging community and thinking of crazy ideas to make people talk about us 🙂 I’ve been working at GOG almost from the very beginning, so I saw how the service grew from a start-up website to a top 3 digital distributor in the world.

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A Supergiant Leap of Faith: Bastion Interview

Conducted By Adam Ames

Independent video game studio, Supergiant, released Bastion on Steam one month ago to rave reviews.  TPG has the opportunity to speak with Greg Kasavin, the Creative Director behind Bastion.  Greg speaks about how Bastion came to be, life as an independent developer, DRM, piracy, US Senate Bill S.978 and much more.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Bastion.

I’m creative director at Supergiant Games, which in practice makes me a writer / designer on the team. I did the writing and story work in Bastion, and also built roughly half of the levels in the game, among other things. We’re a relatively small team of seven people so everyone is responsible for big portions of the project. I’ve wanted to make games since I was a little kid and Bastion is the first game I’ve worked on in a writer / creative director capacity, where I got to devise the world and the characters and so on, so this project was especially important to me.

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TRAUMA Interview: Design Meets Point-And-Click Innovation

TPG caught up with Krystian Majewski, creator of the wonderful point-and-click title, TRAUMA.  Krystian also talks about life as an indie dev, DRM, digital distribution, family support and more.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of TRAUMA.

I’m a designer from Cologne. I am the creator of this game. I did almost everything about it, except for the sound design and the voice acting. Some people also helped me with the translation.

How did you get started in developing PC games?

I’ve been developing since my childhood. I started out on an Atari 130XE. It was an 8-bit home computer that was fairly popular in Poland. I have been experimenting with computer technology ever since. And of course, the driving force behind all this was always the desire to make my own games.

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The British Martians Are Coming!: Jamestown Developer Interview

TruePCGaming caught up with the fine gentlemen from Final Form Games to discuss their smash hit, Jamestown.  They also talk about the origins of Jamestown, how they got their start in the PC gaming business, Valve and more.

How did you get started in PC gaming development?

MIKE: After a childhood of dabbling with several game mod projects, I studied 3D animation in college, and got a job working on the America’s Army FPS in Monterey, CA shortly after graduation.  My career eventually shifted over to level design work, overall game design, and production.

TIM: Mike and I are brothers, so we worked together on the same childhood mods and game projects.  I ended up pursuing music composition and computer science in college, always looking for ways to direct my studies toward game development.  I followed Mike to America’s Army, and then moved on to Planet Moon Studios in San Francisco where I worked as a central technology, lead, and gameplay programmer.

HAL: I took the traditional route of religion degree –> hospital chaplain –> video game developer, with a stopover in educational technology. Before founding Final Form Games with Tim and Mike, I was working on the Learning Team at educational game/hardware company Leapfrog in Emeryville, CA.

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Dungeons of Dredmor Interview

Dungeons of Dredmor is taking the indie gaming world by storm and the triple threat team of Nicholas, Daniel and David from Gaslamp Games took some time away from the game to get down and dirty about the indie scene.  You will get their take on the beginnings of Dungeons Dredmor, life as an indie dev, DRM, piracy, DLC and a great deal more.

1.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Dungeons of Dredmor.

N.: I’m Nicholas Vining; I’m responsible for nearly all of the programming on Dredmor, and a good chunk of the game design.

CD: I’m Daniel Jacobsen, and I’ve been in charge of a fair chunk of the early gameplay code, which has been painstakingly made more exciting by Mr. Baumgart.  I am also supposedly responsible for the game being inundated with lutefisk, and I handle the general business stuff (paperwork) on behalf of the studio.

DGB: I’m David Baumgart and I’m Gaslamp’s art team. I’ve also done a lot of game mechanics and content creation for Dredmor.

2.  How did you get started in developing PC games?

N.: I’ve been in the game industry since 2000; my first job out of high school was working for the now-defunct Loki Software, porting games to Linux. Since then I’ve been in and out of the industry for the past eleven years, and have worked on a bunch of “AAA” and “less-than AAA” titles. It’s been a … checkered career.

DGB: My first attempts at game development began while I was in college and carried on through a couple major projects there, though nothing particularly serious resulted. After graduating, I started doing freelance graphics work for games at the end of 2007 and worked on a stream of indie, mobile, browser, and online games ever since.

