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Interview : Greg Costikyan, CEO of Manifesto Games

Welcome. This is e-mail Interview with Greg Costikyan, CEO of Manifesto Games.

Korean version of this Interview.

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1. 'Manifesto Games' is very unique & important store for Indie Game scene, but not many Korean knows about that until now. Please introduce your store briefly, and CEO yourself.

Manifesto Games's purpose is to build a market online for independently developed games. We're long-time gamers and game industry professionals, and we feel that the conventional, retail market for games has become too focused on best-sellers, on franchise titles (e.g., number six in a series), and on movie licenses. What was once the most creative popular artform has increasingly become dominated by games that don't innovate, and that don't create new forms of gameplay. And also, many kinds of games that still have enthusiastic fans--like graphic adventures and computer wargames--have disappeared from the shelves, because they don't generate the million-plus unit sales that the conventional publishers want to see.

We think the best way to sustain innovation and creativity in the game industry is to build for games what the independent music and independent film movements create for their own artforms--an alternative path to market for games that may never sell at the same levels as big-budget titles, but that have some artistic merit, and appeal to smaller but passionate fans.

I've been thinking about these issues for years--I wrote an article for Game Developer magazine back in 1999 calling for an "indie game publisher," but until recently, I didn't see a way to make a viable business from the idea. Three things changed my mind: First, the spread of broadband means that it's now possible to distribute even large games over the Internet (which wasn't true in the dial-up era). Second, the success of the casual game market provides a viable business model for online game distribution. And third, I spoke at the Game Developers Conference in 2005 on the lack of creativity in the industry and the conservatism of the major publishers, and got a standing ovation--meaning that it's clear that game developers are eager to see something like this happen, too.

2. There are MANY Casual Game portals already, but very few Non-Casual Indie Game stores. How come to start Non-Casual Indie Game store?
Precisely because there are many casual game portals already, I didn't see the point of starting another one--nor do I really want to have to compete with companies like Yahoo! and Real, who have deep pockets. Anyway, casual games are succeeding in reaching a market, and I'm more interested in trying to do the same with games that are more hard-core.

Our basic idea is that the casual game market has proven the viability of selling games via direct download with a "try before you buy" offer, and that it should be possible to build a similar but parallel market by appealing to a different demographic--gamers, in essence.

3. How to choice games which you sell in store? You might not accept every proposal, as I think, and there might be some basis about that. Please let us know about that.

We look for games that fall into one of three categories:

1. Games that cater to an existing audience of enthusiasts that the conventional publishers no longer (or no longer often) address--particularly graphic adventures, computer wargames, turn-based strategy, space shoot-em-ups, and RPGs.

2. What we term "cool indie games"--games that are quite innovative in terms either of gameplay or subject matter.

3. Games that appeal to audiences, many of whom may not think of themselves by gamers, but who share an interest in a particular subject that the game addresses. (For example, we carry a scuba diving sim.) In other words, niche audiences that the major publishers are not likely to address. Our belief is that gaming is now a common cultural thing, and just as people interested in a topic can be persuaded to read a book or watch a move on that topic, they can be induced to play a game on the topic as well.

4. Casual Game Portals are famous for their best sellers & high profit, but not sure about Non-Casual game store yet, because there were not many news we could read. Could you please let us know your business size?

We're still quite small, and have a long way to go--keep in mind that we've build Manifesto with a very small investment of capital so far, and our growth has been organic, rather than spurred by major advertising and promotion. Our best sellers are in the hundreds of units sold, rather than thousands (or millions), but the numbers do seem to be improving month by month.

5. 'Manifesto Games' must do some Marketing, not just for Games but also for Store itself. For example, I read a news about [Shivah] at CNN internet, which was press-released by Manifesto Games. Please let us know more about your Marketing - Press release like that.

