Here we continue our conversation with the makers at Industrial Toys. They've punched the big red button to stop production just long enough to answer some questions. Part 2 of Interview with the makers:
4) What's the one horrible thing about the game industry you wish you knew when you got started?
Alex: One? Ha!
The game industry is actually pretty great. I think because most of the folks that choose to work at it do so because they love games - playing them and the craft. So for the most part people have their hearts in the right place. I was shocked though to learn how seedy the distribution side of the business is. Product distribution is about as far downstream from the creative end of the business as you can get. Back-room deals, shakedowns and hot boxxing was the norm back in the 90's. Thankfully most of the leverage that physical distribution wields has ebbed as the industry has been switching to digital distribution.
Brent: Only 1 in a bazillion games [it's actually 1 in a quadzillion - ed] makes it into the public consciousness so when you tell a total stranger the awesome game that you invested many years of your life towards you will likely get an empty stare and a friendly "Ah" with a slight turn of the head. The journey has to be the reward to make it through a career in gaming. I have found it to be super rewarding to be able to solve a new and different challenge every time I come into work.
Jason: This probably comes as no surprise but my first 3 years of working in the industry, I crunched A LOT. I knew that going in, crunch was a thing you had to deal with in this industry but I didn't know to what extent. However, the thing I didn't expect was if you don't end up crunching on a project and that project doesn't turn out to be successful, you often end up asking yourself if you had worked longer and harder, would that have made the difference? Or maybe that's just me :slightly_smiling_face:
Steve: I'll say two things (that's what you meant by one, right?).
1. The possibly insanely long work hours is one thing that can be horrible. It's not at every studio on every project, but I've seen it get out of hand and have some very real repercussions on people.
2. The Layoff/Hire nature of the industry. It's a feast or famine industry and although as a whole it's growing and huge and healthy, it's way more volatile on a company basis than most industries. Mass layoffs occur often but luckily it's usually timed with another company's rapid growth/hiring plan. So most people I know that are hit with layoffs are able to land on their feet.
Timmy I get a lot of people who think game development is a lot more "fun" than it actually is. I didn't have this mindset by the time I joined the industry but I think it's probably something I thought when I was a kid. Ultimately, while it's rewarding to work on games, it's still a job, and most of the time what you're doing is fairly far away from the actual experience of playing games.
5) What are you most proud of contributing to one of your games?
Alex: I made the first large open space multiplayer death match map in Marathon, thus becoming the father of the Arena style map. Small thing, but that was pretty cool. [Thunderdome? Everyone's Mortal? - ed]
Brent: Actually just shipping our games. It takes a lot of behind the scenes work from many people to produce a top tier game. I am extremely proud of the work our team has produced.
Jason: I wrote the animation system for all of the Where's My games. The original system for Where's My Water was based on a really horrible skeletal "armature" system that was tacked onto Adobe Flash. It used the XFL format which is an undocumented XML file that I think Adobe created. I had to sort of reverse engineer that format to pull the data into our engine. Eventually our artists disliked animating using the Flash Armature system enough that we switched to Toon Boom. Toon Boom supported much more sophisticated controls for 2D skeletal animation. So I worked with one of their engineers to build an exporter to our format. Where's My Mickey had really rich and plentiful animation and that was the culmination of my work on that animation system.
Steve: I'm proudest of my work on Oni. It was the first game I ever worked on. There were only 11 of us developing a full game for Mac/PC and only one of us had ever previously shipped a title. We all had huge ownership over parts of the game and somehow managed to actually ship a product. [those fighting animations, still amazingly fluid - ed]
Timmy: The Renegade item generation system. There were things I would change about it if I did it again, but I love loot games and the idea of building your own weapons using randomized parts is still an idea I think is awesome. I'm glad I got to make it. [crafting weapons -> unique stats, unique looks, FTW]
6) What game would we be surprised to know you never played?
Alex: Well, here's a huge blind spot in my gameography - never finished Half Life. (Sorry Gabe - I do have Portal on my favs list so don't smite me!).
Brent: Halo. It's true, [gasp! - ed] I have never been a console fan and by the time it came out on PC I had moved on to other games. I hope I can trust you with this deep dark secret.
Jason: Mario 64. I never had a Nintendo 64, so I only played on my brother's friend's. When they let me play, it was only to play Goldeneye because they needed an extra player to hit 4.
Steve: People seem surprised that: I've never seen the movie Blade Runner. I've never smoked anything, ever. I've never played Zelda: Breath of the Wind. But it's never too late, right?
Timmy: I was born in Bermuda so we didn't have any game consoles. I missed everything that predates the Nintendo 64 so there are a lot of gaps in my history from the NES/SNES era. I've done my best to fill in the gaps (until like two years ago this answer would've been A Link to the Past) but Mario RPG is a game people are always shocked to hear I've never played.