CD: Nicholas called me up one day, asked me if I knew C++, and we had a cup of coffee.  He had some crazy ideas about starting a game company, and the technology he was talking about interested me enough that I figured even if we never made a cent, it would be a fun way to spend some evenings.  Little did I know how many evenings it would be.  Continue reading

Runespell: Overture Developer Interview

Barry Hoffman from Mystic Box was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the newly released indie hit, Runespell: Overture.  You will get his take on DRM, piracy, life as an indie dev, Valve and much more.

1.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Runespell: Overture.

Together with Jesse America I have founded Mystic Box at the start of this year, after we have been working on Runespell for over more than two years. We started it as a project in game design originally, but it finally ended up in a company the start of this year. My role is part PR, part community manager, part AI / Gameplay designer and part executive producer.

2.  How did you get started in developing PC games?

I started in games development when I got involved with the development of an MMORPG called ‘ The Chronicles of Spellborn’ back in 2005. It was a great time at the start but when the game never got finished I left the company in 2007. Since then I have worked part time with GamePoint that produces and publishes multiplayer webgames on its own portals and social networks. Next to that I have worked part time on other games industry projects in a company called Ingress. Both have been great supporters in our development of Runespell: Overture.

3.  Where did the idea for Runespell: Overture come from?

It is basically three fold:

The first one was based on some nights of brainstorming where we played the first format of Mythic Poker with a few decks of cards.

The second one is that most of our friends that play online RPGs also played poker online. Later research confirmed that a lot more RPG players are known with these concepts.

The third one is that we wanted to create a game that is an RPG, but can be played in short bursts at a time, as we understand that older players only have so much time to play due to lifechanges. Ever heard the sentence: “I used to play hours per day, but now I have kids I have less free time on my hands”. We did hear this from a lot of players we interviewed on the forums.

Of course another group with less time on their hands were the MMORPG players that only can play short bursts of gameplay in between sessions with their guilds.  Continue reading

Solar 2 Interview

Jay Watts, creator of the great indie PC title Solar 2, offers detailed insights on DRM, DLC, indie development, the origins of Solar 2 and much more in this e-mail interview.

1.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Solar 2.

I’m an Australian based Indie Game Developer, recently finished Uni doing a Degree in Biotechnology and decided to take my game development hobby into the big leagues. My role on the development of Solar 2 was everything, it was made by a one-man team, me. The only exceptions being audio which I outsourced and the promotional image.

2.  How did you get started in developing PC games? 

I was first introduced into making games in a compulsory project thing in High School, I enjoyed it but I decided to go into science for future studies. It wasn’t until years later at University when I picked up Flash and started toying around with it and found it was really enjoyable. I kept at it as a hobby and found success, so after I finished Uni I decided to focus on it full-time to see where I could go, and Solar 2 is the result of that.


3.  Where did the idea for Solar 2 come from?

Back when I was making Flash stuff I made a really powerful Flash RTS engine, the problem was it was too massive of a project and I couldn’t make a complete game with it. I decided I needed a much smaller project, something I could do all on my own, so I played around with some graphics (my weakest aspect). I found I could draw a really nice planet very easily, so I decided to make a game around planets. I added stars, asteroids and physics and many months of design evolution from that basic starting point finally ended up with the simple, sandbox gameplay I have today!

4.  What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Solar 2?

I think it’s a bit early to tell what the success and failures are at this point! Overall it’s looking very successful, although the difficulty of the missions and the shallowness of the sandbox haven’t really worked.

5.  How close is Solar 2 to your initial vision?   

Very close. I would of liked more depth to the sandbox mode but every time I tried to add things I found there was some niggling issue I didn’t like about it. Eventually I just got stuck, so I figured I may as well just release it. Seeing heaps of user feedback has been really refreshing, so that’s given me a new vision to work for!

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Vertex Dispenser Interview

Michael Brough, creator of the great indie hit, Vertex Dispenser was able to step away from supporting the game to answer a few questions in this e-mail interview.  You will read about the creation of Vertex Dispenser, thoughts on Steam, DRM, piracy, digital distribution and much more.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Vertex Dispenser.

I made the game as a hobby project, on and off over the last few years.

How did you get started in developing PC games?

I’ve been making up games since I was quite young – I made up variants of Chess and other board games, and got started programming in BASIC when I was maybe ten years old.  It’s just been a hobby ever since then.

Where did the idea for Vertex Dispenser come from?

