Welcome to Day Five of The Escapist‘s Indie Developer Showcase, a 10-day celebration of the designers and programmers who have struck out on their own to make the games they want to make. Each day we’ll feature a new game or demo by an up-and-coming indie developer along with a brief interview. Some games are already commercially available, some are works in progress, but all are free to play. To see who’s on the schedule or check out what you’ve missed, click here. Enjoy!
With all the accolades heaped upon it over the last few months, it’s sometimes easy to forget that World of Goo was made by two independent game developers whose “swanky San Francisco office is whichever free Wi-Fi coffee shop they wander into on a given day.” Once a couple of developers for EA’s casual games division, Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel joined forces to become something greater than either of them could have possibly imagined: 2D Boy. We spoke to them about World of Goo and the benefits to working on the fringes of the industry.
Let’s get this out of the way: Who are you?
Ron: I’m Ron, the left brain of 2D BOY. I mainly deal with the engineering, production and business aspects of 2D BOY. I’ve been making, or rather trying to make, games ever since I was 10, but it wasn’t until I started working at EA’s pogo.com in 2004 that I developed games professionally.
Kyle: I’m Kyle, the right brain of 2D BOY, which means I do the creative side of stuff, like the game design, art, story and music. I studied electrical engineering in school, and never planned to make games, but the Experimental Gameplay Project in grad school changed everything for me, and suddenly, the future did not appear so bleak.
Tell us about World of Goo:
Kyle: World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle game about building things with eager little talking globs of goo. The goal of each level is to get a bunch of goo balls sucked into a pipe, where they are whisked away to the large World of Goo Corporation to become raw ingredients for delicious soft drinks, facial exfoliating lotion and other great products.
What’s the most tedious aspect of having to do everything yourself? The most rewarding?
Ron: It seems like all I did in the last year of development was fix bugs. I hate fixing bugs. And then, just when we released the game and thought we could finally rest, there were more bugs that required patches and there was technical support to tend to. The most rewarding by far is seeing people’s reaction to the game. Things like emails we get from people who tell us that playing World of Goo made them happy and video reviews like the one by the Consolevania guys make us feel all warm and fuzzy.
Kyle: Don’t tell EA, but I think working with a small team is easier than working with a big team of people. For the creative side, it means that all the aesthetic stuff, the art, the music, the level design, etc, are all very likely to fit together in a tight way, where a larger team of hundreds of people might have to have lots of meetings and producers and schedules and everything sticks together with post it notes.
What’s the worst job you’ve had to take to support your game development ambitions?
Ron: I worked on a nature documentary where I had to live in a pile of bat poo for five months.
Kyle: You never told me that! Ron also used to live in an army tank. I made a documentary about “adult entertainers” once, but that was kind of fun. I like all my jobs.
How did you know when World of Goo was finished?
Kyle: The final ending movie was the last big thing I worked on, and it really set the tone for the last few days of the project, sort of like those last few days before winter break, where freedom is so close you can smell it, but you still have to keep a straight face and appear responsible.
Are you happy with the scale of your games, or would you like to create something larger in scope?
Kyle: I would love for games to move towards shorter perfect nuggets of dense fun. Most games are too long to finish!
What game(s) did you enjoy playing in 2008?
Kyle: The most refreshing game I discovered this year was a game called Freshly Picked Tingle’s Rosey Rupeeland. You are a 35-year-old guy in a green suit, and you are helped by a magic fairy who says things like “you look so cool when you throw your rupees into that pool.” The game just doesn’t care. It is unashamed to be ridiculous.
What inspires you outside of gaming?
Kyle: Recently at Panera Bread there was a lady out for gossip time with friends and she said her husband wasn’t the same person she married. I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I bet it would make an awesome zombie game.
What’s the biggest challenge confronting the videogame industry?
Ron: Videogames as an industry are facing a bunch of different challenges, but as a medium, I think videogames’ biggest challenge is maturing, expanding and branching out. Taking risks and being “out there” is not considered a good business practice, so relatively few people do it. I’d love to see less profit and more diversity in games.
Kyle: Maybe the biggest challenge confronting the videogame industry is manliness. Sort of like SUVs and bluetooth headsets on mid level execs in Starbucks, I get the feeling that it’s easy for a game to become a high def, 60 fps penis extension device. Maybe one day there will be amazing new experiences in gaming, besides lubed-up shafts of steel blasting all over an enemy horde. One day soon, we’ll see more and more friendly humor, satire and subtle stories, maybe that aren’t about revenge or being the last hope. Play Tingle’s Rosey Rupeeland!