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IGF Factor 2012: To The Moon

Freebird Games does the chat

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And so my semi-exhaustive attempt to chat to the makers of (almost) all the PC/Mac-based games which are nominated for Independent Games Festival awards this year continues. This time, it’s one of the boy Walker’s favourite games of last year, the backwards-storytelling, thoughtful sci-fi, and heartstring-pulling that is To The Moon. This point’n’click adventure is up for the Excellence in Audio prize. Here, Freebird Games’ Kan Gao discusses the autobiographical factors that informed the game, a few hints on The The Moon episode 2, groupies, chopsticks and 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?

Hiya folks, my name’s Kan. I’m just some guy who was born some years ago. I hold my chopsticks the wrong way, and sometimes I pretentiously stare out the window with a troubled gaze for a prolonged period of time in hope that someone sees it and thinks, “Wow, that guy must be deep”.

I got into making games for the groupies, and I got into making indie games for the groupies with cool accessories.

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?

When it first started, it was really just a personal attempt to turn some misfortunes at the time into something nice, so they wouldn’t have happened in vain. One of those things was my grandfather falling ill, who has fortunately recovered since then. I probably shouldn’t speak of the other major one out loud, but it might be somewhat guessable to those who knows To the Moon’s story.

I was extremely glad (and relieved!) to find that there existed many fellow gamers out here who shared my vision and was fine with To the Moon’s strange classification – a valley between a pure game and a pure movie that was hopefully not so uncanny.

But from a personal perspective, what I’m most pleased about it was that I proved to myself that when life gives you lemons, you can shove ‘em up yours and run faster.

As for things to change . . . there were definitely a lot of gameplay related things that could’ve been done better to mesh with the story more. I think I copped out at the end to make it more of a standard game because I was afraid of its reception otherwise, when some of those things hastily added actually interfered with what it was meant to do to begin with.

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?

It’s a giant party this year, isn’t it? There are so many fascinating entries . . . with emphasis on not only “fascinating” but also “so many”. I’m really curious as to what the structure of the event will be like in the future if such exponential growths keep up. But either way, it’s just so great to see the amount of livelihood and passion in the indie games community through an event like this.

And “pleased”? I’m ecstatic! It’s just such an immense honour to be among so many talented people and their projects that I look up to, and it’s still hard to wrap my head around how fortunate I am to be here.

I haven’t even thought about things being overlooked or whatnot, though I suppose if anything, it would’ve been nice to have a category that’s flexibly relevant to the storytelling aspect, which was more or less the sole purpose of this particular project. But really, I’m happy enough as it is!

RPS: Which game would you like to see take the Grand Prize this year?

I might have to go wishy-washy on this one. The games up there are all so different and fantastic in their own ways – I love the ethereal atmosphere of Dear Esther, the dynamic experience of Spelunky, the out-of-the-boxiness of JS Joust, the tactical excellence of Frozen Synapse and, c’mon, with the drama aside, Fez’s pretty great. Sucks to be the judges; I’m going home.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene of late? What would you like to see from it in the near-future?

It’s been on the rise for sure, just like Dr. Horrible’s evilness. It’s really exciting to be a part of it at a time like this too; there’re just so many fascinating projects out there opening up so much potential!

If anything, I wish there’d be a more accessible and systematic ways for other hopeful indie devs to get funding and press coverage to get the word out there – but I think we are actually moving well in that direction thanks to wide-sighted sites like RPS.

RPS: And how does the future look for you, both in terms of this game and other projects?

It’s definitely off to a more than fortunate start! I’m working on getting some more convenient distribution channels for To the Moon at the moment, before patching it up with some fixes from players’ feedbacks, and starting to work on the next episode.

As for the future, I’ve already got the core theme and structure of episode 2 of the series (not yet officially named) ready. Its story and focus is also based on something personal, and I think there’s something genuine and relatable to everyone there . . . I’ll be trying my hardest to execute it to the effectiveness it deserves (before the heartfelt moments are utterly annihilated by the two doctors’ pointless banters, of course).

RPS: If you could talk to the monsters in Doom, what would you ask them?

Am I just a piece of meat to you?

RPS: Thanks for your time.

To The Moon is out now. The full list of IGF 2012 finalists is here, and keep an eye on RPS for more interviews over the coming days and weeks.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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