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Recently, Pig-Min did an e-mail interview of Naomi Clark, who was Producer - Writer of [Miss Management].

Korean version of this Interview.

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Title screen of [Miss Management].



1. [Miss Management] uses 'Time Management' concept, which was made for [Diner Dash]. But [Miss Management] is totally different game from [Diner Dash], especially for 'Managing Whom'. For [Diner Dash], player must handle 'Customers'. But for [Miss Management], player must handle 'fellow workers'. Very different & brilliant idea it is. How come to think about such a excellent thing?

At Gamelab we always try to come up with something new that we haven't done before. Sometimes this is a completely new style of game, sometimes it is an evolution from a previous idea. Miss Management is a time management game, and hopefully a good evolution of Diner Dash!

The funny thing is, originally this game was not like Diner Dash at all. The first versions were made to look like project-management software -- as if the character of Denise was sitting at a computer looking at software on the screen that let her give tasks to various employees. There was no picture of the office rooms, or walking around the office, just lots of tasks and power-ups and employees with different abilities. It felt kind of like playing a RPG like Final Fantasy -- except only the combat part, with tasks as "monsters," and no exciting graphics.

So we decided that was not exciting enough, then we came up with the idea of having Denise walk around the office -- and we realized, hey this could work kind of like Diner Dash! So we combined our idea of an office, many employees, and tasks, with our
previous ideas from Diner Dash to make a new game.


2. For [Miss Management], player must use 'Female' character, and also for [Diner Dash]. Of course, there are only 2 gender for human, so 'female' is half of them & not very special. But you might have some reason to pick up 'female' character for the player. Please share your thoughts about that.

You're right, females are half of everyone! But somehow, half of game characters are not females! And when many games do have female characters, they are made to be sexy, for the benefit of male players, instead of realistic. We like to do things a little bit differently, for many reasons. One is that we just don't want to do games that have already been made, we want to explore new ideas. There are very few games that are set in an office, in regular modern settings -- no guns, no spaceships, no swordfights!

Also, a lot of people who play our games are women, sometimes more than half! Since there are few games where women can identify with a realistic female character, instead of a female who's just there to be sexy, we want to provide this experience for them. At the same time, we also think our male gamers can enjoy a game with these characters; we try to make Flo and Denise the kind of characters that anyone can
identify with, just like famous characters such as Mario or Link. The player might not be a fat little Italian plumber with a big mustache, but still it's easy to "step into the shoes" of Mario and play with him. We think the same thing can be done with female characters too!

For similar reasons, we wanted to put characters from many different racial backgrounds in the game, so we have some Asian characters, an Indian character, some black characters, etc. This is also rarely seen in games, especially in a modern setting where the characters talk about race!


3. [Miss Management] is superior to [Diner Dash], for characters. For [Diner Dash], there was only 1 fixed character 'Flo', and others are 'visiting customers'. But for [Miss Management], all the characters are alive & have their own personality & dialogues. It's very hard to make all the characters different. Could you please let us know, how you made such a living characters? (Especially for 'Tara'. When she get angry, she's cute.)

We had both game designers (who write the story as well as design the game) and visual artists work on these characters together. First, two game designers (myself and Nick Fortugno) come up with ideas for characters, many of them were based on people that we know and have worked with. Some of the characters in Miss Management are very much like my own bosses and coworkers from past jobs! Then we asked our character illustrator, Carolina Moya, to draw them. The pictures of the characters looking excited, unhappy, stressed out, really brought them to life and gave us a lot more ideas on who they are, what they're like. We tried to come up with every kind of "office character" we could -- bosses and employees, nervous people and people who don't like working.

We also created the characters to fit the game, so their variety explores the whole game system: good at different kinds of things, stressed by different things, etc. Some are specialists, others can do anything. These parts of the game also influenced the personality and dialogue of the characters.

It all fits together: game + visual + writing.

Tara is one of my favorite characters, especially because she loves anime so much. She is partly based on one of our artists here.


4. 'Miss' of [Miss Management]. It means 'honor title of lady', but it also has meaning of 'mistake', so [Miss Management] might have 'duplicate meaning'. Did you intend it?

Yes, I'm glad you understood the double meaning!

We spelled it "Miss" because Denise is a young lady (we use "Miss" for women who are not married). And "Management" because that is Denise's job. However, there is another word "mismanagement" which means "badly done management." It means when those in charge make poor decisions about running an organization. Of course, a lot of the story is about "mismanagement" in this way too, for instance the way Duncan acts in episodes 13-18 is a classic case of "mismanagement," same with Pearl and Brooke later on.


