So here we go kickin off the new interview style series with indie studios from around the PC market. The first one to be featured is Dapper Swine these are the guys that talked me into doing this kind of thing. Indie studios, big ones too, are made up of gamers just like ourselves and I felt it would be interesting to peek inside the life of studio. So without future ado here are the answers from Dapper Swine to the questions you guys created! O and if you want your studio to be featured check the developers tab.
DG: Where did your studios name come from? Was it a quick snap of the fingers idea or did it take many test names to come up with this one? If so what were some of those names?
We didn’t think a lot about what to name the studio, rather there were a lot of drawings being made, and then we decided we’d make a name based on one of the pictures. I told my girlfriend she should draw a pig with a top hat. The first draft was a little rough, but ultimately it lead to the final design, and the name.
DG: What are your backgrounds and how do they influence your game making?
I have a pretty extensive background doing everything. I can model, paint, program, have limited ability at producing unique sound effects, and I’m also very tech-savvy with hardware and software, and I know basically all the design lingo. I’ve used countless level editors and similar tools over the past 10 years. Ever since I first got my hands on a computer, I’ve had a strong desire to make games. The only thing I can’t make is music… completely tone deaf. I’m musically illiterate. That being said, I’ve found awesome musicians I want to hire someday when we have money.
DG: Why did you set up shop, what niche in the industry interested you? Was it what interested you from this the start or have you changed perspectives as you developed.
I don’t like a few things about PC gaming (or I should say, how it’s morphing). The games are turning into more watered-down versions of stuff that was better years ago. For instance, Bioshock is a pretty good game, but its features were oversimplified, and as a result, System Shock 2 is the more modern, detailed, fun game. I’ve always felt like technology should push gameplay further, not muffle it behind fancy graphics. We want to reintroduce depthy games… make stuff that’s less like Bioshock, more like System Shock 2. Less like Conviction, and more like Chaos Theory. If that all makes sense.
DG: Where do you see the industry going?
Our studio will always be PC-centric. If I ever personally become involved in console games, I’d make a separate studio and separate games for it. I think that once you start making ports, you start disappointing people, and I don’t want to do that. I’m one of those people you’ll see on a forum saying “Why do PC gamers always get stuck with shoddy ports of good games?” I definitely don’t want to ever be guilty of doing the same thing. That being said, we got a chance to play with a Transformer tablet and it was pretty neat. Granted, all we made was a small test game where you can roll balls around on it as if it was a tabletop using the accelerometer, but… it was fun to use. I see potential there. And we do have an Android development license! …Nah, not right now though. Maybe later, though.
DG: Who are your biggest influences in the industry or outside the industry?
Our biggest influences tend to be video games, and often specific ones. However, since we’re detail junkies we’ll occasionally come across rules for a tabletop game and think “Wow, I’d love to make a video game with that level of complexity.” Most people may not know what this is, but the Rogue Trader rule set is insane, for instance. I’d love to draw some inspiration off that. For what, I don’t know.
DG: How many people are in your studio? What does each person handle?
I (Jason) do essentially everything. That being said, the team does expand and contract dynamically… sometimes up to 2 other people will be involved in the process. One of which is my best friend, and he can usually tell me when I’m getting tunnel vision and will help me see new features I never thought of. That’s important no matter who you are, though. Once you look at your own game for so long, you go nuts over the tiniest of details and you need someone to look at it with fresh eyes.
DG: How long, on average, do you spend creating your games? How much of this is split up between roles like artist, programmers and such?
It really depends on the project. Since I do almost everything myself, it’s extremely important that I develop slowly so I don’t get burned out. Nothing will ruin a project like powering through it despite being burned out… kills your spirit, and subsequently kills the game.
DG: How did you finance your studio? With the recent rise of Kickstaters are you looking into crowdsourcing? How much does money influence the overall game, do things need to get cut and how do you make the choice of what to cut?
In a recent interview we stated that we don’t like how people who don’t need a kickstart sometimes use Kickstarter, seemingly defeating the point. In that interview we also stated that we really don’t know if we’d ever use it ourselves. However, we’re seriously considering it now… but as stated, we’d strictly be using it as a kickstart, and only this once (probably). Primarily, we’d like to handle a few looming licensing fees. So you might expect a Kickstarter from us pretty soon, and we’ll definitely try giving away some cool perks for pledges. Anyways… the rise of Kickstarters is good and bad. It’s good because indies can get much-needed funds and there’s a surprisingly high success rate. It’s bad because people who are already super popular can use their built-in base and basically attain unlimited cash. Now, before anyone says I’m talking about Tim Schaefer… I’ll make an exception for him. Because he’s essentially my hero, and anyone who made Grim Fandango can have as much money as he wants. As far as our financing, we’ve miraculously found a way to get our game to 75% completion without spending a dime, unless you count $5 on our domain. Open source software is awesome, but doing everything free and well can be a juggling act. So, you know… that’s where licensing fees sometimes poke up, at which point we must smite them back with the power of friendship and rainbows and all that.
