At the recent A Winter World of Love indie developer conference in London, RPS was kindly invited by event organisers Mudlark to host a panel. We thought long and hard about the many fascinating and complex issues surrounding and facing independent games, and before too long it was entirely clear what our panel should focus on.
It's all John's fault! He did it! Naughty John Walker! He mustered some most excellent assistance in his devilish plan, however: Dan 'Zombie Cow' Marshall, Robert 'Oddbob/RetroRemakes' Fearon and Charlie 'Charlie's Games' Knight. All of them have at some stage in their careers perpetrated the most dreadful act of creating a videogame themed around human genitalia. Later in this post are some selected extracts from what happened, but if you have time, patience and don't squeal about unprofessional sound quality, you can listen to my recording of the whole thing below - BEWARE OF NAUGHTY WORDS.
Or alternatively download it here. Yeah! Right, here's the best bits:
The gentledevelopermen introduce themselves, and why John's chosen them for this ignominy:
John references an earlier talk by Sophie Houlden, in which she claimed game developers were cooler than ninjas.
Fearon: I'm only cooler than a ninja because I nearly died.
We move on to what these gents think of RPS, a curious site that treats mainstream and indie games as exactly equal.
Fearon – I would be nobody without it. On the off-chance I mailed Mr Gillen about War Twat, and you really don't exect anyone to actually run with that. Sure enough no other bloody site did. It's all been a bit steamrollery from there.
Knight - It's obviously wonderful. You have featured Space Phallus there, which was quite surprising for a mainstream site.
John – That's basically why we covered it.
Marshall - It's basically always been a pain in the arse to get any mainstream site to cover an indie game. They pretend to be friendly but really it doesn't bring any hits. What RPS has done is "we'll cover anything" as long as it's not completely shit. That's new and interesting and I really appreciate that. That's kind of important. You're now big enough that other gaming sites will pick up on it - whereas you can email someone else a dozen times and they'll ignore but if they see it on RPS they'll copy it. We as indie developers need to recognise is what RPS has done in the past. Don't just send it to RPS. Send them an exclusive trailer that no-one else has got, do an interview...
The Zombie Cow man is right! We're very nice, and we also like exclusive stuff. Anyway, let's move onto money - do these men have lots of it, and where do they get it from?
Knight – Mostly it's donation-led, but I also sell through some of the portals.
Marshall – I make so much money. It's weighing my trousers down.
I tragically underpriced Time Gentlemen, Please, I thought that was a fair price for an adventure. Charge more. You can always go down... Start at like £12, wand hen everyone goes 'that's a bit sharp' go 'ten!'
Fearon – it doesn't matter what you price it someone will always say 'I'm not paying that, it's a flash game.'
John turns to one of this site's eternal bete noirs - DRM. Would these developers ever use it?
Knight – anything that stops my customers from being able to play a game that they've brought is rubbish. None of my games have got DRM and they never will have.
Fearon – Not long ago steam had a sale on Riddick. I already knew it was great, but even at 3.49 I am not having TAGES on my computer. If I have to think about buying a game for more than 3 seconds then I don't really want it anymore.
Marshall I love DRM, it's a great idea. Make it as difficult as possible for people to play your game - fuck it, you've got their money. What are they going to do, track you down?
We think he was joking. He was smiling when he said it, anyway. Next: how many and what kind of ideas get left by the wayside for these creative types?
Knight –Tthere was one that I spent about 18 months working on, a shitty game that used gestures to input special attacks. I got so carried away writing a learning algorithm it just got too much for me in the end and I had to bin it, but it's something I'd like to go back to. It was just becoming too a big a thing at the time.
Marshall - I don't have the luxury of prototyping stuff as much as I'd like. There's all sorts of crap ideas that have fallen by the wayside but Revenge of the Balloon-Headed Mexican's he only thing that I've actually made [then discarded].
The pub is where the best conversations about designs and structures happen. Especially after a couple of drinks. Better ideas come out.
Knight – Also, you can talk yourself in and out of ideas just by saying things out loud. Just sat at home alone you don't say things out loud.
Finally, we turn to the project John set all three at the start of the panel - design another genital-themed game before the chat wound to a close. This could be messy...
Fearon – Mine is a game about cocks. You are Sam Pisser secret agent, and you have to wank off - but don't let the guards see you.
Knight – Magical Teddy cock Explosion. I don't know what you do in it, but it features those things in various capacities throughout.
Fearon – He's got a cock with a top hat on!
John – That's classy.
Marshall – [Mine is] Cock, Vagina, Shotgun. I spent most of the time trying to think of a pun around paper but there isn't one.
John – There is, but it isn't very nice.
Which very much seemed like the sort of point we should wrap up at. So we did. Thanks to Charlie Knight, Dan Marshall and Rob Fearon for joining in, thanks to Mudlark for organising World of Love and inviting us along, thanks to John for being an excellent MC and having willies on the brain, and thanks to all the friendly people at the conference.
Pictures courtesy of photographer-ronin Dan Griliopoulos.