Interview: Aaron Bishop, creator of SoulFu

By: Lorne Whiting

On: July 16th, 2011

[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.

Machine Saint: Some people may not be aware of who you are, since you were more prominent in the open source software community than in the “indie games scene”. Can you say a few things to introduce yourself?
Aaron Bishop: Who am I? Well, nobody too important I guess… Really I’m kind of a hack when it comes to writing games — most of my ideas aren’t original, instead they’re just a bunch of ingredients that taste good in other games, all stewed together to see what we get. Probably the only thing that sets me apart from anybody else is that I’m like one of those old one-man-bands — I do almost everything myself.

MS: What are your feelings on the current status of your first project, Egoboo? Did you expect people to continue working with it for as long as they have?
AB: Hmm, Egoboo… That’s a game I wrote 12 years ago after having a brief dream about what it should be like — I really wish I could go back to 1980 or so and start over knowing what I do now… Thought there would be more development over the years, but it was a bit of a mess code wise — plus the control was never well developed.

MS: Do you think the direction the game has been taken in is similar to what you would have done with it had you continued to develop it yourself?
AB: If I’d continued to develop it myself, random level generation would’ve been in a lot earlier — had a nice algorithm working in a little test program, but just never moved it over… Egoboo is grid-based so it’s pretty easy math-wise.

MS: Have you been disappointed with the lack of continuation in the development of your second project, Soulfu? Why do you think it has not received as much attention?
AB: Nah, I’m not disappointed that SoulFu hasn’t seen much development — it’s really my own fault in taking so long to get it out the door… What was cutting edge in 2002 wasn’t nearly as great in 2007.

MS: How was your experience with selling Soulfu? What do you think you could have done to be more successful?
AB: Well, I tried to sell SoulFu as HonorWare — where people would just send me money and type “I paid Aaron” or something like that, but it didn’t work too well. Certainly could’ve made more doing it a different way, but it was more about trying an idea and seeing what happens. Didn’t really market it either — at that point I was just trying to cut ties with it and get on with my life.

MS: You eventually released Soulfu for free, as “NiceWare”. (In order to unlock the full game, players must swear that they have done something nice each time they play.) Was this your intention from the beginning, or was this because of poor sales?
AB: The NiceWare thing came about because the HonorWare thing didn’t work — Plan B, so to speak. Again, it’s another idea I wanted to try, and I do wonder what nice things people have done… I know my little niece gives out hugs!

MS: What are your feelings on open source games in general? Should more people be releasing the source code to their projects?
AB: My opinion as far as OpenSource games go is that the code really isn’t that important — yeah it makes the game tick, but the artwork is the real painstaking/time-consuming part of it. Back in the x86 assembler days, code was important — but now there are so many libraries (OpenGL for example) that the hard parts are done for you…

MS: What can you tell us about your next project?
AB: Mystery Project X is still under wraps — it’s designed to be less artwork intensive than the last project, but will hopefully make up for that with multiplayer networking and physics modeling. [Ed.- This interview was conducted before the video at the top of the article was released, whether it’s the project referenced here is unknown]

MS: How did you come to be interested in game development in the first place?
AB: I’ve been designing games ever since I was a little boy — it’s a shame they take so long to write… I love thinking of ideas for games and have several hundred I’ll never get around to (some of which are actually originalish).

MS: Do you have any interest in interacting with other game developers? Have you ever thought about attending events like GDC?
AB: The only game developer that I’d be interested in working with is Richard Garriott — though my brothers and I might get something together one of these days…

  • Lorne Whiting

    The terrain-building stuff looks pretty cool and organic compared to Minecraft and its ilk, but dang  that dungeon entrance is missing some pivotal feng-shui. Vines all willy nilly and touching the magma, come on!

  • Vania

    The question is wheter the terrain has “properties” or is just a texture.

  • Anonymous

    i dunno, i kind of like the organic look. and maybe the vines are lava vines. they ONLY grow when lava abounds.


  • Anonymous

    Shut up and take my money

  • Lorne Whiting

    It has construction properties, it seems (vines are vertical and small construction box, magma seems to be ground building only, etc), so I’d say things are looking likely in that respect.

  • Lorne Whiting

    I like the organic look too :)

    Though lava vines is a terrible concept!

  • neil

    No more of these terraria/minecraft games please :(

  • Nanashi Rider

    please, please, please, put all your soul and body in developing this, make it blossom, make it work, please, the looks are just fantastic

  • Honest Guy

    this is a cave story ripoff!

  • Honest Guy

    why does he paint the bricks on the rocks? where is the bench? 

  • Bakariboss


  • Nektonico

    Just dropping by to express my love for Soulfu. Its mad fun in coop mode. I just wish the developer had fleshed it out a bit more before dropping the project

  • JConaBike

    You can pledge on Kickstarter you know…

  • Retloc

    Agreed, too many are simply 3D paint programs with inconveniences thrown in. 
    We need ones with actual goals and constraints before we can call them “games.”

  • Banana Stand

    I’m going to be blunt.  Editing terrain and making things in 3d like this from a first person perspective is pure novelty.  It can be in addition to. But should never replace a more third person perspective. I don’t care if the character has a crow on his shoulder that flys around and helps him build.  This bulding in FP is too far removed from reality to gain anything from it and to obscure and styled to not go ahead and gain something form floating-camera editing…..

  • Laurens Mathot

    “AB: The only game developer that I’d be interested in working with is Richard Garriott”. He should go to GDC Europe this August. There will be a Keynote by Richard Garriott.

  • Daid

    I suggest taking a 2nd look at Terraria. While you can build there, it has a lot of other goals. I got the game and I’ve spend very little time building anything, and many hours exploring, fighting, mining. Just fighting your way trough the corruption for the first time is a hell of a job.

  • Narvius

    I hope that making TIGSourceans aware of Soulfu will make the modding scene asplode with new power.

  • Anonymous

    i just looked at soulfu for the first time ever. and then i saw that he’s inspired by secret of mana. and then i experienced a mad man-crush and had to stop reading before i quit my job and went on a manhunt to find him and give him all my money.

    now i just want to play online multiplayer soulfu.

  • Nerdbot

    Goals are overrated.
    My Lego and GI Joes never had written goals. I set them and had a pretty good time.
    The constraints of not having every brick on earth to build my supertank or starcruiser were sufficient.
    Its a another concept, going from “gaming” to “playing”.
    We need more non-“minecraft games”, yes. As much as we need more, better “minecraft-games” to play for people like me who still play lego even after getting laid.

  • pnx

    The aesthetic of that wall in the video really reminds me of Dungeon Keeper.

  • Arne Döring

    The Islands looks very much like a Magic Carpet Island

  • Arne Döring

    The Islands looks very much like a Magic Carpet Island

  • Anonymous


  • No

    Funny, every time I’ve built something in real life it’s been from a first person view. Do you have your eyeballs floating in the air behind you or something?

  • Subrosian

    Funny, every time I’ve built something in real life, the wood/stone/whatever FALLS DOWN if I take away the supports. Do you not have gravity where you live or something?

    Seriously, don’t make the ‘realism’ argument for these types of games.