Jérôme Morin-Drouin

Jérôme Morin-Drouin is the guy behind The Incredible Company, creators of Alcazar and Manifold. Both games are amazing, so you should check’em out. And now Jérôme answers our questions!

Jérôme by Aldeguer!

Jérôme by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

I made several tabletop game prototypes since high school. Some of them work quite well, but none of them is published yet. I started experimenting with solo puzzles about 3 years ago, and Alcazar is my first video game, which I started developing last year.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

I’m not actively looking for ideas. They just seem to pop into my head all the time. It’s not always a good thing. Idea n+1 is always more exciting than idea n, and I find it very hard to continue working on an idea when so many new ones have arrived.

Last year, I started writing down one new idea every day. Not only games: it can be anything. I write one idea per page, with text and pictures. When the new idea is on paper, I can stop thinking about it and focus on what I was previously working on.

So it’s a good tool for me. Not only to find new ideas, but also to organize them and stay focused.

3. Alcazar is a sudoku without numbers. Where did its idea come from? (Also, the game is already available both as a book and an Android app. Are you planning to release it on iOS?)

When I tried Sudoku, I liked the theory behind it, but as a player, I was bored. Looking for small numbers in a grid felt more like filling my tax report than playing a game. So I started thinking about a pencil-and-paper puzzle that would be like Sudoku, but faster, more visual and more intuitive. It’s often a starting point for me: a game is popular but I don’t like it, so I want to make my own version of it.

Years after, I started experimenting with different puzzles about tracing lines, but my concepts were all too easy or complicated. During a cycling trip in Andalusia, I visited the amazing Mezquita in Cordoba. It’s mainly a large room with few obstacles, which made me wonder: how can enter, see everything, and exit, without seeing the same thing twice. That was it. A few weeks later, I had the exact blend of simplicity and depth that I was looking for.

About iOS: that’s what I’m currently working on. I’m new to all of this, so it takes a bit longer than expected, but it should be ready very soon.

4. There seems to be a growing Alcazar community both making and sharing new puzzles. Which one of these puzzles made by the community do you like the most? Why?

It’s a very small community, and I only shared two puzzles that I didn’t do myself yet. The first one is here. To prove that the solution is unique, you just need a couple of simple and unusual ideas. That’s what I like about Alcazar: it rewards creative shortcuts.

This is the second one. Basically, I like it because it’s difficult. But I don’t have real favorite. My favorite Alcazar is simply the next one, and that’s the beauty of it.

5. You seem to enjoy creating puzzles. Do you also like solving them? Which puzzle games are your favourites and why?

I’m still looking for a puzzle to fall in love with. When I play a game, it’s important for me to feel like I’m following my own path. In most of puzzles, the path leading to the solution already exists, and the player just has to find it.

6. Manifold combines origami with Rubik’s Cube resulting in something new and clever. Do you like mashing up game mechanics? What are your favourite mashup games?

With Manifold, I wanted to turn a non-game (origami) into a game. Using colors and squares (instead of numbers or pictures for example) simplified the game by linking it to something people know: the Rubik’s cube. For me, mashing up is just a way to integrate an external element into a game. It’s a design tool.

Two mashup games that I like are Nimble Quest and Super Puzzle Platformer.

7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

Oh. I don’t have a good answer to that. Actually, I’m fairly new to the world of video games. Can you ask me that question again in a couple of years?

8. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

No, I’m not a heavy gamer. I spend too much time in front of a screen: work, communication, news… So I prefer tabletop games. For example: Seven Wonders, The Resistance and Animal upon Animal (it’s for kids… but it’s great). However, at different points in my life, I did have unhealthy addiction to the game Civilization.

9. One last random question. If you could turn any building in the world into a person to watch a movie with… which building would it be and what movie would you watch together? Why?

On a date? I’d choose the Alhambra (in Granada), because it’s incredibly beautiful, complex and colorful. For the movie, let’s see. Humans like movies about fictional humans with extraordinary lives, so buildings probably like movies about fictional buildings with extraordinary lives… The Grand Budapest Hotel would be a good choice, I think.

