Interview No. 113
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Special Thanks to liljim without whom this interview would not be possible.
Today's guest is one who has given us quite the variety of games. From a puzzle platformer that relies on using your brain than simple teasers with Gates of Logic, to a horror point and click adventure with Deep Sleep, to preventing a cataclysm with 400 Years. He has been ever-changing in terms of what games he makes, he is @scriptwelder.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: Well, how do you find Newgrounds? It's just there and it's hard to miss. I've been around for few years - but I only registered when I was ready to submit my own games. I didn't want to share unfinished or silly things, so it took me a while. Well, I wasn't waiting to join, I simply didn't feel the need until I had something to share. Seeing how great community people at Newgrounds form, I have to admit postponing the signup was a mistake. I've probably missed lots of fun!
Q: What was the first video game you ever played and what impact did it have on you?
A: If I remember correctly it was Contra by Konami. I used to play it with my brother on my first gaming console - Pegasus - which was basically a clone of NES, very popular in my country while the real NES was very hard to get.
I'm not sure what impact did Contra have on me, other than I loved video games right from the start! Other great games that I loved playing were my Amiga 1200 favorites: Superfrog, Theme Park and Dune 2. All those games had definitely a huge impact on me.
Q: When and how did you decide to start making games?
A: There was no single point in time when I said to myself "this is what I'm going to do". I think this desire to create was within me for the whole time. In primary school while having no programming knowledge I was creating "games" with my friend by making nested-folders-labyrinths with txt files presenting plot and descriptions, good to play in DOS or Norton Commander. But I was never limiting myself to computers. I was creating "paper point-and-click" games which basically meant I had a notebook with hand drawn locations and items and my friend who was playing was telling me what item does he use and where - to which I replied if it worked or not, often presenting his progress by handing next/updated location pictures. As I think of it now, it seems I have created more than one full-length Monkey Island style game.
When playing Heroes of Might and Magic (II and III is my era) at some point I was more into making maps and campaigns than actually playing them. Same goes with Star Craft map editor, although I never managed to finish any of my Big Projects there. I guess I realized the limitations of a game made by someone were too restricting for me. I needed more ways to express myself, I need to have something that was 100% mine - and this is why I abandoned mapping/modding, without even realizing how wonderful things people can create with good modding tools (just see Dear Ester and Antichamber).
I kept making stuff with various environments (I've even tried using Power Point at some point) until I've discovered Flash, which for me was a perfect combination of freedom of programming whatever I wanted, ease of adding graphics and - most importantly - sharing the whole thing with friends on the web.
Q: Your first game on Newgrounds is a puzzle platformer entitled Gates of Logic. Games like this normally involve nothing more than mouse clicks. Why add the platforming element to it? Since you added the platforming element to the game, why not have the mouse do some of the work?
A: Gates of Logic is my oldest game that has been publicly released - and it kinda shows. Many games and projects came before it, but none of them was both finished and good enough to share.
The idea was: I need a game that will somehow represent something from my surrounding, something smart presented in accessible form. So I went with logic gates because it was one of the basic things at my university. Platformer genre seemed like a good idea because I didn't want to have a game where you put gates on a board with your mouse. As I saw it back then, it wouldn't be a game, it would be an exercise for Logic class. Sure I could have done a platformer with some mouse control - some ideas are just not so obvious at first :) But that's not the main problem with this game.
Looking back at the project, it contains many design flaws. The game is playable but lacks some depth. Part of the puzzles are just too hard to deal with, because they literally require solving equations, rather than coming with smart, natural ideas. I tried to make the game more interesting by making it more complex - and this was a mistake.
Q: We then come to an interesting little game entitled Meteor Launch. A game whose story involves getting a little meteor home. There are a multitude of launch games out there that involve upgrades and witty dialogue. Learn to Fly !, Toss the Turtle, and Hedgehog Launch have all done this before. When BoMToons was here I asked him about his contribution to this genre, Luis LAUNCH and he had this to say about it...
"Those games are addicting cuz they play on our human desire for upgrades and improvement. We're so curious what's beyond the next horizon. It's kind of manipulative, but I thought being propelled into the sky by your own bean-induced farts was pretty funny."
What was your inspiration for making a launch game and do you agree or disagree with BoMToons statement. Whatever your answer, could you tell us why?
A: Luis LAUNCH was one of the obvious inspirations for Meteor Launch, together with other games you have mentioned. And yeah, those games are addicting because they feast upon human nature, a desire to reach for more. It's a classic RPG mechanics concept stripped to bare bones. Do things repeatedly, gain points to improve something, try again. We all have this "oh next time is going to be so much better than this attempt" feeling when playing launch/grind games. And - as we constantly seek better things - it keeps us playing.
Q: From a happy launching game, to a nightmare, we enter into the Deep Sleep. Was this based on an actual nightmare? What was the process you took into making a point and click adventure game and when can we expect the sequel to come?
