April 29th, 2010 | By Mike Gnade
Despite the success of I Wish I Where The Moon (IWIWTM), you have said that it was part of a project about human interaction (along with “The Trials & “The storyteller”), is “Today I die” part of that same project?
It is… if you see it side by side with IWIWTM and Storyteller, it kind of makes sense. Today I Die closes a year with games that share the same vibe.
If so, do you foresee future projects to continue in the experiment or are you planning a break with your next release?
I haven’t decided what my next project is going to be… I had several false starts already (games that I start and never finish), so I guess I am at a crossroad now. This probably means that my next game will be sort of different.
This past year my games have been a reflection of a needed personal change. And as I progress through that change, it’s natural that my games mutate along with it too.
Your games are single-screen games. In this way you are both presenting the game through a porthole (like a painting) and paying homage to the first generation of games (space war aside). Do you feel that assumption is correct? And was this ever an intentional decision or one that came naturally through the story you are presenting.
There are several reasons why I prefer single screen games.
Scrolling is an overused mechanic from my point of view. Scrolling often demands extra controls, and imposes an effort in interpretation from the player that are not related to the core of the game… I mean, if you make a game about murder or love, why should the player learn to “pan”, “zoom” and remember how what he is seeing on the screen is part of a larger map?
The restriction of keeping everything on the same screen also forces you to get to the point. It’s like when you have to do a 45 minutes presentation but the interesting material can be covered in 30… Why would you extend your presentation? Be compact and let everybody leave earlier… you’ll be appreciated for it. Of course, conventional reviewers will complain about the “shortness” of the game, but that’s expected to happen while games journalism grows up.
Will “Today I die” be presented in a single-screen as well?
Yes. There will be “scrolling”, but it’s not about spatial navigation. TID is directly about a process of overcoming, so it’s expected that things move.
You said in an interview with indie game blog that Italo Calvino’s short story “The Distance of the Moon” was the inspiration for IWIWTM. Was there any similar inspiration for “Today I die”?
Not really. TID have lots of water in it. The concept of the game was born out of my fascination with deep waters.
Have you used the same engine for all your releases? What is your favorite?
Not really… there is a codebase I use, but each game often forces me to redesign some part of the code library.
What sort of control will “Today I die” feature? Mouse? Keyboard?
Just mouse. I usually avoid keyboards, and I can’t wait for the time in which PC and Mac all support multitouch screens. The mouse is so clunky.
Do you prefer pixel graphics? If so, what are the benefits of 2D, pixel-based graphics?
The benefit of pixel art is that it’s easy to make a game that looks coherent with it. Other styles of visual aesthetics are often harder to do well. Of course, doing good, high detail is terribly difficult, so that’s why many indie developers nowadays make retro, “bloated” sprites.
Are there any graphical jumps in “Today I die” over previous releases?
There is more of a contrast between backgrounds and sprites… but it’s not really important.
Any traveling or festivals planned to premier “Today I die”?
Not yet, but I’m sure there will be!
How important is the music in “Today I die”?
Critical! Moods play a big role in this game, and the music was absolutely necessary for that.
How did you and (Today I die composer) Hernán Rozenwasser meet?
We both worked at Gameloft. Though I was lead programmer and he was a producer. But we became friends by then, so eventually an opportunity to work together arose while I was making Night Raveler.
What Concept have you been struggling with to bring to the gaming format?
Everything! I’m still at my infancy as a game designer. It’s very very tough to master the language of games.
You said that you added features into IWIWTM to make it more game-like. Any such predications this time around?
Well, TID actually can be finished, which is a gamey feature. There is more than one ending, but the game does not advertise it. Some people will find the alternative, some people won’t. It says something about themselves.
Anything I forgot to ask that is important to note?
What do you do in real-life? Still on job-hiatus?
I’m a full-time indie now. I might do contract work if money is needed or get too bored of myself, but I plan to continue with this life indefinitely.
Do you still live in Buenos Aires?
How long have you been developing games?
I always worked on one or other game of mine during my whole programmer life. Then I spent a year making games for my own mobile company, Angry Machine (its website is already offline), then I went to work at Gameloft and lost my creative spirit until I could not bear it anymore and I quit.
But this is the first year I’ve been working as a game designer and developer full-time.
Any long-term career goal in gaming?
Not at this point… I am just seeing where my work takes me.
What does Ludomancy mean? Inspiration?
It was a playful name that mixes games and magic. I tried several games in my head by the time I wanted to have a blog about experimental games, and that one was the winner.
How long do you hold on to ideas before executing/tossing them aside? What is the oldest you can think of and do you still have plans for it?
A long long time… I overanalyze things, and my lack of true experience makes me change my mind all the time, so my games mutate a lot. For example, TID has nearly 5 different prototypes that classify as different games (provided I change the theme a bit). So my way of working is essentially exploratory.
