Well to get started, please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Tyler Hunter. I’m the founder of Lifespark Entertainment, and the director/artist of the upcoming game Rack N Ruin.
What made you want to get into the gaming industry? Is it always something you’ve wanted to do because of a game you played growing up, or do you just like working with computers?
I think it’s the fact that both of those interests apply. My largest passion is art. I’ve been drawing and creating since as long as I can remember all the way from stick figure battles when I was 3. I think I was drawn to the fantastical elements in videos games because they were interactive representations of the things i was drawing. So I grew up drawing and playing games. I was also a huge computer geek growing up because I really wanted to design levels for Doom, and it took a fair bit of computer savy back in the 90s to obtain such a skill set. So the video game industry seems like a pretty safe bet for someone who is both good with computers and can draw. So I married the two skills and became a digital artist.
Now tell us a little bit about Lifespark Entertainment for our viewers who may not know who you are, what was the motivation behind setting up the company, what sort of games do you focus on making.
I left my job in the game industry to strike out on my own because I wanted to make a game. I’ve always had a passion for making games since I was a little kid making D&D campaigns, Doom levels, and so forth. I have been an industry artist for a decade and wanted to focus on design for a change. When I set out to start this company I felt like I wanted to build 2D games similar to the type work that is being done at Super Giant or Vanillaware. I really love games that feel like rich paintings in motion, and I feel that it’s sorely underused. So essentially I set out to make the game I wanted play, and see.
So what’s a typical day in the office like when working for Lifespark Entertainment?
First I get up and get my kids ready for the day, then when they are off to school, I start work. This is 90 percent working in the engine on design or making art. Rack N Ruin has a LOT of art assets with thousands of frames of animation. Most of its development time has been spent on the art, which is almost finished. So soon it will be purely design. The other 10 percent is spent collaborating with the other team members or building marketing materials (website, trailers, blog posts etc). So my day is just me in front of my computer cranking away.
Tell us a little bit about the game, were there any difficulties you faced during the development and what’s different about this game compared to similar titles?
Rack N Ruin is a top down action adventure game where the player takes control of a demon wizard named Rack. Instead of a sword wielding good guy on a quest to save the day, you play as a magic wielding demon bent on turning a nice planet into an asteroid belt. This aspect will make the game unique mechanically. Rack can dish out some serious damage at range, so the combat has a much more arcade action feel. Rack will also use these magic abilities to solve numerous puzzles. The whole experience will be progressive and story driven. Players will explore a vast world and corrupt every inch of it. As the player corrupts the world, it will change into a nightmarish vision of its prior self. So as the game goes on, the players will see the world slowly fall apart. Along the way they will enter a variety of unique dungeon levels. There they will acquire new abilities, progress the story, and engage in epic boss encounters.
A game of this scope is quite an undertaking, the largest challenge is definitely simply finishing it. There are literally thousands of frames of animation, and a ton of HD environments to hand paint. Rack also has a whole slew of different abilities, so it’s quite a lot of work from a coding perspective as well. We had to construct a special system so we could design a wide range of interesting puzzles. Rack can do a lot of things and we have to make sure he can do those things all over the place without anything breaking. Once it’s all done, I feel we will have made something special.
Rack N Ruin features a lot of unique elements that set it apart from other games. Top down action adventure games is certainly not a terribly saturated market so I feel that it serving an under-served niche. On top of that I set out to make Rack N Ruin because of the sheer lack of good 2D HD games. So Rack N Ruin’s visual style certainly gives it a unique feel. Mechanically Rack N Ruin plays more like Binding of Isaac but is a full featured progressive experience. I think the idea of exploring a lush world while slowly corrupting and destroying it is not an experience that’s often had in video games. Rack N Ruin is certainly a unique creature, a beautiful and strange creature.
So in one sentence sum up why the visitors on our site should go out and buy Rack & Ruin?
Warp a rich world into a nightmarish vision of its prior self, all the while wondering whether Rack will succeed in enslaving the world for his master, or simply blow it up.
What are the biggest achievements and challenges you’ve had to face as an Indie Game Studio?
Finishing the game. Rack N Ruin is a massively ambitious project, and the sheer amount of work it’s taking to finish is staggering. Simply getting the game done is by and far the most difficult challenge.
So what’s next for Lifespark Entertainment? Are you looking to start work on the next title to add to your collection, or will you be taking a break for a while?
First up would be to get Rack N Ruin on as many platforms as possible. After that it will entirely depend on the success of the game. If the game performs well, I will start looking into which project I’d like to tackle next. Initially I had started developing a big RPG but soon realized the scope of that project outweighed what I could pull off. So I started Rack N Ruin which is almost equally ambitious…funny how that is.
Now 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?
I think your work speaks more then anything. There are a lot of great forums that are packed with talented industry professionals (cgtalk, conceptart.org, polycount, stackoverflow, tigsource) who put their work up for display and even comment on peoples work. It’s up to the student to make sure his or her work is up to the quality standards that the industry demands. So you just have to hunker down and devote yourself entirely to your craft until your portfolio is something you are a truly proud of and feel stands toe to toe with any industry professional. Once you’ve achieved that, finding work is easy.
And one last random question; what made you decide to move on from Blizzard Entertainment?
I’d been there 7 years and decided I wanted to go and make something special and try build something more than what a company asks of me. I enjoyed my time at Blizzard, but sometimes greater things call.