Next in our series of interviews with the finalists in this year's IGF is gorgeous, isometric adventure golf course opus Wonderputt, which is up for the Excellence In Visual Art award. Here's what creator Reece Millidge of Damp Gnat intends from and for the game, how it saved his bacon, 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?
Damp Gnat is just me at present, outsourcing to some very talented audio and mobile port wizards. Although I'm hoping to expand to speed up production, if only on a per project basis.
I'm actually a relic from the Commodore Amiga days. A school friend and I released Odyssey just as the Amiga was making way for the rise of the PC. So the roots were planted for returning to games years later but with the advantage of 15 years experience in animation for films & commercials. I realised that I was incubating more ideas for games than film during that period, so it was only a matter of time before something accessible to the individual came along. Flash was the perfect tool, Icycle was the result and before I knew it I'd become a full time indie developer! Cool.
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?
Adverputt was really just an experiment in hyper commercialism but the game engine seemed quite popular in its own right, so it made sense to reuse it with a richly animated environment for a wider audience. Always looking for inspiration outside of games, I rummaged through all manner of isometric illustration such as old encyclopaedia diagrams and their geographic cross sections, to bar chart statistics and air fix kit assembly info graphics. This stuff was ripe for logic, cause and effect and the wonder of discovery. It just made sense to harness it as a theme for tying together my own adventure golf course and have some fun with it.
Generally I'm very pleased with the result, as it doesn't feel much like a Flash game. It's funny to hear comments on some portals requesting a camera tilt option, not realising it's actually a flat animated painting...
If I had a chance to start over, I'd probably have focused on one part of the world and evolved that to allow for closer framing, wider areas of play and a purer concept. The most interesting parts are the geographic transitions within a single region. I think that's where the magic happens.
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?
IGF feels really well organised. A reputable jury selection and constructive feedback if your submission doesn't make finalist selection. I'm all for innovation so I think the Nuovo category is a great idea. Indie developers have an advantage in breaking moulds and inspiring new directions in this medium so it’s great that IGF reward this.
After browsing this year's submissions I really had given up all hope of nomination, so the shock was one of disbelief. It’s also easy to feel intimidated by non-Flash games, so it’s great to be holding a candle for good ol' Flash.
RPS: Which game would you like to see take the Grand Prize this year?
I can't play most of them! So many are exclusive to the Jury. Although I'm particularly eager to play Botanicula by Amanita. I'm very curious about its game mechanic! It's another reason I'm looking forward to GDC, for the demo pods on the expo floor.
RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene of late? What would you like to see from it in the near-future?
Finally we're seeing some wise crossovers of specialism. You can tell when an illustrator's been involved, their strengths in aesthetic and representation help redefine the rules, boundaries and logic of a game. Their contribution can be profoundly more than cosmetic, especially at conceptual stage. I also feel strong aesthetics help maximise their reach to the masses, that's no bad thing in my book. I'm always looking out for new experiences in games. They say you can't reinvent the wheel. That maybe true in our world, but games have worlds of their very own, don't they?
RPS: And how does the future look for you, both in terms of this game and other projects?
Wonderputt has sold really well but it’s been the only lucrative game so far. It’s actually saved my bacon as I was down to the wire, so more than anything I was thrilled to realise I was able to continue this line of work. As for a sequel, the ridiculous process of level designing has left a bad taste in my mouth, so other ideas on the boil feel much more appealing.
Icycle 2 is currently in development and will also launch on iOS devices later this year under a mobile publisher TBA. So that's new territory and very exciting! If this works out then I'll look more into touch screen stuff, or perhaps explore multiplayer.
RPS: If you could talk to the monsters in Doom, what would you ask them?
It would be nice to know their favourite ice cream flavour, how happy they were in their job, and perhaps what profession they would choose in an ideal world. After their rehabilitation into society, reality TV could track their progress in fulfilling their dreams. There'd likely be some very touching moments.
RPS: Thanks for your time.