Double Up is a monthly series spotlighting independent game developers in New Zealand. Each month an article and an interview will focus on a new and interesting gaming experience.
Read the first part of this months Double Up over here.
Is Dynabrick your first experience with game development? What prompted you to start making it?
RF: Dynabrick has evolved from earlier concepts I had at art school and was chosen from a list of 5 other prototypes I’d made as the one I’d like to polish first.
Game development is something I’ve been passionate since I was 11 years old! Ultimately hardware limitations drove me to making my own games. My very first computer, a 486 with 8MB ram, an old office machine that had been on-sold, was rather limited in terms of the games that it could run. Playing a popular game of the era such as Warcraft II or Duke Nukem required me to selectively step through all drivers and systems I wanted to load into memory as the machine booted so that I could run the game.
A few months into owning this old machine I came across a piece of software called Klik & Play. This captured my imagination as at the time I dreamed of being a cartoonist. I started animating simple characters and making silly games for my friends to play.
At this point my moral compass was questionable and the crowning achievement of that time was a game I made (and sadly subsequently lost) in which you play as Satan (dressed as Elvis) trying to find and destroy all the typical holiday icons like Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy. Also a key feature was a poor juggler (one of the default Klik & Play sprites) whom tormenting became a key game feature.
Over the years the Klik & Play software has evolved into a much mature product, transitioning between The Games Factory, Multimedia Fusion, and now Clickteam Fusion, all of which I’ve owned and used over the years to make short silly games for game jams etc when I have the time.
A core part of Dynabrick is the moral choices the player must make, was this something you had wanted to focus on from the very beginning?
RF: This is something that has come much later in the process. The first mockups of Dynabrick are more a hardcore puzzle game than any kind of adventure and there was a distinct turning point for me which actually had me stop making games at all for a while.
It was a few years back when I was introduced to Jane McGonigal and her work enabling and encouraging game developers to create games with a purpose, that can add some value to the world. I joined the Gameful community and was immediately paralyzed on all my game dev efforts, everything I had been working on all of a sudden seemed like I had just been making things to waste peoples time with.
Around that that time my arts career also halted after reading The Mission of Art [by Alex Grey]. So I took a break from it all, and a few years later started to rework my prior game and art concepts as things that could include some more meaningful experiences. I’m by no means an authority of what makes an experience meaningful, but drawing on my own morals and ethics has helped guide things since those more introspective ‘dark ages’ my projects went thought.
What is your development process like? Did you have a firm idea of what you wanted Dynabrick to be, or did it evolve organically?
RF: The development process was very stop-start for most of its existence while as I used to be overly passionate about my projects I was also overly disorganized about life in general. Also with the moral dilemmas my creative career faced early on, the ideas behind what Dynabrick is, or seeks to achieve, have been directly changed by that process.
Are you worried that the laser shooting and jumping around will be so fun, players might ignore the animal and plant life in favor of carnage?
RF: Not worried at all, in fact that is something that I am encouraging early game. Dynabot is a happy bot, and doesn’t understand the consequences of what going on at all. Dynabot is armed with optimism and powerful weapons as that was deemed by the employer (Dynacorp) the best tools for getting a valuable shipment across a galaxy.
This of course leads the players to cause carnage, which in turn allows me to introduce the implications of this into the gameplay, and tell a more convincing story, one in which Dynabot and the player can learn something interesting from the experience.
What features are you most excited about adding, and have any features changed dramatically during development?
RF: I have a lot of existing puzzle elements from the earlier mockups that I’m looking forward to reintroducing as unique alien plants and land forms. Along with brick fluid dynamics , an aliens behavioral system, and procedural level generation for some game areas. I’ve already made a decent amount of progress in all these areas, and really looking forward to getting them ready enough for to people to test!
How has winning the 2015 KiwiGameStarter changed your plans for Dynabrick? Or was that your plan all along!
RF: Well, KiwiGameStarter plays a role in a more meta plan. A plan to trick myself into making this game a more important part of my life with accountability patterns built right into the development workflow. I’ve learned a lot about my motivation loops and productivity habits over the last few years and I’m essentially hacking my own mental responses to the project workload.
If I can create situations with public accountability that I can easily measure the benefits/opportunities and consequences to me (with benefits getting a higher weighting than consequences) I switch gears completely and will shift mountains to make something happen and not suffer opportunity cost. While this pattern can often mean I over-commit or become a workaholic, I’m starting to get a handle on balancing the lifestyles and sink my motivation hooks into the things that look like they will advance my career and life in the direction I want.
So yeah, KiwiGameStarter was part of a plan which includes various public milestones. This plan would still be in action without winning, but with the prize it’s massively amplified via the press coverage and resources to help leverage progress.