5. You have somewhat different career for 'Game Producer', as you have done 'Content & Community Manager'. Especially for 'Community Manager', it might be very different work from 'Game Producer'. But it's perfect for making [Miss Managment], because this game deals with 'community of fellow workers'. What do you think about that?

Definitely! That's a good connection.

The "community" part of my job usually comes after a game is finished, in talking with players and especially for multiplayer games. It's all about how people interact with each other around the game. At gamelab many of us do many different jobs at once, since we are not a huge company. For Miss Management, I did project management, writing, and game design too. So my title explains some of what my skills are (specializing in content and community) but not exactly what I do. Actually, my job is not that much different from what I did as a game producer! Just a different name.


6. Do you have some future plan, to make 'Sequel' or 'Different Skin' version of [Miss Management]? For example, [Diner Dash] had 2 sequels & Spongebob version. How about making 'Game Company' version of [Miss Management]? Will have too-inside-story of Gamelab? (grin.)

We are really excited that Miss Management is turning out to be popular. The future of the game has lots of possibilities, and it could work in many different settings -- I guess it depends on if someone is interested in working with us, like Nickelodeon did for Diner Dash. As for "Game Company" version, some people have already said that Miss Management offices look too much like our offices already! =) The employees in Miss Management are mostly young, some of them are artists and writers, and they work in open spaces without lots of walls and cubicles -- much more like Gamelab than most offices!


7. How's selling for [Miss Management]? It might hit the Casual Game market in US, because it's very unique & fun game to do. But marketing is very different from entertainment itself, so curious about that.

So far Miss Management is selling very well! We have distribution partners like Big Fish Games and iWin here in the United States, as well as on our own site, which has just launched, so we don't have a lot of data for it, but we are excited to see how many people are downloading it, and a lot of those people have purchased it! On the larger sites, Miss Management is in the top #10 downloads still, and we hope to see it stay there! Because we developed and published Miss Management ourselves, we are also doing marketing. For now that mostly means talking to websites -- like Pig-Min! And also some magazines, newspapers, etc.


8. You used framework for Mind Control Software, which made [Oasis]. How about using that framework?

We really love the Orbital framework from Mind Control Software. The developers there are our friends, but also, out of all the software frameworks we have worked with, we like the way Orbital is built the best. It lets us build games more quickly and in some cases, re-use code. We also write additional code that builds on Mind Control's work, then we give it back to them, which helps grow the framework. It's a valuable partnership for us.


9. Please recommend other good 5 Indie Games & 5 Major Games, and the reason why.


Indie Games

1. Knytt is a beautiful little game, so simple but with such a great feeling of exploring and solving puzzles. It really captures the heart of adventure gaming. http://knytt.ni2.se/

 2. I really like playing Urban Dead, which is a massively multiplayer zombie game. It's all made by one guy, and has some very basic rules, but a whole zombie society has grown out of it!
http://www.urbandead.com/

3. Everyday Shooter is one of the most beautiful games around, it's almost like poetry. Hard to get a copy to play, though! I just heard it might no longer be an indie game, and will be on Playstation Network, so maybe it's not indie anymore!
http://www.everydayshooter.com/

4. Puzzle Pirates is one of my big inspirations for multiplayer games, it is obviously a work of love by the crew at Three Rings, who are also friends of mine. http://www.puzzlepirates.com/

 5. The indie game I have probably played the most of is Slay, which is another beautifully simple game that is insanely addictive, I can play it over and over. http://www.windowsgames.co.uk/slay.html


Major Games.

 1. World of Warcraft. Simply put, it is the most well-designed, polished multiplayer game anyone has ever made! I'm constantly impressed by how Blizzard has been able to "steer the ship" when the ship is so large and complex!

2. Okami. I am half Japanese and grew up with lots of stories from Japanese mythology, and I was so happy to see this game, which also play and looks beautiful, the calligraphic graphics are amazing.

3. Guitar Hero. I love musical games, I always buy them and have hours of fun. Guitar Hero was really a new breakthrough because it does such a good job of simulating how to "rock out." I'm pretty good and got second place in a local tournament here last year!

4. Planescape: Torment. This is a old role-playing game for PC, set in a Dungeons & Dragons world. It's always on my list of top games because it has such good writing, and the conversations and plots in the game are so amazingly complex. I recommend anyone who likes game stories, fantasy, or RPGs to try and get a copy!

5. Final Fantasy Tactics. I love this series and I'm looking forward to the PSP version coming out later this year! I like tactics games better than usual RPGs, the game system is very interesting and deep.


