[This is a guest post by Offal.]
From the early arcade to the Dreamcast era, Sega had a stable of first and second-party developers regularly producing vibrant genre-defining games, inventing and reinventing convention. Today that experimental spirit has largely died off, or been dialed down into tame sequels and re-releases of classic titles.
Amateur developers like the Arcane Kids have stepped in to fill the gap, and now Simon Stalenhag and Tommy Salomonsson (collectively Pixeltruss) have released Ripple Dot Zero, their own game in the free-spirited high flying blue skies style.
Ripple Dot Zero is free to play in browser.
We spoke with Pixeltruss to discuss the history, release, and future of the project. It’s a long one! Interview past the break.
Read the rest of this entry »
[This is a guest post by Machine Saint]
Aaron Bishop is an independent game developer who may not be as familiar to members of the indie gaming community as he is to the open source software community (where his games are a bit more well-known, it seems). He is the creator of Egoboo and Soulfu, and he recently announced that he is working on a new game, plainly codenamed “Mystery Project X”. I thought this might be a good time to interview him for TIGSource, but, since the details of this new project are still a secret, it is not the core subject of the interview.
Here’s an interesting G4 interview with Hawken art director Khang Le, where they show off a new stage from the game as well as a new mode, “Siege”, where players vie for resources to launch battleships against each others’ bases. According to Khang, the game will be more casual than mech games like Mechwarrior, but it won’t just be “just an FPS with a mech skin over it”. There are three types of mechs – light, medium, and heavy – and you will be able to configure your right and left-hand weapons as well as collect power-ups during the match. There are seven maps planned for the game, with five of those having unique scenery. The tentative release date is early-to-mid 2012 on various platforms.
Octodad is a quick little game, full of charm, put together by a team from DePaul University. Taking control of an octopus attempting to keep his cephalopod nature a secret from his human wife and children, the player must perform a to-do list of chores around the house. Sounds easy enough, right? But then you get to the controls, which are a perfect balance between ‘impossible to use’ and ‘insanely fun,’ and you begin your day in the life of Octodad.
Having played the game myself, and having enjoyed it thoroughly. I sat down to talk with some members the team behind the project. The interview is after the jump, but if you’ve never played Octodad yourself, then check out the trailer and then go grab a download for yourself.
“Mouse click on gerbils to shoot them, get scores, youre winning, YOU ARE WINNING FOREVER”
Letâ€™s Win Forever is the latest creation of Amon26, from whom sprang the wonderful Au Sable series and a number of other short, humorous titles. In Letâ€™s Win Forever, the player aims their crosshair at the members of a large crowd of colourful gerbils. Shooting them results in their gaining jetpacks and a seemingly arbitrary number being added to the playerâ€™s score. Thereâ€™s not really any objective or purpose to the game, but thatâ€™s okay since it allows you to WIN FOREVER (!). The music is quite brilliant, as always with Amonâ€™s work. If you enjoy this, itâ€™s also worth checking out the more experimental Letâ€™s Win Everything.
Hit the jump for an interview with Amon26:
does the pseudonym “Amon26” mean?
Amon26: I was fourteen when I found the name. Amon was short for Amontillado, and in junior high my friends and I talked about each other and our crushes in-code so that our peers wouldn’t find out our secrets. There was Eduardo, Oxy, Aim, Julius, Pizarro, and me, Amontillado. The 26 came in when I was tired of everybody using the same boring numbers like 69, or 666, 13, or 420. It seemed every number had some kind of special meaning. I couldn’t find any special meaning to the number 26 so I chose it to represent me. I let it become my ‘holy number’ I guess you could say.
Amon26: I don’t worry that much about balancing it out. For a long time I’ve liked the idea of trying to bring multiple elements to bear in a way that excites an audience. So sometimes I’ll write a story that becomes a picture, or I’ll design a picture that becomes a short film. I tend to think in fractals, so everything could be easily transformed into another media for me. AOOFAD could be a board game, or a 200 page poem, or a coffee table art-book. It just happened to come out shaped like a game. :)
TIGS: Where do you think games stand as a medium? Do you consider Anna Anthropyâ€™s concept of games being primarily about creator-audience interaction to be worthwhile, or do you tend to focus more on your own individual expression?
Amon26: I think each game should be measured by its own merit. Boardgames for example: Mahjong can’t be compared to Brenda Brathwaite’s Train, or vice-versa even even though they’re both boardgames. Sometimes a game is meant to tell a story or have a message, sometimes a game is meant to realistically simulate an event, other times its just meant to look and feel cool with little or no substance and meaning. The whole “games as/are art” debate is hard for me to understand. The concept of what makes art art is so hard to pin down as it is. I think what matters more is setting out to try and accomplish something good, regardless of what it may be considered in the end
TIGS: All of the games set in the world of Au Sable are in traditional genres, as either run-and-gun or first person shooter. Is this due to a design philosophy that one can most easily distort what is already well known, or simply from the route of attempting to marry gameplay to aesthetic in a way that doesn’t require a great deal of coding?
Amon26: At first it was my way to make sure I wasn’t overstepping my bounds. I re-purposed a free, open source platformer example for GameMaker and didn’t want to design a game that had goals more complex than I knew I could accomplish with what limited skill I had. Now that I’ve learned more, I could try something less conventional but I’ve always been
fond of John Carmack‘s concept of simplicity. You can play Doom1 with a couple keys and the mouse, that’s all you need.
TIGS: What are a few of your major influences, in any medium?
Amon26: Hm, Castlevania II really helped me see potential in making lo-fi graphics unsettling, the whole game gives this stark sense of loneliness even when you’re in a populated town. Same with Wizards and Warriors 2. Silent Hill/Fatal Frame were good examples of creating a vulnerable player; someone who wasn’t good with guns or combat. As far as books go, I used Ray Bradbury’s “Death Is a Lonely Business” as inspiration for creating an eerie mood from what would otherwise be
considered mundane. Also “House Of Leaves” created an illusion that the book was shredding itself apart as you progressed. I listen to a
lot of music all over the board, from Lilly Allen to Soul Coughing. I modeled AOOfAD/AuSable’s music after Throbbing Gristle, and the
ambient tracks off of the Quake1 CD written by Trent Reznor.
