IGF Factor 2010: Aaa(Snip!-Ed)

By Kieron Gillen on February 17th, 2010 at 1:30 pm.

Of all the IGF finalists so far, AAA(Snip!-Ed) is the one which RPS has written most about. We loved it when we reviewed it. We loved it when Dejobaan answered your comment thread questions in a little video. We loved it when we interviewed them. We loved it in our end of year round-up. And we love it now, when they’ve recieved a nomination for excellence in design, taking it as an excuse for yet more coverage. Interview go! Interview go!

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you?

Ichiro Lambe: I’m Ichiro Lambe, Founder and President of Dejobaan Games, LLC. We’re a tiny indie studio right outside of Boston, MA. Being President of Dejobaan Games is like that episode of ST:TNG where they run into that guy who was the captain of a small shuttlecraft. I bet he also cleaned out the toilets.

RPS: What’s your background?

Ichiro Lambe: I’ve worked on and off in the industry since about ’93. My first “real” job involved creating a multiplayer online game that involved a) robots and b) shooting at robots. Looking through my HD, here’s a screenshot in all of its 320×200 glory, aaaaaand here’s a magazine article which I was delighted about, though they left an “e” off of my name.

RPS: Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Ichiro Lambe: I’ve been in love with game development since I was seven, sitting at a TI 99/4A. Indie games, in particular, are the perfect confluence of engineering, creativity, and business — if I worked for a giant company, I wouldn’t be able to have hands in game design, company strategy, marketing, and development. I’d just be one thing. Phooey!

This is he.

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it?

Ichiro Lambe: It all started with a BASE jumping video, but Aaaaa! doesn’t aim to mimic BASE jumping, per se. The biggest thing we wanted to do with the game (and an area where I think we succeeded) was to just have fun with the damned thing and share that with everyone who played it. For a long time, one of our goals has been to create a game where people walk away thinking, “Holy jumping Jesus on a pogo stick. I can’t believe I just saw that in a game. I have to tell people about it.”

RPS: What nags?

Ichiro Lambe: We really got the demo experience wrong. You find the game. You download it. You install it. At this point, you’ve done nothing I’d consider really “fun.” So: You play the demo. Aaaaaaaaaaand you spend 10 minutes going through a tutorial that’s not much fun either. I totally intercoursed that one up.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated?

Ichiro Lambe: We’re honored to have been nominated. For us, it’s confirmation that, yes, if you put your heart, soul, and a heaping heap of your own character into a game, people will respond well. Game development sometimes seems so sterile. Developers constrain themselves by saying “Here’s the game design. We may add 3 teaspoons of humor at the numbered locations.” To heck with that! We added elevator music to our level selection screen, and people loved it.

RPS: Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Ichiro Lambe: I love Monaco and Cogs. I really look forward to meeting some of my fellow indies in person at GDC — though Boston has a vibrant game development community, indies just dot the globe, and I haven’t brushed shoulders with many.

RPS: How do you feel about my moustache?

Ichiro Lambe: You don’t wear one.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary.

Ichiro Lambe: Kieron, I must have been living under a rock, because I missed the fireworks in 2008. Most indies I’ve met have been really great guys. There’s a sense of us all being in it together rather than it being a cutthroat competition. I hope that doesn’t change too much — the game development community in Boston is actually pretty friendly. In 2009, I feel a certain energy building — something that points to a Golden Age of independent development.

RPS: What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Ichiro Lambe: 2009′s central theme for us was “creativity and crazygonutsheycanwereallygetawaywithputtingthisstuffintoagame?”. There’s more experimentation going on than most gamers realize.

RPS: What’s a day in the development life of Dejobaan Games like?

Ichiro Lambe: I wake up sometime before noon and wonder if I’m the Pied Piper, leading a team of capable individuals on a merry but ultimately futile romp. By lunch, I’ve answered a small handful of e-mails to customers, journalists, publishers, and fellow indies, and have put out one or two fires. I then spend hours hacking away on our latest game, whatever that is at any given time. I muse on all the mistakes I’ve made and all the lessons I’ve learned, and wonder what obvious thing I have yet to learn, and whether my not knowing it will sink the company. If it’s Tuesday, our team will meet en toto, in person and via Skype. Later, around midnight, something like this will happen over IM:

Tamlyn: I came up with a name for levels that Mary, Ryan, and I make.
Ichiro: Yes!
Tamlyn: Tam und Mary und Ryan. TuMuRs. Pronounced “tumor.”

