Introversion On All Things

By Jim Rossignol on April 3rd, 2009 at 8:05 am.


I’m pretty chuffed with this enormous Chris Delay interview over on Offworld. It’s part of a series of wide-ranging chats I’ve been having with my favourite developers. Sample text:

Rossignol: You’re making programmer art an art style. You’re vindicating that approach: artists don’t have to be there to make games look good.

CD: There’s definitely a look and style to our videogames. I love sharp, vectorised lines, and work towards that. Look at the Darwinians, they’re a classic piece of programmer art that got promoted into the lead character of the game. They’re now our company logo too – what kind of logo summarised our design philosophy?

Go read.

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26 Comments »

  1. SirKicksalot says:

    Chris DELAY?
    That’s a funny name for a guy in the gaming industry.

  2. bansama says:

    Defcon, one of those rare cases where initial piracy actually helped! Too bad I just can’t get into the game. I’m waiting for it to sell for an insanely low price of $3 or so, then I can use it as a glorified screen saver — which is about all the fun I can get out of it.

    I also couldn’t really get into Multiwinia the circular selection method in the Steam demo just puts me off. I find myself wanting a traditional selection method instead =/

    But Subversion, now that has my interest.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    I own every of their titles bar defcon. I have paid about £7. I love the concepts of all of the games but even as a hardcore gamer i have trouble with how alien the rule sets are to what i know, by this i mean that often things are happening that are not presented to the user. Like in multiwinia are formations any use? In darwinia researching grenades just makes you lil dudes suicidal. Looking at all the upgrade software in uplink, whats any of it do?

    Sure i can jump onto a forum and interrupt the flow of the game. But like i said, i’m hardcore most people wont. They’ll just call the game or demo crap and tell their friends.

    I’ll always be interested in their next title even if the current on doesn’t suck me in because their games are full of potential for improvement and shared learning.

    But they lie, when they say they don’t have an artist on the team. No artisan could have produced the views i saw in darwinia.

  4. Revolver says:

    One thing that I liked about Darwinia that made me buy the boxed copy on day one was that it wasn’t adjusted to be dead easy to pick up and play to a tired overworked artist. One thing that made me sort of ignore Multiwinia completely is that it was a multiplayer RTS and I have played one of those before and wasn’t that keen on playing another. Thanks for putting Introversion on the right track Valve and Microsoft. Hats off to you.

  5. yhancik says:

    “Artists don’t have to be there to make games look good” was a strange thing to say.
    In my opinion, the Introversion guys are much more “artists” than the people who worked on the design of UT3 :p

  6. Monchberter says:

    This is a fantastic interview. Jim you’re a top interviewer. I share the sentiments over Multiwinia and to an extent Defcon. They were day 1 purchases for me out of respect but could i get into them? Nope.

    Darwinia choked me up on occasion, the tears were welling watching my poor poor creations burning, or the epic waves of ‘reds’ getting cut down by my turrets.

    Subversion looks good, but i just hope that they don’t lose themselves in the same esoteric design choices that have made their other games so stunning, but so Marmite.

  7. Zarniwoop says:

    “Artists don’t have to be there to make games look good” was a strange thing to say.
    In my opinion, the Introversion guys are much more “artists” than the people who worked on the design of UT3 :p

    Indeed. I think that the trouble with large dev teams is that the art style tends to become homogenised and boring. Companies try to compensate by employing loads of artists, but that can often make things worse, and lead to the game looking even more isotropic as a result of having bigger teams.

  8. Azazel says:

    It does seem to be the case that when one individual is allowed to run away with things that you get the most interesting *ART* in games… Look at Planescape for example – Avellone and his crazy script!

  9. MrDeVil_909 says:

    It seems that they are finally coming to understand why Multiwinia wasn’t the success they hoped.

    Multiplayer isn’t as important as the ‘hardcore’ likes to think, so the number of people who knew and anticipated it based on Darwinia was only a small proportion of the people who played and enjoyed Darwinia.

    It also explains why the conversion rate from demo to full game was relatively high. The people playing the demo already wanted the game.

  10. Tei says:

    ““Artists don’t have to be there to make games look good” was a strange thing to say.
    In my opinion, the Introversion guys are much more “artists” than the people who worked on the design of UT3 :p

    Indeed. I think that the trouble with large dev teams is that the art style tends to become homogenised and boring. Companies try to compensate by employing loads of artists, but that can often make things worse, and lead to the game looking even more isotropic as a result of having bigger teams.”

    Is a old ai discussion. I can program a perl script to create poems. Whos the artist here? I the programmer? The computer? Is the dataset (the openoffice dictonary file)? Is the wikipedia set of rules for poetry (I don’t know nothing about poetry, so I will get these rules from wikipedia)? Maybe Shakespeare is the artist? Maybe is the /taste/ of our civilization?.
    IMHO, the artist is the programmer, because is the first human on the chain to decide. And all other artist creations are subject to that chain.

  11. PC Monster says:

    Tsk. Don’t know what’s wrong with you lot, but I count Darwinia as one of premier indie-gaming experiences on the PC. The game is clever, knowingly-referential, beautiful to play and look at, emotional, poetic, awe-inspiring…if only larger development houses used half of what Introversion baked into this title, the gaming world would be a much more fulfilling place.