Ben Esposito

Ben Esposito is an independent digital game maker in Los Angeles. He makes lots of cool stuff. His next game is Donut County. Now he answers our questions!

ben_esposito

1. How long have you been making games?

I started modding seriously in 2007 I think… It didn’t really amount to much for a while. I made a handful of mods and freeware games until 2011 when I got the opportunity to work on The Unfinished Swan.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

On top of a mountain? Inside of a fish? I wish I knew… I know I can always find ideas inside other games, though. It’s usually a tiny little thing. The way something moves, maybe. Timing, weight. It’s almost always kinetic. It will sit in my head like a little snippet of music, playing over and over.

I like art and novels and films and poetry and stuff but I always think about games in terms of music. They’re kinetic, they have rules, rhythm, dynamics. They can repeat and change over time procedurally. At least the types of games I’m drawn to.

3. LA game collective “Arcane Kids” is one of our favourite game collectives out there. You are making Perfect Stride, “a first person skateboarding game for Windows & OSX based on old school FPS movement exploits (Quake jumping, Tribes skiing, CS surfing)”. Love that one-liner and hey, we’ve played last IGF version and the game (music and mechanics above all) is really amazing. Where does its idea come from? Also, what are your favourite titles on the Dreamcast?

Wow thanks! The idea came from when I was modding in the source engine. If you simply turn the friction off and try to move around, you’ll get some version of Perfect Stride. We put out a mod based around that, like there were no code changes at all, just a bunch of maps and a tweaked settings.

Perfect Stride is just a more approachable version of that I think it’s a really fun to skate in and I want to introduce it to people who haven’t tried anything like it before.

My fav Dreamcast games: The Chao garden from Sonic Adventure, Seaman, Phantasy Star Online.

4. You’ve just revealed your new game: Donut County, “a whimsical physics toy that gives players control of a mysterious hole that gets bigger each time they swallow something”. Where does its idea come from?

Looney Tunes? Monty Python? Yellow Submarine? The idea of a portable hole is all over the place. A fake Peter Molyneux (Molydeux) tweet inspired the game itself though. He suggested playing as the hole itself! Gotta give credit.

5. The pits (Molyjam), Kachina (post-Molyjam), Donut County (now). What did it change in this whole process? Why did you decide to go from Kachina to Donut County?

I thought the idea behind Kachina religion was really interesting, Kachina designs themselves are gorgeous and ever-changing. During the first year of development I learned a lot about cultural appropriation and its damaging effects. For a while I tried to address it in the game, but I ultimately learned that I have no place representing other people’s beliefs and cultures. I decided I could tell a similar story using the things around me, hence Donut County.

6. You’ve said that “Bruce Springsteen is the boss” and that he was a big influence on Donut County. Why is that? 

I was listening to him a lot when I first started the project, but I’m inspired by the way his music talks about places, not just people. I also grew up on the East Coast of the U.S. where he is THE BOSS.

7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

Vectorpark. His work is like music in the way I described earlier. They’re about play without being games in the traditional sense.

Porpentine. Porp is a top notch designer and writer, and suuuuper funny. She has done a lot for the interactive fiction scene!

Zak AylesZak is young and full of raw power. Zak once described to me his desire to make games that cause physical pain.

9. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

I try to play games but they’re sooooo much work!! Even turning them on takes too long. That’s why I love mobile games. Some games I’m playing now: Hohokum, Desert Golfing, Skate 3.

10. One last random question. If you could only watch a gif for the whole eternity, which one would it be and why?

Easy one.

Midio

Lucas (a.k.a. Midio) is an architect and game artist/designer from Brazil. And wow, he creates AMAZING backgrounds (among other things, obviously). Here he answers our questions!

Midio by Aldeguer!