Because our financial resources are limited at present, public relations is the key to our current marketing efforts (one of our core team is a highly experienced publicist). We try to reach both the core game media, and also larger publications, both in the US and elsewhere--and for games of interest to particular groups, media devoted to their interests. (For example, The Shivah, whose protagonist is a Rabbi, was also picked up by The Jerusalem Post.) Of course, we can't always predict who will pick up on a particular item, and were quite surprised (and happy, of course) when CNN.com (and Reuters) ran the story on The Shivah.

6. There are not many stores, which carries 'Detailed Review done by seller', but Manifesto Games does it for every games. Please let us know about that, as How much time you spend for each review - Who writes them (All by yourself, or some worker hired dedicated to that.) - Customer feedback about such detailed reviews - etc.

Well, actually, our reviews run the range from a paragaph or two to several thousand detailed words. The short pieces are normally written by me, after playing the game for some time. The longer reviews are written either by my partner Johnny Wilson, or by someone from whom we commission the review.

We feel that we need to provide more than a place to buy independent games--we need to try to say something interesting about each we carry. The idea is to motivate people to come back to the site frequently to see what's new.

7. You might have some Opinion about 'Indie Games', as 'I think Indie Games are better than Major Games, because...' or 'I prefer Indie Games, because...' or something else. Please share some.

Ahem. "Corporate games suck. Indie games rock. Tell all your friends."

That's simplistic, of course. The conventional publishers do produce some excellent games, and many indie games are mediocre. However, the mainstream industry has become so conservative that it's very unusual to be surprised and excited by a new mainstream game any more--the gameplay is almost always something you've seen before, and even on the (rare) occasions that they publish what they call "original IP"--meaning a game that isn't based on an older on, or on a movie license--they simply create a game of an existing type (racing game, sports game, RTS, RPG, whatever) with little if any real innovation.

Indie games are often rough around the edges, but individual creators and small teams are much better positioned to do something interesting and different--and that's what's exciting about the field.

8. Please pick 5 good games & explain about that.

Well, my favorite indie games at the moment are (not necessarily in order):

The Shivah: At its heart, The Shivah is an old-school adventure game like those that LucasArts used to publish. The graphics are quite retro--it looks as if it might have been published in the late 80s--but the topic and approach is masterly. The story deals with a Jewish rabbi having a crisis of faith--certainly a topic no conventional publisher would touch--and both the writing and the voice acting is excellent.

PeaceMaker: Created by a mixed US/Israeli/Palestinian team, PeaceMaker puts you in the role of either the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian president, and as such, you need to both satisfy the demands of your own people and try to come to some kind of agreement with the other side. It's a frustrating and difficult game, as you might expect, since it's about a frustrating and difficult problem. And that, really, is the virtue of this game: To demonstrate that games can cast light on thorny, real-world issues, that games can be more than mere entertainment.

Kudos: Kudos is a curiously compelling "life simulation," in which you play a recent graduate with few skills, trying to survive as a waiter while developing skills and connections to get a better job---while socializing enough to stay sane and reasonably happy. While it's mostly carried in text, it has a strong narrative draw, pulling you on to see what happens next and try to guide your character to a more fulfilling life.

DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold:  DROD is a "thinking man's dungeon." While it takes place in an underground fantasy dungeon, it's nothing like the sort of hack-and-slash games that typically take place in that kind of environment. '"DROD" stands for "Deadly Rooms of Death," and each room in the dungeon is a puzzle. It's turn-based, and each step you take, monsters move in response, in predictable ways--so to get through a room, you must carefully plan every move, and one mis-step means death. In other words, this is unique gameplay, not found in any other title.

Ninjastarmageddon!: Ninjastarmageddon! is an Elite-style space trading game. That is, you control a starship, travelling the universe and trading goods, fighting pirates or becoming one, performing missions for  one of the two sides that is fighting a war around you, and upgrading your ship with new equipment and capabilities over time. Where Ninjastarmageddon! is different and interesting is in its humorous, over-the-top approach. The graphics look like they're from a comic book; and your 'starship' looks like a car, in which you tool around space. The goods you trade are things like kittens and cheese, and the ongoing war is between Ninjas and Zombies.

