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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Pig-Min did an e-mail interview with Mike Gribbin, who is Community Manager of Kongregate.

Kongregate is one of the important Webgame site, which has Achievement Badges & Collectible Card Game [Kongai].

Korean version of this Interview

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Let's jump to the Kongregate through that picture.

1. We all know Kongregate, but we don't know detail about the website & company itself. Please let us know brief history / description about that.

Kongregate was founded in mid 2006 by Jim Greer and his sister Emily.

Before starting Kong, Jim worked as a Technical Director at EA Pogo, one of the most successful casual gaming sites on the web.  Using that experience, he set out to create a community focused site where independent developers and gamers could interact and play together. Of course MMORPGs have had a big influence on us as well.

Kongregate has site features like levels and achievements to make the experience more persistent than your average web game portal, and it seems to work really well!

2. What does 'Kongregate' mean? We could assume the meaning from 'Armor Games' / 'Addicting Games' / 'Crazy Monkey Games', but can't imagine what 'Kongregate' means. Sounds cool, maybe Germany words, but what does it mean?

Kongregate is an intentional misspelling of the word "congregate," because it is a place where gamers can play together. Community and social interaction are the heart of the site, but unfortunatley the domain name for the real spelling wasn't very cheap!

It's okay though, our fans shorten the name to Kong, which I like a lot. Maybe we should have a monkey mascot instead of an ant?

3. People submit Flash Games to Kongregate, and could get some reward / income share / sponsership. In Korea, such model is not so popular (almost none), and Korean gamer / game maker wannabe might be interested to know the detail about that. Could you please let us know how it works? Just make some game & ask you to pay, or some more important things exist?

Just make the games, and if they're good, you will get the money. 

We share up to 50% of our advertising revenue with the developers of every single game on the site.  Of course, some of the games are not very popular, so they do not make much advertising revenue, but the good games make a significant amount of money from this sharing.  Right now, Kongregate is the only large portal that offers this sort of service to the developers.  Other portals simply keep 100% of the revenue from advertising.  We also give away cash prizes every week and month for the highest rated games on the site, you can see the current leaders for the monthly and weekly prizes on our home page. 

On top of these two revenue systems, we are a game sponsor and operate a unique Premium Games program.  Game sponsorship is the most common way for Flash developers to make money.  As a sponsor, we pay developers to place our logo and links to our site somewhere inside of their game. Our Premium Games program is like a super sponsorship where we pay small development teams up to $100,000 to develop large multiplayer games.  Anyone can apply for a sponsorship or to make a premium game. We have no requirements other than having a great game or idea.

4. You might play a lot of them & found what is essential for good Flash Game. Flash Game / Web Game might be different from Downloadable Game, for File Size / Game Depth / Play Time / ... etc. Please share us idea about that.

I used to feel that Flash games were weak and lacked depth, but time has changed things a lot! 

Flash games are becoming very deep, and we are learning that the deeper games are getting better ratings than the old style of time waster games. The most popular games on Kongregate are deep RPGs like Sonny, and games with levels, classes, and campaign maps like Protector or Monster's Den. 

In the future I think we will see many more MMORPG and online games in the Flash arena.  This is just the beginning.

5. Kongregate has different aspect for a Flash Game Site, about 'Badge' & 'Achivement'. 'Achivement' is used for XBOX LIVE & Steam, which gained good attention, but nobody used it for Flash Game Site before Kongregate. How come to decide to use it? And does it really affect gamers, come to Kongregate more often?

Achievements are actually something that we borrowed from Jim's old job at Pogo. Achievements had existed on Pogo long before XBox Live or Steam had ever thought about them. and Jim knew that they were successful over there.  Sure enough, they've been successful for Kongregate as well. Badges are one of the reasons that we hear over and over again for why players prefer Kongregate over our competitors. Gamers love them :)

Of course we have other things to earn as well aside from badges, like cards for Kongai. Normal badges and Kongai cards are both earned by playing games on our site, but unlike normal badges, the Kongai cards can be used to play our brand new collectible card game after you win them.