Lots of different places, but mostly my own head!  In terms of games; Starcraft, Darwinia and Gate88 were big influences.  The basic idea for the colouring mechanic came from a maths course.

What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Vertex Dispenser?

Multiplayer is a lot of work from a technical perspective, and then not worth the effort for an indie because hardly anyone will ever play it anyway.  In the future I’ll stick with singleplayer games, or else make multiplayer games that are either local (two players on the same computer, or non-digital) or asynchronous (e.g. turn-based).

In its current form, how close is Vertex Dispenser to your initial vision?

Very close.  The idea kind of started out as a conventional RTS, so it’s quite different to that, but once I had the concept for how it is now, I pretty much just implemented it as I’d imagined it.  Of course I was wrong about lots of things and it took a lot of development to get there, but the core mechanics are as envisioned.

Some indie devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game.  Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Vertex Dispenser and if you faced a similar challenge.

Yeah, certainly I’m unreasonably good at the game and it’s impossible for me to judge its difficulty anymore.  The levels were definitely too hard at first.  But I playtested the hell out of them and dropped the difficulty over and over again, and I think what I ended up with is okay.  I wasn’t prepared to make fundamental changes to the core game mechanics – for example, a few people suggested removing the colouring rule, which would be like ripping out the heart of the game.  But the whole point of the singleplayer campaign levels was to introduce the game in an accessible way, so I was happy to make any changes necessary to those.

Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Vertex Dispenser would run on the various PC system configurations?

Porting to Mac was a major headache; I hadn’t developed anything for Mac before.


Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?

Trying to balance it with the rest of life – I’m doing this part-time at the moment (and am nowhere near a level of success where I could go full-time), but it’s really time-consuming and has the tendency to take over every spare moment if I let it.


Tell us about your relationship with Valve.  How did making Vertex Dispenser available via Steam come about?  Also talk about how you created Steam Achievements.

I just sent the game to them through their standard submission process.  I wasn’t expecting much because I wasn’t known and hadn’t had any buzz about the game, but they liked it.

Achievements were something I was pretty reluctant to add – they’re a bit of a fad and often don’t add any value to a game. But a few of my friends and testers talked me into it, so I spent a few hours adding some, and I’m happy with them.

How much pull do you have when setting sale and regular pricing through digital distribution channels?  Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?

I have no idea what the price of something “should” be – in a way indie games should probably cost more than mainstream games because we can’t reach nearly as large an audience, but that’s not really practical.  I just asked some friends and allies what price they’d recommend for it, and went with their suggestions.  It’s unfortunate that the expected price for indie games is so low these days, but I’m not in a position to do anything about that.

How do you feel about the digital distribution platform as a whole?

Retail is pretty much dead as far as I’m concerned.  However, mainstream devs are continuing to create games that take up more and more gigabytes.. this is okay if you have unlimited bandwidth, but lots people in the world (like me) have to deal with caps on how much they can download per month.  This doesn’t bother me usually since I haven’t played a mainstream videogame for years, but when I next do I guess I’ll have to order the disc by post.  For reasonably-sized games like Vertex Dispenser, digital distribution is ideal.

Were there any plans to take Vertex Dispenser to retail stores?

No.  As above, retail is dead to me.  There’s also a huge financial risk involved in making physical objects when you don’t know how much you’ll sell; digital distribution scales much better.

You released a PC demo for Vertex Dispenser in an age where demos are becoming scare.  What made you release a demo and was it difficult to develop one?

Demos are essential for videogames because there’s really no other way to tell people what they’re like than to let them try them out.  You can show videos and describe the rules, but that can’t get across the ‘feel’ of playing it, or answer practical questions like “how well will this run on my machine”.

That said, I think I messed up a bit with the demo – I tried to give a vertical slice to get across the feel of the game without getting bogged down in tutorial.  I got some feedback from people who’d tried it found it too hard and confusing, and others who’d found it really easy and were concerned that there wasn’t any depth to the game – I think both groups would have been better served by there being more tutorial in there.  I’ve subsequently updated the demo, hopefully this will help.


How important is it to get instant feedback about Vertex Dispenser from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?

I haven’t found it to be of very much use so far.  I have been able to pick up on a few things people were having trouble with and fix them, but it’s not clear yet whether that’s helped at all.  Mostly there’s a lot of noise and it’s hard to filter out anything meaningful.

