This time, Pig-Min interviewed with Kevin Forbes, one of the main programmers behind Don't Starve at Klei Entertainment. I hope you enjoy this interview.

Korean version of this interview

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1. First of all, please introduce yourself & company. People might not know very well who's behind Don't Starve.

 Klei Entertainment is a small indie game developer in Vancouver, Canada. There are about 20 people in the company currently, and roughly 1/3 of them are working on Don't Starve at any given time. My name is Kevin Forbes, and I'm a programmer / designer here at Klei. On Don't Starve I'm mostly working on the gameplay side of things, although I also have a hand in the writing.

 

2. Klei Entertainment has made platformer games, as Eets - Shank series - Mark of the Ninja. Especially Mark of the Ninja was awesome. Don't starve is different genre & too-early-released after Mark of the Ninja. How come to decide making Don't starve, and how so fast?

 We have multiple teams, and we were working on both games at the same time. Some people from Mark of the Ninja have joined us on Don't Starve now that they are finished that game. We chose to branch out to a new genre because we had made several 2D platforms in a row, and we wanted a new creative challenge. Don't Starve is also our first non-linear game, which is especially exciting and challenging.

 

3. Don't starve is Minecraft-ish game. Minecraft is about 'construction', other Minecraft-ish games are following it. But Don't starve is about 'survival'. If gamer die, lose everything except for research result & points. It's critical point to make it unique. How come to make 'survival' game based on Minecraft style?

I love Minecraft, but my favourite part was always single player survival. I've also really enjoyed other permadeath games like FTL and Binding of Isaac. I think that permadeath gives a game a sense of urgency and consequence that is missing if you can quicksave and restore whenever you want.


4. You are selling Beta version. Recently many indie does it, maybe Minecraft has opened door of 'alpha-selling'. However almost every alpha-selling indies are newcomers, but Klei has rather long history. How come to decide selling beta version?

We are publishing Don't Starve on our own, so we wanted to get meaningful feedback from players as soon as possible. Otherwise, we would run the risk of creating a game that only we could understand or want to play. Opening up our beta process had given us a tonne of great feedback, and let us build a great community around the game even before it's launched.

 

5. You update Don't starve in timely manner, always post 'Next update : * days' in game. Announcing update helps gamers to purchase in advance? Do you get many feedback "Hey please include this!"? And... after I found 'buffalo', game became too easy & lack of content. Do you have plan major update to solve this situation?

We try to keep our updates on a regular schedule for a couple of reasons. It keeps people excited about the game, and brings people back each time to try the new content. It also helps to keep us on track on our production schedule, and makes sure that we have a tuned and tested version of the game at all times. Since we are still adding content to the game, there are bound to be some balancing issues. We try to keep the game in check, though, and anything that's too far out of whack usually gets corrected in either the next regular update or a hotfix.

 

6. Before you came in Steam, you started selling with Google Chrome store & Humble Store widget. Many indies use Humble Store widget recently, sell directly & issue steam keys. But for Google Chrome store, well, not sure exactly if it's good. What's good point for Google Chrome store? And if possible, can we know selling ratio as Steam vs Humble vs Chrome?

The Chrome store lets us run the game securely in a browser. It's a great way to distribute a demo, and has the nice bonus of also working on Mac and Linux. It's also easier to get on to the Chrome Store than it is to get on to Steam, which is important for an indie. We were running on Chrome for months before we made it to Steam. The majority of our players are currently on steam, although the number of Chrome installs is rising alongside it.

 

7.  I'd like to ask what happened for Sugar Rush. Klei was making online game Sugar Rush with Nexon America, but suddenly Nexon America gave up Nexon America studio & Sugar Rush vanished. What happened at then?

When Nexon decided to stop development in Vancouver, a whole lot of games were affected, and this included Sugar Rush. As a company, we then had a choice: either rebuild the parts of the game that were owned by Nexon, or start a new game altogether. Considering we're a creative, independent company, we decided to march on forward and build new games!

 

8. Please pick up 5 good games and why.

FTL - Great emergent storytelling.

Dark Souls - Punishing but fair difficulty.

Amnesia - The only game that has actually scared me in years.

Mount and Blade - Like Sid Meier's Pirates!, but with horses.

Shogun II Total War - I love the scope of the battles in the Total War series. I'm really looking forward to Rome II!

 

9. Have you ever tried or heard about Korean games? Please share us your opinion.

I personally have not played any Korean games that I can think of. Which ones would you recommend?

 

10. Please leave message to Pig-Min readers.

Thanks for listening to my answers! I hope you try the Don't Starve demo, and tell us what you think in our forums!



