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Sunday, 25 July 2010

Q&A Chat Session with Axelo, Inc re: Purify Puzzle

CaptainD of Indie Game News interviewed Monjoni Osso and Enrico Crevecoeur about forthcoming indie puzzle game, “Purify Puzzle”. 
 
CaptainD:  First of all, on behalf of www.indiegamenews.com, thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  

Monjoni:  on behalf of Axelo, thanks for your interest in Purify Puzzle!  We're really psyched to talk about the game with you 

CaptainD:  Great stuff.  Can you tell me a little about the company first - when it was set up, what sort of focus you have?  

Monjoni:  Well, Axelo itself started in about 2005 as a technology company, developing motion controllers.  I joined in the summer of 2009 as a QA Lead for a PC motion controller Axelo was developing.  Later in 2009, Axelo started a software division with a focus on games, ranging from social games to small indie projects in December of 09, Enrico contacted me about the game Purify Puzzle - it was called “Aspire” back then, 

CaptainD:  So Enrico was the person to come up with the idea for Purify Puzzle? 

Monjoni:  Not just the idea, it's actually built in his own engine, the “Scarlet Engine”.  Would you like to talk about that one, Enrico?  Where'd the idea for Aspire start?  

Enrico:  Sure.  The Idea for the game came from the Arcade style puzzle games that i used to play as a kid.  For this game i wanted something with a similar feel, and that’s where the idea came from. 

Enrico:  The engine is something that I have been working on for a while as well. 

CaptainD:  Is it purely a puzzle game engine, or a more versatile 2d engine? 

Enrico:  It’s an engine suited for creating games it supports 2D and 3D, though the 2D side of the engine has been ramped up quite a bit as a result of this game, 

CaptainD:  What's the basic concept of Purify Puzzle? 

Monjoni:  The basic idea is a match-3 puzzle title where the player's skill and responsiveness matters more than just item placement.  We have a new feature, where essentially the player can select not only where they want to place an item but what item they want to place; in other words, it's not only important to respond quickly when solving our puzzles, but the quality of the player's response matters too.  For example if you're trying to match a series of red items, but the only items you have access to are Cyan and Pink, the player can spend a certain amount of "swaps" to change one of their currently held items to a Red item, thus enabling them to make the match.  This is really noticeable in our multiplayer mode, making it very easy to ascertain just how good another player is. 

CaptainD:  Tell me about the multiplayer features - do you have co-op and completive multiplayer? 

Enrico:  Yeah for this game it's critical that the player knows how the board can be taken apart by smart item placements. 

Monjoni:  Our multiplayer right now is purely competitive, and most reminiscent of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.  Players compete by making matches, and the first player to clear their board wins.   However, games usually aren't that simple, 

CaptainD:  Is there a handicap system to match up players of differing abilities?  Online play modes? 

Monjoni: There is local and online multiplayer, and we're currently working on a profile system.  There isn’t currently a matchmaking system in place that takes into account differing player skill, but we're very much still in development, 

CaptainD:  When is Purify Puzzle likely to be released? 

Monjoni:  We're aiming for a September release window, though of course we're still an indie project and the success or failure of our Kickstarter project will affect that window very much. 

Monjoni:  Are you familiar with Kickstarter? 

CaptainD:  Would you hate me if I said no?!
 
Monjoni:  Only a little! Kickstarter is a brilliant website several indie projects are using to acquire much needed funding - even indies need to eat!  It works essentially like the US' National Public Radio fundraisers; donors can donate a certain amount of money and get rewards from projects. 

CaptainD:  It's not the same as "The Indie Fund" though? 

Monjoni:  Correct.  The Indie Fund is run by a small cabal of very excellent indie developers, while Kickstarter is public and for everyone.  Our own page can be found at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mlubker/purify-puzzle-a-multiplayer-puzzle-game?pos=1.  We're taking advantage of it due to the public nature of the funding process, and the relative risk-free nature of the donations - if our project doesn't meet its overall funding goals, there's no obligation from donors to actually give money nor for us to give rewards to donors.  Only if we're successful in raising the amount of money we ask for will the project receive any funds from the donors. 

CaptainD:  How's the money-raising gone so far? 

Monjoni:  It's gone well, though not as well as expected 

CaptainD:  So you're doing this completely without funding from the Axelo parent company? 

Monjoni:  Somewhat correct.  Though initial work from myself, Michael Lubker, and Christina was paid for by our parent company our objective is to not have to rely on their finances  Our and their objective is to have the software division become independent, and Kickstarter is a very big part of our initial plans.