And it’s that point that I know that things are going to be okay.

RPS: Ichiro, why are you screwing with my interview questions?

Ichiro Lambe: Mostly because I think that you either won’t mind it, or will simply ignore the intrusion. I feel that we, as game developers, can sometimes be too rigid in what we do. It’s as though we have a checklist:

Antonia: Gentlemen, where are we on our game design?
William: We have an installer, a title menu, an options menu, over 13 unique enemies, and more than 18 unique levels!
Ralph: The graphics are eye-popping. Add in 8 daringly original music tracks, and 12 jaw-dropping cut scenes.
Antonia: Bingo!
William: Bullshit.
Antonia: No, really. I got unique, eye-popping, jaw-dropping, original, redefine, tour de force, and genre-bending. I win Press Release Bingo!
Ralph: Screw you. You’re imaginary, anyway. There are no women in game development.

Lamentable gender disparity in video game development aside, I think it’s what we do outside of that standard gameplay checklist that makes a game really interesting. Little tidbits — like the sound effects when you keep clicking on Starcraft pieces — that make a game truly awesome.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Ichiro Lambe: Game development is notoriously person-hour heavy. It takes how many artists to make a single game? Really? I think future generations will look back and click their tongues at how basic our tools are. What I’m trying to do in 2010 is to make our tiny studio as productive as a much larger one through mathematics and a bit of magic.

RPS: Thanks for your time, you question-manipulating bastard.

Aaa(Snip!-Ed) is still available to buy. Dejobaan are actually working on other stuff right now, despite clearly dodging the question for admirable comic effect. Here’s a little experimental game they showed recently, working on a one-button system…

Bless them and follow their work at their electronic internet site.

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25 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge Schaulustiger says:

    Hilarious interview!

    And it reminded me that I’ve not yet bought Aaa…! which I immediately did afterwards. Loved the demo and I’m sure I will love the full version.

    • lhzr says:

      it reminded me why i haven’t bought aaa. their sense of humour is terrible. the “jokes” from aaa are on the level of those “random-funny” videos that teens upload on youtube.
      too bad they chose to present their game in such an offputting manner, because the gameplay was fine and quite fun, at least for a while.

    • Nick says:

      @lhzr: Different to yours does not mean bad.

    • Tom O'Bedlam says:

      @lhzr nope, pretty sure this is funny

      In the year of our Lord, Nineteen Eighty Two, Polystructures fell from space. Massive but light, they touched the atmosphere, and stuck.
      Scientists made new materials. Builders made new cities. Families made their homes thousands of feet above ground level.
      Art made the floating super-sculptures, and culture made the floating caviar socials to regard them.
      In the year of our Lord, Twenty Eleven, you cannot look up from beneath a city and see the stars.
      But you can look down from above it. And you can jump.
      The jumps you make are not about art. They are about a reckless disregard for safety.
      The jumps you make are not about culture. They are about a reckless disregard for regulation.
      The jumps you make are not about science. They are about a reckless disregard for gravity.

    • Web Cole says:

      @ Nick: True that.

    • Jayt says:

      Rarrrr I don’t buy games based on gameplay, but on the develpoers humour!!!

      I am a true gamer

    • Wulf says:

      @Jayf

      That’s a mildly dickish thing to say, especially since most critics agree that the game is pretty fun and enjoyable too, regardless of the humour.

      You imply that a game cannot be funny and fun to play, Psychonauts disagrees.

  2. jsutcliffe says:

    I have still not taken the time to even try the demo, after following the game through development. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

  3. Chris D says:

    The questions were so much better in this one. Games journalism at it’s finest. Especially the moustache question.

  4. qrter says:

    Excellent interview. Hope they win.