Midio by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

Hmmm, I think it’s been 5 years since I “officially” started working with games. I always wanted to do that when I was younger but I really had no idea where to start from. Most of the stuff I used to do back then were notes, drawings and game ideas that were written on paper. In 2009 I got the chance to work as a QA at a studio while I was in Architecture school, and that’s where it all began :)

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

Ideas come from all kinds of places and situations. Most of them come from everyday stuff, talking to friends or thinking about how I’m feeling. I think a lot about many things all the time, so there’s usually one or two things in my mind worth transforming into drawings, art, or a game. They can come from a story I remember, from childhood memories, from grief, sad stuff, or other games I played. I usually write down these ideas on a notebook (or my private tumblr account) and I scribble and sketch and try to imagine the whole thing working. At this step I usually talk to friends and show my idea because I have a huge need to discuss that with other people. I’m very team-driven, so I need to hear some different opinions and see that first concept growing by itself. If we find out it’s not working for a particular reason or situation, we just store it for some other time or rethink it all over. I work better when collaborating, I’m very social and this plays an important role in my whole process.

3. Alpaca Team is “is a tiny indie group that develop games on their free time”. How did it start and what are your plan for the future?

Alpaca was created in 2012 when I was still working fulltime at a game studio in my hometown and… wow, so many things happened at that time…

(Disclaimer: long answer ahead)

That was my third year working at the company and I was already feeling tired. I couldn’t see growth nor the direction I was going to. That lead me to join Amora & Pedro at 2012′s GGJ- an epic GGJ- where I got to meet most of Sao Paulo’s indie groups and studios and for the first time I felt proud of a game I made. We worked together on Trapped! In the Chamber of the Eternal Darkness, and I had the chance to understand what it felt like to work on a personal game project for the first time. I remember feeling “this is what I want to do, this is how I want to work”- not the stuff I used to do at the studio!

After GGJ was over and my post-jam depression was getting stronger, we received some news at the studio that we were going to work in another crappy advergame project and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I started to discuss with some colleagues about beginning some parallel personal work and that’s how Alpaca was born. Completely out of insatisfaction!

We were still working at the studio during the day and developing our stuff during the night, but we couldn’t solve some technical aspects of our first game idea and I had to face some terrible, terrible personal issues that year, which led us to enter in stasis mode until lots of people got fired. Then we all decided to quit our jobs for good.

We do stuff only in our freetime- I’m usually under a pile of projects and ongoing freelances, Camis has started just now working independently as well and Bruno is working in his master thesis. I really don’t see any clear plans for us in the future and this sometimes bugs me a little, as they’re great work partners and I wanted to have more time with them!

4. What do you think of game jams? Are they important? Any particular story you remember from one of these jams (weird bug, crazy feedback, etc.)?

Game jams are great to develop a small idea that was hidden in your notebook, strenghten the bonds between the participants and learn to let go and think small. Joining them was a particularly life changing experience to me so I love them! We had the craziest feedback with The Chainletter Massacre, done in a local gamejam we organized here in Sao Paulo. This game was so unpretentious but we still get emails of people saying they loved it and wanted to play a bigger version of the game. There are lots of people that were scared of the game, even though it was done using a gameboy’s 4 color scheme and screen resolution! Another thing I love are the crazy unfolding ideas that pop up in chain reaction once you start thinking about a theme or the game you’re making in a gamejam. They’re usually so priceless because there’s lots of people thinking together to make that happen and freethinking is a constant, so there’s this synergy that not only is amazing to experience, but often produces amazing outcomes.

(I’m usually extremely silly when it comes to bugs, we recorded this bug from our last GGJ together)

5. Among many other things you do, we really love your background art. Do you recognise any influence from other artists? What are your favourite games in terms of background art?

Aw, that’s really sweet, thank you so much! :)

I think my BGs and other art are influenced by many different things. My architectural background gave me plenty of references at first place: I see the world not only through the lenses of a game designer, but through that of an architect as well. This means that I try to understand space and its vocabulary whenever I need to portray something in a specific manner. I always drew buildings and the cityscape, so that was pretty much a natural path: through observation and drawings of real life.