6. [Kongai] could be another revolution of Webgame & even Video Game industry. People must play several games to earn Cards for [Kongai], and it could be even described as 'Meta-Game'. How come to think that concept at first, and what you expect from [Kongai] & how big result you get from that?
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure where the idea for Kongai came from.  The game itself was designed by David Sirlin, a master of Street Fighter, and well known designer of competitive games, but the concept of having a meta-game just seems natural for a site like Kongregate.  Kongai makes Kongregate more than just a portal with a bunch of free games, it ties the entire site together into a single experience.  It is something revolutionary in web gaming. Maybe in all gaming!

We expect Kongai to help keep players involved in the website, and tie all of their progression so far into a great looking competitive card game. So far the result has been fantastic, and players are loving it. We're even having new players come to the site just to play Kongai, which is great!

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

In web gaming we can see 5 good games in one week, but I don't only want to talk about web games, so I will only list three great new web games and two of my favorite non-web games.

Intrusion, Protector: Reclaiming the Throne, and Pandemic 2 are all really great and came out within the last month. 

I really loved Intrusion the most, it's a shooter similar to Metal Slug, and has some really innovative levels and bosses toward the end. The beginning is a little bit slow, but if you survive the first level you'll fall in love. 

Protector: Reclaiming the Throne is the sequel to one of the best tower defense games ever made.  Instead of placing towers to kill creeps like most tower defense games, it lets you place warriors and mages who level up and gain skills as you progress through the campaign map. 

The last game, Pandemic 2, is about destroying the human race as quickly as possible. Seriously :)

I used to be a big FPS game player. Recently I've played Team Fortress 2 the most, even sometimes playing with our community members from Kongregate. We have a Steam group together. When I'm in the mood for a console game though, it would be Smash Brothers: Brawl with my friends.

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

Korean games have been a big influence on me as a gamer and as someone who works in a game industry. 

My first Korean game was Lineage 2, and it really introduced me to the concept of Korean gaming.  Since then, I've played many games like Kart Rider, RF Online, Maple Story, Ragnarok, and many more. 

I have learned a lot about game business through the Korean model.  In the West, it is still very uncommon to sell virtual items in games in the way that most Korean games do.  We call that business microtransactions, but not many companies have attempted it yet.  We know it has been successful in Korea, and at Kongregate we hope it can be successful for our premium web games as well.

Oh, and I just saw NCSoft's trailer for "Blade and Soul" today. Wow!

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

If you have ever wanted to make games, but do not know where to start or how to make money from it -- look into Flash games.

Right now you are seeing the beginning of a new industry of web games.  It is entirely independent, and very exciting.  Anyone can make the next big hit, and we have no idea what it will look like or who it will be made by. 

It is rare to see an opportunity as great as this where anyone can succeed.  Go for it :)

Korean version of this Interview
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This time, Pig-Min did an e-mail Interview with Becky Waxman, who is doing Moderator & Publisher/Developer Liaison of GameBoomers.

GameBoomers is community for Adventure Games, but this is not another usual game community. Many members are elder, in their age of 40's - 70's, and have played games for a long time.

GB could be called as 'Commuity for Another kind of Core Gamers'. You could agree ,after reading this interview and visit GB to share the joy of Adventure Game.

Korean version of this Interview


User image
Logo of GameBoomers.

1. First of all, please introduce GameBoomers to Pig-Min readers. And please introduce Admins / Moderators of GameBoomers, as Career of Gamer.

The GameBoomers website first went live in 1999. Since then, we’ve grown steadily, and currently have over 6,000 active members.

We have multiple forums. (Link to the main forum.) Our largest forum is the Adventure Game Discussions forum. There our members read and post about the latest adventure game news. They discuss aspects of recent releases and memories of the adventure classics. There’s also an active Adventure Game Hints & Help forum where staff and members try to help people who are “stuck,” as well as the DarkSide forum for discussing non-adventure games (RPGs and action games), the Garden of Puzzling Delights for gamers who create their own puzzles, and a forum for Casual gamers (recently opened).

GameBoomers is known for its huge inventory of adventure game walkthroughs, its thoughtful reviews of adventure releases, its large database of member reviews, and its eagerness to assist other gamers.

Our staff composition is unusual for a gaming website. We span half a century in terms of age -- with staffers ranging in age from those in their twenties to those in their seventies. Over half of our staff members are women. We hail from all over the world, though the greatest concentration of staff members is in North America.

