Interview with a Developer Part 2

Posted by WhenYourGodGivesYouLemons On 8:57 PM

The long awaited second installment of my interview with Igor Hardy aka Hardy Dev, an independent games developer, is finally finished. Igor is currently busy with several projects, hence the delay, but I'm glad he has finally been able to finish the interview we started. Igor's answers are very in-depth and interesting and I thank him for his time. Check out his site, "A Hardy Developer's Journal", after you've finished reading the interview.

8. What are the game/games you are most looking forward to? Why?

This will be a bit tough as there are very few upcoming releases that I ever think about in any way. There is only so much thinking about you can do, and I prefer to focus what is going on in the now.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the new games that Deidra Kiai, Johnathan Blow, 2D Boy are currently working on. I simply liked their previous titles. Plus, they seem to be doing something a bit different than before.

Other than that, I'm looking forward to when Vince Twelve will be finished with his adventure game Resonance (he recently submitted a rough version to IGF). It is meant to bring some really cool innovations to the adventure game genre (collecting hotspots in memory deposits etc), and judging by the author's previous works it will be not only experimental, but also very professionally crafted. I'm also expecting a lot from The Cat Lady by Remigiusz Michalski as I was highly impressed how his premiere game Downfall manipulated the player's mind with things like choices to make etc. I want to experience something similar again.

I'm also a sucker for sequels that continue a story so I'm eagerly waiting to see what happens in: Tales of Monkey Island Episode 5, A Second Face 2, the next chapter of the Blackwell saga, and Life of D. Duck 3.

When it goes for the big budget titles, it seems there wasn't anything particularly interesting for a long time now... since Prince of Persia: Sands of Time I think. Nevertheless, I'm not losing hope yet.

9. How did you become a games designer?

Oooh, that's a long and fascinating tale. I'll tell at least a half of it.

Probably it was when I got exposed to my beloved adventure games genre sometime in early grade school that I first started to wonder about the design aspect of games. Previously I got to play some of the classic platformers for the first Nintendo (Famicom), shooters and beat-em-ups on my friends' Amigas and in video arcades, but those games didn't really fascinate me in the same way that "Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis" could. I mean for me this was an Indy experience deeper and more fun than watching the movies and I was really curious what went into making something like that.

I've got the opportunity to find out some time later - when we started learning computers at school. For some reason the lessons centered around LOGO - an educational programming language that was already pretty ancient at that point in time. Soon I've started spending hours with it at home (on a crappy, pirated... err... PC emulator that I run on a Mac) and in effect created my first "game" called "Street Blighter" which as the title suggest was a Mortal Kombat parody. It is probably the only beat-em up ever to be controlled by a text parser, although it was less of an action game and more of a Choose Your Own Adventure kind of thing with animated cutscenes. Later, I did an almost whole sequel for it, started something of a text adventure etc, but I never really found a versatile enough engine to build games on (probably there weren't any at the time, but I didn't have Internet access to check that properly), so I lost my enthusiasm soon.

Anyway, these experiences convinced me I knew what a game designer is. A real game designer is a programmer - one who knows exactly how the code translates into the final player experience. I also thought that proper games are created only in huge companies on the other side of the world and that it's really fun to work in such a place. Because of the distance I didn't see much chance I would get to become a professional game designer, but I seemed to enjoy programming anyway, so that's what I decided would be a smart thing to do in the future when I was leaving grade school. I went in this direction a bit, but... let's just say that eventually this (seemingly) very sensible young boy didn't start a career this way. However, shortly thereafter I did learn to code all kinds of things in Turbo Pascal.

Other than that, many years later I suddenly started getting lots of ideas for games. And for the first time in my life I saw my ideas as actually good and fairly complete. I figured that something should be done with them or they'll go to waste, so I did. Currently I'm in the middle of my first game Frantic Franko which I'm doing mostly by myself (with the important exceptions of music and voices) and I'm also at the pre-production stages of a commercial project. Based on my design, but with several people involved.