TIGS: Your games tend to employ a glitch aesthetic in that there’s no definite reality that is readily understood by the player, making them unsure of their abilities and goals. To what extent is this
intentional, rather than accidental as a result of your unfamiliarity with your tools?
Amon26: Well a lot of those glitch and scratch concepts come from “manufactured accidents” during the development process. I.E the Eyes in Ausable. I wanted them to do something other than hover in a
fully predictable pattern, so I made attempts to break the game on purpose with lots of random integers, particles, distortions. Once I found something that looked good, I toned it down to a point that kept the game playable, but reflected that sense of nearly crashing. That’s pretty much how I do everything.
TIGS: Collaboration is obviously something that you’re familiar with, as you’ve done the music for both Anna Anthropy‘s and Jazzuo’s games. To what extent has this been a positive influence on your own work?
Amon26: Mighty JillOff and Sexy Hiking have been two heavily played games among my local friends and I for years. We’d spend hours at all-night diners trying to work our way over that damn tree, or up the impossible tower. So when I was invited to compose music for Jazzuo/Anna/Kepa I nearly wet myself! Now, a year later, I’ve learned about who they are, and what they enjoy doing beyond what brought us together. Their friendships have been the most valuable outcome from all of this. I’ve met Anna in person and someday I would like to fly over and visit Jazzuo so we could do a live performance of the DildoTank theme song. I think we would obliterate all of Eurasia with
its greatness. (And some of Denmark)
TIGS: One of the defining features of games as opposed to other artistic mediums is the possibility of a social aspect; this is present even in single player games, as you’ve mentioned in relation to your experiences with The Mighty Jill Off and Sexy Hiking. Do you plan on ever creating a game that focuses as much on human interaction as atmosphere, a la Anna Anthropy’s Octopounce?
Amon26: I have this really crazy idea for a 2 player game that actually encourages failure to some degree. I loved how the later ps2 Burnout games rewarded you with super-dramatic visuals when you failed. I want to recreate that same sense of “oh man, I lost the round but look how amazing my failure was!”
TIGS: Do you have any tips for complete beginners to Game Maker or independent game development in general?
Amon26: hmm.. well it applies to more than just GameMaker, but; Make lots and lots and lots of mistakes. Visit forums, grab examples and code and just rip them apart. Even if you dont know what you’re doing, you’re still doing something. Eventually it gets clearer.
its not effective for people who want to go from zero-to-awesome in a day, but its really rewarding
also, make friends with other small devs, cultivate meaning partnerships with other fledgling designers and share your experiments between eachother.
TIGS: I see that’s worked out very well for you and Anna Anthropy.
Amon26: exactly, she really took me under her wing and spends lots of time helping me fine-tune things. In return, I’m her “piano monkey” writing fun music for her work.
TIGS: Are you doing the soundtrack for her new deep sea diver game, too, then?
Amon26: It’s planned, I’ve had really bad writer’s block with music lately. Winter gets me down and makes it hard for me to focus on things, but I sent her a few blurbs of music today Ages ago, now- Ed..to see what she thinks.
it’s a lot of fun, there’s stuff I cant discuss about it that really amuses me. Very much her sense of humor.
TIGS: Your Quake machinima tend to have a comical aspect not present in your games or music (aside from the Dildo Tank theme). Is it less natural for you to make humorous, rather than melancholy, creations?
Amon26: I struggle with chronic night terrors. I’ve had them since I was a child and they’re very distracting. One time I had a therapist that encouraged me to try “trapping” my horrors on canvas but It
didn’t work out really well. The pictures didn’t make me feel any better. But it all changed the moment I personified a nightmare as an NPC, took aim, and killed it.
In my ordinary waking-life I tend to be very light hearted, positive and quirky. I avoid over-exposing myself to negative things, I don’t read the news or watch TV. So when I’m in the spirit and feel it’s time to tell a really good joke, I do it by whatever means necessary. I look forward to creating a really absurd and hilarious game in the
future. Something that I hope will equal the polish of AOOFAD/AuSable.
TIGS: Have you played any of Aliceffekt‘sgames? They’re quite reminiscent of yours, especially Cyanosis Fever.
Amon26: ooh this looks interesting (downloading valp.zp)
angon a sec, trying it
i never knew i could feel that way about a game.
valential hopes just made me keep going “YES! FASTER! YES!” then i ate some mints, and i was allright.
im not sure what its about yet, i just tried the first path
yeah, i’d really love to develop something alongside a programmer with some genuine 3d prowess. I have an idea for a flight game that I’m not nearly smart enough to make yet.
I tried unity, but it made my brain explode out my ear,
TIGS: It appears that you’ve tried to sell some of your work on CD and USB locally as well as on-line; has this been successful?
Amon26: The money I’ve made off sales doesn’t cover much more than a nice dinner or a DVD on occasion, but I don’t expect it to. It’s just my way of providing people a method to donate money and be able to get something nice in turn as my way of saying thanks. I wish I could curb production costs though, I make 2 dollars profit off a 18 dollar shirt.
TIGS: You’ve recently made the jump into 3D; how is designing for three dimensions different than designing for a spatial area seen only from one side?
Amon26: It was a nightmare at first, but I was sort of expecting that. Even though all I was doing was providing a variable for “height” along with width and length, it took a lot of re-thinking to
understand. Once I started getting the basics down It actually felt very familiar. Cactus helped me solve a problem that was a bit tedious but he really saved my ass. Without his tip, The Hunt still wouldnt run right on most PC’s. I really need to look into Unity and
see if I can make anything interesting in that next, but I’m not sure if my brain can handle it. We’ll see. If i start speaking aramaic and drawing stick figures of zalgo with my own feces, then maybe i’ll stick to 2d a little longer.
You can ask Amon26 your own questions at his Formspring.