    Subversion IS a beguiling beast, though, isn’t it? Are they saying they’re going to give us an entire, procedurally-generated city to play around in? C’mon, RPS, time to turn on the thumbscrews! (Or was that you attacking the chap’s calf-muscles and achilles tendon?)

  12. jsutcliffe says:

    I discovered Offworld only last week, and had no idea Jim R wrote for them too. I caught this interview last night, and Subversion has flipped from something I have a vague interest in, to something I must have NOW!

    I love procedural generation, and the level of detail Delay is getting in his city generator is splendid.

    I really like Introversion. Uplink and Darwinia are two of my favourite indie titles (not sure why I need to qualify that with “indie”) — I had no problem at all with the original Darwinia demo. I wonder if I recognised the Cannon Fodderness in the controls right away.

  13. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, I think the problem with Multiwinia is that it isn’t a single experience you can work through like Darwinia. It has to compete with other multiplayer strategy games, which means that people have to decide whether to play WiC or CoH or Multiwinia. For someone who doesn’t play many multiplayer strategy games, the bigger games have more appeal, especially as they’re not separate releases.

  14. Filipe says:

    I’ve really dug the last few Ragdoll Metaphysics articles. Good work Jim.

  15. Meat Circus says:

    So, Multiwinia was a flop?

    They mentioned this at the Thinkosium too. I do hope having a game flop isn’t going to be fatal to them, because we know they’re only little, but it’s interesting that it never occured to them this would happen.

    Selling what appears to be a multiplayer component for an existing game as a full-price new game? Did they really not expect that not to be well-received?

    Still, from what little we know about Subversion, it looks *amazing*. So I hope this odd little company sticks around.

  16. alphaxion says:

    I, too, have all their games purchased and sitting on my shelf – including the special box set of Darwinia and Multiwinia. Love my little foam darwinians! :D

    I’ve been following Subversion for a bit now, it’s certainly amazing stuff.

    I just hope they say yes to me going down to their office for a little project I have in mind and I get to have a sneak peek at it running.

    Tho, that’s asking just a bit too much… simply going down to meet them is exciting enough!

  17. Rudolfo says:

    I really love the interview. Great running commentary between questions, but: isn’t it supposed to be valve’s staff? not stuff?

    Or, I could be missing a joke here. Tell me.

  18. Rich_P says:

    Defcon. They were day 1 purchases for me out of respect but could i get into them? Nope.

    Same here. I love the premise behind DEFCON and Darwinia (the former is a brilliant piece of art and social commentary), but I don’t really enjoy playing them as games. Weird.

    Darwinia came with a cute Darwinian keychain, which I’m using right now :D

  19. Warduke says:

    So I bought Defcon today after reading this article. I’m having some fun with it but damn it’s a bit depressing. Between the thought of global annihilation and the incredibly well done sound in the game it really sets a dire mood.

  20. enterman says:

    I absolutely love Multiwinia. I can’t believe it wasn’t much of a success. If I hadn’t liked Darwinia so much I probably wouldnt of even played it. Oh little stick people, fighting each other for control of such a beautiful landscape. The wee little screams are just hilarious.

  21. Pantsman says:

    I seem to be something of an anomaly in that I didn’t love Darwinia. I liked it alright, and it was certainly very pretty, but its gameplay seemed rather basic. Uplink I liked in concept, but for some reason I didn’t get into it when I tried to play it. The learning curve was a little too steep. DEFCON looks good, and I’ve been meaning to get it, but haven’t yet.

  22. Bret says:

    I keep meaning to buy Darwinia, but finances don’t even let me get Deus Ex, so…

    Did get DEFCON at a discount store. It is awesome looking, fun to play, etc, but I haven’t found a game really, so that’s lame.

  23. Mo says:

    @MrDeVil_909:
    Absolutely, I think the industry over-estimates the importance of the multiplayer component. To write a MP component for a game is a *huge* undertaking, and needs to be planned for from the base engine up. With my games I’ve always shied away from MP, because it would effectively double production times.

    I wish more publishers/developers had the balls to ship without a multiplayer component. Too many solid single player games ship with tacked on MP … that benefits nobody, not the developer and not the player. It only stops the vocal minority of hardcore players from whining about how “game x sucks because it has no multiplayer”.

  24. Mo says:

    Oh, and great interview as always Jim. :)

  25. Tarn says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Chris a couple of times for really quite small websites. Despite the low profile of the sites, he always took the time to provide really in-depth, fascinating answers. Clearly a guy that enjoys talking about and examining what they do, rather than simply hyping things up.

    Here’s one of the interviews, for anybody that’s interested, dating back to 2006 just after Darwinia hit the big time but before DEFCON: http://potentialgamer.com/2008/07/28/interview-with-chris-delay-of-introversion/

    Great interview, Jim. Another site for my bookmarks. :)

  26. Rei Onryou says:

    I’m always interested in what Introversion does. I absolutely love Uplink and Darwinia, and Defcon is a brilliant game (could it almost be considered an art game due to its message and tone?). Multiwinia didn’t really work for me. The Circular selection and random luck due to the crates (oh, they got a turret and I got a spider, yay) put me off a bit.

    I do look forward to Subversion as its already looking splendid just from interviews and screenshots. Delay has a real passion for what he’s doing, and he’s doing what he wants, not what others would want him to do.

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