Interview : Jesse Venbrux, maker of [Karoshi] series.

This time, Pig-Min did an e-mail interview with Jesse Venbrux, who made [Karoshi] series.

[Karoshi] series became too famous, due to different kind of dealing with Death. It's even featured in Edge - PC Gamer UK, and even [Fallout 3] Lead Producer wrote about [Karoshi] in his blog.

Korean version of this Interview

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Screenshot from [Karoshi 2.0]

1. Your game [Karoshi] series are underground hit even in Korea, but we don't know very well about your other games & yourself. When did you start making games, how come to decide making games, ... etc. Please let us know about them.

I didn't know Karoshi was popular in Korea, and I'm very pleased to hear that!

About myself : From when I was very young I've been making my own things. I made a lot of stuff, for example board games, comics, stories, drawings, mechanical stuff. A lot. At some point I discovered Game Maker and slowly learned how to make games with it. Games are interesting to me to make because they are a young medium, you can do so much with them, they are fun, and I can spread them to many people over the internet.

I like making as well as playing games, hanging out with friends, and traveling. In fact, and this may surprise you, I've been in Korea! I'm interested in Asian cultures and when I was on a long trip through Japan I also spent 2 weeks in South-Korea. I was traveling with a friend, but we mostly played StarCraft in the PC Bang's (and I'm still very bad at it by the way!).

Currently I'm studying to become a game designer at an art school in the Netherlands, my home country.

2. For [Karoshi] series, they are praised very highly in webzines / blogs / magazines, including Edge & PC Gamer UK. Please let us know how popular it is all over the world, and what you think about that.

Well what you say there is pretty much how popular it is. It's mostly known within the indie games community, maybe a little outside that. It's not known amongst most average pc gamers, obviously, but I would have never guessed that it would become this popular.

It's very encouraging, and I love reading what people have to say about the game. It has brought me "in the picture" a little. It's a good feeling to know that whenever I release something, there will always be some good feedback.
3. You are making so many games very fast, especially for [Karoshi] series. You have released [Karoshi] at 2008/03/02, and [Karoshi 2.0] at 2008/04/09. Very little time for such a big improvement. How did you do such a excellent job, within just 1 month? How come to make such a lot of games so quickly, in good quality? And how many games have you made in 1 year, each of 2007 & 2008?

Good question... I think I've released about 12 games 2007 & 2008.

1 game in 2007, and that was [Frozzd], which won 1st. prize & 1,000$ for the 1st. paid competition from Yoyogames. 11 games in 2008 up to now.

I guess I've become very good at working with Game Maker. I also try to keep things simple so I don't spend weeks on the game's engine. Apart from all that, I just work a lot on them and have had a lot of free time this year.
4. You are using Game Maker as game production tool, don't use others. Just Game Maker is the best tool you ever met, or any specific reasons?

Game Maker is indeed the best tool, for me at least. I've made games with Game Maker since 2003.

Maybe some day I would like to try a 3D game, which Game Maker is not that great for. With Game Maker I can make about any 2D game I want and pretty quick too. However in the future I may try making games with Flash, since Flash games have the advantage of being able to be played on a website.

Still further in the future I may be working as a game designer at a company, which means I don't have to do programming!
5. Some of your games are related to 'Death', in very different way. For example, [Karoshi] series / [Execution] / [Deaths] are very close to 'Death'. Some people like your bizarre way to deal death, but others consider your game 'Very well made but sick to play'. Do you have any specific reasons, to make such games based on 'Death'? You already made good games without 'Death', as [Frozzd] & [Torque].

"Death" is a subject that affects everyone and is pretty mysterious. It's also something we find in most games.

I think since I came up with Karoshi I have gotten a few more ideas on how to deal with it. Ideas I had never seen before, so I had to make them.

I'm not entirely sure whether I have a strange fascination with death (if so it'd be subconsciously) or that it's just a coincidence. Either way my games about "death" have gotten some of the most press.
6. Recently many brilliant Indie Games & Makers got commercial deal, as thatgamecompany of [flOw] & Wadjet Eye Games of [Blackwell Legacy]. Even [Karoshi] series can't be released at retail market, [Torque] or [Frozzd] could be sold, as I think. Did you get such contracts from some publishers / platform holders? And do you have any plan to do some commercial projects beside freewares?

I've had contact with someone who was interested in Karoshi, although nothing has come out of that yet. (Maybe in the future, I hope). Other than that, nothing.

I'm planning on making some money with Flash games, and in the future I may consider the iPhone platform, which is looking very good at the moment.

7. You are from Netherlands, and student at Utrecht School of the Arts and study Game Design & Development. As I remember, [De Blob] was made by the students of your school, too. Please let us know more about your school & projects done there. And please share us some brief idea about Indie Game scene at Netherlands.

At my school the subjects are divided into 3 categories, for the most part. Art, Code, and Design. So I learn a bit from every side of the development process. This is why I now know a little C++ and why I can texture a 3D model! However I'm mostly interested in the Design part, of course.

We get lessons from people who work in the dutch games industry (it exists, but is very small). Often we have to work in groups on a project; for example, we have to make a game for a specific audience, and learn to work as a team.

I don't think a dutch indie scene really exists. We are just a (very small) part of the international (english speaking) one. I know a few other dutch people who work with Game Maker, but there aren't many others that I know of.

8. Please recommend 5 Good games & the reason why.

The successor to the Flash game N, N+ is the Xbox Live Arcade version. It looks so simple, yet it's very challenging, and keeps being interesting to play even after a hundred levels.

Killer 7
One of my favorite games for it's weird story, style, and unique gameplay ideas.

One of my favorite games by cactus. Very nice visuals, atmosphere, and gameplay that makes you think. Unfortunately it was a little short and the bee part was too difficult!

Resident Evil 4
This is my favorite game ever. I have played through it several times, which I almost never do. The graphics are (still) stunning, the gameplay keeps being fun and varied and the atmosphere in the game is amazing.

Ceramic Shooter
This game is not very well known, but I wanted to mention something more obscure here as well. It's a recent indie retro shmup which does some very original things and is quite challenging. In the game your ship is crashing and firing automatically, and you have to try to NOT destroy things.
9. Did you try some Korean games, or even heard or experienced about them? If so, please share your thoughts about that.

I have once tried Maple Story, and when I was in Korea I saw many advertisements for Korean Games. I haven't really tried any other Korean games, though. I have heard MMORPG's are very popular but I'm not a fan of them myself.

I also don't know of any indie games from Korea. Please tell me if there are any good ones so I can check them out. : )
10. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers.

I was very surprised to see an interview offer from Korea, which is pretty far away for me!

It's great to hear that many of you have enjoyed my work, and I hope you will do so in the future as well. I hope this interview was interesting. I recommend checking out if you want to see more of my games.

Korean version of this Interview
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