Cave Story Wii has finally been given a release date, at least in North America.
The game includes 5 game modes, including Easy Mode, Hard Mode, Boss Rush, and Sanctuary Time Attack.
You can read the full press release here.
Also, here’s a brief interview I did with Pixel about Cave Story Wii last year. Various constraints forbade me from posting it until now. Enjoy!
Derek: Hi, Pixel, it’s nice to get to speak with you again!
D: How is the Cave Story Wii project going?
P: Iâ€™ve played it a few times to check the gameâ€™s progress through development. It feels very good. I find the newly re-drawn artwork agreeable and Iâ€™m happy with the newly re-mixed music.
D: Last time I talked with you, you said you were hesitant to do games commercially, and to work in a group where your vision might be compromised. What made you decide to work with Nicalis on this project?
P: I, myself, have thought about making commercial games, but I havenâ€™t had any good ideas about it. When Tyrone first contacted me I was a bit puzzled and didnâ€™t really understand entirely. After our continued discussions I could feel Tyroneâ€™s passion for Cave Story. It surpassed my own and I felt that I could leave it up to him.
D: When did you start working on the project, exactly?
P: When was it? I think maybe Spring or Summer of â€˜08? Tyrone, when was it?
(Tyrone: Thatâ€™s right.)
D: What was the process like, working with Nicalis? Do you talk every day? How did you get around the language barrier?
P: Tyrone’s wife is Japanese and I am grateful for her help in advancing my conversations with Tyrone this far. Heâ€™s currently studying Japanese; we’re not able to communicate entirely with each other with just us when he visits my home. My English studies have not gotten far…I’m sorry.
(T: Derek, heâ€™s being very modest, his English has come a LONG way.)
D: Are you happy with the new features, like the high resolution graphics? How did you and Nicalis decide on these features?
P: I am satisfied with how Cave Story turned out on the Wii. Itâ€™s fun to think about games, but to actually implement them is many times more difficult. Now that itâ€™s come together I feel rewarded thanks to the support of all the players.
D: Are you interested in doing more commercial game development now?
P: I havenâ€™t thought about it yet. I can’t think in my head of what’s necessary.
D: I noticed that fans sent you a DS last year, and you must also have a Wii now. Are you trying out a lot of new games? Are there any that captivate you?
P: I donâ€™t have a Wii yet, but I plan on getting one.
D: Cave Story has made a huge impact on the Western independent game scene. Do you play any indie games or have any thoughts about them?
P: I don’t know too much about indie games. You mean games created by an individual and such, right? I have looked around for free games, but lately, due to time constraints, I havenâ€™t had time to play much.
D: What has the response to the Cave Story Wii project been like in Japan?
P: I received many congratulatory words. I’m happy because many people have expressed interest in a Japanese version for Wii.
D: Have you worked on anything else game-related in the meantime?
P: I’m working a little bit on an RPG, but I’m still barely on the basic systems.
D: Have you worked on anything else creative, like art and music?
P: Right now Iâ€™ve just been making the RPG. I’ve made a bit of pixel art and music for the RPG, but itâ€™s all still temporary.
D: You were a student when you started Cave Story, and you were an office worker when you finished. Now that Cave Story Wii is almost out, is your life even more different?
P: It stopped once I got job. Lately, I’ve been coming home late so I’ve left the house duties and child support to my wife. Saturdays and Sundays are spent doing household chores. Anything creative is typically done on nights during the week.
D: How often do you play your own games? Do you have any new thoughts about Cave Story now?
P: I test my games until theyâ€™re complete, until I hate them. So, I end up not playing the games I create. But Iâ€™m looking forward to playing Cave Story on the Wii.
I still receive requests for a sequel to Cave Story even now. I don’t have any ideas for a sequel to Cave Story, but if I started making it, I believe I could come up with something. Cave Story was actually developed in that manner.
D: It’s popular to ask a random question at the end of the interview. Last time I asked you what your favorite food was, and you said lightly-salted onigiri (Japanese rice balls). This time I’ll ask you what your favorite movie is!
P: My favorite movie is The Game with Michael Douglas. I watched it twice and enjoyed it both times. Also, A Chinese Ghost Story (Joey Wong) – I saw it when I was a kid, but it was a very uncomfortable feeling. Also, a few more I can recall are Mr. Vampire 2, Aliens, and Pom Poko.
D: Once again, if you have anything else you’d like to say to your fans…
P: Thank you for your support.
I hope that you will some day will be able to play the RPG being created now. Although it’s still into the unforeseeable future…
Miner Distraction, by Bento Smile, is a game made for Ludum Dare 15, which had the theme of “caverns”. It lasts a mere 5 minutes, and yet it feels like it has entirely fulfilled its purpose by the ending. There is no narrative or sound to speak of; it consists only of its visuals and its gameplay. No enemies are to be found, either; Bento Smile seems to get by very well with only friends, although there are none here. Miner Distraction utilizes the purest aspects of the exploration game in such a way that it is a perfectly serene experience. It opens with the image of a yellow-clad miner inside a cavern with red and black walls. The miner treads carefully through this underground land, and as he walks the walls fade from red to purple to a somber shade of blue. He encounters various imp-like shadows on the walls and castles that were obviously built by these subterranean creatures. The playing area is presented such that it appears to be very non-linear, but with subsequent playthroughs it reveals itself to be non-linear only inasmuch as that several inconsequential details are shown when different paths are followed. The path is self-correcting; if you fall off of a platform, you will reach a lower level that will gradually get higher and take you back to the central path. Beginning with the fiery tinge of the first area, the miner walks and jumps through a lonely underground paradise until he reaches a patch of sunlight; this is the way out, and this is the end.