10. Did you try some Korean games, or even heard or experienced about them? If so, please share your thoughts about that.

Is Starcraft a Korean game? =D I think it is by now!

I have also played Ragnarok Online, Lineage, and recently Ragnarok Online 2 -- big
Korean multiplayer games. I'm interested in the differences between how game companies here made big multiplayer games like Everquest and World of Warcraft, and how different they are from Korean games. I think it tells you a lot about the history of gaming in different places!

I really enjoy more "casual" Korean multiplayer games like Kartrider -- the style of "pay for items and upgrades" that Korean games have invented is going to be very influential across the world. I've played more of these, but I don't know names for all of them since I can't read hangul! Some others I liked are Freestyle Street Basketball and Gunbound.


11. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers.

Thank you very much for trying our games! I think that a good game can reach across languages and cultures, and be a global phenomenon! We have lots of good examples, from Tetris to Starcraft to World of Warcraft, too! Let's make an international culture of all sorts of games. There is a lot of writing in Miss Management, hopefully it's good for practicing English! And I hope it's still funny and entertaining, on both sides of the Pacific!

Thank you!

Where to play : Gamelab homepage



Korean version of this Interview.
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Pig-Min did an e-mail interview with Jessica Chiang, Marketing Producer for Her Interactive, [Nancy Drew] series. You could read it below.

Korean version of this Interview.


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Their latest game [White Wolf of Icicle Creek, The]. 16th. game of [Nancy Drew] series.


1. Her Interactive is famous for [Nancy Drew] series, but not very popular in Korea yet. Please introduce Her Interactive briefly.

Her Interactive was established in 1995 to create interactive games for girls of all ages. The company designs, develops and markets interactive mystery adventure games. With years of experience developing high-quality adventure games backed by research gleaned from its advisory board of girls and women, the company will continue to lead the industry in offering quality interactive entertainment without gratuitous violence or gender stereotypes.

Her Interactive’s award-winning Nancy Drew mysteries are daring, challenging games
that inspires players to track down clues to crack the case as they assume the role of legendary teen sleuth, Nancy Drew. Players interact with a complex cast of characters, all of whom have secrets of their own.


2. [Nancy Drew] became famous game series at now, and its 77 years old franchise & very famous in US. But when you started making [Nancy Drew], it could be another risky trial, because nobody has done 'Adventure Game Series focused for Female gamers based on over-70-years-old franchise'. How come to make [Nancy Drew] series, at the start? And if there are some episodes about that, please share with us.

Nancy Drew is an American icon and positive role model for girls, which is why it made sense to create a line of Nancy Drew mystery adventure games for girls. In our games, the player gets to be Nancy Drew and is challenged to solve the mystery. In fact, because we’ve combined a 77-year old icon with a quality game formula, our games have created a multi-generational phenomenon where girls, mom and grandmothers ? all familiar with Nancy Drew ? are playing together!

It’s taken awhile for publishers and developers to realize how big and lucrative the female market is. In 1999, when we tried to get our first Nancy Drew game into retail, we were refused and told that the games would not sell because females were computer phobic. Once we proved them wrong by successfully selling on Amazon, our Nancy Drew games were then welcomed into retail. The Nancy Drew series is the #1 PC adventure franchise in units, outselling Harry Potter, Myst and Lord of the Rings for the 3rd consecutive year!


3. [Nancy Drew] series might influence some other game companies, for 'Franchise' - 'Series' - 'Detective(Mystery)' aspects. For example, [Law & Order] - [CSI] Adventure Game Series could be released, due to success of [Nancy Drew] series, as I think. Please share your opinion about that.

If that is the case, we are honored that other gaming companies are looking at the formula for the Nancy Drew games.  The adventure game genre has taken a back seat to first-person shooters and real-time strategy games in recent years, so it’s exciting to see the revival of other similar games in the category.


4. Her Interactive released 1-2 [Nancy Drew] games per year, and recently 16th.(!) game [The White Wolf of Icicle Creek] released. It could be best record for longest series in PC gaming, and record will be broken soon by yourself. How come to make games such fast? And did you get proposal from Guinness record book, for the longest Computer Game series?

Haha! No, we’re not aiming for a Guinness book record ? we just want to make great games! There were over 100 Nancy Drew books in the series, so we have a lot of material to inspire us.  We work very hard to release two games each year: one in June/July and one in October.  Our fans just can’t get enough of the games, so we try our best to keep making them!


