Well we’ve had a very good response to the interviews we’ve already done, so we thought we’d bring you another Invision Game Community exclusive. This time round we’re interviewing the funny guys at Lazy Dog games; Brothers Karsten and Julian Vermeulen and their good friend Paul Iuzzolino. So before I bore you with this mini introduction, here is the interview:
Well first of all I suppose we should ask what made you want a career in the gaming industry, was there a particular game you played growing up that influenced you or maybe it was something you just stumbled into?
Karsten: I used to love the old style text-parser and point-and-click adventure games, from the likes of Sierra and LucasArts. These games spawned my interest in the industry back in the 80’s and it was stuff like King’s Quest and Monkey Island that did it for me. Playing all these games made me want to start making them, however this dream of mine happened a long time ago, and is only now being made a reality, as I have had a bumpy road along the way.
Julian: It wasn’t really my first choice in the career path, but I did play a lot of games for as long as I can remember. One of my first games I ever played was Quest for Glory and that took me down the road to point-and-click adventures, pretty much like my brother. But I wanted to do more with gaming, so I got into FPS, RPG, RTS, and later on MMO. My first MMO was Guild Wars, it was something really new to me, coming from a Single Player background. It was fun interacting with other players to do quests, or fight big bosses, and this is where I learnt the word ‘noob’.
What really sparked my interest, and influenced my career decision, was the art in games. I’m obsessed with art and animation, and these two elements are really what make a game.
I thought to myself, I would really like to go into the games industry as an artist, whether it’s a concept artist, environment artist, or 3D character artist.
Interesting stuff. So give us a little background on Lazydog Games for those who don’t know who you are; like what was it that motivated you to start the company and is there a story behind why you called yourself “Lazy Dog” Games?
Karsten: Well, we are very new to the indie scene and we are basically two brothers, along with a team of outsourced friends and contacts that want to make great games. We have thus far created three titles and plan to make many more in the future. I am the programmer of the lot and create the games using C++ and SDL. I think the main reason we started LDG is because we wanted to create a way of showcasing our projects to the public.
Julian: Well for me it all started while eating a hamburger, but before I get into that, I want to tell you how the dog was created. Before we even thought of starting LDG I had a birthday card with a portrait of just a cartoon dog head and thought to myself, I would love to add some arms, a body, legs and feet to this character. So for the fun of it I used the card as a guide and drew the dog on a sketchpad, eventually creating the dog I wanted (as you see him today). I was so happy with my creation, that I hung it on the wall in my room.
So you’re probably wondering what the hell does this have to do with a hamburger? Well during the time I was eating a hamburger I was also thinking of names for our company. At one moment, I quickly ran to my room to get something (I can’t remember what), and, for a second, glanced at my dog drawing and thought “you look like one lazy dog”. And so the name “Lazy Dog Games” came about. At first it was just gonna be “Lazy Dogs” but it didn’t quite have a catch to it because it didn’t have a proper meaning, I mean we could’ve been dog groomers, a pound, or even a takeaway place. So adding the word “Games” at the end made more sense.
Paul: I am the games designer, artist and tester for LDG. I fell in love with games at a very young age, and I wanted to learn more about making them, so I went to Bloomfield College in the States. There I learnt all about 2D and 3D games and got a degree in game development. I love to play sport games and FPS, as well as handheld games. That’s basically me in a nutshell.
Haha that Hamburger story is brilliant. Well maybe you can tell us what is a typical day at work like, are you in an office full of fun and excitement or is it all work and no play?
Karsten: Actually, Julian and I are just in an apartment in Birmingham, UK. We are planning to move to London in the coming weeks as we plan to start college there soon. Our third “dog”, Paul, is based in Newark, USA. Others that help us with sound, music, testing, etc are all over the world really, and we communicate with each other via skype, facebook or emails.
A typical day would be me coding all day long on the game engine and structure, while Julian works on some of the 2D images and sprites for the games. As soon as a specific game prototype is complete, I send it to Paul for testing. Paul also helps out with 2D textures, game design and game ideas too.
It might seem like all work, but we do treat ourselves to a bit of “play time” too. We believe in completing a specific task first, then relax and chill by playing a game, watching a movie or even paying attention to our loved ones.
Julian: My days aren’t exactly hectic. When I’m done with a particular graphic design, I hand it over to my brother and he does the rest. I would say 80% of the games we make are done by my brother since it’s all just coding, and the images and sprites are “plugged in” towards the end. But of course since we initially are still a 3-man show, you can understand why things are not so busy. I hope in the near future that our company will start picking up and if it does, I will run away. (Just kidding! Of course I would love it if our company picks up!)
Well I hope with all the hard work you’re putting in it all goes well for you and that Lazy Dog Games makes it to the big time. Anyway since Lazydog Games started what have been your greatest achievement and biggest challenge that you’ve had to face?