The colours are quite minimalist and are carefully chosen in order to place the player’s focus on the act of exploration, rather than the particular details of the world. The animations of the miner evoke a sort of calmness in the viewer rather than being overly showy. For the most part, the design of the game means that there is little to no backtracking, although there were at least one or two places where I felt the placing of the platforms was slightly off, not allowing the player to correct their mistakes as easily as elsewhere. Being able to constantly be moving forward is allowed due to the excellent placement of most of the platforms, and thus the player can feel like they are progressing without the need for many visual rewards. The lack of sound can make the game a bit tiresome, but if you’d like some background music, I highly recommend Brother Android’s Space Hymns. All in all, it is a perfect game for the length of time that it takes to play.
Hit the jump for an interview with Bento Smile:
TIGSource: Miner Distraction was created for Ludum Dare 15, and so you had a very short timeline in which to complete it. Did this 48 hour restriction on development time foster creativity, or did it hinder your creative efforts?
Bento Smile: Yes and no. It’s good to be forced into a decision quickly, and interesting to create as much as possible with the smallest amount of work. However, because I’d not had much practise I got stuck on some code and couldn’t implement some features I wanted. It’s definitely useful to learn to work so quickly though! And I really like crazy limitations.
TIGS: The design of the caves and platforms of Miner Distraction is very organic. Was making the world feel organic and realistic a goal of yours during the development of the game?
Bento Smile: It was necessary! I think most people would cry at the way I created that level, as I just opened up a huge Photoshop document and started drawing. So from the start the layout itself was quite organic. From there it was easy to work more detail and wobbliness into it, before chopping it into much smaller chunks and putting it in game.
TIGS: The ability to constantly progress forward in a seemingly non-linear world greatly adds to the appeal of Miner Distraction. Did you intend for all paths to branch back to the central one in such a way that progression is always evident, or was this an unconscious decision?
Bento Smile: I think Miner Distraction could do more of that… It’s something I want to revisit in a different game. It’s more luck than judgement! All that said, a lot of the layout was driven by there being no enemies, and no traditional achievements (like collecting things).
TIGS: You seem to focus more on making interesting worlds than interesting stories, although the story of Miner Distraction is hinted at by the appearance of the shadowy imps in the walls and the castle at the bottom of the cave. Is this method of telling a story via small visual hints the best in your view, or do you enjoy traditional stories just as well?
Bento Smile: I like them both. For my own work, I find creating environments which contain some story, or are more conceptual most interesting. Games are very visual, more-so than comics and films I think, because the bulk of the experience is without dialogue or strict direction. So to fill the spaces between bits of exposition it makes sense to put some narrative into the environment.
In traditional stories there’s a degree of separation which gets closed in games. In a film or a novel, you passively watch a character do things. But in a game, you are the character, you are in control, there is no separation. This is the (rather pretentious) thing that makes games special to me. It’s nice sometimes to have things happen to the player, rather than the character.
TIGS: Tanaka’s Friendly Adventure was your first released game, but prior to its public release, did you spend much time creating games for yourself only?
Bento Smile: Nah, it just happened to be the first piece of code I got to actually work! I’d only played around a very tiny amount making games before that.
My ‘real’ job is as a games artist, which gave me art experience at least. My games are so low-res as an antidote to where I was working at the time. I got tired of making ‘next-gen’ 3D, which was becoming increasingly tedious, soulless and misdirected. I wanted to make games for people who don’t care about normal maps, or don’t know what ambient occlusion is.
TIGS: Tanaka’s Friendly Adventure has been criticized for being incomprehensible in the patterns of movement used to find new friends, yet lauded for the appeal of its visuals. Were these two elements intended to complement each other, in that the difficulty of finding friends makes the appearance of new ones at the party more rewarding?
Bento Smile: Haha, yes! Pretty early on I realised I had to make the party section as the reward. The low resolution was intentional too, as I can make freaky strange characters and keep it cute, and everyone else can fill in the gaps the low-res art leaves with their imagination. I filled it with a bunch of nonsense jokes as well (like holding right in the main game, and all the silly stats in the party) just for fun.
TIGS: Seeing as both of your games thus far are purely exploration based, do you consider “gameplay” to be irrelevant to the value of a game?
Bento Smile: Yes, but because I think games without gameplay and games with gameplay are both valuable in different ways. I admire people who can come up with interesting mechanics, or express ideas through gameplay, because I currently can’t do any of that fancy stuff.
TIGS: Outside of the creation of games, do you express your creativity in other forms?
Bento Smile: I draw comics, but it’s a secret!
TIGS: Are there any closing comments that you’d like to make?
Bento Smile: Hmm… I hope people enjoy my games, despite their flaws!
[This is a guest review and interview by Fuzz.]
How does one begin to describe Dildo Tank? Is it a porn game? Is it a brilliant re-invisioning of the side-scrolling shooter? Is it a meditation on the eternal differences between man and woman? A philosophical treatise on stupidity versus wrong-headedness?
Dildo Tank is all of these things and more. The latest collaboration of Jazzuo and Amon26, it opens with an awe-inspiring duet between the two artists, culminating in the final, repeated lyric, “you are weak in the knees”. Here the option is presented to play the game in either normal or censored mode. If you click on censored, the vaginas will be blurred out, as part of an attempt by Jazzuo to make all his games family friendly, regardless of subject matter (see Boobza Sports for US Kids). Proceeding to the first story screen, we learn that a man named Joon has need of our pilot skills in order to help destroy the women with no heads, who are trying to destroy mankind. From here on, the goal is simple: shoot your nude adversaries with poison dildos in order for their vaginas to absorb the harmful chemicals contained within these phallic objects. The implementation, however, is rather difficult, as you will be forced to confront all manner of giant naked women, including ones with spiked boots, laser shooting vaginas, and drills for feet.
Jazzuo’s work may be crude, but it shows a keen eye for design. The stages are carefully constructed to gradually acclimate the player to greater and greater amounts of spikes and enemies. Technique is taught through accidental experience; every player is sure to notice soon enough that the feet of the women should be ridden upon in order to more easily target them and avoid the spikes. One section in particular forces the player to ride a horde of women across a field of lethal spikes, while still attempting to shoot them. The choice has to be made: should I kill the women right away, or allow them to carry me across this spike field? Each new type of enemy is first introduced as a boss, with more health than they would normally have. The whole experience feels as though it was intended to be exactly as it is.