5. 'Game for Female Gamers' is not very familiar with plain gamers, especially for Korean people. It might be unusual even in US, except for Her Interactive. How's situation about that, for business size - customer feedback?

Today, there are many developers working to create games for this audience. The Her Interactive team has helped debunk the myth that women / girls are technophobes and are uninterested in computer gaming.  With the success of our Nancy Drew PC game series; we have proven beyond a doubt that there is a significant and vibrant market for females.  We have sold 4 million total units to date and received 13 consecutive Parent’s Choice Gold Medal awards for quality. In all, I feel Her Interactive has helped carve the initial footprint for games that are targeted to female play preferences.


6. Recently [Nancy Drew and the Cotton Caper] movie released, and it's featured in Her Interactive homepage. Are you related to that film in business side, or just cross-marketing for [Nancy Drew] franchise?

We are not directly involved with the film and are just cross-marketing. In fact, Her Interactive did team up with Cotton Incorporated and Warner Bros. for a 15-stop, national mall tour from May 21 to June 17 featuring the game as a sales incentive during the promotional time period and as part of an overall sweepstakes prize package.


7. [Nancy Drew] series has been sold in Big Fish Games from some months ago, and [Curse of Black Manor] was released as DVD game. Are there any other future plans like that, entering new area? 

Yes, we just launched our own digital download store, offering titles 3 ? 16, including the newest release, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, at www.HerInteractive.com.  Our games area also available on other portals, such as Yahoo, Pogo, and Real Arcade.  We continue to look for new opportunities and distribution channels.

8. Please recommend other good Indie Games & Major Games, and the reason why.

Here are some of my favorites and why:

Indie Games

-    Desktop Defense : a real time strategy game that shows you don’t need a lot of fancy features to make a game fun
-    Puzzle Quest : takes a simple and addictive puzzle concept and turns it into an RPG for the DS
-    Grow : it’s frustrating at first to try to figure out the order of the objects, but it’s also fun to see what happens as each object transforms to the next level

Major Games

-    Zelda Twilight Princess : this long running series has constantly kept fans interested with great storylines and intriguing gameplay
-    Starcraft II : it’s not out yet, but considering the success of the first Starcraft and World of Warcraft, I expect great things from Blizzard
-    Elite Beat Agents : something different and fun that appeals to players of all ages.
 

9. Did you try some Korean games, or even heard or experienced about them? If so, please share your thoughts about that.

I have seen Ragnorak and really like the anime style of the game ? it makes it more accessible and friendly toward non-gamers.  I understand gaming is a huge hobby in Korea because of the availability of broadband in the country, so I’m exited to see more Korean making their way into the US market.
 

10. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers.

Although many readers may not be familiar with the Nancy Drew PC Adventure games yet, I encourage them to check it out at www.HerInteractive.com.  You can download the games and watch the trailers.


Korean version of this Interview.
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This is e-mail interview with Emily Morganty, who is doing Web Marketing of Telltale Games. Telltale Games is famous for [Sam & Max : Season 1].

Korean version of this Interview.
 
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Sam & Max.



1. Telltale Games is made up with 2 Founders, who worked with LucasArts & made several games including older Adventure games. Could you let me know what games they were involved?
 

Kevin Bruner and Dan Connors are the two founders who were heavily involved in game development. Kevin, who serves as Telltale's Chief Technology Officer, worked on Grim Fandango, Escape from Monkey Island, and Star Wars: Obi-Wan. Dan (Telltale's CEO) started at LucasArts in the QA department and then moved into a producer role. His credits include a lot of well-known LucasArts adventure games, including Sam & Max Hit the Road, The Dig, and Sam & Max: Freelance Police (the game that was canceled).


2. How come to establish Telltale Games? Even if you made a lot of adventures in the past, it's not easy decision to make a company dedicated to Adventure games, because many people consider 'Adventure Game is dead' now. Please share your experience at then.

Dan and Kevin saw that there weren't very many creative, story-driven games coming out, and they saw an opportunity to fill that void by changing the way games are made and delivered. In the traditional retail model, a game is kind of like a blockbuster movie?it has a multi-million dollar budget, it takes several years to produce, and then it has a fairly short lifespan on a retail shelf and disappears forever. This model makes it really difficult to take chances and make games that are really unique.

Dan and Kevin were especially excited by the idea of delivering games digitally and episodically, more like a TV show than a movie, because they saw these as two ways to overcome some of the obstacles that were preventing good story-driven games from getting made. They started Telltale to take advantage of this opportunity. It turned out to be a great thing for the adventure gaming community, but they weren't on a crusade to save the adventure genre or anything like that. They just wanted to make good games and get them out to people in new ways (and so far, it's working!)