I’m also heavily influenced by anime/cartoon: Miyazaki, Taiyo Matsumoto (& Tekkonkinkreet‘s Takaramachi) -I love the huge amount of stacked buildings & their subtle color palettes- by cartoons from the 50/60s (specially Pink Panther), Alexei Nechytaylo (Triplets of Belleville), Illustrators like Miroslav Sasek & Tadahiro Uesugi -love the lineart and simple color use. Floriane Marchix (Floony), Joakim Sandberg (Konjak), Anton Fadeev (from Duelyst), Johan Vinet, Vic Nguyen, JenZee & Pedro Medeiros (Saint) are constant fountainheads that I try to keep an eye on as well!

I love the background art of Rayman Origins, Duelyst, Super Time Force, Chasm, Jet Set Radio & Journey (even though they’re in 3D), Bastion, Machinarium, Sword & Sworcery, Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, Don’t Starve, etc, etc, etc. (this list could grow huge!)

6. How is the indie scene in Brazil? Note: We’ve already asked this question to Amora B.! And yes, you can check her answer ;)

It’s quite difficult to define it properly because the country is huge and geography plays an important role to understand the question of identity. I have the feeling, though, that the indie scene is growing and becoming more diverse, energetic and steady in Brazil. We hear of more and more individuals and groups showing up and creating awesome stuff, and I’m quite happy to be part of the community. Here in Sao Paulo the group is quite close to each other and we usually hang out, collaborate, or work with one another. We all have our differences, but this is part of what gives the flavor to a diverse community like this. :)

7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

Man, this is a ridiculously hard question, haha! I definitely wanted to avoid repeating Amora‘s entries or sounding unfair by only choosing three, but I’d say Pedro is a huge inspiration to me as well. He’s a fountainhead, really. He’s not only extremely talented but really fast in his feet. His ideas always get me excited and sharing apartment with Amora and him has been an amazing experience so far, so much to learn and share with each other! I’d also follow Keita Takahashi, because I think his work is brilliant and I’m quite attracted to his silly and simple mechanics. His games ALWAYS make me laugh and have a great time! I’d also follow Kris Piotrowski, from Capy. I think his creative direction is part of what makes Capy games amazing and I’m a huge fan of their work.

8. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

I used to play a lot more earlier, when I was not designing games. Most of the time I’m playing something is to gather references, to study or to just cooldown my mind a bit, vent off a little, stuff like that. Even though we do it for fun, love and passion, game designing is still work, so playing is still very connected to the activity of learning. I’ve been playing a lot of Lethal League, from Team Reptile and Crawl, from Powerhoof. They are awesome multiplayer games whose art and gameplay mechanics are completely off the hook. I’m also playing Minimetro from Dinosaur Polo Club. I’m all about cities and subways, and this game is AWESOME to clear my mind after working for long periods of time!

9. One last random question. If you could turn into any monument in the world and somewhat remain conscious, which one would it be and why?

Man, such hard questions, haha! I’m a bit stuck between being The Temple of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a Gargoyle of the Chrysler building in NY or the Gare du Nord station in Paris. I’ll explain each of them: It would be awesome to be slowly constructed and to be forever growing like the cathedral -even though I’m not religious myself. Plus the huge amount of details and beautiful architectural vocabulary makes me think about this monument as something special. I’d love to be a Gargoyle at the Chrysler building to be able to see NY from above, and the Gare du Nord… well, it’s pretty much like hell inside that station -so crowded, noisy and confusing. But so many people pass by that place everyday and those halls surely have seen many beautiful, sad and interesting stories of other human beings. It definitely pulses with energy and the contrast between the solid structure and the overflow of human traffic is something worth living. I’d choose the station :)

Kevin Cancienne

Kevin Cancienne makes games. He loves dogs. Though he thinks its not a good habit, Kevin is a big fan of something he calls napstorming. And now he answers our questions!

Kevin by Aldeguer!

Kevin by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

I’ve been making games for about 15 years now, depending on when you want to start counting.

