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Pascal Bestebroer – the man behind the OrangePixel game studio shared his thoughts on the current mobile game market, Ouya, cross-platform development, the upcoming Space Grunts & Heroes of Loot.
Pascal makes some of the best old-school pixelart arcade games for mobiles. Recently he began to work with the PC market and we’ve decided to talk to him about the advantages and disadvantages of this plaftoms.
OrangePixel is a one-man company that I started back in late 2004. I developed mobile games for Java enabled phones, moving onto Android and iOS when those platforms started to take hold of the world. The last few years I also started to include other platforms like Android based consoles, and now also including PC/Mac and Chromebooks to spread my games around.
My games are mostly inspired by the old-school arcade action games with mostly bright and colorful pixel-art graphics. I love pixel-art. I grew up on games looking like this, and I just enjoy cramming as much detail and character into as few pixels as possible.
The mobile platform has changed a lot since I started. Most companies and game developers used to laugh at mobile games back in 2004-2007, but that has certainly changed these days with even the biggest console or PC game publishers releasing something on mobile.
The biggest advantage mobile has, for me at least, is that I have build a great fan-base of people that enjoy my types of games. My hopes are to also find that audience on PC.
The charts on mobile might have stagnated, but that’s “big-audience” gaming. For a lot of smaller developers like me, there are many niche audiences that you can target and should aim for, and those are still interesting to develop for business wise.
Space Grunts started as part of a challenge that other developers gave me: do something out of your comfort zone. So a turn-based game is as far away from my usual arcade action as I could think of. Furthermore, I dislike turn-based games, and never play them.
I quickly decided that the only way I could make this work and fun for me, is to make it an action-arcade-turn-based-strategy-rogue-like mixed thing.
The game plays turn-based, but I’m using many of the mechanics I know from arcade games. So screen-shakes, over the top explosions, big bosses, fast interactions – you can play this game at a pretty high-speed since enemy-turns are instant, so it almost feels like an arcade game if you choose to play it like that.
When I started thinking about settings I could only come up with Doom and how that played. Doom actually has a lot in common with turn-based-strategy games and rogue-likes. Doom is one of the inspirations I’m using when designing monsters, using sounds, etc.
The Randomness in Games
From the developer point of view, I simply love creating procedural level generators. It’s technically impressive to suddenly see a game have levels that surprise you even as the creator of the game.
For the gamer it means you get a lot more content to play, the replay value of a game is increased, you can have stuff like Daily Challenges where every day you get a new level, something which wouldn’t be possible if a designer would have to design a new level every day.
Also for a small, one-man, development team, having a great level-generator means I have a lot more time left to create graphics and content without having to spend time designing levels and worlds.
Managing the Production
I think I can do so much because I do the code, graphics and gameplay design myself. When I get an idea in my head, I can quickly draw the right graphics for it, animate it and make it work in the game. There is no back and forth to get the animation frames correct, or waiting to see stuff changed, etc. That saves a lot of time, and it also helps being a full-time Indie. I work on my games all day, not just in the evening hours.
The Most Useful Tools
The Difference Between Mobile and PC
The only problem I have with PC/Mac is the Greenlight process. It basically means I have to run a marketing campaign to get my game votes on Greenlight, before I can release it on Steam. And then I have to redo the marketing once it’s on Steam.
It also means I can’t yet say if Space Grunts, or any of my other games, will actually be available on Steam, cause it all depends on the Greenlight process. Where on mobile I know it will be there, just a matter of getting through Apple’s and Google’s approval process.
Luckily both Gunslugs 2 and Heroes of Loot passed Greenlight pretty quickly, so that’s a good start.
I love the Ouya for the simple fact of what they tried to do. They might not have gotten the market size people had hoped for, but there are some awesome little Indie games on there. Also the Ouya developer relations team has been great, always willing to help and get games on the platform.
As for the future of the Ouya, I’m not sure. It will probably end soon. I do hope with AndroidTV and possible AppleTV, the home-console market will get more ways for smaller developers to get games played in the living-room.
First is a release of Heroes of Loot on Steam on May 26th (http://www.heroesofloot.com/). A combination of dungeon-crawler and twin-stick shooter. Which is probably the best version of the game I made, complete with mouse-aim or twin-stick controller support.. plays brilliant !
I’m also working on “Meganoid 3” (working title) alongside Space Grunts. Which is an action platformer heavily inspired by the original Turrican (90’s game) but with procedural generated levels (of course!).
My plan is to release all future games on PC/Mac and Chromebook alongside the mobile release. The games will be available from the www.orangepixel.net site using a Humble Widget, also on the Humble Store, and hopefully each game will manage to get on Steam, but that will depend on the Greenlight campaigns.