Diego Cathalifaud

Diego Cathalifaud is a really interesting gamedev from Santiago, Chile. He made Amber Halls and Power Grounds, two amazing roguelike games we’ve been playing a lot. He also reads Borges, so yeah, cool dude. And here he answers our questions!

Diego Cathalifaud by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

As a kid I used to make board games, which was a lot of fun even though I think I never really played any of them.

I started working on my first video game when I was 17. I had been playing “Escape the room” games such as Crimsom Room and I really wanted to make a similar game, but since I didn’t know programming, I just drew pictures of my own room on MS Paint and showed them to my brothers. They would have to tell me where they wanted to go and I would show them the associated image. It was called “Amarillan Room” and, after some years and some learning, it became my first game on the App Store. It’s not a very interesting game but I like it for being my first one.

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

I usually start by picking a genre. Lately I’ve been making roguelikes, but in the past I’ve also made puzzle platformers, 2-player games, point and click, etc. After I’ve chosen a genre, I try to come up with an interesting new mechanic that allows me to build puzzles or create situations where the player has to make strategic decisions. I also try to get inspiration from things I like. For instance, my game New Journey was slightly inspired by some of Jorge Luis Borges‘ short stories and the game “Corrypt” by Michael Brough.

3. Amber Halls is “a very tiny and colorful roguelike”. Where does its idea come from?

After playing some roguelikes, I decided to create my own. I wanted the game to have simple rules but be very challenging. I also wanted it to be a level-based puzzle game. That’s how I came up with the Sokoban mechanic. For those who haven’t played the game, in Amber Halls you are given “magic blocks” that let you fight against monsters, but you have to push these blocks to the exit of a level to keep them in the next one. It was a very interesting idea, because in every level the player would have to choose between solving a risky puzzle or going to the next level leaving some items behind, which could potentially be fatal.

4. Amber Halls has received really nice feedback both from users and the press. How do you do PR? Which game sites are your favourite ones? Any advice to fellow indie devs? 

I usually send promocodes to blogs a week or so before the release of a game. I have a small mailing list of people and blogs that I think might be interested in my stuff. Also, if I run into a review of a game of mine from a site I had not seen before, I add their e-mail to my list. Finally, I try to answer every question or commentary about my games on forums and twitter. My favorite sites are TouchArcade and PocketGamer.

5. You’ve made Power Grounds for 7DRL, a game jam in which rogue­likes are cre­ated in just seven days. Do you like game jams? Why? Can you remember any funny or interesting story concerning the development of Power Grounds?

To be honest, the 7DRL of this year was the first game jam I ever joined. It was a great experience because I only had to worry about the game design and programming, and could forget about the “details”, like graphics, music and sound effects. The entire week of the 7DRL was very interesting because my other roguelike, Amber Halls, was set to be released right in the middle of the week. Somehow, I managed to make a game and at the same time deal with the press and players in just 7 days. It was pretty crazy.

6. Do you like roguelikes? Which ones do you like the most?

I like roguelikes a lot! I started playing them just a few months ago and, so far, my favorites are “868-hack” by Michael Brough and “Ending” by Aaron Steed. 868-hack is awesome because it offers a very wide range of strategies and in every level the player needs to take a few key decisions. On the other hand, Ending is very challenging and interesting despite (or in addition to) being an extremely simple roguelike.

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

First I would choose Michael Brough. His games are always very interesting and unique. I found out about him after playing “Corrypt” and have been following his work ever since. Also, “Kompendium” is one of the most fun 2-player games I’ve played in a long time.

I would also choose Jonathan Blow. I really like his idea of giving something back to the player for the time they spend playing your games. Besides, I really enjoyed his game Braid and I have high expectations for “The Witness”.

Finally, I would say Lucas Pope. Although I don’t know too much about him, “Papers Please” is just incredible.

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

I’m not exactly a heavy gamer. I just enjoy making my own games and watching people play them. I do play some games though: a League of Legends match every now and then and, of course, a couple of Amber Halls runs every day.

9. One last random question. If you could speak any language in the world and you had to yell at someone, which one would it be and why?

I never yell, but if I had to, I think I would choose Italian. I’ve heard Italians are very good at being loud, and it must be for a reason.