I think it’s especially hard for this game because it’s not something that appeals to everyone, but it’s new and inventive and so doesn’t have a predefined audience.  If you make, say, a turn-based RPG, then mostly people who like that genre will play it and give relevant feedback about it, and people who don’t like the genre won’t bother with it.  Since Vertex Dispenser doesn’t fit cleanly into a “genre”, the potential fans don’t necessarily know that it’s something they will like, and haters spout a lot of negativity because they had to actually try it to find out it wasn’t for them – the equivalent of someone saying the turn-based RPG should be faster-paced and have more shooting; it’s not meaningful feedback.


How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Vertex Dispenser professionally?

I’m not quite sure I understand the question.  Certainly I’d like them to say nice things because they have influence over how many people play my game – and more people playing would be great!  But unless they’re someone whose work I’m familiar with and have respect for, I don’t have any reason to place any special value on their opinions over anyone else’s.

How do you feel about the Humble Indie Bundle and “Pay What You Want Pricing”? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?

I’m really interested to see where this type of thing goes!  From a business perspective, given the vast differences in wealth in the world, some form of variable pricing is the optimal solution.  People have different amounts of money to spend, and place different values on different things, so it makes sense to expect them to pay different amounts.  You see this in a rudimentary form all over the place – supermarkets have “budget”, “finest”, “organic” versions of each food item; clothing comes branded for a much higher price; DLC for games.  These systems aren’t perfect; customers have to pick the tier that best approximates what they’re willing to pay, so there are inefficiencies when this approximation is imperfect.

Full PWYW could be perfectly efficient, but I think our culture isn’t ready for it yet.  Most people end up using it as an excuse to pay almost nothing.  I think we don’t have much of a sense of what things are really worth – many of the prices we see are driven way down by exploiting economic differentials between countries and selling to a mass market.  The Humble Indie Bundle has been successful so far despite many people underpaying because that’s been balanced by a few people overpaying, but I wouldn’t expect this to necessarily continue long term once it’s not a new and exciting thing.  So I’m glad people are experimenting with it, and I may well try it myself at some point, but I don’t have great hopes for it.


What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?

Like I said, I don’t play mainstream games very often, but it sounds like the situation there is getting pretty bad.  Punishing paying customers is not a rational way to deal with piracy.


How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?

I don’t have any strong feelings about it.  It’s just a different name for “expansions”, just another form of tiered pricing.  Not a big deal?


What are some of the games or genres you like to play?  Are you a fan of other indie developers?

I mostly play board games these days – Dominion and Race for the Galaxy are the main ones recently, but I love a variety of things.  It feels weird to talk about being a “fan” of other indies, since they’re my friends and community!  But here are a few games I like: Solium Infernum, Proteus, Spelunky, Spacechem, Super Crate Box.


What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?

Heh, I wouldn’t say I’ve really broken in yet.  So I guess my advice would be: don’t do what I’m doing, don’t try to innovate too much.  Make something familiar, something that’s easy to describe in terms of other games, that fits cleanly into an established genre, that has a clear target audience (preferably one that isn’t been targeted by mainstream developers anymore).  Make sure the graphics use as much tech as possible (regardless of whether it hurts the gameplay or even looks aesthetically good), and don’t even think about multiplayer.

No, that’s too pessimistic.  Forget about business and just make something amazing, don’t care whether it pays off as long as you’ve made something you’re proud of.  But I’m serious about multiplayer, just don’t bother.

We would like to thank Mike for allowing into the mind of a fantastic indie developer.  You can pick up Vertex Dispenser via Steam.

Steel Storm: Burning Retribution Interview

The boys from Kot-in-Action Creative Artel were kind enough to take time out of their busy day to talk about thier smash indie hit, Steel Storm: Burning Retribution.  You will get thier take on how Steel Storm: Burning Retribution came to be, DLC, DRM, piracy, life as an indie dev and much more.

 1.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Steel Storm.

My name is Alexander “motorsep” Zubov. I am the founder of Kot-in-Action Creative Artel, an independent game development company. I am the project lead and the art director for Steel Storm. Besides these roles I had to wear many hats, as most indies do, and I worked on all of the art assets, GUI, some sound effects, a few levels, missions, etc.