CaptainD:  In terms of sales, what sort of numbers will you need to make it worth producing another game in the future? 

Monjoni:  Hmm, now that's a great question.  Well... 

Enrico:  Michael knows that one! 

Monjoni: We make back our costs at roughly 2000-3000 units 

CaptainD:  Would this sort of venture even be possible without digital distribution? 

Monjoni:  In order to continue with development, such as DLC and even sequels, we'd need something in the range of 7-10,000 - and without digital distribution this would be a much, much harder task.  Impossible?  I don't think so, but shareware is a very, very old way of doing things.  

CaptainD:  I remember the old days of shareware... nowadays most people don't even seem to understand the term! 

Monjoni:  I think it's easy to forget that's how the modern industry really started.  There'd be no Gears of War if not for Wolfenstein and Doom, and those games started out on shareware. 

Monjoni:  I must have played episode 1 of Doom on my old DOSbox hundreds of times, and those free floppies did more for advertising that game than anything else. 

CaptainD:  I remember Llamatron and Revenge of the Mutant Camels on the Atari ST... and Yak Minter is still going strong today!  Which shows that it can be done, I guess. 

CaptainD:  I think most people don't realise just how competitive the indie marketplace is these days.  Just how difficult is it for a new company like yourselves to stand out and be noticed? 

Monjoni:  Nearly impossible, I'd say.  We've been doing what we can through social media, though people are inundated with stuff from sites like Twitter and Facebook.  Getting the message out there has been our hardest task. 

CaptainD:  Social websites do seem to be the way to go (even though I admit that personally, I hate most of them!!) 

Monjoni:  I'm fine with them, though I use them only sparingly.  I'm not a "FarmVille" guy 

CaptainD:  Tell me a little about the graphics in Purify Puzzle - with Christina jetting around Europe like there's no tomorrow, I can't ask her!   

Monjoni:  LOL.  Well, Christina's not done all the art.  She's provided some excellent background work, but Drew Soman is responsible for our beautiful character sprite as well as our menu screens, and our storyline cinematics.

Enrico: The graphics are hand painted and are in HD resolution, up to 1270x768. 

CaptainD:  From the screenshots I’ve seen they look great and quite unique, which is definitely going to help make the game stand out. 

Monjoni:  Yeah, the artistry in the game is quite outstanding, even more so when you consider that it's the fruits of basically two people.  We've been quite lucky to land talents like Christina and Drew, at this point I couldn't really imagine the game without their input. 

CaptainD:  Enrico - what particularly has proved to be challenging in regards to the coding of PP? 

Enrico:  There have been a lot of challenges. 

Enrico:  The biggest was probably the networking, since I didn't have a lot of experience in the area. I’m primarily a graphics programmer lol.  Making the code thread safe was another thing, since initially the framework wasn't designed with multithreading in mind. 

CaptainD:  Forgive my techno-incompetence, multithreading being the term for using more than one CPU core at a time, right? 

Enrico:  Yes correct - to take advantage of the current chipsets nowadays, multithreading is required due to everything being dualcore. 

CaptainD:  Or quadcore :-D   

CaptainD:  So how long ago did you actually begin developing the Scarlet Engine? 

Enrico:  I made it while back – 2005, I believe. I keep working on it all the time, as the technology for the engine grows for each game that’s made with it. 

CaptainD:  How many games have you made with it so far?  Have they all been indie releases? 

Enrico:  So far I’ve used it for 5 other projects.  Purify Puzzle will be the first commercial game that uses the engine.  

CaptainD:  How did you arrive at the title “Purify Puzzle”, anyway? 

Monjoni:  I got the first build of what was then called Aspire in December 09.  That continued to be the working title until we started preparing content to go to various publishers, at which point we entered a mini-crisis because we didn't really know what to call the game.  None of us being marketing experts, we decided democracy was the way to go.  The team took a day or so and each of us got together lists of what we wanted the game to be called.  From one of these lists, Purify Puzzle stood out and that's the one the majority of us went with. 

Enrico:  Scarlet started off as a personal engine of mine which i used for experimentation and expanding my skill set as a programmer. Over time as more features were added it became viable for using on a commercial product. Purify Puzzle will the first commercial product to be released using this engine. Currently the engine has been used to make a platformer, a shoot-‘em-up (still in development), two puzzle games (including purify puzzle), and a 3D Racing game(prototype).
 
 

As indie game players, we look forward to not only the release of Purify Puzzle but hopefully also many future games from Axelo, Inc!  
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