10. What type of games will you be involved with?

Who can know for sure? But I know what I would LIKE to be involved with...

For as long as I remember I can't shake the feeling that there are many many more terrible secret things you can subject the player to than it has been already revealed. As a result I'm really interested in trying out different interfaces, applying my knowledge about logic and language, and all kinds of illusions of freedom within the game in such ways as to make the player feel very miserable... I mean, different than ever before.

In other words, my games will be mostly story-driven adventure games, possibly with elements of other genres - such as RPGs. But I would gladly make a nice bit of a platforming puzzler from time to time as well.

11. In five years time what type of games would you like to be involved with?

Games I can be proud of. I'd like them to have meaningful gameplay and storytelling concepts. I actually laid down plans for quite a few projects - the next year will be very telling for me concerning what pace in realizing them I can expect from myself.

12. Do you think innovations like Xbox Live, Facebook and the iPhone have made it easier for independent games designers in terms of distribution and profitability?

Yes, but I would still generalize these things as the growing power of the Internet and of the quality of content that the users put there, often for free. The industry is wisely adapting to the mindsets, interests and energy deposits of people surfing the net - attempts are made to provide new creative outlets for as many of them as possible. Seems all extra-great so far.

13. The big question, as an independent games designer if you were given the opportunity to either be taken over by Microsoft, Sony etc or employed by them would you do it? Why/Why not?

It's difficult for me to consider this as a big question as there isn't even anything to overtake right now. :) And I highly doubt, that even if I was successful in my own right, Microsoft or Sony would notice my indie undertakings. Of course I'm not saying I wouldn't be interested in being employed by them - it would be a really good job opportunity and probably a very instructive experience.

However, if the point of the question is to test me if I would give up all my fun projects and sign a contract for life to spend all my energy on some generic fps titles and be given huge piles of money in return, then I would probably answer that I wouldn't like doing that too much. This is just the way I am.

14. From a games designer perspective where do you see the future of gaming heading ie nonlinear storytelling, 3D, virtual reality etc? How will independent games designers feature/cope in the future?

I don't expect virtual worlds and nonlinearity in games to grow beyond what we are offered now. It doesn't pay off to invest in them - a newly released, short and/or simple, but "catchy" game can rob you from all your audience before 1% of what you have offered in yours is tried out. In fact, games seem to have a shorter and shorter lifespan, which reflects how many titles are out there to choose from. The studios will always prefer to spend their time and money on perfecting the aspects which are supposed to grab people's attention. There will be some long and reasonably complex games on occasion (definitely MMOs), but the race for how big and full of features your game is is pretty much over.

Anyway, virtual reality in terms of trying to make a world that contains everything and has no limiting playing rules would be boring for most people. These kind of things work only in the form of simulators focused on very specific experiences - and that very focus provides the rules of the game, like in racing simulators.

Virtual reality in terms of plugging ones brain directly into a machine to play games a'la the Matrix (the one in the movie, not the movie itself) is only viable if we assume there's nothing more to our minds than simple electric impulses we can physically generate ourselves in all possible patterns. But even then there would be needed so much experimenting to fully comprehend the language of the mind that we shouldn't expect this to happen in the current millennium.

Controls that work through capturing motion might become something interesting soon. But only if they can be designed into games in such a way as to not alienate the majority of the audience, because when you are supposed to use your whole body, the amount of skills required of you to play games rises dramatically. And if to compensate for that you take out all the challenge, the new features become rather useless.

The gaming press will continue to change. The only writers who will be able to make money from it, will be designated by gamer communities. Most of those chosen few will be modders and creators of tribute games. The popular press outlets will become highly specialized. The behind the scenes dealings of press with the publishers will become even more worrying and out of control than it is now.

Independent gaming will probably continue to be the most fun part of it all as long as people will see the importance of providing different experiences and reflections than the mainstream. The moment people stop striving for something different and it becomes only about making a game with one's own hands is the moment being independent loses its meaning.



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