Interview : Sean O'Connor, 1 man maker of [Slay].

This time, Pig-Min did an e-mail interview with Sean O'Connor, who made [Slay] & many other small but intersting games.

His games & history are far different from than other Indie game industry. So it could be interesting to read his interview here. Take a big breath & ready to read a long & important answers.

Official Homepage of Sean O'Connor

Korean version of this Interview

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Very simple, but most addictive game all over the game scene.

1. You are very 'Unique' even in Indie Game scenes all over the world.  But even if I see 'History of the Games' & 'About Sean O'Connor', it's hard to get idea who you are exactly, all we could know is very limited. Please introduce yourself & your work briefly.

I've always been very passionate about inventing board games and personal computers happened at just the right time for me, when I was still at junior school. I found computer programming came naturally to me (first in Basic and then in Assembly code) and it was a great way to make games that I invented come alive rather than just being a passive set of rules.

I wrote games all through my time at school on the computers I owned: a Video Genie (a TRS80 compatible machine), an Acorn Electron and then an Atari ST. I had a couple of games published on magazines, but I kept finding that just as I had mastered one computer, the next generation of home computers would come out, and I would be back to square one.

Looking back I'm not sure why I never got a regular job as a computer games programmer, but hearing about the stress of meeting deadlines, and the hours those guys have to put in makes me thing that maybe I had a lucky escape!

2. [Slay] is released in 1995 for the first time, and you had more money with that game than you can earn with Network Managaer Job, so became Self-Employ condition until 1999. You live in UK, and living fair might be much higher than other countries, so we could assume you got real high fortune with [Slay] in 1995! It might be real big fortune at then, as I assume. Could you please let us know brief information about that?

I never made a fortune from [Slay], but it was making just a bit more than my regular job, so I thought it was worth the risk of quitting full time employment and having a go at writing similar games full time. Maybe if I lived somewhere where the cost of living wasn't quite so high as the UK, it would have been a really good sum of money though.
At that time I didn't have a house, wife or kids, so as long as I had enough money to pay the rent and buy food I was happy. I think my friends were very jealous, though when they had to go their 9 to 5 jobs and I stayed at home working on my own projects.

3. After 2001, we remember some 'Indie Success' story, as Popcap of [Bejeweled] & Introversion of [Darwinia]. But your Indie success [Slay] is far earlier than them. Of course, there were some 'Indie Success' stories even in 1990's, however they became 'Much Bigger' company, as ID soft of [Doom]. You were 1 man army from the first time, and even until now. There are some other 1 man army (or few men army) in Indie scenes recently, but can't remember any of them in 1990's. Could you please let us know some Episodes about that, especially for 1990's?

To be honest I hardly ever play any computer games!

I played [Wolfenstein] and then [Doom] a lot though, but John Carmack who wrote the 3D engine for them must have been a technical genius, and way beyond anything I'd attempt to do, so he absolutely deserved all the success he got.

I liked the simplicity of Richard Carr's DOS game [Capture The Flag], and that's why I wanted to do my own version of it on Windows. Maybe other people's games frustrate me as I keep finding myself thinking that's not the way I would do it if I had written it.

4. You had made many games. Not only for [Slay], but also for [Conquest] - [Firefight] - ... etc., total 10 games. But as I think, you'd rather 'Update Older Games' than 'Make New Games'. Your latest game was [End of Atlantis], and it's done at 2005. Any reason about that, to update older games again & again, not make new games?  ([Capture the Flag] is the latest in 2007. Sep., but it's still on Beta, so I didn't write about it.)

A problem is that each game you write gets its own group of fans, who come up with new ideas (or find bugs!) that as the author you want to deal with. So, as you get a bigger collection of games, it becomes harder and harder to find free time to work on something brand new.

The other problem is that each new game that you want to do gets more and more ambitious than the last ones, so the number of hours needed to complete the next project can grow.

Having said that though, since [End Of Atlantis] I have written [Niggle] which I really wrote for my father in law, as it's his favourite card game. And we had just bought him a computer, so it was something for him to help learn about computers on.

I've also just finished [Capture The Flag] which I wrote to get some experience with isometric graphics and create a fast enough graphics engine for that so I could write some real-time isometric games.

5. You are making games not only for Windows PC, but also for Pocket PCs / Palms / Symbian UIQ. These handheld machines might be very different from Laptop PC market, as I assume. Could you please let us know about that, as Selling Scores / Buyer's Feedback / Interface / ... etc? And did you get any contract, to make [Slay] for NDS / PSP (or even XBLA)?

I converted a few of my games ([Slay], [Conquest] and [The General]) onto Pocket PCs, because I found that programming Pocket PCs was almost identical to programming Windows, so there was very little work involved in porting them.

I've no experience myself in programming on Palms or for Symbian, and those two ports were done by friends of mine who really liked playing [Slay] and wanted a version on their own favourite handheld device.

I think the market for games on these devices is so much smaller than Windows PCs though, and I make nearly 90% of my sales on the Windows versions.

[Slay] might be a perfect game for Nintendo DSes though, but the overhead in learning to program on a new device would be so high that it would be a big risk to do conversion to them.

6. Your games are 20$ for 1 copy, but you do 'Bundle' a lot, as 10 Window games as 40$. It's real big 'Bundle', so your customers might be very interested in them. Does 'Bundle' really works well in sales, or both of 20$ selling / 40$ selling works well? If you don't mind, please let us know brief idea about that.

Naturally I try and persuade as many people as possible to buy the $40 bundle! But, most people just want the individual game that they've seen and want to buy.

I'm always happy for people to "upgrade" at a later date if they have bought one game and they now want to buy the whole set though.

7. Do you have any future plan for New games? If so, please let us know about that. (Maybe [Capture the Flag]? And more?)

I really want to use the isometric graphics routines I've worked out to make some real-time games.

Some thoughts I've had are a massive game set in Stalingrad with thousands of intelligent infantry men perhaps a bit like my game [Firefight], or a medieval/fantasy battle game again with thousands of troops. My big problem though is the graphics as that's something I have no skill at whatsoever. For [Capture The Flag], I used graphics that are freely available from this site.

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

I played [Galcon] recently, and I thought it was brilliant but then it got quite samey after a few games.

I thought that [Odyssey Winds Of Athena] was technically amazing but again the gameplay got a bit repetitive. Maybe if the game had been more of a strategy game where you intercede as a god to help your fleet to defeat the Persian fleet it would have been more my sort of game.

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

Unfortunately no. As I play so few other games that's not surprising I guess though!

10. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers

Thanks very much for reading this and I really hope that my games are your sort of thing.

Official Homepage of Sean O'Connor

Korean version of this Interview
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