How would I describe the gaming career of a typical GameBoomer? Well, a surprisingly large number of us got our start by playing Myst. Others started with earlier games ? the original “Adventure,” and the King’s Quest games, for example.

We found our way to GameBoomers by different routes. Some of us were searching the web for Hints for a particular game and stumbled across the GameBoomers Hints forum and walkthroughs. Others discovered the site through links or comments in other gaming forums.

2. GameBoomers is made up with 'Game' + 'Baby Boomers'. We all know 'Game' very well, but not sure exactly about 'Baby Boomers'. Please let us know about that.

The Baby Boomers belong to the generation of North Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Immediately after World War II, there was a “boom” or strong growth in the population, with many soldiers returning home and starting young families.

The Boomer generation has had a tremendous influence on American culture through sheer numbers. It’s a generation that’s now in its prime earning years or entering retirement. GameBoomers has attempted to reach out to this Boomer demographic, which is often sorely under-represented on “generalist” gaming sites that target the under-25 male demographic.

All ages are of course welcome at GameBoomers (though you must be at least thirteen years old to register). Our site hopes to make all its members comfortable. We welcome those who are new to gaming, those who just want a quick word of advice, those who want to discuss games in detail and depth, those who are technologically adept, and those who are not.

3. Could you please let us know, what are the good & strong points of Adventure Games?

Let’s start with what defines an adventure game (I know the definition isn’t perfect, but at least it allows the start of a discussion). An adventure game is an interactive story set in a fully-realized, explorable environment, in which the vast majority of the challenges involve using wits (not reflexes) to advance. These games tend to offer more leisurely-paced, less violent gameplay than (for example) first person shooters, arcade, or real-time strategy games.

The Pros. Memorable characters and plotlines mean that adventures remain fresh and entertaining for years. The gamer absorbs the atmosphere and personality of the environments and has time to pay attention to the details of the surroundings and the plot. This creates a quality of immersion in the story and gameworld that isn’t possible if you are rushing through while fighting off assorted threats.

Gameplay that involves wit and imagination can give the gamer the satisfaction of that “aha!” moment. For example, when the right inventory combination becomes obvious, or when the gamer figures out the way a mechanical device is operated, or when conversation with a character reveals a solution to one of the game’s mysteries.

The Cons. Because adventure games are often strongly story-based, they tend to be more linear than games in other genres. Therefore they don’t have as much replay value. Also, most puzzles can be solved only one way. This means that the gamer will inevitably experience moments of frustration where progress can’t be made without thinking in unfamiliar ways or by asking for a hint or by consulting a walkthrough. (The GameBoomers Hint forum moderators work hard to provide timely hints to members who are “stuck” in order to try to ease the frustration.)

Adventure gamers as a group tend to favor the PC over console games (and few adventures are made for console platforms). So adventure gamers (and the developers who design adventures) have to deal with getting games to run on a vast range of hardware configurations. Action gamers accustomed to a manic pace, the latest graphical effects, and free movement through real-time 3D environments may find that adventure games seem slow-paced and old-fashioned.  

4. Too many people says 'Adventure is dead', especially in Korea, but we all know 'Adventure never died'. As I wrote in local column, Adventure is just moved to Europe (and Eastern Europe) / Indie / Franchise(CSI / Nancy Drew / Sherlock Holmes / ... etc.). Please describe about that by GB way, and let people make sure 'Adventure is still alive'.

According to the Puzzle and Adventure Game Online Database, there were 36 adventure games released in English in 2007 and 44 released in 2006. That’s enough to keep any adventure gamer busy. In 2008, I find the hardest problem is keeping track of the upcoming adventures. Currently our “Upcoming Games Page” contains links to over seventy adventures that are under development.

That said, the industry has changed. There aren’t many publishers willing to sink several million dollars into the development of an adventure game. And more and more adventures appear to be purchased over the web rather than off of store shelves.

Sierra and LucasArts no longer develop new adventure games. However, designers who used to work for these giants are returning to adventure gaming and have begun to develop new adventures, including Telltale’s Sam & Max episodic series and the upcoming Gray Matter, A Vampyre Story, and Mata Hari.

As you mention above, adventures based on famous detectives or popular television shows are reliable hits. And there’s an ingeniously creative Indie adventure industry that seems to be echoing the successes of the Indie film industry.

