Indie Queue

Indie Queue
Cactus at the Speed of Light

Nathan Meunier | 10 May 2009 13:00
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Making games is traditionally a time-consuming affair. Though independently produced projects can take significantly less time to turn around than games with million dollar budgets and huge teams, they still often require many months to several years of solid work to finish. For Swedish indie developer, Jonatan "Cactus" Söderström that's simply too damn long. He's the game development equivalent of a machine gun, firing off large volumes of small games as quickly as he can create them. Not all hit their mark, but their overall effect is surprisingly potent. Cactus enthusiasts can continue to expect a steady barrage of hyper-speed gaming oddities this year, but he also has some heavier ordinance in the pipeline that promises to deliver one hell of a payload when it drops.

"I'm not very patient," he says. "When I come up with a game idea I kind of want to play the game that I'm imagining, so I rush myself to complete it as soon as possible. I also know that if I don't finish the game fast, it might never get finished as I'm bound to come up with another idea that I want to try sooner or later."

In the five or six years he's been making games, Cactus has worked on more than 200 projects. About 40 of those have seen the light of day so far, and numerous others are in various stages of completion. Though a small handful of his more elaborate creations - like Ad Nauseam 2, Mondo Agency, Clean Asia! and Protoganda: Strings - have taken a few weeks to a month or more to create, the average length of actual development time spent on each game ranges from four hours to several days. Cactus' development tool of choice, Game Maker, makes his rapid-fire game design ethic even faster.

"The first thing that grabbed me about Game Maker was that it promised that you didn't need to write any code to get your projects going," he says. "Nowadays I really like how Game Maker saves me a lot of time. Making a basic platform engine from scratch takes no more than a minute or two. It's not all days that I feel very creative, so it's a real blessing that I can get so much done whenever I'm in a good mood for it." Though recent forays into Flash development will soon result in some web-based Cactus games, he plans to continue using Game Maker to make games for as long as possible. Making a game using the program may be easy; making a good game is a challenge, he adds.

Despite the large volume of games he's churned out in such a relatively short time span, Cactus packs as much quality into his games as he does quirkiness. Most of his projects fall along the weirder end of the spectrum, since he frequently experiments with unusual game mechanics, strange characters and outrageous story concepts. "I've always been a fan of the bizarre, especially things that go beyond the boundaries of your own imagination," says Cactus, who's fascinated with films by David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky. Such influences are readily apparent when playing his adventure-heavy projects, particularly the plot-driven work found in the Mondo games - a series of eerie, illogical first-person puzzlers designed to mess with players' heads.

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