Jul 062011

Yesterday, Arstechnica posted an article about how people can’t make a living with the XBLIG service. Although the writer of the article asked me a number of questions, he only used a few tiny quotes in the article so I thought I’d post the entire interview here so people could see the full story:

Rough XBLIG life to date sales figures:
Breath of Death VII has sold about 50k at $1. It came out on April 22, 2010.
Cthulhu Saves the World has sold about 16-17k at $3. It came out
December 30, 2010.
Q. What attracted you to XBLIG in the first place?
I’ve wanted to make games on a home console since I was a young child.
XBLIG was the first option to do this without needing a big studio or
a large budget.
Q. How did your experience developing for the platform match up to
your initial expectations?
It was actually a lot easier to developer for XBLIG than I expected. I
have very little formal training in programming (I took a class in
Java for fun around 10 years ago and that’s it), but with the help of
various tutorials and asking questions of the XNA community, I was
able to learn how to program the kind of games we wanted to make.
Q. Are you satisfied with the commercial performance of your games?
Yes and no. On the one hand, most games on the platform don’t even
break 1,000 sales so the fact that both of our games have sold well
over 10,000 copies each is impressive. On the other hand, I think our
games could sell a lot better than they did with a better platform and
more visibility. The sales for Cthulhu Saves the World were
particularly disappointing – we put a lot of heart and soul into the
game over a significantly longer period of development time and yet
that extra effort didn’t result in a similar increase in revenue.
Q. Why did you decide to port your titles to the PC?
Two reasons. First, we’ve gotten a lot of the emails and messages from
people who have said that they want to play our games, but don’t have
access to XBox Live Indie Games for whatever reason. The PC is the
biggest platform out there so by releasing our games on the PC, we
should be able to let most of these individuals have a chance to play
our games. Second, we’d like to make games for a living and make even
more impressive games than we’ve already made – this isn’t possible
without more money than we’ve been making so far.
Q. Do you have plans to continue developing on XBLIG? Why or why not?
Our next game will be a dual XBLIG/PC release. After that, I think
there’s a good chance we may leave XBLIG and just do PC or maybe do a
big game for one of the official console platforms like XBLA or PSN.
Going PC exclusive is especially tempting – it seems like every other
week we hear a new indie developer on PC success story. Plus I have a
few ideas that would work better on a PC (KB+M controls, no need to
use huge fonts and big buffer zones on the screen on a PC screen,
faster loads, etc.).
Oh and to answer the many requests we’ve gotten, no, we have no
intention at this time to make games for the Mac or smartphones. I’m a
total luddite when it comes to smartphones and I’ve never used a Mac
that’s more modern than the kind of relic that you would find in your
average underfunded classroom so I can’t even imagine trying to
develop for either of them.
Q. What do you think needs to/should be done to improve the visibility
of the channel and make it a more viable platform for developers?
Although many people have complained about the large number of low
quality games on the service, I don’t think making the platform more
restrictive is the way to go. One man’s trash is another man’s
treasure and besides, developers need a place to learn and hone their
skills. I seriously doubt anyone who saw my first few text adventures
expected that I’d be making quality RPGs the next year.
Microsoft has done some good things to help improve the channels
visibility like the annual Dream-Build-Play competitions, but what I’d
really like is more frequent promotions. Stuff like the Kotaku’s Picks
section is great, but not particularly visible since the only people
who see it are already in the XBLIG section. If on the other hand,
Microsoft pledged to post a front page dashboard ad once a month that
showcased the best XBLIG titles from the past month, I think that
would do wonders for improving the channels visibility and increasing
overall sales. I also think that if Microsoft took a more active role
in trying to scout the XBLIG section for future talent and offering
support and XBLA deals to the cream of the crop, I think that would
entice more promising new developers to developer for XBLIG.
 Posted by at 2:52 pm

Chris Unarmed Interview

 Interviews  Comments Off on Chris Unarmed Interview
Dec 072009

Here at Zeboyd.com, we had a chance to talk to Chris Hughes about his upcoming platformer, Chris Unarmed.

1 – Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to get into game development?

I started my career in software development, and have already tinkered with projects at home. I have a strong passion for creativity. Normally that means starting something and losing interest in a couple of weeks once I’ve exhausted the initial creative phase and the hard work has began. This year I tried something different. I created a blog (http://chris2d.blogspot.com) where I set a resolution to build and publish a game to XBLIG this year, and I sent it to all my friends to keep my accountable. It worked.

2 – The platforming genre is highly competitive. What makes Chris Unarmed stand out from all the other platformers out there?

Indie games need to do at least 1 thing really well. They rarely compete with regular titles on scale or production values, so they need a hook. For Chris Unarmed, the level design is that hook. I know that sounds strange, but when people see the trailer they’ll appreciate what I mean. Some of the moves in this game haven’t been seen before, and that is what really sets Chris Unarmed apart. It makes you think. Not so much with traditional puzzle elements, but to work out how to manouvre Chris to reach his goal.

3 – I noticed that the game has a number of coins to collect as well as a timer that keeps track of your playing time. Are there any special rewards for collecting a lot of coins or beating the game under a certain time or are these just for gamers who want an extra challenge?

Hopefully players will enjoy the feel of the game, and they’ll play through more than once. These elements are really for those players. There are 5 different endings, based on the number of coins you collect, but they don’t affect the rest of the game. The timer was initially there just to gauge the length of the game (incidentally, it should take ~3 hours for most players the first time through), and it was going to be removed until one reviewer mentioned that he enjoyed racing against the clock. If nothing else, it should keep speed runners accountable. 😛

4 – Tell us about Chris Unarmed’s development? How long did Chris Unarmed take to make? How many people were involved? What were some of the hardest parts of making it?

The project was officially launched on 2 Jan this year, and is (pending peer review) a few days from launch now. I did everything except for the music, which was composed by a mate of mine Ryan. The technical aspects were pretty straightforward. True to form, the hardest part was staying motivated. I finished the engine in March, and then took 3 months off because the prospect of creating all the levels was so daunting. The two best things I did were to build an in-game editor and a command console. With these tools, I was able to jump from room to room in a flash, and make steady, incremental updates to rooms and test them instantly. Saved me a LOT of time!

5 – Now that Chris Unarmed is finished and soon to be released to XBox Live, what are your plans for the future?

Not quiting my day job just yet. 😛 It really depends how people respond to Chris Unarmed. There’s still a lot to explore in the platformer genre if people like my work. I’m still learning, and thankfully there’s a great XNA community to support anyone who is passionate about game development.

Expect a full review of Chris Unarmed after its official release on XBox Live Indie Games.

 Posted by at 5:47 pm