Marina Navarro Travesset

Marina Navarro Travesset (a.k.a MarinaNT) is a pixel artist from Spain with over 9 years of experience. She is currently working on Octopus City Blues, a really good looking game funded via Kickstarter. And now she answers our questions!

Marina by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been a game artist? Why did you choose this industry?

I’ve been doing this professionally for almost a decade, since 2005. I started pixeling back in 2002, but I didn’t take it too seriously at first. In 2004, I focused exclusively on pixel art, but it took me a couple of years to fully (or almost fully) understand it, and some years more to learn how to apply it somehow good. I am really grateful for all the help I received from experienced artists, especially that of my “mentor”, an Argentinean named Julio, who I owe a great deal to.

I chose this industry because I’ve always done traditional art (comic and illustration) but as a hobby. When I had to think about what I really wanted to do for a living, it was kind of difficult for me until I started studying at Joso’s School in Barcelona (I studied there for a year an a half), and got a better idea of what it would be like to work as an illustrator or a comic artist.

There I realized that, for me, being a professional illustrator was not going to work unless I did it independently, in a way that were totally personal and with no strings attached; otherwise I got discouraged and stop drawing altogether for months. The first time that happened to me I got a little scared, especially considering that I used to draw every day for many hours. I even talked to my teachers, professional illustrators who worked for such companies as Disney, El Jueves and Marvel, among others. The same thing had happened to them, so talking to them was very helpful.

When I first started working with digital art, I didn’t enjoy so much drawing or the result of my drawings until I begun experimenting with pixel art by myself. I guess, as I see it, pixel art is more “crafty” as a digital art, and I enjoyed myself a lot because I was designing a game with a pretty well-known program called RPG Maker. Pixel art and this program are partly responsible for the fact that, today, I’m in this industry. I must admit that I didn’t enjoy at all working for companies. However, the experience I gained made the job at least bearable.

Today, I’m very happy and motivated because I’m working for myself and my pairs, with creative freedom for all I do. But it’s still hard.

2. Where do you find ideas for your characters, settings, stories and animations? Tell us something about your creative process.

I think everything started when I was a little girl, because I’ve been wanting to make a 2D video game since I was 11 or 12. I’ve always taken as reference everything I like: music, movies, comics/books, archaeology, documentaries, video games. I also get ideas from my own dreams (the ones that I remember.) I have some drawings in a notebook to remember them and use them to create stories.

I was also influenced by lots of the Nintendo RPGs, and graphic adventures such as Simon the Sorcerer, where the settings are brought to awesome life by the aesthetics and precision of pixel art. This game has definitively been an inspiration to me.

As an aside, the style of Octopus City Blues is often compared to Tim Burton and Chrono Trigger. But that’s not true at all. My inspiration for this project is mostly what I get from metal and gothic music, and the underground aesthetics from the 80′s on. When I recreated the setting of Octopus City, my inspiration came from many cyberpunk movies/games (especially Shadowrun). I also draw a lot from my city’s architecture (Barcelona). At first I didn’t even realize it, but I was basing some of my designs in the style of Antoni Gaudí. I admire him a great deal, so when I became aware of this influence, I designed some stuff deliberately thinking of his work.

Sometimes I get pretty fucking blocked, and I may need days until I find a concept in my head. It often happens that I have to do things that I’ve never done before and, in those cases, I try to get as much data as I can from photos or videos.
I use the same notebook where I take notes about my dreams to draw concepts for some scenes and write down ideas in general.

Going out for a walk and getting some fresh air is also usually good to clear your head, have ideas, and round off things. Sometimes I feel stressed and overwhelmed pixeling within four walls, so it’s nice to go out for a stroll in a quiet place.

3. You have some timelapse videos about you pixel art work in your YouTube channel. Do you receive comments or questions from people who want to work with this form of art? What advice would you give to those who are starting or want to do so?

I don’t receive so many comments, but I do get asked about the programs I use. I also receive emails asking for advice, and the first thing I do in those cases is share the link of some very useful PixelJoint tutorials, and then give my opinion. Right now, I’m trying to lighten the work load to start a video tutorial that explains what pixel art is and how to apply it. My first idea was to do it very simple, but now I think I’m gonna have to do it a little bit more complex so as not to leave any loose ends.