The graphics, while sub-par, are charming, and it is obvious that a fair amount of work went into them. The music perfectly suits the atmosphere of the game and again showcases Amon26’s stellar compositional skills. Jazzuo’s sound effects, entirely composed of his own grunts and squeals, are exceptional. The story is revealed in small portions through intermission text, as the main character’s instant messenger communications with his friends or enemies. I was not able to learn of the conclusions made by the game, as I was incapacitated by a large woman with a metal thong covering her genitals, but what I did see impressed me, as it explored much more than would be expected for a game with such a premise.
Hit the jump for an interview with Jazzuo:
TIGSource: Are your games intended to shock or provoke, or are they just created based on the topics that you find interesting?
Jazzuo: Some games are meant to shock and provoke some are not. I sometime make provocative games to let people know i am here and to get some feedback. Some times i make erotic games for same purpose. But i never forget to use some interesting and unique gameplay concept. I also believe that i do provoke by implementing new ideas. Especially those hardworking guys with not much ideas dislike me. Sometimes i just make something that interest me, but provocative stuff and erotics stuff are often what interests me.
TIGS: While your games may appear crude on first glance, there is usually a lot of depth to the inner workings of the game. How do you generally go out about designing any particular section of a game?
Jazzuo: Well they are crude. Since I start with gameplay. I first program the gameplay I have in my mind. And when I do that I make all the graphics and sound just so that I can publicize my game. In early years of Gamemaker community I could get some attention with this approach. I try to do little more with presentation now. Since there are so many freeware games now, totally crude games will not even get a single download. And my old games also have small hidden messages since at that time I believed I am a genius that will be discovered. The reward in sexy hiking is great example. I challenge you to play my old games and look for strange connection between games and hidden messages.
TIGS: Some of your creations, such as Rape and Dildo Tank, seem to exhibit a great deal of misogyny; do you consider men to be on a higher plane than women in regards to intelligence and overall worth?
Jazzuo: Rape is very strange game. I made this when i was in art school my first years and wanted to prove game is an art. So i made something with contemporary art feeling. Make game that is fun in gameplay but makes you uneasy, something like Edmund. Its not about personal opinion. Now dildo tank is a different story. It is extremely exaggerated but there are my opinions on girls and boys coexistence. Most people see more criticism on women but I think it is fifty fifty. The difference is women are depict more to stupid and men more to wrong. And that is also my big question to the world. Why it is more offensive to show someone as stupid then as wrong.
TIGS: You seem to place a lot of emphasis on innovation in gameplay concepts. How important do you consider this to be for the overall enjoyment of a game?
Jazzuo: I am not sure how important it is for enjoyment of playing a game. Most people don’t play my games because they don’t want to learn new gameplays. But it is essential for enjoyment of programming a game. It is the reason for me to make a game. I have an idea and programing is experiment if I can program it and if the concept works. Often I change it and let it evolve during the programing. I learn a lot and have fun doing it.
TIGS: How was it collaborating with Amon26 on Dildo Tank? Did your collaboration positively affect the outcome of the final product?
Jazzuo: Well I did collaborate with Amon26 on Yellow ninja’s extreme zero as well. And it was great. I always didn’t want to do collaboration, because it was about waiting for someone to do his part of work. That is also a reason why my games are all about programmers art. But Amon was very fast and made his job in time so I could do my work in my own pace. And the music is really nice. I think the games came out very nicely. I especially like the vagina he drew me for dildo tank. I made them really ugly.
TIGS: The Yellow Ninja seems to pop up quite often in your advertisements and he is the main character in Yellow Ninja: Extreme Zero. To what extent is he based on yourself?
Jazzuo: Boobza girl, John Packadge, Gunboy, John Asscratch, Yellow ninja, Blue muscle they are all representation of part of what I am or I want to be. And I am to keep identity of Yellow ninja to my self, so I cannot answer. Well ninja wears cape for a reason.
TIGS: Your characters and gameplay concepts are often quite unique. Do you tend to spend a while thinking about what you would like in your game, or do you simply add content as the ideas come to you?
Jazzuo: Mostly it is fast process. And I like to participate in various competition because the tasks always give me new ideas. Otherwise I tend to get my ideas based on real life situations.
TIGS: Several of your games can be considered erotic or pornographic. Should pornography be considered a valid art form when done in an interesting way?
Jazzuo: I am not sure. It is entertainment. It could be art but it is not my case. What I want to achieve with these game is to make game that are not only visually erotic but the gameplay it self has something unique that only sexy theme can offer. I cannot say I hate the conventional erotic games because I do like visual porn, but I am still sad there isn’t much creativity in this field. I hope more creative people will start making porn games like me.
TIGS: You’ve made several Star Wars games; are you a great fan of George Lucas’s work, or is it simply a world that you enjoy creating games for?
Jazzuo: Well Star Wars has such memorable action moments, speed bike in woods, sword fight training with eyes covered. Star wars VII and Star wars VII dark side of story was my dream come true. They are games I wanted to play and I made them by my self. There are no other games that can give you the feeling of sword figh with covered eyes or extremely speedy fighting in woods. I started making them partially because Star Wars games get more attention then others but it is mainly about the love.
TIGS: Your games are often extremely difficult. Do you value challenge as an important aspect of the replay-ability of a game?
Jazzuo: This is actually little bit of mistake. I program the games my self. And unfortunately none of my real life friends are much of computer game players. So I do all testings my self. And I get always so good at my games that I just make the games hard. Difficulty progression is something I am really bad at and I know it. And when I try to make easy levels I feel like it is an insult how stupid it is and make maximally one such level.
TIGS: The website for your Kamila games states that they were inspired by conversations that you had with your girlfriend. How much has she influenced the majority of your games?
Jazzuo: Basicly kamilka my life love, with whom I am not anymore did influence many games. She appears in many other games like, sadist meets pacifist or wild girls. And actually dildo tank is a little bit inspired by the relationship experience and frustrations.