5. GB has a branch forum about 'Casual Games', and many GB addicts write tons of threads & replies even there. 'Adventure Game' & 'Casual Game' have something in common, and even some Casual Game Portal as Big Fish Games have 'Large File Adventure Games' section to sell. And recently, some 'Casual Games' are made very similar to 'Adventure Games', as [Azada] & [Dream Chronicles]. Please share us your opinions about 'Casual Games' as 'Adventure Gamers'.

A Casual game (here we go with definitions again) is a game you can pick up and play without advance preparation. You don’t need to spend an hour tweaking the game interface or studying the manual or playing a preparatory tutorial before launching yourself into the game.

In a Casual game, you can play for an hour, then return in a month and play for another hour without having to remember the story or what steps have already been solved in a multi-stepped puzzle. Casual gameworld environments are limited, so you don’t return after a month to find yourself lost in a vast landscape, not knowing where to go next.

You can return to Azada after a long absence and pick up the game with relative ease. However, to get back into an adventure game after a long absence, you might have to replay sections or read a record of the dialogs or wander around the gameworld to reorient yourself.

As Casual games gain stronger stories and elaborated gameworlds, they do seem to be becoming more like adventure games. And as Casual gamers branch out into other genres, this is likely to increase the demand for adventure games. It’s an intriguing trend to watch.

6. GB forum is very famous for friendly & professional communication. If some people would like to get some information, as what to purchase & play, just post a question thread & will get good answers very quickly. It might be due to the reason, that GB forum has many good gamers, who has had long-term gaming career & elder enough to be very kind. What do you think about that?

If you enjoy helping other gamers, or if you need assistance yourself, GameBoomers is definitely the place for you. There are gamers who are uncomfortable with the “passionate,” sometimes overcritical exchanges on some gaming forums. These gamers would rather spend time with gamers who are friendly and courteous.

Maybe because many of us are older, we see the value in trying harder to get everybody to get along?

7. We all know about BAAGS (Buy All Adventure Games Syndrome), which represents GB very well. Anyway please share us background episodes about that, as who made it / what kind of feedback you got about BAAGS / ... etc.

To read about the “…levels of descent into the pits of this sickness,” click here.

This description of BAAGS was written by Syd, a long-time member and past administrator at GameBoomers. I think it speaks for itself. Although there are adventure gamers who buy games selectively and prudently, getting to Level 4 and beyond does seem to coincide with the amount of time spent reading and posting at GameBoomers.

Collecting adventure games has become a hobby for many. Finding a good price for a rare adventure game (boxed and in mint condition) can become a form of entertainment in and of itself.

Extreme examples of BAAGS syndrome include gamers who decorate their living rooms with shelves of game boxes. Also, gamers who hide the extent of their collection from their spouses, and gamers who throw everything else out of their basements and garages in order to make room to store the boxes.

8. Please recommend 10 GOOD games, and the reason why.

I’m recommending ten games ? these represent particular aspects of adventure gaming. I’m only recommending games that are available via download, so that all the games are readily accessible to Korean gamers. All of these games have been reviewed at GameBoomers, so you can find out more about the ones that interest you by visiting the GB Reviews Page.

Detective Adventure :
Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis (also known as Sherlock Holmes versus Arsene Lupin).
This game contains gorgeous, expansive 3D environments. It shows Holmes in top erudite form, and reveals the quixotic side of Watson. Arsene Lupin, an unusually likeable villain, gives Holmes a run for his money and his reputation. If you like varied and cunning puzzles, this will provide hours of enjoyment.

Science Fiction Adventure :
Culpa Innata.
A vision of a compelling future utopia. You assume the role of Phoenix Wallis, a Peace Officer investigating a crime which has dangerous and puzzling implications. An unusually complex background story and lots of intriguing details give the game world a sense of realism and an odd flavor of menace. Interviewing witnesses and suspects means that there’s an emphasis on character interaction, including plenty of dialog.

Fantasy Adventure :
Uru : Ages Beyond Myst.
The Myst games have always been an explorer’s delight, and this one is no exception. Uru immerses the gamer in sumptuous, organic and technological Ages (worlds) which weave together a history of a lost civilization. Challenging mechanical puzzles and feats of jumping and kicking use the game’s real-time 3D capabilities in novel ways.