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

Oh, yes.... Some years ago, I spent some time downloading and playing Korean games because a friend of mine was thinking about trying to bring some to the States. I don't speak Korean, of course, which makes it difficult--but my daughter attends a local high school with a substantial number of Asian students, and so I hired a Korean-American student to play them with me, so I could at least tell what people where saying and what the menus meant.

I found it quite interesting, particularly the diversity of MMOs in the Korean market--although things are changing here, most MMOs in the states are still fantasy in theme. However, there's also an important cultural difference that, I think, makes it hard for many Korean MMOs to find a market here, and vice versa. In the US, most player prefer to avoid player-versus-player combat, at least most of the time, so games are built primarily on character advancement and quests. In Korea, grouping together and fighting battles against other groups seems to be the main point of most MMOs. So what's a minority taste here is the majority interest in Korea, and vice versa.

10. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers.
(Didn't answer it yet. If he answers later, will edit it again.)

Korean version of this Interview.
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Welcome, people from abroad. This is the interview with the [Puzzle Quest] maker, CEO Steve Fawkner of Infinite Interactive.

Korean version of this Interview.

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1. As I see, [Puzzle Quest] seems to be part of [Warlords] franchise, due to sub-title [Challenge of the Warlords]. Your company made [Warlords] series in the past, but they were not very famous in Korean scene. Could you please introduce that series & your company work briefly?

The Warlords strategy games started back in 1989. Since then there have been 10 sequels, all of them very successful in the USA, Europe & Australia. The very first Warlords games were turn-based, like Civilization.   Many of the later ones were real-time, like Warcraft.

One thing that the Warlords games all have in common is your Hero.  Usually only RPGs have heroes, but we added the same kinds of heroes to strategy games, which has really set us apart from other games out there ? your hero grows in power the more games you play… and as he gets more powerful, the way you play the game actually changes, too.

2. [Puzzle Quest] is kinda different game from earlier [Warlords] series, but it still uses [Warlords] franchise. It could be kinda risky & unusual thing, when you were in pre-production period. Could you please let me know how you decided? And do you have some episodes to tell us, about making entirely different genre under the name of earlier series?
Puzzle Quest is still set in the same world as the other Warlords games ? the maps, the nations and the characters are all well-known to Warlords players.  For that reason we felt it was appropriate to include the word “Warlords” in there somewhere.  
But we also knew that this was quite a different game and we didn’t want to confuse people by calling it “Warlords: Puzzle Quest.”

3. [Puzzle Quest] is good example for Fusion Genre, with match-3 puzzle game & some good RPG elements. It's not very common to combine such a different genre into 1 game & make it excellent. Other recent good example might be [Bookworm Adventures] from Popcap, with Word Game & RPG elements. Could you please share us your thought, about mixing several entirely different genre into 1 game, and another good game [Bookworm Adventures]?

I think of it a little bit like cooking: you get the nicest and most surprising flavors when you combine spices and ingredients in new ways.  The same is true with game design ? the biggest and best surprises for me are always found when two of my favorite genres are mixed together.

4. [Puzzle Quest] might have PC version, as we can see from Demo, but released PSP & NDS version only until now. And people assumed there will be PC retail version, due to PC Demo, but XBOX Live Arcade version is announced at now. Please let us know about that.
Puzzle Quest is really a perfect game for portable systems, so we think that PSP and NDS were a great place to start. 

We have also recently announced Puzzle Quest for Xbox 360 Live Arcade.  We did hope all along to bring Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords to Xbox Live Arcade because the game is so well suited to the platform, and were very excited to make the announcement. No further details have been announced at this time regarding the XBLA launch or about the game coming out on other skus, but keep an eye out for more information from D3Publisher.

5. [Puzzle Quest] got big hit in US handheld gaming market, even if it's not very famous until release. ㅊould you please let us know how you did promotion for [Puzzle Quest]? It became very famous within only few weeks after release, and just curious.
It was really great that we could top sales for games in March and April in the USA.  It’s certainly been the best-received game that I have worked upon, and it is still in high demand.  We knew it was a good game, but we’ve been surprised at just how fast people found out about it.