Korean version of this interview
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Pig-Min interviewed Christine Love, who made Visual novel [Analogue : A Hate Story]. It's really unusual one. Korean culture + SF + IF(Interactive Fiction) style. Very unqie game, I had to do interview. You could check her game at official homepage.

Korean version

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1. First of all, please introduce yourself.

Hi! I'm Christine Love, a lesbian writer from Canada who makes indie games. I'm 22 years old, and I always thought I'd be a novelist or something like that; I only got into making games in 2010, when a game I wrote called "Digital: A Love Story" suddenly became popular practically overnight!


2. Your games seem to be very different from others. Not only for recent [Analogue : A Hate Story], but also for earlier ones as [Digital : A Love Story] & [Don't take it personally, babe. It just ain't your story]. Please explain us how unique they are.

Well, they're visual novels, so they involve a lot of reading. But within that genre, I try to do as much as I can to immerse the player in the story. In Digital and Analogue, the protagonist isn't just a stand-in for the player; they are you, staring at the exact same computer screen that you are. The biggest sign that a novel is successful is that while reading, you start to feel like you're a part of that world. I think that's important, and stories being interactive let you take that a step further still.

My talent may not quite be up to where my ambition is right now, but I try to make games that take you to other worlds, and have likeable and interesting characters; but also that offer you a new perspective on things. For example, DTIPB is about the changing nature of privacy in modern times. Whether or not I'm successful at that is debatable. But that's my goal.
 

3. I know that there are some Shojo Manga fans in US & Canada. Some of them might like BL genre, some of them might play Visual Novel. But as I think, only few of them makes Visual Novel. How come to make some games?

It's true, it's not a popular medium here at all. That's starting to change a little; the recently released Katawa Shoujo, for instance, has actually managed to get mainstream attention. My games tend to push the boundaries a little bit, and as a medium, it's still very, very young.

It's a form that gives you the benefits of visuals and music like a movie, the benefit of written prose like a novel, and the benefit of interactivity like a videogame. There's a lot of potential in that. There haven't been any great works of literature written as visual novels yet, but I think the possibility exists.


4. For [Analogue : A Hate Story], this is really unique one. Based on Korean culture, some diary log based on SF, old school IF(Interactive Fiction) style. I never imagined like that. How come to make some game like that, Korean culture + SF + IF?

It's sort of hard to say; the game certainly is a convergence of very unlikely ideas, I'll admit! Here's the core of it, though. I'm not sure whether this is as common in Korea or not, but in the west, we have a tradition of what's called "epistolatory novels," which are novels that are written in the form of a series of letters between people. It's a really great way to write a story with many perspectives. Digital was in many ways, an electronic form of this, and Analogue takes it further. What better way to tell a story about the lives of entire families, than by presenting it in the form of diaries and letters?

But since I didn't want everyone in the story to be long-dead, I put in the AI companions, who serve as librarians to help you dig through those diaries and letters. It's something to bring things into the present, and I thought, since this is a story that's fundamentally about traditional marriage, that it would make sense to have those AIs be romanceable characters like they would in any other visual novel.
 

5. For Korean culture, how come to learn & make it as a game? I never expected to see 'NamJon YeoBi'(Men are honoured, women are abased.) in Western game. I played only few minutes so not sure how correct Korean culture is in this game, however it was really shocking experience for me as Korean. Did you watch a lot of Korean TV drama? Even so, there might not be some serious 'NamJon YeoBi' situation in Tredny romance drama for twenties.

I must confess that while I've seen a couple, for the most part, I don't really watch Korean dramas much at all. I imagine you're probably right, that doesn't seem like a subject that would come up much in those sorts of shows! For that matter, I don't watch their Western equivalents much, either. There's always a few shows that are really good, but for the most part, I don't think too much of TV in general.

I have, however, had an interest in Korean history for a while now, and while I know there will inevitably be some oversights and mistakes, I hope my research shows through?more importantly, I hope it does seem respectful.

In particular, the society that it shows is one that's very closely modelled after the Joseon dynasty; fundamentally, it's about how oppressive misogyny in that culture could be, which is exemplified by "namjon yeobi." What has always struck me about Joseon is how it particularly stands out in Korean history as being a very large step back from the dynasties that came before it.

My goal isn't to villify that era, or the country. Part of it is that I want to look at how things went from being more fair and egalitarian, to the way they were in Joseon, and to ask, "could that happen again?" (The other part, I'll explain in a bit.) It's a question that scares me, and I think it's an important one. In the story of Analogue, the conflict is between the Pale Bride, who has the values of modern Korea, coming to clash with the traditional ones; but this is something that I think anyone in the west can relate to, too.