Comedy Adventure :
The Sam & Max Season Episodes.
A cartoon-style episodic series with colorful graphics, wacky animal and human characters, eccentric plots and sophisticated humor. Some of the most inspired writing and musical satire in gaming. The series appeals to a broad range of gamers and has acquired a cult following. This is a good place to start if you haven’t played an adventure game before and want a game that doesn’t take itself (or anything else) too seriously.

Horror Adventure :
The Lost Crown: A Ghost-hunting Adventure.
A reluctant hero acquires enhanced “real-life” ghost-hunting equipment. His findings draw him inexorably into the ghostly legends of a British coastal town. Black and white graphics with oddly beautiful touches of color. The surreal quality of the gameworld complements the compelling, gradually unfolding story.

Historical Adventure :
The Secrets of Da Vinci : The Forbidden Manuscript.
Shortly after Da Vinci’s death, a brash adventurer tricks his way into the Renaissance inventor’s former residence to follow an intricate trail of clues left by the Master himself.  Love, a mysterious conspiracy, and the soldiers of the king are obstacles along the way. It features a fascinating, multifaceted inventory system with unusually imaginative challenges.

Indie Adventure :
East Side Story.
The fourth in a series of mystery adventures by a Swedish Independent developer. The environments consist of still photographs altered to look like Impressionist paintings. Layers of light and color haunted by background music with a wistful, mystical quality. Various quirky characters that help/hinder are also represented by still photographs.

Freeware Adventure :
Samorost 2.
Most of the levels in this enchanting online flash game are free ? you can pay a small fee for the last levels if you choose. A small gnome living on an asteroid tries to rescue his dog, which has been kidnapped by strange creatures. The game environments are finely wrought, and the game has an aura of innocent delight. If you are a casual gamer who would like to try an adventure with a more Casual-game-like structure, this is a wonderful introduction.

Adventure/Action Fusion :
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
A sequel (in some sense) to the well-regarded “The Longest Journey,” Dreamfall takes the gamer on a spectacular ride through alternate worlds ruled by science and magic. It contains memorable characters, gorgeous 3D environments and a lavish musical score. The ending leaves the gamer begging for a sequel. If you are an action gamer who would like to try an adventure game, this is an excellent choice.

Top-Rated Adventure :
Every June the members at GameBoomers participate in the “Twisty List” poll ? where many of us name the top fifteen adventure games that we would recommend to other gamers. (Votes can be for a favorite game, but votes also include games that would be good for new adventurers to try.) Syberia is always at or near the top of the list. It features eerie, moody landscapes, unusual animations and an engaging heroine who starts out on a quest that leads to self-discovery and the fulfillment of long-buried dreams.

Note :
The English language versions of many of these games can be downloaded via Gamers Gate, The Adventure Shop and/or Steam.
Uru: Ages Beyond Myst can be downloaded from the Ubisoft shop,
The Lost Crown: A Ghost-hunting Adventure from the Got Game shop
and Samorost 2 can be downloaded from the game’s website.

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

I haven’t played any Korean games. I admire people who are multilingual and can game in multiple languages. Unfortunately, I’ve only played games in English and French (and French was a stretch).

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

Stop by GameBoomers sometime and say hello!

Korean version of this Interview

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This time, Pig-Min did an e-mail Interview with Jens Bergensten, who is Lead Programmer of Oxeye Game Studio. Recently they released [Harvest], kinda "Arcade Strategy game", and it supports several languages, even Korean.

Korean version of this Interview

Oxeye Game Studio homepage

Worth to try Demo, even if you don't purchase.

1. First of all, please introduce your game production Oxeye Game Studio & recent game [Harvest].

My name is Jens Bergensten and I'm the lead programmer at Oxeye Game Studio, a Swedish independent game developer.

We have four more members, Daniel Brynolf (artwork), Pontus Hammarberg (artwork), Alexander Persson (Mac programming) and Jonas Johnsson (programming). The music has been composed by Steve Olofsson.

Our game, Harvest : Massive Encounter, is an "arcade strategy game" in the sense that it's a RTS with continously increasing difficulty (like arcade games of the
80's) and high-scores.