  5. Cooper says:

    I loved Aaaaaa…. so much. Much more than I expected to. I’m not a big fan of ‘highscore’ games – I tend to play through them once and rarely re-visit in order to chase perfection or competition, but Aaaaa… was packed with loads of excellent levels anyway, which tended to be pitched at a perfect difficulty level.

    Just noticed there’s a sneaky level editor available. Absolutely can’t wait to see more levels produced, because, quite frankly, I have been gagging for more Aaaaa… levels for weeks now.

  6. Skusey says:

    Decided to buy it because he seemed lovely.

  7. wqjvdsciouuiwenhjv says:

    In b4 Lambe comes to RPS and chats to us again.

    Hey, Lambe, it’d be pretty cool if you sent me an e-mail and gave me concept artist work. I’m 18 and a total amateur, but if you gave me a chance, I bet I could impress you. Pay me in advice [:<

  8. Jad says:

    He’s right on the demo. I downloaded that when RPS first linked to it and came away unimpressed. None of the incidental humor was there (the title screen, the elevator music, the “meditations”), and the few levels there were simple and sort of boring. None of that “I will replay this level over and over, forcing it to reveal all of its secrets, until I have goddamn mastered it” feeling. None of that “I need to flip those guys off and graffiti that building and hit that plate and kiss that building and also don’t die all at the same time” feeling.

    I finally bought it when it was really cheap on the Steam holiday sale, because RPS seemed to love it so much, and I trust them. Turns out the game is awesome.

    So, if anyone was turned off by the demo — the game itself is much better.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      I really enjoyed the demo but I didn’t feel like the game had much more to offer me after that. I guess I’ll have to pick up a copy after I finish my current playthrough of the entire Command and Conquer series :)

    • Jayt says:

      Unfortunately Tom I felt the same way.

  9. SH4RKY says:

    awesome game to ‘drop’ into now and again. really glad i bought it.

  10. jay says:

    “I totally intercoursed that one up.”

    Heh. Those guys.

  11. Ichiro Lambe says:

    > Hilarious interview!

    Thank you!

    > their sense of humour is terrible. the “jokes” from aaa are on the level of those “random-funny” videos that teens upload on youtube.

    I can appreciate that not everyone likes our sense of humor. I’d rather offer it up and let people either love it or hate it than not have it in there.

    > Especially the moustache question.

    I was wondering if Kieron would leave that in or not. Or perhaps grow a moustache.

    > Hope they win.

    Thank you. Me too!

    > Absolutely can’t wait to see more levels produced, because, quite frankly, I have been gagging for more Aaaaa… levels for weeks now.

    “Aha! What else can we put in?,” my team asked me. “I need a vacation,” I said. One vacation later, here we are, and we’re thinking: “What else can we put in? Do people want more of the same? Something entirely new?” Sadly, not one person made a level!

    > Decided to buy it because he seemed lovely.

    Thank you. :)

    > Dejobaan Games is awful, and I hate your games. How can I be less like you?

    Zoot suit! Zoot suit! Zoot suit! Zoot suit! Zoot suit! Zoot suit! Zoot suit! Zoot suit! Zoot suit! Zoot suit! On second thought, forget the zoot suit.

    > Hey, Lambe, it’d be pretty cool if you sent me an e-mail and gave me concept artist work. I’m 18 and a total amateur, but if you gave me a chance, I bet I could impress you. Pay me in advice [:<

    Our summer art intern last year was 19, and he rocks, so age matters not! We will be opening up an internship for this coming summer, if you or anyone you know are in the Boston, MA area.

  12. Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

    I recently posted on the forums about my horrible misjudgement of this game and why I should have bought it on day one at full price rather than for virtually nothing at the Steam Christmas sale. Not that I’m giving Ichiro and co any more of the money – largely because I’m Scottish and therefore a dirty rotton skinflint.

    As for the humour i find it hit and miss. Almost dead on 50/50 hit and miss . . . i wonder if that was intentional!

    Seriosuly though, this game is suprisingly great and it’s second only to Spelunky as the game I reach for when I’ve got an idle half hour or so to kill.

  13. Oak says:

    Please patch that song into the game.

  14. ccluskin says:

    “If it’s Tuesday, our team will meet en toto, in person . . .”

    That’s “in toto,” not “en toto.” Latin, not French.