I think the best promotion we can have for Puzzle Quest is word-of-mouth. We just need to have people play the game.  After that they tell their friends, their friends play it and tell their friends, etc…

6. This could be another good example for Indie Game Developers to go handheld directly, even if your company is not very indie. [Cake Mania] & [Diner Dash] go to NDS, but after success of PC download version, so [Puzzle Quest] could be very different case. If you can, could you please let us know about detail of the production, as budget - making time - number of working people?
We probably don’t really qualify as an Indie company, because we’ve been around for 18 years and done many commercial games. (Pig-Min writes : Infinite Interactive started at 2003, but he tells us his whole career, so it seems to be 18 years.) We really felt that it was time we branched out from PC development and added a few new skills, so handhelds such as NDS are the first logical step on that path.

The very first prototypes of Puzzle Quest were done by just a few people in 3 months back in 2005.  At the peak of development in mid-2006 we probably had between 10-15 people working on it.

7. Have you played some Korean game, or experienced or even heard about Korean Gaming Scene & Market? If so, please share your opinion about that.
My experience with Korean games has mostly been with MMOs, but I think you guys do them REALLY well.  I’m a big fan of Lineage II, and other products from NCSoft.  Also, a number of the NeoWiz games are pretty cool.  Other than these, though, we don’t see a lot of Korean games here in Australia.

8. Please pick 5 other games to recommend, and brief reason why.

Some of my favorite Indie Games at the moment are: Astral Tournament, Tasty Planet, War World, Peggle & Bookworm Adventures.

Some of the larger games I’m currently having fun with are: Earth Defense Force 2017 on Xbox 360, Dungeon Runners from NCSoft, City of Heroes from NCSoft, and Oblivion on Xbox 360.

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

Although we have created many games in the past 20 years, we have sadly never managed to release any of them in Korea.  But I hope Korean gamers enjoy Puzzle Quest, and I hope that both Infinite Interactive and D3Publisher have the opportunity to bring them lots of fun games in the future.

Korean version of this Interview.
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This is the interview with 'Amanda Fay', Game Designer of [Aveyond] & Owner of Amaranth Games.

Where to buy [Aveyond] : Click here.

Korean version of this Interview.

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1. Even if [Aveyond] got big hit in Indie Game scene, it's not well known in South Korea until now. Please introduce [Aveyond] & yourself.

Hi everyone! My name is Amanda Fitch, and one year ago, I released a game called Aveyond to gamers in the West. Aveyond is an anime-style role-playing game about a slave girl named Rhen, who learns that she has the power to become a great Sword Singer. Rhen leaves her life of slavery and learns the art of sword magic at a prestigious academy. While she is attending her studies, she learns that she is part of a prophecy, and must defeat a demon of great power to save her home. In the game, you can have up to eight people join your hero party, buy new outfits for Rhen, marry your characters, join guilds, collect pets, buy a mansion, and more.

2. At first, you sold [Aveyond] by yourself, and through portal Big Fish Games later. Could you please let us know, how different it is to sell by yourself & through big potal?

Selling games by yourself isn't hard, but it is difficult to spread the game when no one knows who you are. On my site, I have about 4,000 dedicated gamers, but big game portals can have millions of dedicated gamers. Attempting to get your game on a portal is a good idea as long as they don't take your rights away. You won't make as much money per game on a big portal, but the number of sales is very high. My advice is to sell both directly and through game portals if you decide to make a game.

3. At 2006, several not-very-casual games started selling through casual game portal sites, as [Aveyond] - [Kudos] - [Westward]. I think it's another big turn for Casual Game market, and also for Indie Game scenes. Please share your thoughts about that.