TIGS: Do you consider your games to have progressed greatly in quality since you first began releasing them to the public?
Jazzuo: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. This is difficult. They did change a lot. But I think all game depict well my state of mind of given time. I think my games now go more to the playability. But old game have its beauty and magic.
TIGS: How much time do you generally spend on making games in the average week?
Jazzuo: Well it depends. I in fact program my games very fast. Gamemaker is my kind of a program. I finish the basics mostly in 2, 3 days. Then I have to force my self for weeks to finish the game. But basicly I have 1 or 2 days a week for programing. I work, I make music, I do design, and think about big things and come up with incredible thoughts.
TIGS: The art style in your work is immediately identifiable from the strange mix of 2D and 3D aspects as well as photography. Do you put a great deal of effort into developing a unique art style, or is it simply programmer’s art?
Jazzuo: Lately I try a little more. But basically the mixture of 2d and 3d comes from the fact that backgrounds and tiles are easier to draw and animations are easier to make in 3d on anim8or. Yes it is programmers art.
TIGS: How long do you think it will take for the mainstream to accept the concept that video games can, in fact, be art?
Jazzuo: I think lot of people do understand that. And I feel no problem in this. What I want to see is more open mind of players. Most players are willing to learn gameplay of mainstream commercial games. Even though they are so many weapons and items and what ever. I would like people to take little more time with free games, take them little more seriously and be willing to learn new gameplay, accept its style and so on. Otherwise I am not fan of pure art games. I believe game should be a game and I look always for some uniqueness in gameplay. For example rape is my kind of artgame but it has interesting well done catching a girl gameplay to it. But there are exception as cactus whose art talent is so huge, I don’t mind even if its just a plain shooter. I just wish there would be less wonnabies of the cactus and meshoft.
TIGS: Sexy Hiking made you somewhat famous within the independent games community; how do you feel about its success? Do you think it is a good representation of your work?
Jazzuo: It actually is the best. Take something simple and unexpected and make a crazy game. Make sure concept is unique and original, programing works and each level is unique. And also there is my rough art I was so much in love at that time. With this game I gave absolutely no shit for others, it was my pride. I did it as I felt. And i think it actually says on my web-site I am proud of this game of them all. And the reward is just crazy. I am amazed even now how early in age I fell in love with my self.
TIGS: You’ve become known as the father of the B Game. Are you proud of this achievement, and the way in which you inspired the competition of the same name on the Tigsource forums?
Jazzuo: I am extremely. I used to write by my self that I am a king of GM minigames. Now I have a title that was given to me. And there is no GM in it. It is a world wide respected title. I am really glad to people that rediscovered sexy hiking and everything. And although I am a controversial trouble maker I would like to end the interview with this big thanks.
[This is a guest review and interview by Fuzz.]
“I don’t remember my line…
Snow snowball dreams ghosts white ele (elegy) stripes…
Talk with eyeball in the bed…
I passionately like how helicopter flies under the eye nerve…
Undercarriage of the airplane, which looks like the blood vessels…
Am I not healthy?
On the aviation field planes fly away one by one…
This story of the broken equilibrium is about a guy, who was in the psychward, but once flew away…
My art does not suck…”
Space Spy is a puzzle game by Vasily Zotov, the creator of Quite Soulless. It is a series of 5 vignettes set in and around the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. What starts off with a seemingly innocuous shot of keys dropping into the sewers escalates into an adventure of epic scale featuring the hypnotization of police officers, 8-sided eyeballs in psychiatric wards, a romance between an actress and a yeti, and the destruction of a courtroom by a fascist with a rocket launcher. And all the while the crazy director Canavati is watching you…
The graphics can hardly be considered “good” by any stretch of the imagination, but they are fascinating in an eerie, surreal sort of way. An IGF judge described Zotov’s art style as “so amazingly complex and interesting that it’s almost ‘folk art’”. The models and backgrounds are obviously very amateur, but they have a certain charm and atmosphere to them which would just not be quite the same if they were more polished.
The gameplay primarily consists of puzzles involving various objects being pushed to certain coordinates on a grid. The solutions are often quite obscure, but the developer includes a walkthrough for each level within the game so there’s no need to fret about how to complete a particular section. The lack of sound and extremely slow movement were the only real barriers to my enjoyment of this wonderfully insane creation, but neither of those are major problems. Those who must consistently be absorbing sounds can just listen to their own music, and slow movement, while annoying, didn’t particularly bother me.
Hit the jump for an interview with the creator, Vasily Zotov:
[Some names and dates have been censored. -Ed.]
TIGSource: How did you decide to make your own independent games?
Vasily Zotov: I did not decide. Usually I had the unemployment issues (russian police and medical community is doing a good job to deliver your medical history to absolutely anybody who showed any interest to it), then, you know, you have no idea what you should do and can’t quite find a job and have a lot of time, and sometimes just to help myself psychologically I painted (so I painted a lot), and then created the collections of paintings and then that was quite similar already to the quest games, such a kind of evolution of the series of pictures.
TIGS: Both of your games have a very distinctive art style, is this intentional or is this just the way that was easiest for you?
VZ: I would not quite agree. My art is pretty much RETRO styled, and it’s difficult to recognize those old styles, you know like in the game ‘Lighthouse’ (1994, Sierra), ‘wise to the old ways’ (It is being said there by the character of Lyril).
For example I thought pretty much if the picture ‘DOJ / cross’ which overall compares the methods Department of Justice plays with people with the ideas of Adolf Hitler would suit the art style of ‘Myst – 1’ and I wanted it to be not only lookalike the picture
from Myst-1, but it should also have some sense of Berlin-1943, which is never happening in Myst-1.
It creates this atmosphere of closed society (which the United States of America turned to be) and the feelings of unexperienced refugee, who does not quite know yet that the whole system of Department of Justice will be turned against him and Homeland Security agents will try to find any way, even not legal to escort person out of the country so it would look like it is legal, the judges for real never listen to such testimonies and the whole idea of the system of justice is to make something up against the refugee because he is usually socially disfunctional and pulls the economy of the United States back.