2. [Harvest] was released several times to the Public, before official version came out. Prototype / 1st. Open Beta / 2nd. Open Beta, and finally released for sale. I can't remember any other games, released to the Public several times before sale. There might be some advantages & disadvantages about such a policy. Please let us know about that.

The first couple of versions were released mostly for fun. We had made a small prototype and wanted to share it with our Dawn of Daria fans. Then Pontus thought we should submit it to the Swedish Game Awards, and when we won a prize there the prototype version got some attention and was spread across the Internet. We decided that we should publish more test versions of the game, so when the "real" development began we already had plans for the first open beta.

We hoped that by sharing a playable version early on, we would be able to establish connections with publishers and other third part companies that would be interested in helping us with the game in the future. We also wanted to use the beta version as a marketing tool, since people are much more likely to tell their friends about a free
version than a shareware game. This worked quite nicely, the game got attention in a lot of game forums.

When we made the second open beta the objective was slightly different. This time we wanted to make sure that the game was well-balanced and "bug-free". This was quite fun, but didn't receive the same attention as the first beta. It didn't help us make the game bug-free either, because (I believe) many people who ran across bugs never told us about them.

I can strongly recommend publishing at least one open beta, it's really worth it. Independent developers should see it as a marketing strategy and not worry about "lost sales". However, there's always cases where it's not feasible, such as when you make a story-driven game. You don't want to spoil the story, and the beta should focus on the gameplay.

3. [Harvest] is somewhat unique game, RTS & Defense mixed up. How come to think about such concept? Even if it's fusion of older genres, it might NOT be so easy to do that.

This is kind of funny actually.

The original game was called "Harvest", because it was intended to be a game about harvesting resources and managing electricity. The challenge of the game was intended to be "how do I get my power lines to reach the resources..." However, this wasn't very much fun, so we simply added an enemy which looked like a green goblin head. We then needed some kind of counter, of course, and it didn't take long before we had both defense towers and missile turrets.

So I guess the reason why the game feels unusual is because we started out from something completely different.

4. [Harvest] is available in several languages, English / French / Dutch / German / Swedish and even Korean. There were some Casual Games which had Korean language before, but they had distribution channel in Korea. [Harvest] doesn't have any official channel over here in Korea, but you included that. Are there any reasons about that? Maybe too many Korean people played Open Beta in the past?

During the beta versions we got a lot of visitors from and We thought this was great and wanted to reach out to even more Korean players by supporting your language in the game.

It was difficult to make Korean work in the game due to font problems, and we had to buy a translation, so we are not sure if it will pay off. Like you said, a distribution channel would probably make it easier, but Harvest has just recently been released so we might still find somebody to cooperate with.

In any case, we enjoy the Korean version. To us Swedes, the Korean version of Harvest looks really cool ;)

5. Korean language question again. Many Pig-Min readers is curious about WHO did Korean translation, and HOW it could be so excellent. It's almost perfect, and that translation quality is much better than even some major game, as [Call of Duty 4] Korean version. So we are all shocked, and became curious. Please let us know about Deep story for Korean translation.

We requested a translation through a service called GetAFreelancer and got a lot of responses. In the end we decided to ask a translator who said he was a StarCraft player and lived in Australia. We thought the combination sounded good (Korean, Australian and StarCraft), but he wasn't the cheapest choice, so I'm very happy that you say that the translation is well done.

I think the main problem with translations is that the translator never plays the game so he/she will not see the translation in it's correct context. We were very lucky that our translator played and enjoyed Harvest, and could make suitable corrections.

We will probably ask him again if we are going to translate more games to Korean :)

6. [Harvest] won Swedish Game Awards 2007, so there might be some HUGH game scene including Indie Games, in Sweden. But all we know about Sweden is, Black & Death Metal bands as Opeth / Arch Enemy / At the Gates. Please let us know about Swedish Game scene, including Indie Games.

Haha, I don't listen to that kind of music, but I guess you are right :)

We didn't actually win, we got the second place. The winners (Puzzlegeddon) still hasn't released their game, because they are looking for publishers to bring the game on consoles (I think).

But you are right, the Swedish indie scene is huge.

Clean Asia, Noitu Love 2 and Fret Nice were all Swedish IGF finalists this year. On the shareware/more commercial market we have ArcadeLab, Silent Grove Studios (Dawnspire) and Frictional Games (Penumbra Overture).