In my opinion, the industry has not correctly identified the tastes of the market they are targeting. I think we need more studies. I like games that require me to solve puzzles, have cheerful graphics, and don't require me to memorize twenty keys on my keyboard. I like games that test my ability to multi-task, match patterns, and that have lots of humor in them. I like games that are easy to learn, but hard to complete. Most of all, I like a good story.

4. We didn't expect such a great game from RPG maker, but it happened. Could you please let us know how you did such a great job?

I think that a good game has good gameplay and a good story. I spent lots of time working on a good story for Aveyond. I wanted players to love the story.

RPG Maker is a great tool, and the newest version, RPG Maker XP, is very flexible. Almost all core functionality provided by the engine is exposed through the RUBY scripting language. Most people don't know how powerful RPG Maker XP is. I hope that I can make more people aware of this great tool that can be used by non-programmers and advanced programmers to make games.

5. Your game is Japanese old school style RPG, but you are from USA. Even if there were some Indie RPGs in USA, they were basically Western (US) style. Please let me know how you became to make Japanese old school style RPG.

I love games from Asia. I think that games from the West are too serious and too dark. I made Aveyond because I could find nothing in the West that I wanted to play. My first RPGs were Final Fantasy and Zelda and they have always been my favorites. Games like that are not made over here, so I decided I had to try and make one.

6. As I know you are female, and it's not very common to see female game maker in Computer Game scene. Could you please share some idea about that, to make game as female?  

In the game industry, females are usually artists and writers, but not programmers. I hope that my story will help other females understand that they don't need to be programmers to make a game. Some programming is eventually needed, but tools like RPG Maker teach you how to program as you make your game. If you can do algebra, you can program a game. It's very easy!

7. [Aveyond] hit the market, and you might get several positive feedback from gamers. Please let us know some episodes about that.

A lot of parents write to me to tell me thank you. I've also had lots of people tell me that they liked the humor in Aveyond. Some of the feedback has come from children as young as 8 and from adults as old as 80!

8. Have you made another game, or do you have another upcoming project? If so, please let us know about that.

I have just finished my second game, Grimm's Hatchery. Grimm's Hatchery is a magical pet collection game. The goal is to collect lots of magical pets, raise them, and pick up eggs. To beat the game, you must sell your eggs and pets, earn gold coins, and eventually buy a kingdom.

I am currently working on Aveyond II: Ean's Quest, which is the sequel to Aveyond I: Rhen's Quest. The new game looks promising, and I predict that it will be the game that everyone remembers in the Aveyond series.

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

Yes! I love Korean online games. There are a couple of Korean games that have been translated into English, but many of the most beautiful ones are still not available for English speakers. Korea has the most talented artists that I've ever seen, and it shows in the games. I love games like KartRider, MapleStory, LaTale... there are so many of them!!!

10. Please pick 5 other games to recommend, and brief reason why. (5 Indie - 5 Major, if you can. If not, 5 Indie is still okay. More recommendations could be also okay.)

My favorite Indie games
1. Everlong (Doug Carpenter-Freeware)
2. Cute Knight (Hanako Games-Shareware)
3. Kings Quest I & II Remake (AGD Interactive-Freeware)
4. Virtual Villagers (Last Day of Work-Shareware)
5. Bud Readhead (Space Ewe-Shareware)

My favorite Major games
1. Final Fantasy series
2. Ragnarok
3. YS series
4. Kings Quest series
5. MapleStory

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

Thank you for this great interview, Pig-Min! If any gamers want to make a game like Aveyond, please research game creation tools such as RPG Maker XP, Game Maker, and 3D Game Maker. I also wanted to let everyone know that I am going to work hard to make my future games available in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Happy gaming everyone, and if you have time, please visit the Aveyond community (www.amaranthia.com) over at Amaranth Games! Kind regards, Amanda. :)

Korean version of this Interview.
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This is interview with Laurent Coulon, CEO of Liquid Dragon, which made [Word Krispies] & [The Odyssey: Winds of Athena].

Korean version of this Interview.

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1. How come to make 'Word Game', while there are tons of other genre in Casual / Indie Game scene? And what could be 'Best Fun' for 'Word Game' genre?

