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Friday, 4 February 2011

Indie Game News Interviews Brandon Wu of Studio Pepwuper

CaptainD of www.IndieGameNews.Com interviews Brandon Wu of Studio Pepwuper:

1/ What first made you start thinking about becoming an indie developer?
It was a result of two trends in the gaming industry:
First, in 2009, I noticed that the rise of social and mobile platforms (Facebook, iPhone) enabled games to reach an audience that didn't have an interest in games before. I've always believed that video games can be a medium capable of appealing to everyone, and I was excited to see these new platforms drawing more people into the game industry. 

Secondly, it was the growth and availability of development tools such as Unity, Shiva, Torque...etc. These tools lowered the barrier to entry for game development, especially for people who aren't seasoned programmers. I started playing with these tools in 2009 and was really excited whenever I saw something I made moving on screen. It was all very basic at this point, but it led me to think that maybe I can make games myself. 

I grew up with video games, and even after I stopped playing games, I still found the creative game industry fascinating with ever evolving technology and ideas. My passion for the game industry, my desire to make games for the non-gamers, combined with the tools and platforms available, were the major reasons why I started thinking about becoming an indie game developer. Or simply, I just wanted to make games that my non-gaming wife would play. :) 

2/ What platforms do you plan to create games on? 
I want the games to be available on platforms that people are always using - mainly social and mobile platforms. These platforms have the biggest potential for game developers looking to find audiences outside of the core gamer market. People are familiar with these platforms so we don't have to teach them how to push buttons, and even better, they are also playing games on them. 

3/ Where did the idea for Megan and the Giant come from?
My wife and I went to England for Christmas in 2009 and went on a tour of London. I noticed a pretty unusual road sign near the River Thames. The sign had a monster inside a red circle, and a line crossed through it. I never found out why the sign was there or what it meant, but the idea of a monster living inside the River Thames stayed with me. The idea evolved over time and became Megan and the Giant. 

4/ Are you planning on developing family friendly games exclusively?
The slogan for Studio Pepwuper is "Games for People Young at Heart", so in the foreseeable future, family friendly games will be the focus. 

5/ What are your favourite indie titles by other developers?
I have been enjoying, Ben There, Dan That by Zombie Cow on the PC, and Canabalt from Adam Atomic on the iPhone recently. They are very different in nature, but both captured my imagination. In Ben There, Dan That, I get to go with the two characters on an adventure together, and in Canabalt, I get to try my skills at escaping from collapsing buildings - perfect for a 2 minute wait in line. 

6/ How do you see the future of indie gaming panning out?
The indie game industry is going through a renaissance period. New studios are being formed everyday, exciting new games are coming out all the time. I think there are two possible outcomes. One, is that the (casual) market will grow continuously to a size that enables smaller developers who can find their audience to be very successful, and we will end up seeing a lot of successful studios each serving a segment of the market. Or two, successful indie studios will start to get bought by bigger companies, or merge with each other. As these studios become bigger and have more marketing resources, they will be the most visible on the market and push the smaller developers out. We already see this on Facebook with Zynga dominating the charts. 

But as I mentioned earlier, the video game industry is one that's constantly evolving, and with people shifting the way they consume games and learn about new games, I believe indie game developers will always be the first one to experiment with new models, be it in funding (Indie Fund, 8-bit funding, Kickstarter,) or in marketing (Humble-Bundle). 

7/ What are the most important skills people should have to become successful indies?
This is something I am still trying to figure out :) I think the ability to learn and to stay mentally positive are probably the most important skills. Being independent means you will not have the resources to hire out a lot of tasks. So being able to learn and acquire not only game development knowledge but also business skills is crucial to indie game developers. Secondly it's not an easy road, and you will have to be prepared for long development, setbacks, criticism, and financial pressure. It is important to have the ability to keep your head above the water and keep yourself motivated. There are many successful indie game developers that are willing to share their knowledge and experience, and that's where I draw a lot of my inspiration from. 

8/ Do you have plans for your next game already, or are you planning on porting Megan and the Giant to other formats first?
I am currently working on a small game that was prototyped during a Game Jam last year. It's very different from Megan and the Giant, and I decided to finish the development after hearing a lot of positive feedback on it. 

As for Megan and the Giant, I am working on updating it with a few features that I didn't have time to add into the game before the first release. I do want to have it available on other platforms, but that will be done after I am happy with the current iOS version. 

And of course Megan and the Giant will continue! I am in the beginning of pre-production for the second episode which will take place in Paris. I have a lot of new ideas already and I can't wait to get started working on it!

9/ What's the best single piece of advice you could give to an aspiring indie developer?
Start making it now, and keep doing it. I am a big believer in perseverance. If you want something hard enough, you will have it. Megan and the Giant has just been released, so I don't know how successful it will be. But I do know that if you want to build a game, you will have to put in the hours on actual development. You can research and analyze how best to do it, or you can start doing it and adjust along the way. I've found the latter a much better option, one that actually gets things done.

10/ How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?

Thanks Brandon for the interview, and don't forget to check out Studio Pepwuper's recently released game Megan and the Giant - currently available on iOs, coming soon to a PC near you.
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