Well to kick off our new Indie Gaming section we thought we’d bring you a few exclusive interviews with some great Indie Game Studios. So we decided to email some of our friends a load of questions to let you find out a bit more about what it’s like being a developer, what their latest projects are and even got some advice off them for those looking to get involved in the gaming industry. This particular interview is with Andrew Goulding of Brawsome Games and is hopefully the first of many to come. So we hope you enjoy the read and if there are any questions you think we’ve missed out that you would like us to ask in future interviews why not comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyway let’s get the interview started:
Hello Andrew and thanks for taking part in this interview. Well first of all tell us what it was that made you want a career in the gaming industry, were you influenced by a particular game you played growing up or maybe you just loved working with computers?
I’d have to say it was my love of adventure games that made me want to enter the industry. Adventure games were really the only kinds of games I wanted to make ever since playing my first (Space Quest 2). But as a kid I never thought I could get into the games industry, it never even crossed my mind. People in games were super-smart programmers and artists. I could never be that. Not only that, but they were in the US, no-one was doing it in Australia. Or so I thought. When I was a kid made my own mods for games, like Wolfenstein and Duke 3D, but I was always trying to put more adventure and story into it than the engines really allowed. It wasn’t until I was at university, when I did my first software engineering group assignment, a dungeon crawling text adventure, that I realised “Hey, I can program! And this is fun!”, the next thing I knew I was pouring over the documentation for Adventure Game Studio, on my way to creating a game that would ultimately land me my first job in the games industry, though not until many years later.
That’s a nice little story and good to hear that you managed to achieve your dream and start creating your own games. So tell us a little bit about Brawsome Games for those who don’t know who you are; like what was it that motivated you to start Brawsome Games, where did the name “Brawsome” come from and is there a story behind your logo?
After several years in the games industry, working mainly licensed titles I wasn’t too interested in, I decided I wanted to start making my own original adventure games. I had tried to pitch adventure designs at all the companies I worked for, but to no avail. I had been in touch with Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games about collaborating on something together for a while, and one day I saw he was in need of a programmer for a new adventure he was making for PlayFirst. I started working for Dave after getting permission from my current employer to do the work on the side, and somewhere along the way I registered Brawsome as a company. The company was registered in 2008.
Brawsome is a combination of the words “Braw” and “Awesome”, but was just one of many company names I was throwing around. Brawsome did best on the Google test, so that was the one. I wanted a monkey for my logo, because previously I used to work under the alias C-Monkey. My wife drew the monkey on a sticky note, and I put it into flash, and it hasn’t changed since.
Nice little touch that you used your wifes drawing as the logo, shows that family is important to you. So what is a typical day in the office like, are you a serious company that’s all work and no play or are you a bit more relaxed and tend to have a laugh while you get on with work?
I like to treat it as a serious business, but my office has always been from home. I have a fairly nice room for my office now, but until recently I occupied a landing at the top of the stairs, because the room I was using below the stairs flooded several times in heavy rain (it was near the garage, which also flooded), then for a while was occupied my my mother-in-law, who was staying with us.
When I’m working on Brawsome things I always work pretty solid, because that time is so precious. I normally contract for the bulk of the week, so only get 1-2 days “Brawsome time” and I try to make the most of that. I work on average 10 hours a day, from 7am-6pm, it’s the most my family will let me work, really. I have a wife and 2 kids, so they need my time too. I like to make sure I don’t have any distractions, even when working remotely with the team, I turn off all communicators and instant messengers, and don’t normally answer the phone. I hate ad-hoc communication, and would prefer to only talk to people when scheduled. This is the way I’ve found best to get the most done in the precious little time I have to get it done. I’d love to be able to work on Brawsome stuff full time, but having a family and mortgage makes life a little expensive.
Sounds like a lot of work, but when it is something you love I suppose it’s worth the effort. Since Brawsome Games started what have been your biggest challenges that you’ve had to face as an Indie Game Studio?
I suppose a lot of the difficulty comes under the umbrella of ‘business’. Coming from the games industry I had all the skills to make games, but had to quickly add business skills to my repertoire. For example, managing budgets, reading and understanding contracts and other legal documents, having discussions with people about funding, and distribution, hiring and managing contractors. Add to that marketing as well, knowing what to market, and when, and to who, managing press contacts, writing releases, creating ads, planning a release strategy. In addition to the new skills I was learning, I was finding out just how much time these business activities would take away from actual game development. You can easily spend 50% or more of your time doing things other than game development, especially if you’re doing it on your own. Even many large established studios don’t really appreciate the work that goes into publishing a game, unless of course they’re self publishing.
I guess a lot of people forget about there being a business side to things like game development and underestimate how important it can be. Anyway you’ve been a business for a while now and you have a good few titles behind your name with your latest game MacGuffin’s Curse being released earlier this year on PC, Mac, the iPhone and iPad. Tell us a little bit about the game; what inspired you to develop it, were there any difficulties you faced during the development and what’s it all about?
The idea for the game came from a friend (Ben Kosmina) who had been working with me on various projects. He thought that a puzzle game with adventure elements might have a wider audience than an adventure game, and it seemed like a good idea, it also didn’t seem like a large project (oh, how I was wrong), so I thought it would be a good project to tackle after Jolly Rover. The game was a puzzle adventure game, with a heavy emphasis on the adventure side, so there were complex dialogue interactions, character development, stories, quests, inventory items and dialogue puzzles. The surprise was that I thought making a puzzle-adventure was making one game with elements of two, but it became apparent part way through development that the effort to make the game was essentially like creating a puzzle game AND an adventure game, thus doubling the complexity and development time. Another difficulty was the amount of press we had to manage, as well as the overhead in submitting it to multiple distributors, because we were tackling iOS as well as desktop, the effort there doubled, and a lot of time was spend building and submitting and talking to twice as many press about the game. It was a lot of work for what is essentially a one man studio, especially considering I wasn’t doing the project full time, having only 20 hours available out of my 50 hour week to work on it.
Sounds good, so in one sentence sum up why the visitors at the Invision Game Community should go out and buy MacGuffins Curse?
MacGuffin’s Curse combines rich adventure-game style humor, with unique spatial puzzles, and werewolves!
What’s next for Brawsome? Are you looking to take a break or are you working on any new games that we can expect to see in the near future?
My plan has always been to make comedy adventure games, and after four years, I still want to keep doing that. I look to the future at what I want to be known for, if I could be the best at anything, I would want it to be making funny adventure games, like my heroes Tim Schafer, Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe. It hasn’t made me rich; far from it, but with each new game I grow and learn. I’ve been tempted to change my course to something that might make better business sense many times, but ultimately I’m in this for the love of it, and that’s what I think is going to make all the difference.
It’s good to see someone doing something for the love of it and not for the money, it’s very rare these days. Anyway, as Invision Game Community is powered by students and as they’re our target audience, what advice would you give to budding young students wanting to get into the industry?
Set yourself a clear goal, like a shining star in the sky, to guide you through the the dark times when it all seems too hard. Anything worth doing will be a hard path.
Great advice and one last random question; what way do you prefer to have your potatoes cooked?
Boiled, then roasted in the oven, in oil and herbs, with the skin on.
Well that’s the interview over, some great stuff there from Andrew. Hopefully you all enjoyed the read and keep coming back because we’ll have more interviews coming soon.