Interview No. 154
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is one of the best developers here on Newgrounds. His works have enlightened and amused many on Newgrounds. From The Company of Myself, which he won a Daily Feature for. He has also worked with Edmund McMillen on Spewer. He has also been working on things in the background of Newgrounds with his Pico-8 Scoreboard. I am most honored to welcome, FreeAsANerd.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: I'm not totally sure, I think a childhood friend of mine who lived around the corner told me about it. I probably didn't join until I started wanting to upload stuff?
Q: How and when did you become interested in game development?
A: I wanted to make stick figure animations, like Xiao Xiao. I found a copy of Flash MX (I think the "student edition?") and practiced animating for a little while, but eventually found that I didn't have the patience for it. Since I had this fancy software, I figured I should try to do SOMETHING with it, so I started learning about the ActionScript feature. I had previously used one of the graphing calculators that they loaned out in school, and my oldschool-programmer-dad had gotten me curious about messing with TI-BASIC (the "entry level programming language" that it included). Since animation had proven too hard for me, and since I felt like I had a headstart on the programming front from doing calculator doodles, it felt like a good alternative. Turns out that I enjoy programming and game design more than animation, so I've ended up sticking to it since then!
Q: One of your earliest games and one I am quite fond of is entitled The Company of Myself. It tells an enriching story from beginning to end and has a unique design which although I've seen in some other games I love the implementation here more. Where did the idea for this story and this type of gameplay come from?
A: The initial thing was watching a friend play Braid (which probably comes as no surprise) - I liked the setup where it's part puzzle game and part character study, and those two sides of the game support each other. I picked the "repeat" mechanic because I had played a different Flash game which was based around it, but I'm not gonna call out the title because I felt that its puzzle design missed a bunch of opportunities, and didn't really use the mechanic in surprising ways. Easily outraged at the tender age of 17 or 18 or whatever, I wanted to try to do the mechanic justice. From there, the next question was what type of character would be appropriate - and a hermit seemed like the right kind of fit, somebody who has to take care of a bunch of things on their own. Beyond that I tried to keep everything pretty vague - not everyone is a hermit, but everybody feels guilty about something that happened a long time ago.
Q: Edmund McMillen, better known on as Bluebaby, is no stranger to Newgrounds being the mind behind Super Meat Boy. You two would work together on a game entitled Spewer. How did you two meet and what was it like working on this game together?
A: It's a chain of unexpected connections! Luka Marcetic (he's the guy who made the stealth series "The Classroom," which I remember as a classic) eventually did the character art for Company of Myself, but somewhere along the way he connected me with the Kongregate staff while they were still starting out. I forget how, maybe just from the chatroom style of the site, but Emily Greer (who co-founded Kongregate, and was the CEO for a while!) heard that I had tried to work on a (never-finished) realtime multiplayer game in Flash. When Edmund eventually asked her for help finding someone who had attempted realtime networking with ActionScript, she pointed him to me - this was an extreme left-field surprise, because his game Gish was the biggest "indie inspiration" game that I had played. We didn't end up making the online game, but we settled on Spewer instead by combining a "paint-spraying game" prototype of mine with a cutesy-gross character idea from his sketchbook. Once it was clear that it was gonna be a game about puking, I cut out my existing "spray walls with paint" mechanic and replaced it with fluid simulation stuff, for maximum cutesy-grossness. It was an extremely fun and rewarding project for me - Edmund is a great dude who has really Put-In-The-Time to learn his craft.
Q: I absolutely love dry and dark humor. So when I came across YouFindYourselfInARoom, I was absolutely delighted by this experience. What made you want to take the text based game and give it this sinister twist?
A: I had a four-game sponsorship contract with ArmorGames, and I tried to get away with making a really small text-based project as one of them (turns out, they declined it because they had recently tried a different text-based game which hadn't gotten the results they wanted). I had this sense that they were weirdly prone to having a certain animosity toward the player, like "You forgot to do this obscure thing at the very beginning of the game? You fool. You absolute moron. The game has been unwinnable for four hours, but I'm only telling you this now." I thought it'd be funny if the game was basically just a bunch of jokes about that cruel attitude, without actually making the gameplay punishing. You end up with this powerless entity (the game), which you could switch off at any time, but it's trying to present itself as super grandiose and intimidating. After it came out, my very-religious cousin sent me an email asking if I was okay, which I interpreted as some kind of weird trophy.
Q: What is The Fall of Society?
A: Oy. That's an old website I made when I was a kid - I'm not gonna torture myself by reading it now, but it's probably some terrible edgy/angsty business. As far as I remember, one of the articles was about how it's stupid to type "lol" instead of "haha," because it's only saving you one character, lol. Or maybe that was somebody else's article. Regardless, it's probably all really dumb.
Q: Tom in a recent post stated you were working on a library for the Newgrounds API. It is called Pico-8 Scoreboard. Could you go into more detail about this project?
A: Pico-8 is a delightful little game engine which intends to make game development enjoyable and comfy, above all else. Newgrounds has a toolkit for adding unlockable medals and leaderboards to your browser games, and I got commissioned to write the Pico-8 version of it! The goal is to help other Pico-8 developers to add these fancy online features to their games, without forcing them to figure out all the required nitty-gritty details.
Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of video games?
A: I dunno lol, something really broad. Maybe "a digital system that's intended (or otherwise used) to make someone feel a certain way." It doesn't seem like a formal definition is particularly important to anyone.
Q: What can we expect from FreeAsANerd in the future?
A: WELL, as of last week, I'm the Lead Programmer at messhof (the studio that made "Nidhogg")! We're working on a really cool project and I'm excited to tell everyone more about it...eventually, but I'm not allowed to quite yet. Oooh look at the big douchebag who's speaking under NDA, gotta announce yer NDAs to everyone, otherwise how will they know that you have big dumb secrets, so mysterious. Ugh. Sorry for not having details here. I hate when people brag about not being allowed to talk about some business thing. They're always just trying to make it sound cooler than it really is. But uh, yeah, the game's gonna be sweet.
FreeAsANerd is one of the most brilliant game developers here on Newgrounds. The only other one that reminds me of him is scriptwelder. I can't wait to see what more he has for Newgrounds and as we have found out, what he has in store for beyond!