Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Oct 28

Indie Developer Interview: Beansprites | Games for Toddlers

When it comes to children’s games, not many indie developers have such an extensive back catalog as Beansprites, a small team from California who have covered cafe culture to dentistry is their myriad of colorful games.

1. What made you want to make games primarily for young children?

The decision to make apps for kids was something that just occurred organically – I’ve always been a fan of all genres of video games, and I especially loved light-hearted platformers such as Castle Of Illusion: Starring Mickey Mouse for Sega Genesis, that could easily qualify as a kiddie platformer.

I was also no stranger to playing games like “Putt Putt goes to the Moon” – which was a 2D point and click learning game for kids. I would experiment with all genres, but the kids app genre is always what appealed to me the most, and also where ideas came naturally.

2. Do you approach children’s game design in a similar way to adult game design, or is the process different?

A majority of the applications you see in my portfolio are geared towards the very younger age group, probably starting at 3 and up. I approach game design in a similar way for the majority of my apps – encompassing a very intuitive user interface where even a 3 year old could pick up and play the game without any assistance from a parent or teacher. I’ve even had reviews where parents have stated it was easy for their kid to get started, and they didn’t require any help. That is my goal for the initial experience – of course, keeping them engaged for long periods, and having them come back to my app over and over is another very important goal in game design – especially for kids of a younger age bracket who tend to have much shorter attention spans than the older kids and “tween” crowd.

3. What game style or type have you found to be most successful in your experience?

It’s difficult to pinpoint one genre, because it changes all the time depending on what consumers want to play – basically I study what is trending in the app store in terms of popularity and try to design an app with a twist, and add more unique features to that app that will make it stand out from the rest. In previous years, food apps have been very popular, but the focus has changed to other app genres, and adapting to that change is crucial to success.

4. You charge a minimal amount for your games, why did you chose to avoid the free to play model?

For the paid model, 0.99 cents is the most I will charge for my apps given their content and genre – namely that they are geared towards kids – I’ve avoided the free to paid model for Nook & Amazon, but institute iAP for iOS – Each App Store is different in terms of what works, and I may institute a free to play model for Amazon and Nook in the future.

5. Which platform do you prefer to make games for and why?

I enjoy working with all platforms – I always prefer iOS as I prefer their operating system, but Android is a market that is booming right now – I think it’s very important to consider all markets, even obscure ones that you think may not be successful.

6. Do you have any game development tips for those looking to make games for children?

One tip I have is if you’re making educational games for kids, go read up on some activity books you find in the kids section at Target, or Barnes & Noble – buy a few of those, and study those activities, and try implementing them into an app – there are endless possibilities for educational apps in the app store, and apple is always looking to feature new and innovative products! If you have a unique art style, that also helps – games from developers like Duck Duck Moose, and Toca Boca have a very unique art style, and branding that you would recognize immediately if seen on the app store.

7. Which game has been your most successful to date and why do you think it was so popular?

One of my initial, and most successful games that propelled me into doing this as a full-time business was “Fairytale Preschool” – this was a very basic, kids educational app for iOS which featured activities like finding the right color bottle, counting games, memory matching etc. This one was featured by apple under New & Noteworthy, and reached the top 100 games on the app store. It also reached the top 5 position on the education category all by itself, without any marketing. Of course, fast forward 3 years later to present time, and this kind of app would never have achieved the success it did back then.

8. What channels do you market your games on and which drives the best results?

I use Facebook, Twitter as the primary marketing outlets. There are also ad campaigns that you can run to drive installs to your apps, but they work better with free models for applications and games. Free App of the Day is another good example of marketing, but they charge a pretty penny for their services.

9. Like many game designers, do you have a BIG game in you which you will eventually build?

We are currently working on a 2D adventure game which will be released by next year – that is the big game that I’ve always wanted to work on, and it’s the biggest, most daunting project I’ve ever worked on to date.

10. What title(s) do you have in development at the moment?

At the moment, we are working on the 2D adventure game, full steam ahead! I also still make time for the kids apps, and if I see something trending, I will work on a piece for the app store. The holidays are coming up, so holiday themed apps are also in the works!

Finally, what would you say to your younger self when she first started creating games…

Be prepared for many sleepless nights, and long work hours! 🙂

For more information on Beansprites games and apps, please visithttp://www.beansprites.com

Gavin Harrison Sounds

Jan 31

Interview: Gavin Harrison | Game Music and FX

I know that a lot of us struggle when it comes to music and sound effects for our game projects, we’ve put all that effort into the level design, graphics, and game play that we sometimes neglect the music and sound effects. It is also difficult to find an artist to work with that not only has reasonable prices but also has a flair for indie game projects. I recently had the joy of working with Gavin Harrison who I actually found on Twitter, but on deeper research saw what an fantastic and extensive portfolio of game music he had. After working with him he was good enough to let me interview him for the website.