DG: How do you deal with the balance between running the business and building games? Do you test a game concept publicly in some way before developing to see if it’ll stick?
Right now, building games is 98% of the business. The rest is how I decide to divide making games with trying to get our name out there… being both the designer and marketer. That’s hard. As far as sort of… public, or focus testing, no. We just make games that don’t exist, that we think need to exist. Sounds simple, but really, those are the primary guidelines.
DG: What are your favorite/least favorite game mechanics? Why?
Something rubs me wrong about tile-based movement. Well, don’t get me wrong… Legend of Grimrock is awesome. I give it a pass. But yeah, tile-based movement irritates me a bit, mostly for aesthetic reasons. If it operates smoothly and there’s no hiccups between tiles, it’s much more forgivable. My favorite game mechanics are usually stealth mechanics though. And oh, I’m a real riot when I get going about the successes and failures of various games and their stealth mechanics… get me started on stealth in the Elder Scrolls and you’ll have your earmuffs on in no time. But I’m only such a hard-nosed judge of it because I love stealth so much, honestly. Heck, our second game will probably be a stealth game. And if it’s not, I’ll insert the word stealth somewhere just to be smarmy.
DG: How do your games change during the development process? Did it start as one game and then change over time into the final product or did it stay pretty much the same?
Games change a lot when you don’t plan them. Earlier projects, and to a smaller degree, Blasted Fortress, suffered from a lack of planning. Make no mistake, you can always get out of a poor planning rut… by dropping everything you’re doing and planning… but it’s really nice if you get it overwith before production happens. Blasted Fortress hasn’t changed a whole lot because I had a much stronger vision for it, but there were a few instances of poor planning. My advice to new developers who want to create their first “real” game is to plan out everything. Be borderline psychotic about the detail of what you’re planning. If stuff changes, that’s fine, but you need to know your framework before you fudge it all up and have to use the eraser 100 times. The metaphorical eraser, I mean. The eraser that deletes hours of code and assets and makes a grown man weep.
DG: Why are indie-games important? Do you think indie-games have changed/will change the market?
Indie games are important because they’re often developed without any funds, or with a small budget. Because of that, you know right away that the developer made the game they wanted to make. A lot of times in bigger studios… it’s a lot of people with low active interest in the material they’re creating, generally with one or a few people with that strong vision trying to herd a team of indifferent people. It’s extremely freeing (if hectic) to have complete artistic freedom over everything and do it yourself. Plus, everything is incredibly consistent.
DG: What social media sites do you use? What has been the influence of social media on your studio?
We currently use Twitter, and try to take advantage of interviews on gaming sites. There were debates about using Reddit, but the community seems to have an exclusionary attitude to outsiders… whether that observation is correct or not, I have no idea, but it’s the impression we got. We’d love to use Reddit though if it turns out it’s a perfectly viable and friendly way to reach new people, though another issue is we have no idea if self-promotion is shunned on it or not. Social media has been kind and unkind to us. It’s hard to gain followers, and often the players forget how much it means to a small studio to be followed. I truly get excited when I see we have a new follower… so it’s appreciated, and even that 1 extra follower boosts morale. Oh! I said it has been unkind, too… but what I mean is, it’s difficult to look at the successful people with thousands of followers and not be tempted to say “Hey, want to retweet me because you’re so popular and I’m so desperate? ” Except, you know, worded differently! But it’s almost what has to be done just to be seen. We find even indie media to generally be very unfair… most indie sites don’t care about anything unless it’s about Notch, or Notch tweeted it. They sort of do their journalism vicariously, and on autopilot, and rarely go out of their way to grant exposure to a new studio (or in our case, one that’s been around for 6 months). It’s all tough cookies to crack, but we keep our chins up and forge ahead. Because some days, we get that 1 additional follower, and I’m eternally grateful. Some days you just have to wring those hash tags dry.
DG: What games are you currently playing?
EYE: Divine Cybermancy, Rift, PAYDAY: The Heist, Legend of Grimrock… I try to have as much fun as I can throughout the day to reduce the effects of burnout, and I like to keep my gaming varied, because I like almost every genre. Sometimes, though, I get caught up in my thirst to design when I shouldn’t. For instance, I’m working on a complete rewrite of EYE’s in-game text, because the English version is more like Engrish and difficult to read.
DG: Any interesting facts you want to share with the community?
Did you know that a giraffe has a vein that needlessly runs all the way up its neck then loops back down? Kind of pointless. Seriously though, as we said we’re thinking of beginning a Kickstarter soon. Closed beta signups for Blasted Fortress are still open, and we need more people to sign up so that they can test the game before it releases. Beyond that, we’d love if people would follow us on Twitter @DapperSwine. We talk about game design stuff usually, and we always keep our Twitter up to date with how we’re doing. Plus, we just really really like reaching out and talking to people. Toodles!