Pixel art is a form of digital art that requires both precision and control not only to apply each pixel, but also to choose the colors you are gonna use each time. The technique was born out of the limitations of the old video games. Some computers had a default limited palette, as well as a very limited resolution and memory. Today, things have evolved a lot and, since the size is no longer that much of an issue, we can see drawings which apply more colors, more resolution and even mix different techniques of digital art with pixel art. However, as I said, pixel art is all about precision and control both in the location of each pixel and the use of color. What is not pixel art? Anything that implies mechanical results (such as blurring brushes, automatic filter effects, etc).

What advice would I give? Be aware that you have to be very patient and that this craft is not one that you learn in a month. It is vital to understand it first, only then you’ll start using it right. Also know that you won’t see immediate results —pixel artists improve slowly, you may see results like once a year unless you choose a very simple pixel art style which doesn’t use the more complex techniques (such as anti-aliasing). That’s one of the advantages of pixel art, it is very versatile and lets you do both simple and complex things.

It is very hard getting a full grasp of the pixel art technique, since people usually mistakes it for anything with a pixely look. But if you like pixel art, you practice a lot, and you talk to experimented people, you’ll end up learning for sure. That being said, I encourage you to take a look at Pixel Joint. It is a website completely focused on pixel art where you’ll find lots of veterans and artists willing to give advice on the web forums. They also have a weekly challenge with conditions set by the last challenge winner. These kinds of activities are great because you get free of your own limitations and fixations. If you don’t learn is because you don’t want to.

4. We’ve seen you use GraphicsGale for pixel art. Why that program in particular? What advantages does it offer?

I use GraphicsGale and Character Raiser 1999, a free software created by Yoji Ojima.

The best thing about GraphicsGale is that it has a very intuitive interface and tools that makes things easier for you. It’s a dedicated software. It has onion skin, which facilitates the animation by letting you see the previous frame. It allows you to rotate the selections to animate faster (even though then you have to manually fix the ugly ‘jagged’ pixels anyway). You can use multiple layers to animate and create scenes, etc. It is a very comprehensive program. The same thing goes for Pro Motion, the only difference being the price of the licence, which is much more pricy. GraphicsGale costs only 20 dollars.

Character Raiser 1999, aka Character Maker Pro, also has many advantages. I use it when I have to make a sprite or tile sheet with no animation or when I have to mount maps with said sheets. The main advantage of this software is that it’s free, but then it has one major disadvantage —there hasn’t been support for it for many years. However, that’s not a big deal because it works perfectly. I believe one of its best features is the function of separating the tiles or animations into cells. This method is really practical and it saves time compared to other programs. At least the ones that I know.

Anyway, I’d like to say this is the software I use because it agrees with the way that I work. I always encourage people to try as many programs as they can to figure out which are the best for them.

5. We love your classic games remakes. How did you come up with the idea and why did you decide to do it?

I just wanted to practice to be a better pixel artist, and I chose to do remakes because I thought it would be one of the few things I’d enjoy without loosing interest.

I also did a couple of remakes to encourage the creation of music in an RPG Maker forum. The premise was I’d remake the image of a classic game and, in turn, the musicians would remake the music of the game stage I had drawn.

6. Octopus City Blues is looking good. How was your month on Kickstarter? How did you react when you saw you were overachieving? Which was you greatest challenge with this game?

Our month on Kickstarter was pretty tough since we were not only preparing the material for the crowdfunding campaign itself, but we were also doing all the PR work and trying to get the word out. We also had friends and acquaintances that helped us spread the news, and that’s something we’ll never forget. We were ignored by almost no webpages, and lots of them picked up our story even before we got the chance to react. We were really surprised because we didn’t know for sure how successful our project was gonna be. We were nobodies. It was way better than we believed, even when we had a lot of faith in our project.

I was confident we were gonna raise the money because it wasn’t a lot and the game was attractive. In fact, I accepted to be part of the project because of the game’s appeal. It’s a perfect fit for me and I know that I would have regretted it for ever if I had said no.

The greatest challenge is, of course, finishing the game. But if you wanna know about completed challenges, for me it was the square scene.

We’ve learnt a lot so far, and I hope we can benefit from this experience for future projects of this size.

7. If you had to choose three and only three pixel artist that work in video games, which ones would you choose and why?

Francis Coulombe (FrankieSmileShow), Paul Robertson, and Sabrina Cámara (Khioora). I could mention many more, there are many great artists hanging around in Pixel Joint, but I will choose the ones that I’ve known and followed longer, especially because I know they work in the video game industry.