7. You released [Harvest] recently, but you were making another game in the same time, [Dawn of Daria]. It's MMO game, very different from your other works. Please let us know about that.

Daria's our little darling project, but it's uncertain what will happen to it now.

8. Please recommend 5 GOOD games, and the reason why.

I read in a blog the other day about somebody who hadn't played StarCraft. I mean, really now... double-wee tee eff :) (Can't you produce another great Zerg player? Flash is stomping around over all competition!)

Another major game we like is Fallout. It's a fantastic RPG with a detailed world, great atmosphere (much thanks to the music) and good replay value. Bethesda better not mess up this one!

On the indie puzzle side, I would recommend Chocolate Castle by Lexaloffle. It's cute, easy to play and only a 2 MB download.

Among the real oldies, I love Mega Man (Rock Man) on the NES.

And finally, Aquaria by Bit Blot, of course. I've played through it two times, once "for real", then as a speed run. Took about 2 hours, but I haven't bothered to beat the final boss because it's tricky without the jellyfish suit :) I also made some mistakes, so I should try to make an even faster run one day.

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

The only one I've tried is Ragnar?k (which means "armageddon" in Swedish), but that was a long time ago. I guess the problem is the language barrier again, because I have a hard time surfing Korean sites :)

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

Hello! =)

Korean version of this Interview

Oxeye Game Studio homepage
Related Articles

This time, Pig-Min did an e-mail interview with Lloyd S. Melnick, who is Chief Customer Officer & Co-Founder of Merscom.

Merscom is one of the leading US casual game publishers, both in the US & European markets. This interview contains very interesting answers about them, so please be careful to read. :)

Korean version of this Interview

User image
What a beauty logo it is!

1. First of all, please introduce Merscom to Pig-Min readers. We've seen the name Merscom many times, but not sure exactly what Mersom does. WHAT KIND of business you do, HOW LONG Merscom existed as Publisher, ... etc.

Merscom is one of the leading US casual game publishers. 

Originally founded in 1993, Merscom (and its sister company, Octagon Entertainment) has been in the game industry for almost 15 years. Since 2001, Merscom has been publishing both in the US and European markets, though our focus was on core games for the mass market.  We competed with companies like Valusoft, Global Star and Activision Value. 

In early 2006, we discovered casual games and felt this was a tremendous opportunity.  Casual games provide much better value to the customer but more importantly fit better with our vision of Merscom.  Since then we have been publishing casual games both at retail and online.  In addition to PC casual games, our first Xbox Live Arcade title will be coming out in a few months, Buku Sudoku.

2. Merscom's main business seems to be Retail Package, but recently entered Download Publishing. How come to start Download Publishing, and what are the differences between Retail Package & Download Publishing?

Merscom~s philosophy has always been to deliver games to its customers whichever way is most convenient for them. 

Until a few years ago, that primarily meant retail as few people actually bought games online.  Now that online has become such a significant channel for casual games, we built our relationships with the online portals (though we have actually been selling games online for over four years). 

For casual games, download publishing is actually becoming a much bigger part of the business.  With our recent game Blood Ties, we sold more product the first weekend it was online than we did for all of our casual games combined at retail in 2007.  

For us, both download and retail publishing are important but the retail environment is getting very difficult.  There is only a small amount of space for PC games and it seems that every week a new publisher tries to go into the market.  Thus, you have to offer ever increasing incentives to retailers to carry the games. 

The good thing about retail is that everyone who plays the game has actually bought the game.  Online, there obviously is not an issue with shelf space and we find the portals great to work with.  The biggest issue, and I am sure you have heard this hundreds of times, is that our conversion rates are 2-5%, thus over 95 percent of the people who play our downloadable games do not generate any revenue for Merscom.

3. I tried [Blood Ties] from Big Fish Games. To my shock, I can't see Merscom mark from that game at all. Are there any reasons to exclude your company name & mark, from that big hit title?

ShadeTree Games is part of Merscom.  It is one of our labels that we use for some of our premium casual games.

4. Merscom is US company and do major business in US market, but you release games at Europe, too. How come to start business in Europe, and what are the differences between US & Europe?

