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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Interview with Chris Burton of ICEBOX Studios re: their new Adventure Creator plugin for Unity

IndieGameNews interview Chris Burton of ICEBOX Studios about their exciting new release - and it's NOT a game!

1/ You recently released a new adventure game creation tool for Unity - what made you decide to develop that in the first place?

I've long-been a fan of AGS, and there's a healthy number of tools available if you want to make a 2D adventure game, but not so much for a 3D one.  I'm an animation director by trade, so there's a real appeal for me in the cinematic possibilities of having that extra dimension.  Every since they started, I've always wanted to play with Telltale's Telltale Tool, which they use for all their games.  But since it isn't public, and I could find an alternative, I figured I'd make my own.

I'm not experienced enough to make my own 3D engine from scratch, but Unity was the perfect framework to start from: it's well-made, easy to work with, and cross-platform.  I'd tinkering with Unity in the past, but it wasn't until I had such a specific goal that things really "clicked" for me.  When I came back to it this year, by now I'd released my first commercial adventure-game, Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass, and that really helped me to figure out the features you need to release a commercial adventure game.

I started out developing Adventure Creator really just for myself, but each day I was learning more and more about what features were possible, and I spent more and more time on it.  I wasn't going to be able to afford to make a game once the engine was finished, so I decided to just focus on the engine and make it a commercial release.  Once I saw the toolkit as an investment for others, it made me much more critical of the work I was doing, and the quality of the code and interface improved considerably.

2/ "Adventure Creator" claims to require no coding skills whatsoever to make a game - how is that possible?

You build cutscenes, interactions and dialogues by chaining Actions together.  Actions are pre-coded events that each do one particular task, like move a character, turn off a hotspot, or put an item into the inventory.  They all come with their own GUI, and they're all geared towards adventure-game development.  You can see an example of how they work in this tutorial video.

3/ Can you tell us a bit more about the "Adventure Creator" plugin for Unity?

Well, it's got all the main features you'd expect from a toolkit with such a name, and I'm still working on it!  This week, it'll be getting Touch-Screen support for iOS and Android as well as a few other requested features.  I've had quite a lot of requests for 2D functionality, so I'll be looking into that as well.  But even now, I'd say it's in a good place and ready for someone or a team to go ahead and make their own epic 3D adventure.  I was actually thinking of Telltale's "The Walking Dead" as a target-game when designing features for it, so I reckon making a game like that is definitely possible.

4/ So, are we going to see a fully 3D "Da New Guys" sequel made with this thing?

That really would be a dream come true!  I think Da New Guys lend themselves well to 3D, and I'm very fond of their cinematic adventure.  With each DNG outing, I get a little bit closer to the perfect balance of action, comedy and adventure, and I reckon a 3D game would be a really neat fit for them.  I haven't decided anything, but I do have a plot in mind if such a game were to happen.

5/ What kind of reaction did you get to Da New Guys?

DNG's always gone down well within their circles.  They've never really reached the "big time", but the reaction's always good from those that know about them.  Honestly I write DNG more for myself than anyone else - it's just a lot of fun to do, and the characters are so defined that it's easy to write for them.

6/ Are you actually earning a living from making games yet?  (If not, is that your aim?)

My main job is an animation director - I direct animated shorts and work as a freelancer for others.  Since I'm involved in 3D so much, I'd want my games to be the same, which means the budget and time involved is much higher.  It used to be that I could make a game in my spare time and release it - commercial or not - but now I'd need it to be a full-time thing for it to really work.  If things go well with Adventure Creator, it'd be great to have some time to really settle down and see what I could do with it myself.

7/ What advice would you give to aspiring indie game developers?

Start small, get feedback often, and take criticism on the chin!

See also: My Review of Da New Guys

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