Midweek arrives and with it another lovely session hosted by Adam Saltsman co-founder of Semi Secret Software. Adam pleased the crowds with his talk about “Hundreds” created for iPad. The game is also being made for iPhone but as Adam tells us, they are currently having problems with the sizing ratio so it’s a work in progress. Im personally really excited about this game and can’t wait for its release however there is no official date confirmed yet.
Hundreds is a beautiful and simple game. The object of the game is to tap the circles to make them grow until they equal a score of 100. The circles float around the screen in an almost Zen like fashion and will continue to do so until you interact with the screen. As per the tagline for the game: “Patience and Persistence”, the game requires both patience and persistence. Rushing head on will only see you into a screen of random circle related chaos, but hey you might even like that. Adam describes how the random aspect of the game is purposely intended. This doesn’t mean that no skill is required or wouldn’t be of use. Learning to cope with the randomness is what gives this game its challenge; this is the skill you acquire. As the levels progress new mechanics are brought into the game. The saw circle is one design and will take points off any circle it touches whilst the freezing circle will freeze another circle in place. This can be used to your advantage and can also be a hindrance depending on the level. Sadly I didn’t get chance to catch up with Adam and have a sneaky play but I will be downloading it for certain when it comes out. It’s the kind of game I can see myself playing on the bus on the way to work whilst a bleary eyed school kid sits next to me trying to pretend they aren’t watching what I’m doing.
Have you got the skillz to play Hundreds?
Adams talk went into a lot of depth about the time they spent on each section of the game and how they virtually remade it despite getting honourable mentions from the Independent Games Festival at an early stage. He described how the game wasn’t right, but the commendation was encouraging, they knew we could make it much better. The engine was slow and clunky and they needed a better way to store the data. Most of the team worked on the project as a side to other work whilst in varying parts of the United States. It made sense for them to make their code data editable in an online environment. Going online was crucial to their process and is something to consider when setting up your own project. Often details were clarified over Skype which wasn’t problematic to them at all. So, a day job too? This is something that I have seen quite a lot of in the industry, especially in the indie section. Indie won’t pay the bills straight away; the designers I have met often have another firm paying a salary whilst they work evenings and weekends creating their own games. Despite this, their four man team have gotten some nice results in roughly a year. This makes me very excited about what I could achieve on my own projects by putting the right amount of time and learning in. If you are interested in the development of Hundreds you can follow them on Twitter.
My afternoon didn’t really go according to plan; I’d got big intentions of attending another talk when I found myself resting my worn feet under a kids drawing table next to Proteus creator Ed Keys. Whatever he was doing looked far more interesting than the pink crayon I was trying to peel the label from and so we got talking. He was working on a game design that he had thought up when travelling and needed to get it down on paper to resolve some design issues. It might sound silly, but it was comforting to see at least more than one person doing this over the course of the week. I have often caught myself stopping half way through the lunch queue desperately trying to find a pen before I have forgotten a gem that just hit me out of nowhere. Well its fine, designers apparently do it all the time, I don’t care if I look weird; it works!
Shortly after we tired of the coloured crayons we headed off for lunch and I asked Ed a few questions about his experience in the industry just for the purpose of clearing up a few niggling things in my mind that I’d heard that day; the main thing being about getting funding for a game. As a student I didn’t quite understand why I would need to get funding for an indie game. Surely I couldn’t ask someone to pay my food bill and expect not to be laughed at.
What expenses and overheads are included when asking for funding? Do I even need it?
Ed said that “No funding isn’t always needed for a game especially if you have another job. Make the game in your spare time, this will definitely minimise cost”.
Well okay but what if I wanted to give up my main job and spend my 9-5 on my indie game and make a proper go of it. Could I justify asking for funding to pay my bills?
“Yes, and I guess it depends on where you want the funding from. My friend has a website where he asks for donations from people. If he hits the target he knows he can go ahead. He knows he can pay himself enough to live whilst he makes the game, but if you are making something bigger and have shareholders they might ask for financial details.
"I guess what I'm trying to get at here is that you don’t have to be loaded to make a game, just go ahead and make one. It might take you slightly longer with other commitments but it is very much doable. You might be more ambitious and go for something bigger, but if there are other people involved that’s when the financial side might start to become a consideration. Changing subjects though I wanted to ask Ed about general skills people have in indie, as it seems to me that everyone’s a coder. I will quite publicly say that at this moment in time im really not friends with the stuff and it scares the life out of me."
So how did you start in the industry?
“I went to university and graduated in programming, I don’t mind it and it has done me well. I recently had a job in IT that I gained because of programming. It wasn’t games but it paid the bills”
But I’m scared of programming!
“It’s nice to know coding of some kind to understand the constraints even if that’s not what you do”.
I should probably take it seriously then if I want to make a game.
Another lesson learned today. Despite not being particularly strong in coding, I should probably knuckle down and get on with it. Indie development seems to require a mix of skills that cross over; Art, Design, Programming and Writing being the most prominent. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so blinded into following a singular path if I want to make my own games. It seems perfectly right that if you intend to work for a large game developer that you will probably have your own role that you specialise in, but indie may require a more broad scope and a lot of learning along the way.