I was suffering pretty much of infection on the left hand, which was the theatrical trauma (and which the ridiculous american psycho doctors seem to try to use now against me like those were the suicidal hesitation cuts, word ‘suicide’ is mention in the Chapter 3 of Space Spy
, so I want you not to judge that much the quality of my picture, but I would say overall I enjoyed the result.
Kodak Theater Picture is also Myst graphics styled
And the lunatic asylum picture is dedicated to the arcade games of the early nineties.
TIGS: The imagery in your games is quite surreal and unnerving. Is this intentional?
VZ: Horror / thriller is a lucrative field, in my opinion this way you will have more audience than with documentary. If your life on the scales, audience matters. And if not, too.
TIGS: How did you decide on the titles for your games? They don’t seem to have very much connection to the actual content.
VZ: Title Quite Soulless was created like that: I had the list of possible titles (something about 50, I wrote it occasionally during the process the game was created, I picked this, because I felt it would also reflect the identity of the author). I mean if you would look on the cover art of DVD (back cover), there is an inscription ‘I am not insane’, and one of the patrons on the indiegamer forum said – Ha, look, this shows the the author mentally sick or had mental problems. I mean I did not publish the documents at the time(they may be found now at www.quitesoulless.com/spacespy.htm, the buttons on the left upper corner) and wrote that the game is fictious, anyway he could see.
TIGS: You seem to hold the view that walkthroughs are essential to properly play an adventure game; would it not make sense to make the puzzles more simple rather than forcing the player to use a walkthrough?
Did you spend a great deal of time planning out the story for either of your games, or did you just create it as you went along?
VZ: This is a good one, a good question. That is why I have a lot of complaints, what I am doing is trying to justify the set of pictures, I have in my head, and this has nothing to do with gameplay, for example. My games are suffering so far from that, you see I don’t plan and don’t develop specially, all of sudden I realize that I have this created and that created and this screenplay was written, but very often I don’t quite remember myself writing this, if you would ask me when I started to create this, when I finished, I would have nothing to tell you, usually I have no idea, this is not because I am a schizophrenic, and not because my game is casual, but because my creative process is casual, I write only because I have some words in my head, and I paint because I see the picture, I do not invent or develop, there is no such process.
I think this is usual, a lot of people create just like that, it is like some advanced improv theatrical technique.
TIGS: Are there any games that you’re particularly fond of, and that may have influenced the development of your own creations?
VZ: Myst, Broken Sword, LightHouse, Gabriel Knight, Beneath the Steel Sky, Dreamweb – I hope I have now some better feeling of composition because of them, I am not sure myself.
TIGS: What made you decide to switch from your own game engine to Unity?
VZ: I collected a lot of negative opinions about my engine and was low on funds, and I thought to drop the games, however I still had this timing issue (a lot of time and no money and I still wanted to get myself busy with something) and I downloaded the free tutorials for Unity (quite a reading, more than 200 pages of technical documentation), when I finished the reading, I decided that it would be sad not to use that to some advantage and I bought the cheapest license.
TIGS: Why did you make space spy available for free rather than shareware like your previous game?
VZ: Nobody wanted the previous game, so I thought may be somebody will play this one free.
And also… This one was first published as ‘in-browser’ game with possible iPhone and other OS extensions, so I did not know how I would collect the money from browser, that is why this one was delivered free.
TIGS: Have their been any events from your own life that have influenced your games?
VZ: Space Spy is the autobiographical issue (however it is still a fictious art, because everything (names, events) is usually slightly shifted literally and in time).
I am working now on the 6th chapter of Space Spy which takes place in the Los Angeles Disrict Court on the cross road of the 6th and Olive, ##th floor, court room U, the ddth of February 2010, XX:XXpm, this is the real time of my court session, I thought also to give the fictious judge the name of my real judge B., the character will be the juridical bitch, who does not show any respect to the court sessions, who professionally buries people, who’s decisions are predictable and out of any deviation and court statistics (she decides everything in the interests of the government, such a government helper, no matter what is the case about) and I thought may be why not to remove judge B. from this court room and not to spend crazy government payrolls on her and to put there some automated system which would solve all the cases in the interest of the Federal Government no matter what the law is.
If somebody directly asked B. if the court session is really necessary or it’s better just to kick the refugee asses out, and if more importantly we would be able to make B. answer the truth, I would think the answer would be ‘No’ for the court sessions, ‘Yes’ to kick asses.
I would say I have to allege that the Department of Justice humiliates the justice, when it places people like B. in the court room, this is what fictious art of Chapter 6 would be about.
By the way returning to the art styles question I am thinking like could I create the picture in the ‘Broken sword-1’ (Revolution – 1994) style. Time will show.
TIGS: Do you have any plans for future games, apart from new levels for Space Spy?
VZ: I see here 2 screenplays – one for ‘Refugee’ title – I supposed to completely switch from some mystery to the detective genre with a line of the fictious romance, I would pick the story from Space Spy – Episode 2 and will start from there to go to the opposite direction. (however it is the initial plan, if I would follow it I might change everything at some point half way there)
Another screenplay – is for ‘Space Spy-2’, it will start from the point Space Spy-1 is finished, some more mystery Los Angeles sketches, more about the life of actors and homeless, something I am familiar with, dirty laundries, infection, hills, Amtrak trains, what is going wrong on the sets, and some fictious element (let say 30%) – as the way to some mystery, skipping on reality (I would think some parallel world / parallel Los Angeles issue ).
There is a good chance, I will be detained before I would start the third project, so if it happened, I would ask somebody to proceed following this my directions, in my opinion you may receive a good game, following this.
TIGS: What do you make of the newly popular trend of treating games as an art form?
VZ: I am the different bee, I mean my literacy sucks, anyway I wanted to create story, and I hate to be an artist (but I am capable of that), the games are my only window to literacy. I wanted to be a writer and was not capable of, may I say my games are not an art but this BRIDGE.