My oldest game idea that I still plan to do, is a game that is essentially broken. The point will be to play with the gameplay cracks as well. But I still haven’t figured out a couple of things.
How long before you decide to execute an idea?
Often, two or three months at least.
What is the average amount you spend on a game?
What time of day is most productive? Any rituals?
Early mornings. I love drinking Mate (it’s like a tea, but it’s not tea) while I’m working and I get stuck.
What is your favorite step in the design process?
Tweaking the game at the end. I hate starting from scratch… which is funny, because most devs I know feel the other way around.
What is the gaming scene-like in South America? Any close game-developer friends?
Lots! The local industry is relatively small, so I know almost everybody making games here… though there’s been a boom the past years, so that may not be completely true, come to think of it.
How is Codear (Indie festival) coming? Any future expansion plans? English translation maybe?
CODEAR is going to be an important indie contest in Latin America. Making it 100% international is something we are still discussing. We do encourage devs to at least support English in the games themselves, so they can reach the whole world and not just Spanish-speaking players.
With Codear have you seen any advancements or indie releases we are missing out on?
We will be making a “CODEAR Best-Of” Pack soon…
As a game theorist, what are some new ideas you’ve been pondering about alternative gaming?
We should be going back to the origins. Forget about the commercial games released now, the established genres and the conventions, and go back to do games as if there were no gameplay bibles. Then we might learn again was games are supposed to be about. We learnt quite a bit the past years; we can carry the useful parts of that learning to explore games that are very very different.
You last game inspired Ludos Nuvos game I Fell in Love With the Majesty of Colors. What do you feel about gaming becoming a fast way to express ideas and images that were once reserved for journals and painting? A sort of interactive diary/art piece.
I am still not sure if the best thing games can do is to express an author, or expose a ground in which the player and the author find new ways of expression.
Do you play more multiplayer games or single?
I seldom play with other people. I usually prefer single player games, but I’ve played my share of Quake and Doom and all the pioneers of multiplayer gaming.
What is your ideal/dream release method for games? (download, pay, ads, something new?)
The one that is more comfortable to the player. Nowadays web games are technically 10 years behind the rest of the industry because of the multi-platform support, and often riddled with ads. On the other hand, downloadable games often demand that you install stuff or plague your computer with files and such that nobody cares about… people want to play, not deal with technology.
And consoles are too controlled by their vendors, so they are crap when it comes to getting published.
I use the term A LOT, but what do you think of the title “indie games”? Accurate?
Well, yes. Though many indie games are starting to look like a compact version of the mainstream industry. But I guess that’s expected. Then there will come the indie indie games or something. I’m glad that at least there is a clear alternative to EA and Ubisoft.
I’ve heard that once you start developing games you stop playing games. True?
Actually, it’s more like “when you play games, you stop developing”.
Favorite indie game?
Favorite Indie developer?
Cactus, Jon Mak and Edmund McMillen.
Favorite indie game composer?
I have no idea!
Favorite mainstream title?
The Might & Magic RPG saga… those games are so broken and yet so beautiful.
Favorite Mainstream designer?
I am a bit disconnected from the mainstream industry… It’s been a long time since I played a mainstream game I really enjoyed.
Favorite game you’ve made/making? Have you made your dream game yet?
I’m not sure I’ll ever have a dream game… but I guess I haven’t made such a thing yet.
Where do you see indie gaming going? Are you pleased with its present state in the industry?
I am satisfied with the path the industry in general is taking… the ground is fertile for the new, for those that dare to go there.
What innovations in gaming’s future would you like to see?
Multitouch screens for everyone. Or something like that. I hate the cold nature of keyboards and the clunkiness of mouses.
Do you see any merit in an indie gaming console and what features would you like to see?
I’d prefer consoles to go away, really. Or actually, merge with PC in a way that we can get their accessibility without having to deal with a gatekeeper that makes corporate choices (which means that middle management makes political choices to look good).
Any advice to future indie developers?
I discovered this past year that the trick of surviving as an indie is not about making more money to support yourself but to spend less. Also, jobs for a competent developer are totally useless.
Have you caught your games being hosted without your permission?
Yes, I’ve seen IWIWTM in wacky sites all over the place. I don’t mind, since I am not making money out of selling it or whatever.
What is you biggest gaming pet peeve? (re-spawning bad guys, pressing up to jump, etc…)
Controlling in-game cameras.
What game could developers learn a lot from?
It’s difficult to see the good choices of good games, because they were good choices. But it’s easy to see bad choices, so I think you can learn a lot by studying why bad games are bad.
And finally… People want to know about the hair? How did it come about and what is the worst haircut you’ve had?
What haircut? I have no idea what you’re talking about.