My educational background has nothing to do with art or game development. I got my Master of Science degree in engineering and never worked as an engineer. Instead, I became a self-taught graphic designer and I worked in that field for 5 years. I also worked as a teacher, 3D graphics and animation instructor, and a police officer. I applied myself in various fields, but game development is what I enjoy the most currently.


2.  How did you get started in developing PC games?

I started, like many people of my generation, by modding Quake 1. Eventually I discovered the Darkplaces engine, which is based on the GPL version of the GLQuake 1 engine, but can match the visuals and performance of ID Tech 4+. The independent movement was on the rise when I realized I could make a living making games. I met our lead coder few month before Quake Expo 2008 and got him interested in helping me with my first project titled The Prophecy: Return of the Blademaster. Together we made a working prototype which still can be seen at the virtual Quake Expo 2008 booth at http://qexpo.tastyspleen.net/booth.php?id=121

 

 

3.  Where did the idea for Steel Storm come from?

The Prophecy was supposed to be a grand project, with a lot of content. We didn’t have experience with making and shipping commercial titles back then and after we finished the game’s prototype it became clear that we would not be able to accomplish it. At that time the idea of making a top-down shooter did not seem to be as complicated as the idea of making The Prophecy. We discussed the concept and began working on the Steel Storm series.

4.  What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Steel Storm?

We learned that we are very capable of making high quality commercial games that sell 🙂 We learned a lot of new skills, improved existing ones and established important business relationships. It’s hard to tell at the moment if we had any failures because the game hasn’t been out for too long. It’s been on the market for less than 2 months.


5.  How close is Steel Storm in its current form to your initial vision for the game?

The game is more advanced and has more features than the initial idea.

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Her Interactive CEO Interview

Her Interactive President and CEO, Megan Gaiser, was gracious enough to accept an e-mail interview request.  You will get her take on Nancy Drew, Her Interactive, women in video games, digital distribution, social networking and much more.

Adam:

How did Her Interactive get started?  Where did the idea for a point-and-click Nancy Drew adventure game come from?

From the very beginning, we recognized that girls want to be challenged, entertained and engaged with high quality, sophisticated video game play.  They appreciate smart, strong characters they can relate to.  We chose the point and click adventure game style because it enables exploration and discovery opportunities to play the game at your own pace. We also made the decision early on to enable the player to be Nancy Drew, so the player gets to experience what it is to be brilliant.  We were fortunate to align with Simon & Schuster and the Nancy Drew brand early on.  We’ve remained committed to creating high-quality entertainment that not only entertains, but inspires, teaches and ignites the imagination.  We also have been very fortunate to attract a very smart, creative and eclectic team.  We as a team have mastered the art of creative collaboration to make the very best games through thoughtful and creative approach and solution-oriented philosophy. We’ve evolved over the years, but we’ve never strayed from our core expertise and values.

Adam:

What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing the Nancy Drew series?

Megan:

Successes – Won 23 Parent’s Choice Gold Medal awards, pioneered games targeted towards females, learned the retail market and became successful retail publishers, established a unique niche in the mystery category, targeted an underserved market of girls, established ourselves as the #1 PC Adventure Franchise in units outselling Harry Potter, Myst and Lord of the Rings for six consecutive years.

Learning- With our Wii game, we learned that a straight port with only minor redesign will not result in a great game. We will port/re-design games moving forward to ensure a better result in the future.

Adam:

What is the toughest aspect of developing a series of games like Nancy Drew?

Megan:

After 14 years with this series, we have a well-oiled machine so to speak. Our team has mastered the art of creative collaboration so it works well. Our opportunity is to cleverly adjust the way we create these games to respond to the current price and business model changes.
Adam:

How do you keep the ideas fresh for a series with 23 games released since 1998?

Megan:

We use the Nancy Drew books as inspiration and we have an extremely talented creative staff who helps develop story lines and characters.  For example, with just launched our first “gamebook” for the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch called Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch.   We used the Nancy Drew book, The Secret at Shadow Ranch for setting the story, but came up with the story line ourselves. Part game, part book, we have created a new way of telling a story in a more immersive and interactive way. Play the Story!

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Interview With Crayon Physics Creator Petri Purho

Petri Purho, creator of the smash indie game hit, Crayon Physics, has kindly granted me an e-mail interview discussing the development of Crayon Physics.  Petri also talks about piracy, DRM, life as an indie dev and much more.

Adam:

How did you get started in developing PC games?  Where did the idea for Crayon Physics come from?