Our first game “The Odyssey: Winds of Athena” was a completely original game with a very unique design. It won several awards and got very good reviews in the press but did not sell well at all. Good reviews are good but we needed to generate money to keep going. So for our second game we decided to make a much more mass-market type of game. Word games are probably the most common kind of games on the market so we decided to tackle the genre to see if we could bring anything new to it.

It is not easy to make a Word game fun. Most people tend to view Word games as intellectual and not entertaining. We tried to fight this syndrome by having a lot of very unusual power-ups and by varying the pace of the game. The player spends 5 minutes taking his time making words and then is treated to a mini game where he has to react as fast as possible for 1 minute non-stop.

2. Did you choice some 'Target Player' for Word Games? If so, how did you choice them?

Most existing word games are aimed at people who are experts at all kind of word based activities, like Crosswords or Scrabble. One of the best sold game in the genre is Literati and it is clearly made for a public of word experts. We tried to make a word game that was more aimed at the general public. We wanted it to be challenging but also to be fun and appealing to anyone. That is why we went for a Cereal theme and used very bright and cheerful colors in the product.

3. I saw [Word Krispie] used 'Krispie' as important element. Is there some special reason to choose it, as focusing some 'Target Player'?

The whole concept of Cereal getting less crispy and sinking in a bowl of milk started as a joke while we were developing Winds of Athena. At first we were just joking about making a game in which you have to eat your soup. But as we were joking the idea took shape and we realized there was real gameplay potential in the idea.

4. [Bookworm Adventure], the mixture of 'Word Game' & 'RPG' released. What's your opinion about such fusion of 2 entirely different genre?

I haven’t played Bookworm Adventure yet so I’m afraid I cannot really comment on that. I do think overall combining long term gameplay elements (like long term resource building, or revealing a story progressively, or in this case building up RPG style stats) in any time trial game is a good idea. It makes the player want to keep playing after the time trial has expired because the player knows that he has already invested time in building something that will be lost otherwise. Otherwise even if your game is really fun people are likely to close it and forget about it once the time trial ends.

5. We could call it 'Word Game' as 'Another Method of Education' or 'Edu-tainment'. Did you expect something like that, when you make & release 'Word Game'? And there might be some 'positive feedback' about your works, as 'Word Game'. And you might feel very good about that. Could you please let us know some episodes about that briefly?

I try to put some sort of educational content in every product I design, even if it is very superficial. I believe that when people are entertained they tend to memorize things better than when trying to learn. I originally wanted to include some word definition based gameplay in Word Krispies so people could learn new words as they played. We didn’t end up going that way because of the amount of work that would have been necessary. We have been a bit surprised to see Word Krispies being popular in non English speaking countries. This did make me very satisfied. I am French and have lived in the U.S. for about 10 years. If this product can help other people perfect their English I feel more gratified than by thinking that I just made an entertaining game.

6. Player must make some words, with any alphabet tiles appeared. It seems to be done randomly, but there might be some algorithm, as I assume. Could you please let me know what kind of algorithm to make it happen?

I cannot give away some of the details. Like most games once you know how certain things work they become less fun. The letters are only partially random. They are a lot of rules under the surface to make sure that the player always has a balanced number of letters to make words with. Each letter has a probability of appearing based on its frequency in the language, and then there are a lot of other rules to avoid having too many identical letters or double letters that are too hard to use. For instance there is only one word in the English language with the letters ‘QUU’ used in sequence. The word is Squushy and it is not even present in most dictionaries.

7. You can't use all the words in the English culture, and you might have some basis to choice 'What words use & What words don't use'. Could you please let us know, how you decided (or choiced or made) 'Dictionary' of the game?