All them three have unique style that I personally like a lot. I have a long list of awesome pixel artists that I would have love to mention as well, and that also have a very unique style. But I’ve chosen these three because I know more about them.

Francis Coulombe is a pixel artist whose work I can recognize from miles. He’s excellent as an artist, and also I can tell from watching his live streamings that he works relatively fast, and with great results. I like that he has an amazing talent to do animations in a seamless and precise way. Currently, he’s working on Barkley 2, and honestly he’s doing an awesome work together with Toadstone.

Paul Robertson is a real pro. I’m not especially crazy about his work, but I have to admit that everything he’s done has a very unique, identifiable style, and an amazing quality. He’s uploaded short films to his YouTube channel completely done and animated in pixel art, which I consider a really important work that can only be done by someone extremely passionate and patient. He’s work always amazes me, and I’ve also really enjoyed the games he’s done. Especially beat’em up Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game.

Sabrina Cámara is an artist extremely committed to her work. I don’t usually include her in the list of my favourite pixel artist, but she is one of my favourite artists in general. She’s also done good stuff in pixel art and animation, and has been involved in some video games. However, what I really like about her as a professional is that she gets into many art forms with decent results and never loses her personal style. She writes, animates, colors, pixels. And she’s a great professional that always delivers. If I had to hire someone to design 2D graphics for a video game I would hire her in a heartbeat. I even dare say she’s more responsible than I am. I like the way she works and I’d like to work more with her. Also, it’s kind of annoying seeing that, after all the hard work she’s done, she still does not have the recognition she deserves. Her time we’ll come. Or at least I hope so.

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

I try. The problem is I haven’t had much time lately. The last game I’ve played was Mario Kart DS on a road trip. I’ve been looking forward to revisit some old games for a while. I’ll find the time to do it sooner or later.

9. One last random question. If you could swap the meaning of two words, which words would it be and why? Can you imagine a dialogue with that new semantic configuration?

That’s a good one. I’ve never thought of that. Perhaps, I would change the meaning of the words “decency” and “perfection.” Even though I don’t believe in perfection, and do believe in different degrees of decency, it would be funny to see how those words behave with their meanings swapped. But, what’s even funnier, is that the word “perfect” is already used to actually mean “decent.”

Bart Bonte

Bart Bonte is a prolific game developer from Belgium (Sugar, Sugar, Factory Balls, Furiosity and more!) He is also the curator behind bontegames.com, a growing collection of interesting web games. And now he answers our questions!

Bonte by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

I have been making games since 2005. At that time I really enjoyed playing those classic escape the room games like ‘MOTAS’, ‘Crimson Room’ and the like: you are locked inside a room and must try to escape by exploring the room and solving little puzzles.
I was a daytime java developer at that time but I had no experience in Flash or game design, so I picked up a book on Flash and decided to have a go at making my own escape the room game (the Bonte room). I really enjoyed the experience and the game got a warm welcome, so I kept making games in my spare time.
Four years ago I gave up my daytime job and became a full time indie game designer. My game counter is now at 36 games. My most popular ones to date are probably ‘Factory Balls’ and ‘Sugar, sugar’.

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

The initial idea for a new game can come from anywhere, but most of the times the initial idea I have for a game isn’t a game mechanic or a storyline but purely a visual image in my head that I want to use and build a game around.
For example the game ‘off to work we go’ started with an image in my mind of huge Tetris blocks or some other big game icons crash landed into a desert setting and then I forced myself to come with a game.
Also restricting myself and trying to use a limited number of elements for one particular game and build a complete game around these elements drives creativity. It helps enormously to keep the scope of the projects rather small and to stay focused.

3. Furiosity (Android/iOS) has 144 levels. Every one of them has its own unique logic. How did you manage to come up with so many logics and where did the idea of such a game come from?

‘Furiosity’ is a game that was built as a reaction to Peter Molyneux pseudo-game ‘Curiosity’ where everyone was clicking blocks away from a giant cube with the purpose of clicking away the very last block, and to find out what ‘life-changing amazing’ thing was inside.
Some people thought ‘Curiosity’ was a genius social experiment, others thought it promoted mindless idiocy. Anyway, it made me create Furiosity on a whim, or what Curiosity would have been if it was actually a game.
Just like in ‘Curiosity’, the first person to complete ‘Furiosity’ would also receive something possibly ‘life-changing amazing’: I replaced the dreaded last level with the winner of the game, the winner got right into the very center of the game.
The 144 levels is just me sitting at my desk for 2 days with pen and paper and finding out what different interesting levels I can create around this simple mechanic of tapping an array of blocks.