Petri:

I’ve always been into programming, so when I was doing my CS studies I applied for an internship at Frozenbyte and got the position. After working there as a part-time programmer I started Kloonigames.  Kloonigames was and still is a website were I create a small prototype games that have been crunched together in a very small time frame.  Usually less than 7 days. One of the prototypes I made was Crayon Physics. A game in which you could only draw boxes in. But it was interesting and people were excited about it. So I decided to take it a bit further.

Adam:

What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Crayon Physics?
Petri:
I learned that it takes a lot more time to make a game than you will ever realize. Even if you take into account your realization that it’s going to take more time than planned.
Adam:

Walk us through how you came up with the art style for Crayon Physics.

I was making a prototype game called Daydreaming in the Oval Office.  The game had a title screen had crayon drawings and I was making that title screen in Photoshop when I realized that I could programatically render crayon drawings. And that would allow a game in which you draw and then I realized that if you were drawing physics objects it would be like drawing with a magic crayon. That’s were the whole thing came together.

Adam:

What is the toughest aspect of being an indie game developer?
Petri:

It’s like an RTS game. You need 3 resources. a) Money b) Time c) Motivation. And you have to fight to get all of those.

Adam:

Were there any struggles developing a game for the PC to make sure it runs on all systems and configurations?
Petri:

There are a bunch of small issues. Most of it graphics cards and drivers. The game requires a decent amount of texture memory and not all netbooks have that much.

Adam:

Tell us about your relationship with Valve.  How did making Crayon Physics Deluxe available via Steam come about?
Petri:

Steam people contacted me even before the game was out if I wanted to sell the game through Steam. I said yes.

Adam:

How much say do you have when setting regular and sale pricing with digital distributors?
Petri:

It depends on the distribution channel. But most of the are pretty open to having developers setup any price they see fit.


Adam:

How do you feel about the digital distribution platform as a whole?
Petri:

I like it, both as a consumer of games and as a developer of them.  Retail seems like it’s an unnecessary step for developers and consumers. I don’t want to go to a store to buy something that I can buy immediattely from the internet.

Adam:

Were there any plans to take Crayon Physics Deluxe to retail stores?
Petri:

There were talks about doing it, but it seems like a too much of work for very little gain.

Adam:
You released a PC demo of Crayon Physics Deluxe during a time where many PC game companies do not.  Why?
Petri:

I feel like everyone should release a demo of their game. Especially on a platform like PC which is open. If someone has doubts about your game and they’re not sure if they should invest in it or not, they can either try the demo or pirate the full game. Either way if someone wants to, they can try the game for free. Also I feel it’s better to give the consumer as much information as he needs to, when buying any product. And what better way to inform players how to the game plays than to give them a free demo.

Adam:

How important is it to get instant feedback about Crayon Physics Deluxe from users through forums and other social networking sites?

Petri:

It was really important in the development phase of things. Now I’m sorta well aware of the issues in the game, so mostly when I get feedback nowadays it’s things I’m already aware of.

Adam:

Do you take any stock from those who review Crayon Physics Deluxe professionally?
Petri:

I do. I did an extensive post-mortem of Crayon Physics Deluxe and thought about it long and hard on how to make the next game better.

Adam:

How do you feel about the Humble Indie Bundle and “Pay What You Want Pricing”?  Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
Petri:

I like PWYW. I actually experimented with it a year ago and sold Crayon Physics Deluxe for any price. It was a good experience and I learned a lot from it. I might do it again in the future.

Adam:

What is your stance on DRM and piracy in general?
Petri:

I feel DRM is useless. It should go away and die.

Piracy on the other hand is a bit more complicated topic to talk about. It’s not as clear cut. I’m in the unusual position of being both a gamer and developer so I see the piracy discussion from both points of views. I thought that releasing a game would change my views of piracy but it hasn’t.

Adam:

What are some of the games or genres you like to play?  Are you a fan of other indie developers?

Petri:

Derek Yu’s Spelunky. I’ve played that game for 2 years now and I still go back to it. He’s releasing the game on XBLA this year. That’s going to be insane. I tell you it’s going to become a classic game.

Currently I also play Minecraft, Space Funeral, Super Meat Boy, Fallout: New Vegas, Desktop Dungeons and Norrland.