Actually I think Word Krispies has one of the most complete dictionaries of any other casual Word Game. We have over 350000 words in our dictionary. We had to write our own data format to compress this much data in the space of the game and to be able to search rapidly through it. Unlike most other games no words are censored out of the dictionary. If you want to spell swear words or obscene ones, the game will let you as long as they exist in the dictionary. We remove proper nouns and abbreviations like all Word Games do but otherwise anything goes. We also added a feature to let people add words to the dictionary if they happened to find a word the game did not recognize. We had a problem with the Broccoli Bob power up in the game. Since the power up picks one of the best word you can make with the letters in your bowl it could potentially pick an obscene word. If users want to type an obscene word while playing the game that’s their problem but we didn’t want the game telling you an obscenity. So we had to create a list of “bad” words that were banned from the power up. That list was quite hard to make. When you include slang there are so many words that someone somewhere will think is an insult that it was very hard to build a complete list.

8. Player must have basic knowledge of 'Word', if he plays 'Word Game'. If you'd make it for foreigners, who doesn't know 'Word' very well, what you would do to make it happen?

I think if we were trying to make a Word Game for non English speakers the design would have to be fundamentally different. The game should make you discover words so you could increase your vocabulary. In Word Krispies you don’t get to learn any new words you just use the ones you know and that’s good for practice but not for learning. To learn the game would have to help you discover new words and also provide a meaning for them.

9. Could you leave some advise something, if somebody wants to make 'Word Game' with non-English, as Korean or Japanese or Chinese?

I lived several years in China when I was a student and used to speak Chinese fairly well. Building a word game using Chinese characters is very challenging and the game would probably not be very fun. There are too many different characters and the combinations are too short to make it interesting. Japanese Kanji might be possible to combine to make words. With Chinese I would maybe try to provide players with keys or strokes that can be placed to create a desired character and then make a word with it. I don’t know enough about the Korean language to even begin thinking about the problem.

10. Please recommend us 5 other good games & reason why?

I’ve always liked games that make you think a lot and even more so if the game teaches you things from real life while you play.

From that point of view one of the most satisfying game I have ever played was Gabriel Knight 3: Sins of the Fathers. Puzzle games are also a favorite of mine, like lemmings. On the Indie side one of the most elegant puzzle game I have ever played is Aargon. I also remember playing a very simple little game a while back called Laser Tank that was quite interesting. And of course all the classic adventure games like Day of the Tentacle, or the whole Monkey Island series.

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

I do not believe I have ever played a Korean game. I know of several Korean MMORPGs but that is a genre I am not attracted by at all so I will probably never get to try one. I know MMORPGs are very popular in Korea, I also know Korea pioneered the whole Micro-Transaction business model. Beyond that I am not very familiar with the Korean market. We are too small of a company to think about international markets much. Maybe in a few years. :)
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This is interview with Rob Adams, Producer of Gamescafe, which released [Word Web].

Korean vesrion of this Interview.

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1. How come to make 'Word Game', while there are tons of other genre in Casual / Indie Game scene? And what could be 'Best Fun' for 'Word Game' genre?  

WordWeb Deluxe was our second title for GamesCafe.com, and it was a company decision based off a group of game proposals that the development team has come up with at the time. There were other proposals which included different genres, but in the end we went with the strongest ideas. We tend to look towards innovation, when making our decisions on what projects are green lighted. That could be in the technology used to make the game or the game design itself.

2. Did you choice some 'Target Player' for Word Games? If so, how did you choice them?

First off we looked at all the top word games, then we set our sites on the biggest, then looked at who’s was playing this game and why. That’s how we formed a lot of our design choices about the game in the early prototype stages.

3. 'Spider' & 'Web' are important elements for [Word Web]. Is there some special reason to choose it?

The theme of the game was generated from the name of the game WordWeb. The Art Director took the name and ran with it, being aware that spiders are not the most loved creature he had to come out with a design that had mass-appeal and not too scary looking. We used 3D to create these spiders with personalities and we think it was pulled of quite well.

4. [Bookworm Adventure], the mixture of 'Word Game' & 'RPG' released. What's your opinion about such fusion of 2 entirely different genre?