4. Sugar, Sugar is an interesting puzzle game you made some time ago. Do you like puzzle games? What are your favourites?

Yes it’s true I have a weakness for puzzle games. I love puzzle games that take an absurd idea as a starting point and then have the whole game expand on that idea.
‘The i of it’ from a few years ago is a good example, where the letter I is on a quest to find the letter t that took a run and what follows is a complete platformer that explores all the puzzles that come from the mechanical concept of the letter I being able to shrink and expand.
It’s admirable when puzzle games succeed in merging the puzzles and the narrative into one consistent entirety like ‘the company of myself’ by Eli Piilonen does brilliantly.
Another favourite puzzle game is ‘Kairo’ by Richard Perrin where you’re exploring a vast abandoned world that marvels in slowly uncovering an underlying unspoken narrative.

5. Are you working on a new game? If so, can you tell us something about it?

I’m working on a new mobile game in the ‘sugar, sugar’ series, but this time I’m working with HD graphics and no longer the stylized and simple look of the original game.
The game will feature three sugar flavors: sweet, strong and wild each set in their own sugar world with lots of levels. The sweet world is full of candy, the strong world is a coffee and tea world and the wild flavour, which is my favourite one to design, an abstract world.
But of course in between smaller games might pop up like last week’s ’25′, as I often give in to interesting game ideas that come up while working on larger projects.

6. At Bonte Games you keep bringing links to the “newest interesting web games” you come across. Do you receive lots of PR emails? Any worth mentioning? What are your favourite games featured on your site so far?

I’ve been linking to new web games that I find interesting since many years now and that has resulted in a faithful and constructive community on my blog which I’m kind of proud of. When you have a look in the comments you won’t find negative outpouring, which is sadly the case in many other places.
Most game suggestion mails are coming from loyal visitors who are also on the lookout for new games. Since the blog brings mostly games in the puzzle genre, I can name the same games as above.

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

First off: Yoshio Ishii. Yoshio is a Japanese game designer who started around the same time I started and most known for his Hoshi Saga series. Each Hoshi Saga game consist of a number of stages where by the ideal mix of point and click and puzzle you must find a star.
I admire his prolific nature, not afraid to release very small games exploring new ideas or new art styles besides his success series. His latest games are literally handcrafted by carving the whole game into a block of wood.

Then I would choose Jo99, a French graphic artist with a very characteristic style: a vivid very detailed paint style, which makes the art in his point and click adventures the shining star.

And lastly I admire the prolific Mateusz Skutnik, always expanding his ever growing point and click universe and perfecting his drawing style.
I love it when he leaves the familiar territory of his point and click adventures (Submachine, Daymare Town) and has a go at other genres like platforming in last year’s ‘Daymare Cat’.

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

I’m not a heavy gamer, certainly not on console, so my main gaming takes place in the browser and on mobile. In the browser I’m of course playing those interesting finds for bontegames.com.
On mobile I’m currently enjoying Icycle, Blek and Threes and I’m very much looking forward to get my hands on Monument Valley, the Escher-inspired isometric puzzler by UsTwo coming out very soon which looks absolutely gorgeous.

9. One last random question. If you were obliged to hug any animal of your choice till the end of time (entropy and all that), which one would it be and why?

I think you can tell by going over the icons for my games which animal that is going to do, definitely a penguin, because well let’s face the penguin is absolutely the most attractive animal around.

Matt Rix

Matt Rix is the creator of Futile (a code-centric 2D framework for Unity) and the mobile hit Trainyard. He has teamed up with Owen Goss to make Milkbag Games. Disco Zoo is his latest game. Now he answers our questions!


Matt by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

My first experience with programming was when I was pretty young (probably 6 or 7) playing around with QBasic. My computer came with the QBasic files for two games called Nibbles and Gorillas, and so me and my dad would just open the source files for those up and then try changing variables to see what it did.

Later on in my mid teens, I did a lot of game programming with Klik n’ Play and The Games Factory, which are these really cool visual programming environments that a lot of people still use. I used those tools to made a couple really cool little games that are still sitting on some hard drive somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find them recently.