3. Telltale Game is famous for [Sam & Max season 1] series at now, but it's not the start of 'Sitcom-like series game'. You did 2 episodes for [Bones] before, even if it's stopped at now. How come to make games as 'Sitcom-like series'?

Since Telltale makes games that are story-driven, a TV sitcom-like schedule makes a lot of sense because it gives us freedom to tell stories in different ways. We can have recurring characters that show up in multiple episodes, and also test out new characters and scenarios and see what people like. If we hear that players really liked a certain story point, we can expand on that in future episodes. Also, people get invested in the story and talk on the forums about what's going to happen next time, just like when people gather around the water cooler and talk about what happened the night before on their favorite TV show.

There are also a lot of benefits to producing games episodically. For starters, it's not as risky. You don't start with the big budget that longer form games have, so if the game doesn't sell, you haven't lost a huge investment. The episodic schedule also means you start making money off the series sooner because you don't have to go through years of production before you start to see a profit. And the sales curve is longer, because every time a new episode comes out, the episodes that came out before that one get a boost, too.


4. 6 games for 6 months is not very easy thing to do, even if they are shorter ones. You might have tight production schedule, and made a lot before you release Episode 1 of [Sam & Max]. Please let us know about that.

We started working on Season One in May, and the first episode launched in October. There was a little extra time in the episode 1 schedule than for the other episodes, because we were creating assets we would go on to reuse throughout the season (such as the office, the street, Sybil's and Bosco's, and the models for the recurring characters). But we weren't completely finished with episode 1 until a few weeks before it came out, so it wasn't that much of a head start.

The schedule is staggered, and on any given week we're working on various parts of two or three different episodes. When episode 1 came out, we were partway through production of episode 2 and had already designed episode 3.


5. Association with Gametap was great idea, for [Sam & Max season 1]. Gametap might need 'Newer Game', and Telltale Games might need 'Better & Easier distribution way'. Please let us know how come to do that, and how you get income from Gametap when they only accepts 'Monthly Payment' for whole Gametap service.

I can't talk about the terms of our deal with GameTap, but I can say it's a good deal that both of our companies are happy with! GameTap gives us access to an audience we wouldn't be able to reach on our own, and they get an original game for their service (which, up until Sam & Max came out, had only included older games?"reruns," if you continue with the TV analogy). Also since GameTap is associated with Turner Broadcasting, they can promote the game in ways we never could, like with TV ads on the Turner cable channels. This has really gotten the word out about Sam & Max, which is great for everyone involved.


6. Technical Question :
- What kind of tool did you use to make game, as compiler - library - editor?
- If you used library of GNU license, what are they?
- Do you have some special algorithm for game inside?
- How big was size of the project of [Sam & Max], as Budget - Workers?

We use Maya for animation, and we program the games using a proprietary engine that we designed specifically for making episodic games. It's optimized to let multiple people work on the project without getting into each other's way, and to streamline production. The Sam & Max team is approximately 14 employees, and we outsource some of our art and animation. I can't talk about the budget, sorry!
 

7. What are the most important things, when you make Adventure games?

It's very important to us to tell a good story, and also to create a fun experience for the player. We really don't want players to be frustrated or to be stuck for a long time because it makes the game less enjoyable. Also we want to make sure our games are accessible to anyone who's interested in them, whether that's an adventure game aficionado or a "casual" gamer who's never played an adventure game before.


8. Have you played some Korean game, or experienced or even heard about Korean Gaming Scene & Market? If so, please share your opinion about that.

Nope, I haven't played any Korean games and don't know too much about the Korean market. Sorry! Maybe your readers could suggest some good story-driven Korean games for us to check out?


9. Please pick other games to recommend, and brief reason why.

Sam & Max: Season One, Bone, Telltale Texas Hold'em, CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder… oh wait, you meant other companies' games, huh? <grin>

I think everyone at Telltale would answer this question a little differently, although of course there would be a lot of adventure games on the list! We're all big Nintendo DS and Wii fans. Phoenix Wright, Zelda Twilight Princess, and Super Paper Mario are some of the games many Telltale employees are currently embroiled in.

Kevin recently talked to Gamasutra about the five games he would take with him to a desert island, and answered this question far more eloquently than I am right now. You can find that here: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=13257


10. Please leave some message for Pig-Min Readers.

Thanks for your interest in Sam & Max and Telltale! We hope your readers enjoyed Season One and that you'll stick with us to see what we come up with next.