Karsten: To me my greatest achievement is always to complete a game project. I have realised this is extremely vital, as many people lose faith or give up hope with thier games along the way and end up with incomplete products. It is extremely rewarding to have a fully completed working game, knowing you worked very hard creating it. Despite the struggling moments at times along the way, you have to persevere to get it finished, because that feeling of accomplishment that you get afterwards is the best thing ever!
One of my biggest challenges was to create my own game engine from scratch. It is still a work in progress, but its great to have made an engine by yourself, and will certainly aid all of us with future titles we make.
Julian: I think my greatest challenge and achievement was the development of the LDG website. When we thought up the name for our company we knew we needed a website to show off our projects and such. I didn’t want to use pre-made website templates and tools, rather I wanted something unique for our company. Since I had a bit of experience in web design, I went ahead and created our very own website using Dreamweaver. In addition to that, I am also very proud of the LDG logo.
You can check out the website here: http://www.lazydog-games.co.uk/
As you’ve said, there are a couple of completed titles behind your name now and you’ve released the demo of your latest game Codecracker. Tell us a little bit about the game; what is it, what inspired you to develop it and did you face any challenges when making it?
Karsten: Codecracker is a puzzle game based on the popular board game “Mastermind”. Basically, the computer chooses a random code and you have to guess what code the computer chose. You have 10 rows (4 slots each) to do it in, and for each row that you make a guess the computer will tell you which of your guesses is correct and in the right slot, correct but in the wrong slot, or totally incorrect. These results are given to you in each row, but you never know which particular slot in the row these results refer to.
My family and I loved playing Mastermind at home on rainy days many years ago, so this inspired me to create a computerised version of it. I first created a Turbo Pascal coded version of this game back at school, and then later created a version for Windows 98. Now, under the LDG label, we offer you the new and improved version, which includes different game boards to play on, different difficulty levels and great sound effects and music. Challenges along the way? Sure, many! Working on the game AI was quite challenging, as well as coding the game engine so that the images and sprites fit on the game screen at the right spots, and inserting and programming small animations into the game was quite a task too!
Download a DEMO version here: http://www.lazydog-games.co.uk/projects/codecracker.php
In one sentence sum up why the visitors at the Invision Game Community should go out and buy Codecracker when it is officially released?
Karsten: If you enjoy puzzle solving and code cracking, this is a perfect game for you!
Julian: If you crack the code, we’ll give you a cookie!
Paul: The game is extremely challenging and will intrigue your mind for many hours!
I’ll hold you to that Cookie Julian! So what’s next for Lazy Dog Games? Are you working on the next release already or are you thinking of taking a little break once Codecracker is fully released?
Karsten: Break? What’s that? Haha, no seriously, we are working on something else at the moment. Paul came to me with an awesome game concept and we all agreed to work on it. If you would like to follow our development on that project, click here: http://www.lazydog-games.co.uk/blog/post.php?s=2012-06-07-devlog-project-text
Paul: Our new game (codenamed “Project teXt”) is going to be a memory game. Your objective is to match up items in the correct places. There will be different levels with a timer in each to offer a bit of a challenge. I have had this idea for a while now, and I am glad I can finally make it a reality. So far I have tested two prototypes Karsten has created, and I cannot wait to test the final design!
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?
Karsten: To be honest, we are students ourselves, but the advice I can offer is never give up, keep pushing to get a project completed. Never take on something thats way over your head, rather start small. And most importantly, although this industry is over-flowing in money, that should never be your reason for entering it. Make games because you are passionate about it, that ensures you enjoy what you do, and will result in a great end-product!
Julian: I know a lot of people out there say that making games is not all “fun and games”, which is true to a certain point. I mean if you have fun making games then I see no problem with that. However, its hard work too and if you can balance those two out, then you’re on your way to success.
I love games with a passion, I love the artwork that gets put into games, I even enjoy the story (if it’s good) in games. And that is my driving force every day.
But ask yourself this: what would you get out of bed for? Because seriously no one is a morning person and if you can jump straight out of bed without needing coffee or rubbing your eyes or anything, and go straight to the thing that you enjoy the most, then that is called a passion, and that is what you should turn into a career!
Paul: I would agree with Karsten and Julian. Make games because you’re passionate about it. Don’t worry so much about the money, it will follow eventually.
In addition to that, I would also like to state that you should make use of all social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and LinkedIn to network with people in the industry, and try to get in that way. I was lucky enough to find Karsten on Facebook and we have been doing great things so far, and I can’t wait to see where the future takes us.
And one last random question; do you have a signature dance move?
Karsten: I can’t dance, however, if our games ever sell really well, I might consider paying for some lessions haha!
Julian: Dancing? What’s that?
Paul: Sorry I don’t dance either.
Well that has to be one of the best interviews I’ve done. Some very funny responses from the guys at Lazy Dog Games, and like me it seems they can’t dance either. I just hope all you readers find it as good as I did and make sure you keep your eye out for Codecracker when it is released, looks like it’ll be a good game. Anyway that’s it for now and hopefully we’ll have another Invision Game Community exclusive interview for you coming soon.