In North America, we have people who want to take away rights from people (in particular, gays and lesbians), and they use the phrase "traditional marriage" to invoke a nostalgic image of the past. I use the phrase, too: to show that "traditional marriage" is not something we should aspire towards, but something that was used to oppress women.
 

6. Further about Korean culture. You might learn & study about them by yourself, not only watching some drama, but also investigate some more. How come to find information about Korean culture? Books, Schools, or something else?

In the past, I've done a fair bit of research about Korean history in general, and a lot on the subject of the Joseon dynasty in particular. For an English-speaker, it's not nearly as easy to study as western countries, or countries like Japan or China; for some reason, the west tends to overlook Korea, which I think is a huge shame, because it's a fascinating history. Fortunately, I'm a university student, so I have access to pretty much every scholarly book in the country, thanks to interlibrary loans; it never would have been possible without that! So having gone through a lot of reference materials that way, I already had a pretty good idea of where to look when it came time to write Analogue.

While history books were necessary, especially in trying to understand the specifics of Neo-Confucianism, what I actually found to be most useful was studying contemporary writing from the period, especially pieces that were written by women. And while looking in that direction, it's really hard to not be struck by how incredibly little there is that still exists, because the attitude of the time said that women shouldn't write, and if they did, then it should be destroyed. Reading poetry in translation is difficult because you'll always lose something, but even still, it's impossible to read things by women like Heo Chohui or Hwang Jin-i and not feel in awe of the simple beauty or sincerity.

Because there isn't very much writing by women from Joseon, it made me wonder: what would it feel like to be a wife in that time? How would one try to cope with surviving a society like that? That question is the other part of why I wanted to write a story that takes the form of women's letters and diaries: I wanted to try to understand that.
 

7. For [Analogue : A Hate Story], how gamers react? It could be too difficult for plain gamers, that 'NamJon YeoBi' might be too different (or too shocking) thing. They might have hard time to read Korean name, even if you made 'how to pronounce' page.

Well, it's only been out for a single day, so it's pretty hard to say right now! But I think it's much more intuitive to play than Digital: A Love Story was, and people didn't seem to find that too difficult. It's obviously very niche, of course; I don't think a game like Analogue will ever have mainstream appeal. And it's a very complicated, and heavy subject, to be sure, and there will be people who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that people really did have the attitudes depicted. I can't do anything about those people.

It's true that Korean names are something that Westerners have a hard time with, and it is a very shocking subject. But I do think most people will be able to deal with that. I don't want to make it sound as if it's completely serious or dry; it is, after all, also a story about interacting with cute AI girls! I want players to leave with a new understanding of misogyny, but I also want them to enjoy the story. And from the responses I've gotten so far, it sounds people do seem to like the AI heroines *Hyun-ae and *Mute. So I'm not worried about that.
 

8. Please pick up 5 good games & explain why.

BioShock ? It's been accussed of being simplistic by people who miss the point, but I find its morality system to be one of the more striking uses of interactivity in a storytelling medium. It offers you the choice of doing the wrong thing, not because it wants you to: but because it knows that doing the right thing is only meaningful when you have the choice not to.

Collage ? Not really a game, it's a visual novel that doesn't branch at all. But it's a fantastic story, and it's only because I was so impressed by its presentation that I got into the medium.

Hotel Dusk ? I don't normally like adventure games too much; I find them to be difficult and confusing. But Hotel Dusk is about solving a mystery by talking to people, and it manages to avoid all those problems.

Chrono Trigger ? I think it's a clich? to mention it on your favourite games list, but it's just a really great adventure story, and what inspired me as a kid to start considering the storytelling potential of games.

Dwarf Fortress ? Probably the most interesting narrative videogame ever, completely by accident. Despite the fact that it's just a simulation game, it's impossible to talk to anyone about Dwarf Fortress without hearing about some hugely elaborate story that they watched unfold, with their imagination filling in the blanks and turning it into something special. Anyone interested in telling stories with videogames needs to try to learn from it as much as possible, because it's absolutely a glimpse of the future.
 

9. Have you ever experienced or heard about Korean games? If so, please share us your opinion.

I'm afraid that most of the Korean games that are translated here tend to be MMOs, and what I'm most interested in is games that tell stories. This isn't to dismiss MMOs out of hand, of course! I have a friend from high school who I was very close with, but don't see very often anymore; we've kept in contact by playing online games like Air Rivals, Cosmic Break, or Dungeon Fighter Online together.

But I still do think it's unfortunate that the west's only exposure to Korean games is through things like those. I would love to play and learn more about Korean RPGs, for example; but unfortunately, those very rarely get translated, so it's impossible.
 