Korean version of this Interview.
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Pig-Min did an e-mail interview with Javier Maldonado, CEO of Alteraction, who made [MASQ].

Korean version of this Interview.

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Promotional Poster of [MASQ]. Very attractive.

1. Alteraction is new company, so people haven't heard much about it. Please introduce Alteraction, and the team's background in brief.

AlterAction is not that new, it’s based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California and it began operations a few years back. We developed Masq (our only title) in Mexico and the US and it was released in 2002. However, even when most players emailed us very positive feedback, broadband was not that popular then and the slow response of dialup service discouraged many potential users from playing. Plus we promoted it mainly in the US where most distribution channels were afraid of the adult content. So it didn’t become popular then. A couple of months ago Masq was “re-discovered” by PCGamer in the UK and PCGamer Benelux who wrote great reviews and now it's getting a lot of attention.

I wrote, programmed and even drew the first episodes of Masq. Paulina, my wife, helped me to produce it and advise me regarding the story. And other friends and collaborators I knew from Mexico helped too. American game designers and writers Noah Falstein, Ken Melville and Charles Swartz advised us and helped polish the dialog for  the American market.

Before Masq, I had worked in Mexico as creative director/engineer in marketing/communications, developing linear and interactive media, advising screenwriters, designing theme park shows as well as drawing comic strips for newspapers. I studied engineering and later film at UCLA.  I worked at Electronic Arts as tester before I started working on Masq.

You can find the the bios at:
http://alteraction.com/discussion/team.html


2. Masq is a very new genre in the Western game market, but it's kind of similar to Japanese Text Adventures/ Visual Novel style, such as 'Choose action bar & different outcome happens'. Were you influenced by the Japanese gaming scene?

Not really. I started working on Masq around 1997. Back then I played many games looking for one where I could interact with interesting characters, flirt, live adventures like in the movies or a novel but I didn’t find many (I’m still looking). All of them were Western games. I remember playing LucasArts Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Phantasmagoria, Zork and an interesting game called Midnight Stranger.

Recently I have heard many people referring to japanese games as similar to Masq, but most of what I have found is very linear with very few points to make relevant choices, or the games work more based on points and levels like a traditional game. I guess I have not found the right ones. Do you have any recommendations?


3. Player MUST BE ONLINE, even if we download the game. There might be some reasons for that, perhaps for Gaming & Business. Please explain about that.

One of the business models we explored back then was selling lives, so players could play through episode 5 a few times for free and then they were asked to purchase lives. So having them connected allowed us to verify how many times each one played. Other business models we explored were to deliver ads at the end of every episode, so we needed to have the channel open to deliver the ads. Now we’re not doing any of that but simply promoting Masq. However it's still useful to check how many people are playing it, how many times, etc.
 

4. [MASQ] could be an Online Webgame, because it's made with Shockwave & MUST BE ONLINE to play, but you instead fashioned it as Downloadable content. Any reasons for that?

The whole of Masq’s 5 episodes were originally planned to be played online. However we ran out of money and we did not have the resources to do the testing of the last three episodes to be played online, but they worked fine offline. Therefore we decided to release Masq as it was. So this hybrid model is the result of the business reality we experienced.
 

5. The Plot / Storyline is very interesting & addictive, with Affairs/Violence...etc. And it has tons of subplots & branches, so it is very different from a plain Game/Movie/TV Drama scenario style. Who wrote it, and how was it made?

I wrote it, and interactive screenwriter Ken Melville polished the dialog for the American market. I wanted to create a game that I would enjoy. Fortunately I have a rare combination of skills such as screenwriting, graphic artist and engineering so I was able to intertwine all the elements to create Masq.

I was influenced by David Lynch’s Blue Velvet movie as well as Latin-American melodrama (soap operas).


6. According to Homepage description, [MASQ] might be a 'Prototype' for new business style. Please explain about that briefly. And are there any Serious business contacts developing, or is the news just starting to spread?

Masq demonstrates the potential of a design platform (set of design rules and principles) that can be applied to an endless stream of new titles.

http://alteraction.com/discussion/platform.html

Masq illustrates that storytelling can really be intertwined successfully with game design, to achieve results that many people have been waiting for (at least in the Western market): The opportunity to really become the protagonist of a story like the ones you experience in novels and movies.

