Here we go again, we’ve another exclusive IGC interview for you. This time we speak to the awesome Stephen W. DiDuro of GalaxyTrail Games and get a little info from them on their upcoming release Freedom Planet.
So Stephen, hello and thank you for doing this interview.
Excellent! Thank you for presenting me with this opportunity.
To kick off the interview why not tell us what made you want to get a career in the gaming industry?
Ever since my parents bought me my first game-making software in 1999 (Klik & Play, specifically), I’ve looked towards game design as an outlet for my creativity. In a way, game development is a culmination of the arts. There’s so many different talents that come together in order to make a game work – programming, art, animation, music, sound design, writing in some cases, and so on. That’s why I wanted to get into the gaming industry – because I felt that it would help me focus all of my various hobbies into a single package.
Ok, now tell us a little bit about GalaxyTrail for anyone who hasn’t heard of you before; like how did you get your name and what type of games do you develop?
Sometime after I married my wife in 2007, we both had an idea to make a website that we could split into two parts – one half for my game development portfolio and the other half for her comics and digital artwork. We were brainstorming some domain names that hadn’t been taken yet and we both thought GalaxyTrail sounded pretty cool.
I’ve been developing games during my spare time for over a decade, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I started getting serious about turning it into a career. My latest project, Freedom Planet, is going to be our first commercial game, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’ll work out okay!
Bit late but congratulations on the wedding, you don’t see too many Husband and Wife teams out there so it’s always nice to see one. What’s a typical work day like when working for GalaxyTrail?
Well, since my wife focuses on completely different mediums than I do, I’m essentially the only person on the dev team – not counting outside contributors, of course. I usually recruit playtesters before I release something to the public, and I’ll recruit extra help if I have trouble getting things done or if the project is pretty big in scope. That’s definitely the case with our current project! I daresay that this is the first time I’m working with a large team. By my count, I have no less than 15 people who are helping out in some way!
As for what a typical work day is like? Computers, computers, computers. I’ll sit at my work station for hours at a time just plowing away at what I do best. I do find myself drifting off and surfing the Internet every now and then, but when it’s crunch time, I just turn of my internet connection so that I can focus more easily.
As a small Indie Game Studio what are your biggest achievements and challenges to date?
My biggest achievement was, oddly enough, one of my smallest projects, Super Ecksdee Panic. A few years back I challenged myself to make a complete 8-bit styled game in a month, and with a solid plan and plenty of space to focus, I managed to achieve that goal. It was a big personal victory for me because it showed me that I could develop something decent while sticking to a strict deadline. The game itself received really positive feedback as well.
As for my biggest challenge, I think right now I’m struggling to make my own original style stand out, instead of living in the shadows of more popular games. I’ve gotten a few offhand comments along the lines of “this is a Megaman ripoff” or “this is like Mario but with different graphics.” Granted, most of the people who make those observations still say that they like the game in spite of it, and I think that there are certain gameplay elements that will always be associated with the first game to invent them (i.e. the “Doom clones” of the late 90’s). Still, I would like to do whatever I can to make my future projects stand out on their own as much as possible. It would certainly help my credibility as an indie developer.
Great stuff. You’ve four original titles behind your name now and they’re all available on your site, why not tell us a little bit about the games; what inspired you to develop them, were there any difficulties you faced during their developments, and which one would be your favourite?
Well, the term “original” is debatable for a couple of them. *laughs* But, those four games in particular are projects that I’m satisfied with. The oldest is an arcade shooter called Mars Defender, where you gun down UFOs and the little green men they drop with a beefed-up lunar rover and get style points based on how you destroy them. It was a pretty simple concept, so I had no trouble bringing it into fruition. The second oldest is a Mario-like platform game called Jade Phoenix, where you play as either a girl who can collect different types of arrows or a guy who can collect different powerups for his sword. It was pretty fun to work on all the different levels, but I eventually stopped working on it because of issues I was having with the physics engine. Then there’s Super Ecksdee Panic, which is kindof an affectionate parody of the NES Super Mario and Mega Man games, and it even uses the same sound effects as them. That one’s probably my favorite. And the most recent is Christmas Time Heroes, which at its core is a demo of a sci-fi platform game that I was working on a couple years back. It’s got a couple of ideas in it that I really like, and probably has some of my best graphic and animation work to date.
All four games are, of course, freeware, so you’re welcome to download and try them out at any time – except in the case of Mars Defender, which you can play directly from your browser.
Cool I’ll be getting them later. Anyway now you’re working on a new title, Freedom Planet. I’ve seen some of the gameplay and screenshots and I’m looking forward to it immensely. But for those who haven’t seen anything about it, tell them what it is all about and why you wanted to make this game.
Thank you! I’m glad you like how the game is going so far.
Anyway, Freedom Planet is what I like to call a high-speed platform game – which of course should make most of you instantly think about Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic pretty much epitomizes this concept, but my goal with Freedom Planet is to take it in a completely different direction. While it shares similar level design to some of the old Sonic games, I’m putting a heavier focus on combat and platforming, and there’s a fairly involved story that wraps everything together without being too intrusive. My overall goal is to capture everything that was awesome about the 16-bit era of video games and present it in the style of a Saturday morning cartoon.
Following that in one sentence sum up why the visitors on our site should get Freedom Planet once it is finished and released?
If you want to experience the spirit and raw energy that makes retro gaming so awesome by helping a trio of ladies blast through tons of colorful worlds and massive bosses, Freedom Planet is right up your alley.
What’s next for GalaxyTrail? Will you be taking a break, pushing on to develop more games or maybe taking on a whole new project?
After Freedom Planet is done (which I expect it to be sometime in 2014), I do have plans to continue the series with a sequel, but it depends on how my voice actors feel about it and whether or not the original game turns out to be a success. Aside from that, I might take a break to spend time with my wife and daughter, and then start working on smaller games with shorter development periods so that I can make a living as an indie developer while holding a part-time job on the side.
Well I hope it is really successful, I for one will be getting it. Moving on as you may know 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?
While I was still looking around for the right college to attend, I payed a lot of attention to campuses that offered game design courses, and while a lot of them had complete games that looked pretty impressive, others felt more like tech demos and less like something I’d actually buy and play. I’d say that if you want to make a name for yourself in the industry as a developer, you should make something that people will want to play right away. Not sure what to make? Take your strongest skill and build the gameplay around it; So, for example, if you want to get into game music, build a rhythm game with your own beats. Writing? Make something short but atmospheric and thought-provoking. Programming? Pull off some sweet technical effects in an action game. These are just suggestions of course, but if your work attracts a real audience and fanbase, potential employers will notice.
And one last random question; what is the last thing you watched on TV?
I met up with one of my online buddies recently and watched a marathon of The Legend of Korra. Pretty incredible series overall; The art and animation is breathtaking and the story has more depth than most adult-oriented films in spite of being marketed as a kids’ show.
Well that was another great interview and don’t forget you can get GalaxyTrails existing games for FREE from their website so go and snap them up, I know I will be.
For more info about GalaxyTrail Click Here
For more info about there upcoming new title Freedom Planet Click Here