We actually started in the European market, co-publishing with companies there before launching our US operations. 

In the late 1990s and earlier this decade, there were great opportunities there because a lot of game publishers were just not focusing on it. We would often license great US games and launch them in Europe, which is still a big part of our business.  We have found the same opportunities in the casual space, especially at retail. 

Many of the famous US casual game companies do not publish there games at all in retail in Europe, and if they do it is often an afterthought and with a weak partner.  Instead, we have staff dedicated to international sales and localization, and we treat that market as just as important as our home market.  Because of our focus, we do find it a little easier. 

We also find European retailers allocate more shelf-space to PC games, which makes it easier to get games into retail even if they are not the biggest games on the market.

5. Merscom published Casual Games usually, but recently started publishing Adventure Game. It was [Ghost in the Sheet], however Merscom is publishing only for online download & Retail Package is done by Tri Synergy. How come to start publishing 'Adventure Game' through 'Download portal', while both of them are unusual for Merscom business? What do you think about Adventure genre as Publisher, and do you have Future Plan to publish some more?

We consider 'adventure games' as 'casual games'.  They appeal to the same market that our hidden objects games and other traditional casual games appeal to.  We plan to release four more adventure games through our online casual game channels because the fit perfect with our core market, 30+ women. 

For Ghost in the Sheet in particular, we actually have a long relationship with Tri Synergy.  I think very highly of their management team and we have been looking for ways to cooperate for years.  We actually licensed three of the games that they are publishing at retail for download distribution, again because our online channels fit so well for these games. 

We often work with other publishers, to pick up the online rights if retail rights are not available, or the retail rights if online rights are not available. 

We will do whatever it takes to get our customers the games they want.

6. Last year, Merscom announced that they will work with 'Reiner Knizia'. He's real BIG THING in Board Game scene, and many Board Game fans might be shocked to hear that news. How come to contract with him, what games will be released for PC & XBLA, and what feedback did you receive from Press / Fans after that news announced?

We have had a lot of enthusiasm from fans, the press and even the industry.  The press release you are referring to is one that got the most attention of almost anything Merscom has done. 

What~s interesting is that after we issued it, one of the other major console manufacturers came to us asking if we could develop games with Dr. Knizia for their online system, which we plan to do. 

Although these projects are still far from completion, it is something everyone at Merscom is very excited about.

7. We have seen many game titles named after Merscom at Game Giveaway of the Day, but we can't see them at Merscom homepage Games section. Any reasons about that?

We do not want to encourage sales of games through our portal and actually intend to phase out direct sales. 

Our goal is to generate as many sales as possible for our portal partners and not to compete with them.  For example, EA would never put their own retail store next to Wal-mart, so why should we try to sell our own game in competition with Real or BigFish?

8. If somebody makes game & wish to publish through Merscom (or other publisher), how come to start? Just make good game & send you, or must know something very important before start making game? And do you accept game submission from abroad, as from South Korea?

We are very interested in seeing any casual games, particularly those from Korea. We are constantly expanding our publishing portfolio and now in particular we want to build on the success we have had with Blood Ties and Ghost in the Sheet

In particular, we are most interested in adventure games, hidden object games, time management games (like Diner Dash) and simulations (like Build-a-lot).

The best way to submit would be to send me a demo. I would prefer not to have my email address posted, but maybe they can send it to Pig-Min and you can forward them to me. <Note : This answer is for Korean readers. For foreigners, you could visit Merscom homepage to submit.>

9. Please recommend 5 GOOD games, and the reason why.

Other than Merscom games, of course, my favorite games:

- Build-a-lot
- Glyph
- Fizzball
- Chocalatier
- The Great Tree :
I am currently playing.

The reason is quite simple, they are fun and engaging.  Just like any customer, once I started playing these games I could not stop.

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

I have traveled to Korea 4 or 5 times to meet with game companies, though not in the last couple of years.  I personally do not play MMOs, and Merscom is not focusing on that part of the business, so there have not been that many opportunities.

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

Thank you for the time to listen to my thoughts on the game industry. 

I really hope that more US games become popular in Korea and that more Korean games become popular here.  I think there is a ton of talent in Korea for creating games and hopefully Merscom will become the beneficiary of some of that talent.

Thank you again.

Korean version of this Interview
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