After that, I learned Flash programming (AS2 and then later AS3), and I went through a phase of a few years where I was mostly just making “multimedia” with Flash instead of actual games.

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

It really depends what I’m trying to accomplish, but usually creative process involves taking multiple concepts and asking what it would look like if they were combined together. Most of my game ideas, especially my puzzle games, tend to come from me sitting and doodling in a graph-paper notebook for hours until something seems interesting.

3. Trainyard is one of our favourite puzzle games on mobile devices (we’ve played it both on Android and iOS). How did you come with its core idea? Also, what are your favourite puzzle games for Android and iOS?

I actually came up with the idea for Trainyard while I was sitting on a real train, on my way commuting to my job one morning. I wanted to bring together the idea of model trains, especially switching tracks, with mixing of colors. The original idea for the game had distinct “engines” that would pull colored cars behind them, but I eventually simplified that into what the game is now.

Hmm, favourite puzzle games is tricky… One of my favourites is actually Bad Piggies, I love the idea and I think it’s executed really well. I think Helsing’s Fire, Stickets and Threes all do really interesting things and stand out as unique games. I’d also throw 868-Hack into this category, because it’s a fantastic game and it often feels like a puzzle game to me.

4. One of our most-loved features from Trainyard is user-made levels. How was working on this feat like? Any crazy user-made level you remember? Any favourite?

Working on that feature took about three months of full-time work, but it felt like an eternity. There was a ton of backend work to do, and designing and implementing the UI for the puzzle sharing system (both on the site and in the app) was draining.

There are over 100,000 user made levels now, so it’s pretty hard to pick a favourite. There are a couple users that have single-handedly made over 1000 puzzles, which is just mind-blowing to me because I’ve only ever made about 300 myself. There are lots of puzzles that are good enough that I could even include them in the real game (ex: http://trainyard.ca/S3GzW).

5. You’ve teamed up with Owen Goss to make Milkbag Games. Why did you chose this name? Also, you’ve just released Disco Zoo and you have more than a million players… wow, how did you guys celebrate reaching this milestone?

We wanted a name that felt Canadian, but most of the names we thought of had to do with snow and cold. Most milk in Canada comes in a bag, and so we realized that “milkbag” would make a name that was both strange and yet very Canadian. Most Canadians instantly understand the name, and most people from other places are like “what’s a milkbag?”. It works! :)

We haven’t really celebrated that milestone yet, but we’re heading to GDC next week, so hopefully we can celebrate it there with some of our friends :)

6. Snow Siege (your upcoming title) is a mashup of TD, CCG and Tetris… (mind blown) Do you like mashups? Do you consider mashups important for game design? What are your favourite mashup games?

Snow Siege is a very strange game! I think mashups can be good, but it’s really hard to make sure that you’re not ruining the things that make the different genres fun in the first place. I don’t know if they are important for game design, but it’s definitely an easy way to come up with unique ideas.

I think my favourite mashup game is probably Spelunky, which is a perfect mashup of platform game and roguelike.

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

Hah, that’s a tough question!

I think one would have to be Jonathan Blow. He says a lot of things that I don’t agree with, but he also says a lot of brilliant things, and he does more than anyone to push games forward as a medium. I’m *really* excited about The Witness; I think it’s going to be fantastic.

Next would be Derek Yu, because he also says a lot of really smart things, and I can’t wait to see what other games he has up his sleeves after Spelunky.

The last would be Dan Cook (of Lost Garden + Spry Fox). Each of his games always does something really unique and fresh, and he has tons of insightful things to say about game design.

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

I was really into Starcraft for a long time, and then Day of Defeat after that, but these days I’ve tried to cut out most of those type of “addictive games with online multiplayer” out of my system because otherwise I’d just play them and never get any work done. I play most of the major indie releases that come out on Steam and on iOS, but often don’t complete them. I play just enough to get to the core of what makes them interesting.

My current go-to guilty pleasure game is TagPro. It’s an HTML5 2D physics capture-the-game with online multiplayer. It’s really, really good once you get into it and you get over how ugly it is ;)

9. One last random question. Which game character would make a good president or global leader and why?

Billy Blaze (aka Commander Keen), because he already saved the earth once, so he has the credentials.

