And so our series of interviews with the finalists in this year’s IGF continues… High-speed, high (un)death toll strategy game Atom Zombie Smasher is up for the Excellence in Design prize at this year’s Independent Games Festival. Here, we chat to Blendo Games’ Brendon Chung about his origins as an indie dev, how people are creating their own narrative arcs in AZS, and his answer to the most important question of all.
RPS: Firstly, a brief introduction for those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?
Brendon: Hi, I’m Brendon Chung, and I make games. As a kid, I grew up making maps for Doom and Quake. That somehow led to working professionally at a studio for a number of years, and that led to working as a one-man independent at Blendo Games. Making small personal projects is how I got my start, and it’s something I find most satisfying.
RPS: Tell us about your game. What were its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What would you change if you could?
Brendon: Atom Zombie Smasher is a game about the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse. You play as a super-organization that lies somewhere between FEMA, Red Cross, and a military dictatorship. The goal was to create a light simulation approach toward a zombie invasion, via RTS and tower defense mechanics.
The one thing I’ve been most pleased with is how players sometimes experience their own little character arc. When I first see people play, they tend to be meticulous about trying to evacuate every last civilian. But as they continue to play, I’ve seen them become callously pragmatic – “Hm, I’ll create a firebreak here so the zombie infection won’t spread” (proceeds to firebomb three city blocks full of civilians). I love it when a player gets to experience that arc.
RPS: What are your feelings on the IGF this year? Pleased to be nominated? Impressed by the other finalists? Anything you worry has been overlooked?
Brendon: It’s a great IGF lineup, as always. I’ve been playing Frozen Synapse lately, and I was so happy to see it getting IGF nods. What a great game.
RPS: Which game would you like to see take the Grand Prize this year?
Brendon: I’m going cheese out of that question and talk about how they all appeal to me for different reasons: Dear Esther: First-person shooters are responsible for getting me interested in game development, so I have a particular fondness when an FPS goes and does something unexpected like this. Fez: One of the most gorgeous games I’ve seen. Frozen Synapse: Turn-based tactical multiplayer squad combat. I love all of those words. Johann Sebastian Joust: I got to see this at IndieCade this year, and it was my best of show. Probably the most original use of motion controls I’ve seen. Spelunky: I’ve always been a bit miffed that roguelikes – arguably one of the purest displays of gameplay – don’t get more love, so I’m glad to see this one getting IGF nods.
RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene of late? What would you like to see from it in the near-future?
Brendon: I’d love to see game development somehow get integrated into elementary school through high school curriculum. Game development covers a wide spectrum of topics, and I think channeling it to some sort of final playable project is a great way to apply what you’ve learned into something tangible.
RPS: And how does the future look for you, both in terms of this game and other projects?
Brendon: I’m wrapping up a project right now, which I’m pretty happy about. For my next project, I have a few awful prototypes, hopefully one of which is not-as-awful and has the legs to go forward.
RPS: If you could talk to the monsters in Doom, what would you ask them?
Brendon: I’d like to have a fireside chat with the personnel, to get their feedback on the UAC military base on Phobos. I’ve always had concerns about the safety standards and practicalities of the installation – vats of toxic goo, doors that crush fleshy bodies – I think there are voices there that need to be listened to.
I’d also ask Pinky to put on some pants.
RPS: Thanks for your time.