Back in 1999, my friend Peter Ginsberg and I made a mod for Half-Life called Science & Industry, and I usually think of that as the point when I started getting serious about making games. Up to that point, I guess it had never occurred to me that making a game was a thing I could actually get away with doing. That feeling has never gone away, really, but I guess it’s improved over the years.

For a lot of my career making games, I had to make games in my spare time and in these strange margins where you might not expect to see games. It’s only in the past few years, with the emergence of the indie scene, that I’ve been starting to think: “Hey, maybe making games that people might play is what I do.”

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

This has been a big question for me over the past couple of years. Before striking out on my own, I worked with an amazing team of people at an independent studio in New York called Area/Code (our most popular game was an iPhone game called Drop7). It was an intensely creative environment, but also one that often approached game design as a form of problem solving. We did lots of work for hire, and clients would come to us with projects and we’d think of some crazy ideas for them, and it was great.

Now that I’m on my own, I’ve had to relearn a lot of how I make games. I don’t have a bunch of smart people to bounce ideas off of. I don’t have a client helpfully breathing down my neck, saying I need to get something done by the deadline. So I’ve frankly struggled a bit trying to find that motivation and that creative energy inside me. I’m still not sure I really have it, and I feel like a failure and a fraud on a regular basis. But I guess that’s part of my creative process.

Long pauses, procrastination, and the corresponding bad feelings about them are also a big part of my creative process, I guess. I’m a big fan of something I call napstorming. A napstorm is just what it sounds like — half napping, half brainstorming. I solve a lot of problems by doing that, but it’s dangerous, because if you do it too much, it’s just a bad habit. You’re just sleeping all the time.

3. Plus Gun is an interesting score-based first-person shooter in which players have to decide whether to generate points or purchase new and better guns. Where did its idea come from? Game is in alpha right now. Any feature you want to add to the game?

Plus Gun is an experimental game I made for the 7DFPS game jam in 2012. It’s the first game I released after striking out on my own, and I thought the 7-day game jam would be a good format to teach myself some new stuff. It’s basically a pretty silly and largely broken idea. It pulls together a few things I find pretty interesting — randomness, trying to do multiple things at once, the arbitrary nature of scores, and first person shooting.

I like first person shooters a lot, but I kind of hate what they’re about — so much glorification of militarization and hyper masculinity and elite carbon fiber and headshots and stuff. So I wanted to make a game about shooting stuff that wasn’t full of explicit violence, and is also kind of about not getting carried away with shooting stuff.

Plus Gun is a game where you earn resources by shooting enemies, who spawn continuously all around you, and then spending those resources to improve your guns, OR spending those resources to improve your score (like you said). So you can play the game for half an hour and blow up all kinds of stuff, but if you forgot to pull our your Point Gun and generate some points, you wind up with a score of 0 points, when you finally die. So next time you play and you do generate some points, but you maybe go overboard and don’t have enough resources to buy some better guns when more enemies show up, so you die really quickly.

I just kind of thought that was a funny idea. I like game mechanics that pull players in two directions at once. Of course in Plus Gun I also asked players to do all of that in real time; there’s no pause button so you’re opening menus and buying guns and trying to remember to generate some points all while tons of goofy polygonal enemies are closing in all around you and… it’s really too much and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it was a fun experiment.

And that’s where I think I’m going to leave it. Plus Gun will be in alpha forever, with all my silly broken ideas just where I left them.

4. You’ve described Dog Park as a fighting game without the fighting, a local multiplayer dog’em up. Just wow. Where did its idea come from? Do you like simulators? Which ones are your favourites?

I was lucky enough to get a commission for this year’s No Quarter show at NYU. It’s an amazing yearly event that presents new games in a gallery setting and has been a really great place to see new local multiplayer games. So I knew I had to make _something_, and I also kind of knew it should be a multiplayer game.