Q. How long have you been creating music for video games?

Hmmm, well my interest in composing music at all came from my days playing games on the ZX Spectrum in the late 80’s / early 90’s.  I actually started out as a programmer and whilst I became proficient in BASIC, assembler just went over my head for some reason.  Then one day via Your Sinclair I discovered Soundtracker on the ZX +2, became active in the demo scene of the day and the rest is history!  So in some respects you could say I have been composing for games since the early 90’s.  However, despite always being involved with music in one way or another, more recently I began writing for games again around 2010…Actually starting with SFX.

Q. Do you have a particular industry hero or someone who you look to (or listen to) for inspiration?

A band called Telefon Tel Aviv were a huge influence on me, a friend introduced me to their music at a time where I had all but stopped composing and hearing the way they manipulated sounds gave me a whole new perspective on both composition and sound design.  I’d also add Brad Fiedel to this list, his Terminator theme has always stayed with me as one of the greatest movie themes of all time.  Yuzo Koshiro is another who I admire and has absolutely influenced me, his Streets of Rage soundtrack was one of the first I recorded to cassette so I could listen whenever I wanted.  Also, not only was the music fantastic but it was written in a programming language he created for himself!

Q. Do you collect or listen to game and movie scores outside of work?

I do, though often I think not as much as I should.  I tend to listen to whatever reference material I have been given for the game I am working on whilst driving to and from the studio and I will also flick through the radio just to listen to what is out there, and to pick up on any current mix techniques.  I have quite a few movie soundtracks in my CD collection too, but probably the ones you’d expect (Hans Zimmer anyone?).

Q. What’s your favorite game track or the one your most proud of and why?

At this time, it would have to be the current work in progress music I am doing for Xiotex Studios’ Cyberstream Fugitive, but to be honest I think the piece of work you are most proud of it usually the one you’re currently working on or the one you’ve just finished!  Each soundtrack provides its own challenges and learning curve within those challenges, and it is meeting these that enables you to keep learning and bettering yourself.

Q. Do you approach a retro chip tune differently to a more modern piece?

This is a difficult one…I suppose the only difference in approach would be the obvious one of instrument choice a lot of the time, otherwise no.  Recently however, I was asked to create three chip tunes for Super Icon’s  ‘Life of Pixel’ on the PS Vita which definitely required a different approach; I had to stay within the exact spec of each sound chip involved, so the BBC Micro song for example had 3 channels and 1 channel of white noise only!  Thankfully my history in music meant I was used to the constraints and knew a few tricks!

Q. Do you have a preference of retro or modern?

Hmmm, I couldn’t write just one or the other I don’t think…I enjoy both in the right amounts, is that a good enough answer? 🙂

Q. What’s your favourite game soundtrack (that’s not yours)?

So many to chose from!  If I had to pick a couple instantly from my brain, I would have to say the aforementioned Streets of Rage soundtrack and also the music from The Legend of Zelda, Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy, that music completely encompassed me whilst playing.

Q. What been your most ambitious or biggest project?

Away from purely game audio, it has to be recording with the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra a track I composed called ‘Dream the Dream’, as published by Audio Network.  Within the game audio world I would have to say it is the current project Cyberstream Fugitive, though as I alluded to before the next project is always the most ambitious!

Q. What’s the average turn around time for a 5 track project?

That’s an easy one to answer, the average turn around is as quick as it is needed!

Q. In your experience, how many tracks does the average game need?

I don’t think it would be possible to specify an average number of tracks per game, clearly every game is different and I’d even say some could work better without music (thought don’t tell anyone I said that!).  To be honest, unfortunately no matter how many tracks a game needs audio is usually one of the first things to be cut to keep file sizes down so that can often determine things.  If pushed, I’d say you’d definitely need at least a menu track and one for in game if the game demands it!

Q. What kind of information would you need from a client in terms of a brief?

Good question!  Ideally I like to get some reference tracks and also a playable build of sorts, or even just some concept art or a video of gameplay.  Often I try and talk to the client and find out what has influenced them when creating the game and apply these influences to the audio too, but sometimes I haven’t been given anything other than the instruction to write a 2 minute piece of looping music!  For the game ‘Gunslugs’ by Orangepixel, I was given the instruction of 80’s action hero movie in the chip tune genre which was a great instruction, something as simple as that can be enough.  Ideally though a rough guide of how many tracks are needed, a general genre, if they need to be looping and a guideline to how long each track should be is a good starting point.  Of course it goes without saying that needs will change as the game progresses but everyone needs a start point.

Q. How do you cost for music creation?

I try and base my costs on a fee per minute of music created but will also work where appropriate for a project fee, this is usually best when asked to provide both music and SFX.  To be honest I try and be as flexible as possible when it comes to budgets!

Q. Do you use any special optimizing techniques when creating tracks for mobile games?

If you mean do I employ any techniques when supplying the music to help the code along then no, as I usually send the audio in mp3 format.  I would like to experiment more with adaptive audio and I suspect I’ll have to employ some optimisation for that.

Q. Would you ever be tempted to make a music based game?

Absolutely!

Q. Whats your favourite game (of all time)?

Ahhhh…I’d have to say if pushed Pilotwings on the N64!

For more information and to listen to some of his tracks please visit http://gavinharrisonsounds.com

SOUNDCLOUD LINK: https://soundcloud.com/gavinharrison

Source: http://www.debugdesign.com