Masq let’s you interact not only with the “concrete/physical”  word (as all current games) but let’s you affect your personal relationships with well-developed characters, affect their feelings, and explore these characters in ways not even linear literature can. All this, while triggering hundreds of different paths and dozens of different endings in a story-like universe. All these elements, story, plots, characters, relationships, can vary from title to title but can be orchestrated using the same design model.  

http://alteraction.com/discussion/deepdesign.html

Obviously many have attempted similar goals but Masq is fun, extraordinarily friendly to non-gamers. It's organic, and the text options open an endless action palette for authors.

Regarding Business contacts, in this second phase we’re just starting to spread the news again, so we don’t have many solid development contacts yet. And this time we would like to focus not only on the US but also on Europe and Asia. So contacts and suggestions are always welcome!


7. According to the storyline, it's for a MATURE audience, NOT for the kids. Kids must be kept away from this game, but there are not any strong restrictions about that. Do you have any future plans for an 'Adults Only' restriction?

Yes, we’re working on getting resources to do more stories and solve some problems, and blocking underage access is one of our priorities.
 

8. Please recommend other good Indie Games, and the reason why.

I wish I could recommend indie games but the little time I have to play lately has been spent looking for Masq-type games without any success. I would like to reverse the question asking you or your readers which games do you recommend to me to play that share some of Masq's key elements. I’ve tried many adventure games, some date simulators and even bishoujo without success. All of them are very linear, you make very few decisions and many times they don’t even have dramatic consequences. I want to really affect what happens in the story, but not by only shooting aliens, jumping or even sending characters to eat or go to the bathroom. I want to be the protagonist of a novel. Again I should ask if you have any game suggestions?


9. Did you try some Korean games, or even heard or experienced anything about them? If so, please share your thoughts about that.

Unfortunately I’m not familiar with Korean games, however, I keep hearing how advanced Koreans are regarding games and the online digital lifestyle provided by your ubiquitous broadband (which we can only dream of here in the States) so I would really appreciate your recommendations. Just please think of games that I can play in English or Spanish.
 

10. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers.

Enjoy Masq and please send us all your comments. This is our first exposure to non-Western players and we really want to hear everything you have to say about it, and about our ideas, so please post all your recommendations, opinions, etc. on pig-min blog, and in ours at http://alteraction-masq.blogspot.com/

I’ll find a way to translate everything you have to say.


Korean version of this Interview.
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Interview : Elephant Games, [RIP Trilogy].

This time, Pig-Min interviewed Elephant Games, Russian Company which made [RIP Trilogy]. Recently they released [RIP Trilogy] through Steam.

Answerers :
Andrey Pahmutov, CEO
Peter Efimov, game designer
Natalie Lekomtseva, manager

Korean version of this Interview.

User image

Screenshot from [RIP 3 : Last Hero].


1. Elephant Games has made 3 [RIP] series up to now, but most Korean don't know about them yet. Please explain [RIP] series & your company, including history & company size.

Natalie Lekomtseva

The company "Elephant Games" has been developing computer games since 2003.The main body of the company consists of 12 people. The company founders - Andrey Pahmutov (CEO) and Peter Efimov (game designer) initially were in the board games business for a long period of time. Then they founded a small PC game developing company.

Now in our team we also have 4 programmers, 2 artists, 2 designers, the webdesigner and the manager, who helps to get the products to market. Our programmers developed PC games since they were students. Even the degree work of one of them was a 3D arcade game. The artists have dealt with computer graphics for more than 6 years. They were the artists for GBA games, mobile games, and have also done web design.

Now  I can say that we got success not only in PC games (both on-line and retail), our games are also very popular on Mac

Peter Efimov

As for the RIP series ? initially RIP was created as a small arcade shooter for PC in a humorous style (thus the heroes were so unusually looking). But further we decided to give up the ironical idea, but the characters were still remained in RIP: Strike Back.
Actually RIP: SB was a kind of intermediate version, where we tried to develop further the game play and put all the basic abilities which we actually realised in RIP 3.

Andrey Pahmutov

Speaking about The Last Hero -  it differs from its predecessors conceptually. We worked over the setting, the narrative elements, the plot and each character's backgrounds. We were growing and the level of the game was also improving. So RIP evolution is our team's evolution as well.
 
 
2. Elephant Games is Russian company. We all know Russian companies have made several good games until now, as [Big red adventures] - [Etherlords] - [Hero of Might and Magic 5] - [Sea Dogs] - [Stalker]. but not sure about them exactly. Please explain us briefly Russian game scenes. And are there many indie game companies in Russia, like Elephant Games?

Natalie Lekomtseva

If I may continue your list of games made by Russians, I will add Turtle Odyssey (Realore), Alien Shooter (Sigma team), Turtix (Alawar) and many others. I think that we can compare Russian game market with a kid ? it is rather young, growing very fast and extremely talented.