Space Spy was supposed to be happening in the space in the parallel world, but all of sudden I immigrated to the US and the storyline moves to the US, and now look…
the title still fits. There are a couple of casual contacts among the actors who told me that I may be the KGB spy because I have some accent and I’m spooky/creepy.
TIGS: I understand that you’ve recently moved to Hollywood from Russia, how has this transition been for you?
VZ: I had the incident in the local russian police, which turned to the fact that ddth of December and ddth of December I spent in the mental hospital and on the ddth of December, 2008 I appeared to be in the US embassy, and on the ddth of December I was in Los Angeles International airport, I would say I felt lucky at the moment because those 3 days were in the row and if somebody else told me this I would never believe myself, and I also a couple of times had this bright memory of the chief doctor of Psych-##, Moscow, who is absolutely lookalike the general Crantz from the ‘Prison break’.
I was very poor, and it is the negative side of the memories, I would say I did not spend enough time to prepare myself to break, it was casually, I would make a lot differently now, though I am 10 years the mental hospitals patient (with diagnosis of schizophrenia) and I had an idea to escape to another country I would say since an year of 2005.
TIGS: On the Indiegamer forums you mentioned that you were held in custody and tortured by the Russian authorities, how did this happen?
VZ: Yes, I would say I was held somewhat about 20 times in custody, because of ‘unappropriate behavior’, in fact if you are claimed as a mental hospital patient in Russia, you appear from that moment on in all the electronical systems, and human rights can not be applied to you anymore, for last ten years I did not have the right to manage the property, to initiate the hearings in the russian court, to drive the car, I would say I had less rights than a dog.
I am quite popular among the local police, one episode of torture was performed by the colonel N. (who is the chief of the fraud department), the issue was about the experimental video equipment, I installed. They wanted to get my signature under the document I did not want to sign. When it turned out that they can’t make me sign by violence, they made the fraud of my signature, I tried to complain later to the General Attorney Office, but I was not eligible for the complaints.
Also I loved to try to initiate the criminal processes against the medical doctors who under the threat of violence drugged me, caused the physiological pain and made me sign that I will stay in the isolation ward because of my own will, but of course my complaints were always ignored like the lunatic writings should be.
One time I found the ally in the Ministry of Culture of Russia, there was a person (leutenant – colonel of police S., he tried to send me back behind the walls of the isolation ward, this ally helped me to stop and even reverse the process, that was the only time the police representative seem to be suffering because of his own juridical activities).
Funny that I showed once in October 2009 in the US the very unappropriate hand job (figurine from fingers) to one actress, because she took away the prop from my scene and made fun out of me, and I was fired because of that, but that what I did was in my opinion reasonable (come on, that’s only the figurine from fingers), I was fired for that, I don’t blame the casting directors, it was just some… well, situation.
In Russia, I would do some time in custody considering my history, under the described circumstances, definitely.
TIGS: How do you make money apart from sales of Quite Soulless?
VZ: I know some rare eastern languages, I may do translations, also I do a lot of background and other work for films and live events.
VZ: Yes, I managed to remember those 2 – theatrical angle of camera ( something like CSI Miami Season 1 a little bit, but without colors ) I am doing a lot of background work, however, if you don’t have social security number you will never get for example into Central Casting, as I can understand I am not eligible for the most unions of actors. On different occasions they admitted my voice.
Definitely casting directors will not admit to commercials, where the money are.
What was the most interesting?
The prize of the best clown for the character of the choreographical clown with the ball – they helped me to develop a couple of dance moves, I recently received it from one (I would not name it, I feel like they may not call back if I would) of the most popular national amusement parks (this was the contest).
Yes, this was also the great job, I booked the role of terrorist-bomber, they auditioned me and liked, I mean, I am jumpy, and a good runner (they did not even know I am a refugee ), what it was about I delivered the bomb to the hotel lobby in Irvine and it went off, I was standing there in the grass and mud… Perfect!
There are a lot of student movies, those are usually NO PAY
Usually I put on the resume only something where I feel they spend camera time on me.
I am registered with LA casting.
For a day in background you may make up to $60, for 4 hours $40 / cash, everything is illegal, prizes are big, this is a lot of money if your daily expenses (including housing) are less than $17, I am doing overall good considering more work from translations.
I want to work more (I mean, in this field).
TIGS: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the world at large?
VZ: Yes, I mean I wanted to say that look at me. I was miserable, all property I had the crappy scratchy laptop, outlook of which scared a lot of people, tooth brush, mug and a couple of changes of clothes – such a BAG. I was sitting, crying on the streets, and I thought if I would drop this bag to the trash bin may be I would be even happier, and now… look…
Yesterday I did not bring my laptop to the set (I was a church goer in the movie). This was because I was afraid that somebody may steal it. I got some valuable things while I was making Space Spy. Games bring me IDENTITY. I mean I don’t have now to discuss this only question ‘Can I go home?’ while I am tied to the mental hospital bed. Judge B., Director M., XXX representative J. S., officer ### (who did not provide with his name), this guard in Anaheim Immigration and Naturalization… I mean they took away my right of employment and they took their chances, taking 9 months of my life away, and I suffered from infection and I lost almost all my equipment while I was homeless, but now… You see… the 6th last chapter of Space Spy is almost done and I did not die. And it will give them some exposure. I mean anybody may type in the google let say M. or B.. I mean juridical and medical criminals finally will be binded to their crimes. And where they supposed to go from that. And somebody with power may simply take them away, because it is ridiculous that such people could represent justice. And I may be the illusional paranoid, but that is what they tell, and I am very believable and they have stolen some documents in April, 2009, but I still have some more documents they did not manage to steal.
Here’s a bit of GDC news that slipped through the cracks. The Area 5 guys (formerly The 1UP Show) made an excellent video special on IGF, highlighting a number of indie and student games. You can find the original post here. And if you’re not familiar with Area 5 / CO-OP, check out the rest of the site. They’re uploading excellent videos all the time. It’s good stuff, trust me!