Interview with an aspiring game developer

(interview was written in April/May 2016)

– Tell us a bit about yourself in general

I’m a 28 year old System Analyst living in the North-West of England. Computers and gaming played a big part in my life from an early age. In the 90s the NES, Megadrive (Genesis) and N64 provided countless hours of entertainment and no doubt forged that strong bond I have with videogames. I don’t think my peers of the same age would have bothered with DOS! Thankfully when Windows first made it mark, computing became accessible to a much larger audience and the rest is history. I’ve taken part in around half a dozen Ludum Dare contests (one involving a camping trip to Cambridge!) and I attended a huge LAN/eSports event (i57) in Birmingham about a month ago.

– Tell us a bit about your game

HV Rebellion is primarily a turn-based battle game with a focus on story and teamwork. I was inspired by tactical anime games along with jrpg battle systems. While my earlier games were relatively light on story, I felt this was holding me back as I couldn’t flesh out the characters and provide them with enough character development. I found that allowing for much more text brought out my writing skill fully.

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– What made you want to make a game?

While some designers brainstorm the gameplay first, my game was very much story driven right from the get-go. Some key elements have remained the same but the story is a lot more understandable and the characters now have much more depth. I had made attempts to create the series in a range of Flash games but it felt like I spent a disproportionate amount of time programming that hampered my creative vision.

– What influenced your game?

Eleven years ago I was exploring the idea of developing my own narrative, heavily influenced by anime like Dragonball Z and cartoons from the early 00s. I think there’s no doubt that without programs like Bleach and Naruto I definitely wouldn’t have developed my story the same way. Teamwork plays such a large part in the story but it’s hard to pin down where exactly that general vibe came from. If I had to pin it down, I would say that it came from superhero films from the 90s-00s such as X-Men.

– What are the plans for the future?

I was planning on expanding my original game but it feels that as more and more words appeared on the page, it was becoming closer to where I wanted the series to go. A visual novel is going to be a first for me but the thought of adding elements from mainstream gaming excites me! I don’t always know where the story is going as I write but that’s part of the fun and mystery.

Describe the process of creating a game from start to finish for someone totally unfamiliar with the process

I usually try experimenting with game creation software to see what the engine is capable of. The next step would then be to see how I could tie that to a game mechanic. Having a clear goal when beginning your project is clear. You’ve got to keep your target audience in mind and what platform you’re developing for. The mobile gaming of today has meant that a lot of developers have radically changed the way they create their games, me included!

– What did you use to create your game?

For this project I used Construct 2. Scirra’s game creation tool is really powerful and is developed with HTML5 in mind, meaning it can run on phones and tablets out of the box. They’ve streamlined the export process, meaning that with a few clicks a developer can export their project to a range of different online sites and platforms, a really handy feature! As someone who was completely fed up by programming errors, being able to design and test a game within minutes was pure joy.

– How long did it take?

Sprite development took place in 2013 with some workable prototype games out by June of that year. Development of Rebellion started early in 2015 and was feature complete as of August 2015. The prototypes were useful in realising the limitations present and giving me great ideas of what to add next. I spent a lot of time balancing the game and adding extras such as tag mechanics for combatants and elemental effects based on character selection.

– Did you run into many major issues creating the game?

Probably a major concern while developing the game was the AI. Creating turn-based games was something I had done before but for some reason the logic I put into the computer player didn’t always result in the correct action taking place. Worse than that, there were times the computer player would freeze completely, unable to remember what their next action was meaning that the entire battle would just stop. This could well have been the end of my project for good but thankfully I was able to rework the code and get it in a workable state. After much testing and design the battle flow worked well and no more problems arose. Besides that there were small issues here and there such as animation timings, ugly sprite poses and making sure all the player’s abilities had a reason to be there.

– If you were to convince someone to try your game in a sentence, how would that go?

If you like thinking tactically and enjoy turn-based combat, you will dig this game! With multiple playable characters, local multiplayer and a survival challenge mode, there really is no excuse! Give it a go!

– Lastly, a personal preference question, what is your favourite game and why?

So many possible choices, I’ll go with something unexpected. Transport Tycoon was one of my favourite management games of the 90s and it’s spiritual successor OpenTTD is brilliant. It combines two things I love very much: Trains and management sims! The only true shame about the franchise was that they never pushed it further and really tried to dominate the genre. The Playstation version of the game had a 3D graphics mode and the like was never seen again. Definitely a missed opportunity there if there ever was one.