Andrey Pahmutov

As far as I know the number of indie developers in Russia is almost the same as in any other countries. The main difference is that only a few independent teams in Russia are able to spend a large budget effectively in order to create a real hit.

At the moment most of the games, produced in Russia, are targeted to the inner market. Thus, the idea of  such titles is very often difficult to understand abroad .
But at the same time lots of casual titles by Russian teams become very successful. (e.g. Turtle Odyssey, etc.)

Peter Efimov

To my mind, the main difference of Russian indie teams consists in their attempt to put into the game not only well- polished technical aspects, but also a very addicting, interesting and deep game play.


3. It might not be so easy, to make game in Russia & sell them abroad, especially for Indie Game company. When you started business, there might be some difficulties about that, as Promoting - Getting site visitors from abroad - ... etc. Please share some episodes about that.

Andrey Pahmutov

In fact we have never experienced any specific problems about selling from Russia to abroad.  We faced just the same problems as all the start -upers: lack of experience and business contacts.But I think we managed to cope with all the difficulties. Currently we have a professional and very friendly team of developers.

Natalie Lekomtseva

Speaking about the main problems I would mention inability to contact with business partners personally due to our geographical position. But this issue is easy to resolve with a phone and e-mail service. Now we have lots of partnerships and business contacts. Besides, currently we have several really great agreements, which we are very excited about. Unfortunately I cannot give much information on that as we are bound with NDAs.
 

4. Earlier [RIP] series were sold seperately, around 19.99$ through casual game download portals. But with 3rd. game, it's published through Meridian4 & all of trilogy are sold at once under 20$, and download purchase might be only available through Steam. It's kinda big change for your selling. How come to change your selling method such a lot, and what are the differences for the Past & the Present selling? And will there retail package for [RIP Trilogy]?

Andrey Pahmutov

At the moment we are trying to change our selling strategy from direct sales to close cooperation with the publishers for different territories. We have a strong feeling that ?division of labour? is much more effective for us.

However, we sometimes can help the starting up developers with the product producing and its promotion.

Natalie Lekomtseva

We are really proud of dealing with all our business partners. Our team really enjoys working with Meridian4. They are very professional and friendly guys. Hope, we will release a retail package for RIP Trilogy with them very soon. As for the price- actually it depends on Steam policy.


5. [RIP] might get some influence from [Crimsonland], even if [RIP] series are kind different from [Crimsonland]. You might hear several feedbacks about that, from some players & even some reviews. Please share your opinion about that.

Peter Efimov

To some extent, RIP is really inspired by Crimsonland. And we are absolutely proud to see RIP compared with this great game. Crimsonland is a classic title. And I know very few games-clones which are appriciated and treated even more positively than the original.


6. First 2 series of [RIP] were similar to each other, not very different. 3rd. game might have some different & improved aspects, as I suspect. Please let me know about that.

Peter Efimov

As we mentioned above, RIP 3 differs from the first two RIPs by its concept. This project is made on the much higher level, regarding both graphics and and technical aspects. I think, the ideas, put into RIP 3 (destroyable environment, military vehicle abilities, etc.), will be improved and realised in our future games.


7. You might have some future projects, after [RIP Trilogy]. Please share us about that.

Andrey Pahmutov

Certainly, we have several projects in development.  But for the moment I would prefer not to comment much upon that. Please, follow our news at our official website Elephant Games.


8. Please recommend good Indie Games, and the reason why.

Andrey Pahmutov

I like Peggle. Though, I doubt that it can be considered an indie game. Popcap is both a publisher and a developer. I can also recommend Darwinia and Defcon.

Peter Efimov

Jets'N'Guns is another great game. We greatly respect the developers who are not afraid to shock the audience by a cool combination of dynamics and humour. The retro game stylistics of the game look really impressive! I am also dreaming to get to the magic island in Tropix ? the developers have done a great job (though, this title is not indie in fact).


9. Did you try some Korean games, or even heard or experienced about them? If so, please share your thoughts about that.

Peter Efimov

Unfortunately, not. But we would be pleased to try if you us advise some titles. I really enjoy Eastern RPGs (Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire). We respect these games for the deep and serious plot.


10. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers.

Andrey Pahmutov

We hope that you will like RIP series. We have lots of fans all over the world and will be happy to have friends from Korea.

Peter Efimov

On my part  I encourage you to send us your feedbacks and suggestions on RIP Trilogy. Let's make good games together.



Korean version of this Interview.
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