I had actually just seen this article about why game developers love cats and I thought — “Hey, what about dogs?” I’d had this idea for a game about a dog for a while, but I didn’t think it was going to work. Suddenly it all came together and I knew I had to make a multiplayer dog wrestling game for No Quarter.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching dogs playing and it’s been a source of fascination and happiness for years. So the subject matter felt really natural to me. But as a game designer, I find the dynamics of how dogs play together really interesting. Dogs are expert players. Dog play is made of all these ritualized moments of violence and dominance, but when it’s healthy play, it doesn’t cross the line into real violence. Dogs are really good at regulating their play. Playing and playing well is this really deep instinct for dogs, and I thought it would be interesting to try to pull some of that into a game for humans. Healthy dog play isn’t about defeating a bunch of opponents — it’s about having fun above all, while simulating all these really dark and dangerous real-life situations and working out social relationships.

So the pretentious idea at the heart of Dog Park is to make a game that has all kinds awesome “fighting” in it that’s not about defeating your enemies. It’s about how we work together, by pretending to fight each other, by competing with each other, to create enjoyment for each other. In other words, it’s about trying to turn my players into dogs, for a few minutes at a time.

I haven’t played Goat Simulator or any of the other “be an animal” kind of games that have come out recently. It’s interesting that there does seem to be this trend emerging. I hope that Dog Park can carve out its own unique spot within there.

5. Art direction in Dog Park is really great (low poly and amazingly fluid animations? Sign me in!) Do you recognise any influence from other artists? Which artists working on games do you like the most?

I’m glad you like it! Producing art is not something that comes very naturally for me. For most of my career as a game developer, I’ve been more of the programmer-guy, or the game-design-programmer-guy. As I was describing above, I’ve kind of been on this journey for self-sufficiency. When I started working by myself a couple of years ago, I was committed to figuring out how I could create games without any outside help. So I had to teach myself a bunch of new skills, and art and animation were part of that. The low poly style is something that appeals to me visually and is in the sweet spot of where my visual art skills and what looks good to me kind of overlap.

I think just about everyone working in a low poly style today owes a certain debt to Timothy Reynolds, who created a bunch of really beautiful and really influential low poly 3D illustrations a couple years ago. And going back quite a way, the style developed by the folks at NetBabyWorld was really far ahead of its time. And Devine Lu Linvega‘s cel shaded, low poly, frenetic spider tank third person shooter Waiting For Horus was also a big inspiration when I was trying to figure out an art style I could work in.

6. Dog Park got lots of attention from players and press around the world. I remember seeing those amazing vines everywhere. Why Vine? Any favourite dev to follow on Vine?

I’m afraid my use of Vine is completely pragmatic and self-serving. I was making slow but steady progress on my game, and as I started to see these little moments come together, I wanted to share them. At the time, getting animated gifs to embed and display nicely on Twitter seemed kind of hard, but Vine worked just fine. So I started pulling out my phone and shooting little animated bits right off my screen. I’m glad some people liked them, but I’m not a big Vine user otherwise, and I don’t really follow anybody on there.

7. Kill Screen Daily, Business Insider, Daily Mail… and the list goes on and on. How are you coping with all the hype Dog Park is generating? But more important, when can we play the game? (We have lots of chasing and running in our to-do list!)

I’ve been incredibly lucky and I’m happy so many people seem to like what I’m working on. It’s a strange time to be a person who makes video game things. Individuals and small teams don’t have the huge piles of money that it would take to buy tv commercials and put up billboards and things to get people to hear about their stuff. But for whatever reason, at this point in history, we have this huge hype machine ready to pick up stories and spread them around the internet for us. Most of the time that works out pretty well, and it’s a nice symbiotic relationship. I guess hype scares me a little bit, so I’m trying not to take any of it too seriously.

The first time anyone in the world will be able to play Dog Park is at No Quarter in New York City on September 19, 2014. After that, I’m going to try to take it to some other festivals and events, because I’m really designing it as a party game that’s best played in person with a bunch of other people around. Dog Park is actually only one piece of a larger, dog-related project, however, and when I’m done with this piece I’m going to start figuring out how to get all of it out to people who can’t come out to these events.

8. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

This is just an impossible question for me to answer. I’m lucky enough to live in New York City and be surrounded by many, many brilliant, talented game developers. I just can’t pick only three, even if I stuck only to people within a 10 mile radius, because I’d be sure to leave someone out, and then I’d have no one to drink beers with.

9. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

I guess this is finally my chance to give the answer you always see game devs give to this question: When I’m working hard on a project I have trouble keeping up with new games. In general, though, I guess I tend to “go deep” on games and spend a lot of time playing the same game, trying (and usually failing) to get good at it. In the past, that’s typically been some kind of multiplayer first person shooter — until recently, I played lots and lots of TF2, and then I briefly got back into Counter-Strike a little while ago.

There are two games I currently play on a daily basis: Ascension for iOS and Vlambeer‘s Nuclear Throne. They’re both games that make me incredibly angry and I love them completely. Ascension gives me my multiplayer fix. I usually have a few games going with some other game dev types. My friend Noah Sasso, who made Bara Bari Ball, is my biggest rival. My wife will tell you that I regularly scream in anger about getting “Sasso’ed” again.

Steam tells me that I currently have 148 hours in Nuclear Throne. I use Nuclear Throne like some people use cigarettes. I play Nuclear Throne when I’m stressed out and need to relax. I play Nuclear Throne when I’m bored and need to feel excited. I very, very often play Nuclear Throne when I’m stuck on a hard problem with my work and need to shut my brain off for a little while. And then I play some more Nuclear Throne later as a reward for finishing a chunk of work.

10. One last random question. If you could have anything you like attached to your chin, what would it be and why?

This was a hard question, and the answer actually came to me during one of my napstorms, as described above. I was lying on my bed at an awkward angle and my chin kind of hurt and my mind was drifting and I was thinking about this ridiculous question. And it occurred to me that, since napstorming is such a big part of how I work, it would be nice to have a small, self-inflating pillow attached to my chin so that I could nap comfortably anywhere, at any time.

Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper is an artist/designer from Canada. His games and creations are beautiful and expressive. And now he answer our questions!

Tom Cooper by Aldeguer!

Tom Cooper by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

I have been making games for about six years. I got started after high school when I began working as a game tester and learned 3D modelling while working at Silverback Games in Halifax. But I really feel like I got my start making games after entering local and on-line game jams.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

I tend to set out making games without a solid idea. I mess around inside Unity for a while until I find something interesting. I like to not constrain myself and let the game go in the direction it wants. I’m drawn to things that have an emotional effect on me and I am constantly aware of how I feel while playing the game.

3. Emotion is really important in you approach to game design. Why? Which games come to your mind when thinking about “emotional depth”?

I am trying to express myself through my games so I make games that make you feel emotions that are real to me. In my game RTR I was trying to show how I sometimes feel disconnected and lonely and have a strange relationship with the shapes and sounds around me.

Emotion should be important to all game designers and to all artists. But most game designers only focus on making you feel a few emotions like feeling power or success. People crave these emotions and game designers have been cashing in.

This is part of the reason so many people feel alienated by games today. They are seen as a waste of time or childish. Games are important to me and I want to be a part of their future. A future where games are respected as a medium of powerful and true expression.

‘Journey’ is one game that really had me feeling strong emotions. It was beautiful and not just because of the aesthetics. It was a wholly satisfying experience.

4. Together is an interesting puzzle game where the player controls simultaneously a number of characters while thinking about human relations. Where did its idea come from? Do you like puzzle games? Which ones are your favourites?

‘Together’ was literally the first game I tried to program. I wanted the scope of the game to be really small. After making a script that would control a cube using the arrow keys, I realized I could just duplicate the cube a couple of times. If there were obstacles in the way it would lead to cubes getting out of sync, which I could work into some interesting puzzles. I wrote the quotes for the levels after playing through it a couple of times. The game seemed boring and unsatisfying. I played through Rod Humble’s “The Marriage” and I started thinking about the cubes as little people and how the movements and situations were a great metaphor for human relationships.