Looking at what’s going on with the current generation casual games, I think we will see more of this marriage between genres. Some will be done well, and others will leave you scratching your head. Developers and publishers are always trying to reach a broader audience; it’s a gamble for the most part when making this type of game, so researching your audience is very important.

5. We could call it 'Word Game' as 'Another Method of Education' or 'Edu-tainment'. Did you expect something like that, when you make & release 'Word Game'?

With WordWeb there is an Edutainment element to it, and we new that when we introduced the mechanic of having the players spell a certain length of word to move on to other levels. By giving the player the ability to spell any word they want, (as long as it is in the game’s dictionary) we increased the difficulty by making the player spell longer words. We never penalized the player for spelling any word of any length they wanted, and over the course of the game we increased the length of the word required. We found during testing of this mechanic by the later levels the players had stopped spelling the short 3 to 5 letter words and were able to pick up larger patterns of letters. This was something most of the players never realized until we pointed it out to them, or when they went back and tried to play other word games, how limited they felt towards having to create shorter words.  

Once you play WordWeb Deluxe for over an hour you really see how your vocabulary can increase and challenges you to think more. We found that there is also a nitch market in the word genre where players who were word experts felt really rewarded with how the game progressed.

6. Player must make some words, with any alphabet tiles appeared. It seems to be done randomly, but there might be some algorithm, as I assume. Could you please let me know what kind of algorithm to make it happen?

The game board takes in to account, how many spaces there are, then we use a formula based on weighted characters to fill and replace spaces on the board. We also added other formulas in to the mix to determine how many bonus tiles can be placed, and when specials are generated. With the player being able to place down any character during play that they wanted, it was key for us to run a calculation for proximity on how many of one character can be in a certain area of the board.  

7. You can't use all the words in the English culture, and you might have some basis to choice 'What words use & What words don't use'. Could you please let us know, how you decided (or choiced or made) 'Dictionary' of the game?

The game has a dictionary of over 175,000 words, and it took quite some time to remove offensive words, and definitions, this was policed by ourselves, with thoughts of what our customers might find offensive. It’s a fine line with this kind of thing because no two people are a like, so it really came down to what our development team was comfortable with. Did we take out too much, or not enough the answer is “yes”.

8. Player must have basic knowledge of 'Word', if he plays 'Word Game'. If you'd make it for foreigners, who doesn't know 'Word' very well, what you would do to make it happen?

We only have the English version of this game available now, so a grasp of the English language, would allow you to enjoy the game a lot more. We have been in talks about opening the game up to other languages, but as of right now nothing are in the works.  This game could really be used for a learning tool for people who want to learn the English language because once you know a few words in the English language you can play the game and learn their definitions and context as well.

9. Could you leave some advise something, if somebody wants to make 'Word Game' with non-English, as Korean or Japanese or Chinese?

The best advice is to make sure you have people who have a good understanding of Korean, Japanese, or Chinese working on the dictionary. Because cultures are so different across the board, a pedestrian knowledge of the language and culture could get you in to trouble.

10. Please recommend us other good games & meaning why?

I am going to plug Mah-Jomino Deluxe here because of what we did to show some innovation in a Mahjong game. Changing the Mahjong tiles into 2 sided pieces, it’s a mechanic that is starting to show up in other casual games; plus its production values.

There is a lot of good games out there right now with great production values, for the consumers of casual games its like walking into a candy store and everything is free, its hard to know where to start. I still think some of the early tiles are the best like BookWorm, Jewel Quest, even Snood.

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

I have been following what has been going on in Korea with Nexon, we been playing one of their games Maple Story.

Korea is a different market than North America; PC MMO games are the biggest movers in Korea while in North America, consoles reigns supreme, with the exception of WoW of course J. With new generation consoles and the increased broadband penetration in North America there is much we can learn from Korea.

12. Please leave some message for Pig-MIn Interview Readers, especially for whom are interested in 'Word Games'.

Give Word Web Deluxe a try, it’s worth it, it will challenge you and provide an interesting spin on the words games.

Thank you for your time.

Korean vesrion of this Interview.
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