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

I know it might be surprising for a westerner to write a game based on something like this, but I hope you'll understand that it's written out of respect for Korean history. If you do play it, I would love to hear what you think. Thank you for reading this interview, and I hope you like Analogue!


Korean version
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Pig-Min interviewed Tom Grochowiak, who made not-so-popular-but-cool-game [Magi]. He's working for next game [Cinders], which could be new breed of Visual Novel.

Korean version


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He accepts pre-order for [Cinders] at own homepage.
Check it out, and don't forget play [Magi]. It's really awesome.


1. First of all, please introuduce yourself.

Hi, I'm Tom Grochowiak -- indie game developer from Poland and the head of MoaCube.


2. [Magi] was really good indie real-time RPG battle game, but it's almost unknown. You updated it too many times for a long time, instead of making new games. What was good & bad thing for that?

Magi was a hobby project done in my past time. I had a normal job in the game industry, so I wasn't under pressure to launch more games. I prefered to get this one to the best possible state, first. It was a great learning experience. With each update, the game sold better, and I felt like I'm making progress as a game designer.

The downside was obviously that I could use that time to work on another game. But I honestly don't know if it would be any good without the experience I got while working on Magi.


3. You were using Game Maker to make [Magi], commercial game. What was good thing to use Game Maker?

Yeah, I was very satisfied with it. Game Maker now feels outdated compared to tools like Unity, but back then it was really something. It was more than enough to get the job done, and allowed me to focus solely on the design aspects. Also, made development much faster.


4. What happened to [Arcmagi]?

Nothing -- it's still in development. It's too big and complex to be my main project now when we went full-time indie, so I'm working on it in my past time. I plan to wrap it up when our studio becomes more stable.
 

5. You are from Poland, we don't know about Polish game market very well. gog & [Witcher] series are all we know. Please let us know more about that, gaming industry & situation & indie scene in Poland.

Haha, I actually worked on The Witcher. Polish game development scene is still pretty small, though we have some successes like Bulletstorm, Painkiller or the already mentioned Witcher. As we only have a handful of gamedev companies around here, most people working in the industry know each other very well. Wherever you go, you meet people you already worked with or at least heard about. It's pretty tight-knit.

Indie scene is pretty much non-existent. It does get a bit lonely at times.


6. You worked with Rob Westwood for music, who are genuius composer in UK. It was international project, which might not be so easy. Please share us idea how it was, to work with people abroad.

It mostly comes down to finding the right people. We're all friends and worked together for quite some time. I know I can trust my team, and there's a strong understanding between us. I can just ask Rob: "hey, could you compose a track that fits this character here?" and he'll know exactly what I need. That kind of connection is priceless.

Even the best managment skills won't help if people don''t glue well together and aren't passionate about what they do.


7. New game [Cinders] is visual novel, very different from [Magi]. In Western indie scene, only WinterWolves (in Italy) & Hanako Games (in UK) make that genre. How come to make such game? What's the difference from their games?

There's many more western indie visual novel developers actually. Like Ayu Sakata (who also does writing for us) of SakeVisual, or Christine Love.

We decided to make a visual novel after playing several such games together with my artist. They were often fun (even if sometimes more as a 'guilty pleasure'), but we were dissapointed in their overall quality. We started thinking about doing something like this, but up to modern standards, and with high quality art.
When we went full-time indie, it seemed only natural to make it. We had a strong idea for how it should look and work, and VN games don't take as long to develop, making it a great choice for our first game.

The main difference from other visual novels is that we don't use anime art or follow certain cliches found in Japanese games. We're telling our own story, in our own way. We also have many more player choices than the typical VN. Some are crucial to the plot, some just let you role-play the protagonist the way you want.
 

8. Please pick up 5 good games & explain why.

Hah, though choice.

L.A. Noire for a brilliant idea on how to make a modern adventure game (with a lots of wasted potential, sadly).

Demons Souls for an absolutely hardcore RPG experience like they don't make anymore.

Weird Worlds: Return To Infinite Space -- a very addicting older indie game. A mix of space exploration and casual board game.

Dissidia: Final Fantasy for a completely crazy mix of a fighting game and  an RPG. Got lots of great ideas for ArcMagi from this one.

The World Ends With You is a bit of an underrated gem of an RPG from Square. Very original game -- gameplay and setting wise.
 

9. Have you ever experienced or heard about Korean games? If so, please share us your opinion.

I played some Maple Story, but didn't really like it. I'm not much into MMOs, and I think they are very popular in Korea. Most of my experience with Korean gamers comes from playing competitive games, like Starcraft, Warcraft 3 or Guild Wars. You guys pwn hard!


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

Keep on rocking and big thanks to everyone who bought Magi. I hope you are having tons of fun with it.


Korean version
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