A: It wasn't based on an actual nightmare. In the history of my life I tried to become a writer. I've crafted a couple of short stories. In the end not much came out of it, other than a letter from one of Polish science fiction writers explaining why they are not going to print my story in their magazine :D So I was left with this and some unused/unfinished ideas. One of those ideas was a concept of a story about aspiring lucid-dreamer that learns that there is much more out there than he had ever suspected. I have never finished this story and it was left abandoned for years until I decided that it would be a perfect theme for a game I was making for a contest (theme of contest's itself was "escape" with a hint that they are hoping for point-and-click games). The plot underwent huge changes, of course - first Deep Sleep game feels more like an introduction, I have not even revealed half of what I had in mind. Also, the sequel will definitely answer some questions that were left unanswered.
I have to finish my current project, then maybe another small project and after that I'm going to continue my work on the sequel. I don't want to sound like "it's done when it's done" but it's hard to estimate an exact date now. Kinda April-ish, perhaps...?
Q: Your latest game is certainly an interesting one. Using patience you have given us 400 Years. Where did the idea of having a head from Easter Island prevent a calamity come from?
A: I was on a train, it was a long 4 hours trip and I was on the verge of falling asleep. 400 Years is probably a scrambled projection of my mind waiting for the train to arrive at destination - mixed with the view of blurred trees passing outside the window. The base of the entire idea was a concept of an immortal being somehow influencing primitive humans village and then waiting ages to see what happens. Obviously this idea was influenced by things like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Populous and Black and White, although in my game you don't throw people around with your divine powers.
And why Moai? Well... I knew the protagonist would have to be a rock from the start, because what else can wait for ages in one place - possibly underwater - without moving and being disturbed? So with things I had in mind: a stone figure, a village, grassy lands and a sea shore as a starting spot - making the hero a statue similar to Easter Island ones seemed like a logical next step.
This plus the fact that the most of existing Moai statues are made of compressed volcanic ashes. Yeah. I guess the game's story goes deep.
Q: There has been criticisms about your game 400 Years that you weren't really clear on the instructions of the game. You were very clear on instructions in Gates of Logic, but come off as a bit vague in 400 Years. Why is that?
A: Gates of Logic is a different story - as I said earlier - an old project that isn't the best example of how games should be made. In 400 Years instructions are clear when they are supposed to be clear. Some instructions sound like riddles because, well, they are riddles of sort. Riddles as a part of your gaming experience.
When you play the original Mario game, there are no instructions, nobody tells you that touching an enemy will kill you. When you reach an end of a level nobody says that if you jump and grab the higher part of the pole you're going to get more points. You discover things as you go and it's a part of your experience. Most of modern games are depraved of that, guiding player on how to perform every single possible action.
Don't get me wrong here, teaching how to play isn't bad and is very important. But there's a difference between a tutorial and guiding player through the game. In 400 Years, there is a tutorial. You learn how to perform actions when you need to. You learn how game mechanics work - one step at a time - and that's it. You learn how to walk, you learn that water doesn't kill you, you learn that you can walk over it in winter and that you will have to plant things sometimes, if you find seeds - and that you have to look through different seasons, not just winter/summer. Sure, I could have said "wait for autumn and grab a chestnut, then plant it near the wall". But in my opinion learning through memorizing isn't as fun as learning through discovery. Meanwhile, it would seem that some people are mad at me because I am not throwing chestnuts at their faces.
If I - spoilers ahead! - would have replaced the famous "he needed a helping hand" and "people were hungry" with "plant some wheat to feed humans so they build you a bridge" - would it still be a puzzle of any sort? No, it would be an instruction telling what to do, taking away the main concept of gameplay's core. 400 Years puzzles are more about figuring out what to do, rather than how.
Of course, I'm not saying the game is flawless. For instance, I could have hinted more visibly that player has to wait few decades after feeding the villagers. I know some people just felt that this action accomplished nothing and didn't want to wait blindly and "waste" the time reserves to see if anything happens or not. I'm still learning how to avoid mistakes like this.
Q: What programs do you use to make your games and what advice can you give to future programmers and game designers?
A: I use FlashDevelop to code, Paint.NET / GraphicsGale combo for graphics and Audacity to mix audio. All are free to use and provide you with everything you need to start working on a game! And my advice is: KEEP IT SIMPLE. I know almost everyone has this "I'll totally make a full length RPG" phase and almost everyone fails. Best ideas = simplest ideas, especially if you're on your own to make everything from scratch. And avoid walls of text - especially if you're making a Flash game. Nobody likes walls of text.
Q: What can we expect from scriptwelder in the future?
A: On the contrary to what I've said a moment before - walls of text :) That's because I'm currently working on a text-based game, another little experiment. Because of its nature, texts are difficult to avoid. After that (and possibly another, this time really small game) hopefully I'll get back to work on Deep Sleep sequel, which I left in December at about 30% completion. I have many ideas but unfortunately they just have to form a line in my head and wait for their turn.
scriptwelder is different from other game makers I've seen. Instead of sticking to a certain comfort zone he adapts and gives us something different with each game. Deep Sleep transitioned to 400 Years certainly shows this. I can only hope that he will be giving us something different and new for many years to come.