Kevin Ng

Kevin Ng made Impossible Road, one of our favourite games on iOS. That game is pure genius. And Kevin is going full indie now! So here he answers our questions.


Kevin by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

I’ve been messing around with code and games since I was maybe around 7 years old? My first released game was a shareware title, “WormWorld” in 1993, back when I was 16 years old. It had 16 colours, which seems a lot by today’s retro standards.

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

I use a cloud-based To Do list for ideas so I can access it wherever I am. Having the list on my phone by the bed is handy. I just try to get small snippets down, which might get combined or rearranged months down the line – an idea for an art style might suddenly make sense with a game idea, for example, or a name might trigger something in an unrelated project. Keeping the ideas small allows them to be fluid and not too stuck in one direction, if that makes sense.

3. Impossible Road is such an interesting game. It encourages players to “cheat” using an exploit as a game design feature. Where did this idea come from? 

Thanks! The cheat mechanic was “found gameplay”. Once I had the rough prototype up and running, the act of jumping from one section of a track to another seemed too much fun to punish. And the thin line between euphoria and total disaster ending up defining the game. This is probably a good example of why I’m a big fan of game design through play and iteration rather than rigid design docs.

4. Impossible Road has a blue-and-white minimalistic look. Why? Do you like minimalistic games? What are your favourites?

I like the idea of minimalism in games. It strips everything down and lets you get to the important stuff. It keeps you honest as a designer and you find yourself asking tough questions of every element: does this fit the concept? Do we really need that screen? Can I reduce that idea down to its core? The art style seemed to fit this well. And it was a challenge too: is it possible to make an effective twitch game using negative space to portray the player?

Although not strictly minimalist, I’d argue that games like Civilization and FTL share a lot of minimalist traits, namely the distilling of an experience into an efficiently honed but fully realised game. Boiling down the whole of human history into a few interlocking game systems is an impressive feat.

5. We’ve seen a lot of Let’s Play videos of Impossible Road, some of them scoring more than 200 hundred points! What’s your highest score? Do you think game devs need to be good at their own games? Why?

358. But I don’t think you necessarily have to be good at the game you’re working on. If you’re part of a team, it’s good to have a range of game playing expertise across the group. However, if you’re a lone developer like myself, then yeah, you need to be pretty good at your own game.

6. What are up to now? Are you going full indie? Can you tell us something about your next project?

Last year, I went back to mainstream game dev at Ubisoft Montreal and shipped Assassin’s Creed IV. But it didn’t take long until I really started missing the creative freedom of indie. AC4 turned out great, but I had very little to do with that. Triple A dev requires huge teams of highly specialised people all painting within their respective lines, and I think perhaps I’m a little too childish to be like that. I like to dabble in different disciplines, and you can’t really do that in a big team. As a programmer, I didn’t even have Photoshop installed on my work machine, and that was killing me. So I recently decided to return to indie full time.

I haven’t announced my next project yet, but I do know there is something pretty exciting brewing for IMPOSSIBLE ROAD in the near future.

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

I really liked Drei on iPad – great art style and I liked the seamless integration of your on-screen avatar in a touch controlled game without diminishing the speed and responsive feeling of direct manipulation, so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on what Etter puts out next.

Papers, Please always gets trotted out in these lists, but there’s a good reason for that. Games can provide a uniquely empathetic experience, and Papers, Please did a really good job of making you understand how a predominantly good person can become corrupt. So Lucas Pope, though I don’t envy him in having to follow that game up.

Finally, I would be remiss not to include Terry Cavanagh. Super Hexagon certainly kicked doors open for IMPOSSIBLE ROAD, and is probably the archetype of the genre.

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

Probably a bit too heavy, to be honest. I play a lot of mainstream games as well as indie titles. So whilst it might not be fashionable to mention, I do plough a shameful amount of time into FIFA. By way of repentance, I just finished Gone Home, and I’m trying to force myself to finish Amnesia. Also, I haven’t even finished Assassin’s Creed IV even though I worked on it. That game’s all about getting sidetracked.

9. One last random question. If you could turn any videogame into an HBO series, what would it be an why?

Hmmm. Suspicious. There was an epic and often surreal user review of IMPOSSIBLE ROAD on the App Store a few weeks back in which the writer “really hopes they turn this game into a movie or an HBO series”. I’m thinking now that maybe you wrote it? That would explain a lot.