Adam:

In 2010, you released Cut It, Count On Me, Men on the Flying Trapeze and Maze of Space.  Which one of these do you feel is your best game of 2010?  What do you have planned for 2011?
Petri:

I like Cut It and Men on the Flying Trapeze. I’m currently working on a RTS game as my main game. I don’t know if it will be released in 2011.

Adam:

Crayon Physics Deluxe won the grand prize at the 2008 Independent Games Festival.  How did that make you feel?
Petri:

It was pretty awesome. Even though I wanted World of Goo to win and I felt a bit sad that they didn’t get the grand prize. But they won 2 awards that year, so they were happy.


Adam:

For those people who are reading about you or Crayon Physics Deluxe for the first time, do you have anything you would like to say outside of what we have already discussed?
Petri:

Give it a try. Download the demo.

I would like to thank Petri again for taking the time to chat about Crayon Physics.  You can check out the demo on Steam or from the official site.

Interview With Stardock CEO Brad Wardell

In the ongoing PC gaming interview series, we get a glimpse into the mind of Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock.  Brad talks about how Impulse was created, Steam, GOG, ImpulseTV and much more.

Adam:

Walk us through the development of your digital distribution system starting with Component Manager through Stardock Central and now with Impulse.  What were some of the struggles and successes during this time?

Brad:

Back in the 90s, the only realistic way we could sell software was either at retail or to ship someone a box. Shipping boxes was very labor intensive for us and retailers were…challenging to deal with, especially if you were a small company.

So we decided to make a virtual store, which, back in 1997, was a pretty new thing. The idea would be that a person could download our “store” and then purchase our programs right from it. The user would then download and install the program right from the store. It had to be done “just right” because back then, people were using 28.8k modems so a lot of our work was put in to break our products into “components” hence the name “Component Manager”.

A few years later, we re-did our store to support our PC games and called it “Stardock Central”. Stardock Central included built in chat, a mod browser for downloading additional content for our products and was a lot friendlier to use.

A while after Stardock Central was out, Valve released Steam which, unlike Stardock Central, sold not just Valve’s games but third-party games as well. When users started coming to us requesting that we put our games on Steam so that they could purchase all their games at the same place. This concerned us because we had done all this work in order not to be beholden to any particular retailer and we saw that this new “Steam” thing could end up being the CompUSA (which was a bit of a boogieman back in the 90s at retail) of the digital world.

So we rebuild our digital distribution system from scratch so that we could seamlessly support not just our own software but third party software as well. The result was Impulse.

Adam:

When you launched Component Manager in 1998, did you have an idea of how big digital distribution would eventually become?

Brad:

We believed that digital distribution would eventually take over. But we thought that every developer and publisher would have their own thing. We didn’t imagine that it would consolidate into a few digital retailers.

Adam:

What are your thoughts on other digital distribution companies like Steam and GOG?

We’re big fans of both of them. For one thing, Stardock is a technology company so we tend to have a great deal of respect for those who produce high quality stuff.  The thing that I think many people don’t realize about Steam is that Valve was the first to recognize that not every developer or publisher would want to create their own digital store. It only seems obvious in hindsight but what Valve did was really ground breaking.

Moreover, and this is something that should be emphasized because I’ve seen Steam detractors wrongly assert this – Steam isn’t #1 just because it was first. They have consistently been out in front in the changing market.  The biggest challenge for Stardock with regards to Steam vs. Impulse (besides the obvious disparity of capital resources) has been trying to find ways to leapfrog them onto the next phase of digital distribution.  So far, Steam has beaten us to the punch every time – first with Steam itself and then with Steamworks.

With regards to GOG, what makes GOG special in our minds is that they decided not to even try to compete with Steam or Impulse but rather focus on classic games. This is a very solid business move because in terms of margins, classic games blow away new games.

Adam:

What things can you do to make Impulse more of an attractive option for PC gamers?    

Brad:

There are a few things that Stardock has to do with Impulse to increase its market share. The biggest problem we have had has been capital. Impulse gets investment from Stardock’s other two business units (PC software and PC games). But we don’t have a Half-Life 2 equivalent in our game catalog to hire the kind of developer and release engineering staffing that Valve has. So we have to be a lot more tactical about it.

Going forward, the community features of Impulse are going to become an increasing focus for us in order to give PC users a more cohesive experience. We also have a number of projects in development to make it easier for both game developers and software developers to put their titles up on Impulse.

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