I loved Portal2 because It really satisfied my love for spatial reasoning puzzles. I was always the kid that would solve those hard wooden/metal puzzles you find on old people’s desks.

5. Road to Ruin is a game you’ve made for the Halifax Game Collective’s month long “Elder Technology” jam. Where did its idea come from? Was it your first idea when thinking on the jam theme or have you had others?

When I first heard the theme I knew I wanted to try making a simple game that had you engaging in a 3d space of some kind. That was the starting point. I messed around in Unity with render settings and lighting. Imported an animated model of weird gears spinning and some sound effects built from wave forms and filters. I just kept building it out from there with whatever “felt right”. “Elder technology” makes me think of old electrical equipment and steam engines so I wanted to create something in that vein. This familiar feeling emerged from the game as I was making it so I kept pushing it. I was trying to see how much could I make you feel using just the environment and sounds. The layer of a doom and gloom environmental message came after seeing what I had created and thinking about what it would be interpreted as. I reformed the game to pursue one of those interpretations.

6. What do you think of game jams? Are they important? Any particular story you remember from one of these jams (weird bug, crazy feedback, etc.)?

I find it hard to get motivated to make something if I don’t know if anyone ever gonna see it.
This is why I love game jams. I’ve been in about seven jams of different lengths and intensities. Ludum Dare and local halifax game jams and more recently the halifax game collective’s month long jams. I almost always collaborate with really talented people that share my passion for games. But I have realized that the games I make alone are very different from the games I make when I collaborate.

I have a lot of stories from game jams. But one sticks out as being memorable. The halifax game jam themed “Discovery” where I worked with about five other people to create a top down 4 player gamepad only co-op dungeon escape game titled “Cave”. In Cave each player was in charge of one of 4 different items. The items were pickaxe, shovel, rope and lantern. The player with the lantern had the only light in the scene and the camera was locked to them. The pickaxe player was in charge of smashing the obstructive boulders. The rope player was in charge of creating rope bridges. And the shovel player was responsible for digging up keys. You had to work together to solve puzzles and dig the 4 keys hidden in each level then get to the exit. Each player would feel controller rumble when standing over a key, all except the shovel player responsible for digging them up, so you had to communicate verbally about where the keys where hidden.

It was a really cool game that was only ever played one time in ernest because it requires 4 people all with rumble gamepads to sit at a computer.

7. Art direction in Road to Ruin is really impressive (we also love color palette in Forrest of Dreams). Do you recognise any influence from other artists? Which artists working on games do you like the most?

Thanks! I have been really influenced by modernist painters like Piet Mondrian for the simple colour pallets and I’ve always loved and drawn influence from architecture and sculpture. I’m currently attending NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) a school known for its history in conceptual art. Going there has had a huge influence on me as an artist and game designer. It let me put games in context among other artistic mediums and let me see with fresh eyes ways of creating more meaningful work.

Game designers like Increpare have also influenced me with games like “slave of god”. I draw a lot of influence from the people in the halifax game collective as well.

8. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

Jonathan BlowJenova Chen and Alec Holowka. All three are pretty different but have been people i look up to in game development. They are all part of a movement to make more meaningful games.

9. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

Despite all my talk about how games have a lot of problems and most aren’t really emotionally meaningful. I still play a ton of games. I’ve played games my whole life and love shooters and puzzle games and twitchy fighting games. Im still really big into n64 smash bros and play Hearthstone, League of Legends and Faster Than Light. But if thats all that games ever where, it would be a tragedy. If every movie was Star Wars I would cry.

10. One last random question. If you could rewrite any character’s back story from any video game you can think of, which one would it be and what changes would you make?

I don’t know if this counts as a rewrite but I would make sure people knew that Mario was just high out of his skull on magic mushrooms. Being a plumber was too boring so he got blasted on caps before work. The games actually makes more sense this way.