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!
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.
‘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.