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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Interview - Little Red Dog Games (creators of Conspirocracy)

I interviewed KodiakBehr, creator of hit adventure game Conspirocracy, and co-founder of new indie game studio Little Red Dog Games.

1/ You recently set up Little Red Dog Games – how did this actually come about, and who make up LRDG?

At the time, Little Red Dog Games was the informal name given to a working collaborative that notionally included everyone helping out with the development Conspirocracy.  It was really just me for the first eight months or so, but as our audio engineer, musician, actors and testers started putting in the long hours, the game became more of a team effort and needed a moniker to reflect that.  Today, we’re a little bit more structured.  My wife and I plan on setting up Little Red Dog Games as a registered partnership, and are presently working concurrently on both videogame and boardgame product lines.  On the videogame front, LRDG currently includes AGS members KodiakBehr (Hi!), Haffhedd, Problem and UnLady, and that family may grow as our needs change.

2/ Also, it has to be asked… where did the name Little Red Dog Games come from, anyway?

My dog, Neeko, is an old Shiba Inu.  He is our resident mascot, foot warmer, and accountant.

3/ Your first game, Conspirocracy, is based around a terrible bureaucratic blunder and how it impacts on the player character’s life. Tell us a little about the inspiration for this.

There were two things that that were important for me to achieve with this game.  The first was to write for a (somewhat) contemporary setting, and the second was to make a game with some Canadian content in it.  I’m dating myself a little, but some of the first games I played were old-school Infocom text-based adventure games.  One that came to mind, Bureaucracy (1987) by Douglas Adams, had the player jumping through lots of bureaucratic hoops while trying to keep your blood pressure from killing you.  It was a fun premise that adapted well to the point-and-click genre, and given my work for the federal government, it also gave me the opportunity to write a little bit from experience. 

4/ How did you feel when Conspirocracy was nominated for Best Game at the AGS Awards 2013?

Surprised, then confused and then a little hungry.  

I’ll let you in a little secret Dave, one that’ll probably annoy the rest of the team, but I didn’t actually nominate Conspirocracy for Best Game myself.  I played a lot of great indie adventure games this year, and while I thought Conspirocracy was a contender for a lot of categories, including Best Dialogue Writing and Best Voice Acting, and Best Sound Effects and so forth...I didn’t think it stood in the same category as some of the other commercial products we’ve seen in 2013.  I continue to be surprised to see it there on the list, and want to thank everyone who has been supportive of what we’ve done.  This nomination has been a real boost for us, and we’re now committed to pushing our limits and developing something even better.

5/ I voiced one character in Conspirocracy – the Asian traveler (with all of 2 lines to say!). I practiced so hard to get my Mexican accent sounding right and then you decided to use someone else. Explain yourself! 

You’re a lot of things Dave, but I don’t think you’ll ever be a Mexican waiter at a one-star restaurant.   (I guess I can live with that…)

6/ But more seriously, what was it like coordinating the voice talent for Conspirocracy? Is it something you had any experience with?

We had over twenty actors from all over the world voicing almost fifty characters, so when it was time to get the voices implemented into the game, I was spending most of my night just writing e-mails to people I’ve never met before, and our audio engineer Greg [“Haffhedd”] had to individually cut up and process over four thousand audio samples, and I had to review and choose the best takes of each for him to implement into the core game files.  In terms of lessons learned, it’s extremely difficult to make twenty different audio recording devices sound balanced with each other, and we should have recorded talent locally.

7/ Sales of Conspirocracy also helped out a charity – tell us a little about this charity and why it’s so important to you.

We donated half of our funds raised on IndieGoGo to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which is a Canadian registered charity that has funded dozens of research discoveries to identify the causes of genetic forms of blindness.  One of the game’s many voice actors, a talented guy named Andrew Cornett (who voiced Seabiscuit, amongst other characters), is friends with a popular Canadian actor, writer and artist named Lee Tockar who has been rendered blind from cone dystrophy.  This charity meant a lot to Andrew, and after we did our research, we found it to be a worthy cause for us to champion. 

8/ Can you reveal anything about Little Red Dog Games’ next project, and when it is likely to be released.

How about you reveal something about your next project, Dave?  (My interview, my question!  So, no.)

I’ll just say this, we have made a lot of progress in pre-production on our next game.  Our design documentation is out of its first trimester and we’re ready to start building concept art.  The next game will be very politically themed, it will be set in the late 1950s, and I will say no more about it.

9/ What’s the most important advice you could give to aspiring indie devs?

Well I’m hardly qualified to give advice, being aspirational myself, but I can pass some important things I’ve learned the hard way:

  • Your first game will not be a magnum opus.  Start small, make mistakes, accept criticism.
  • Network!  Seek out and work exclusively with people who share your vision and passion, and that have skills that complement your own.  Regularly bounce ideas off people who are not invested in your project.  Learn from the examples set by others.
  • Adventure games are a small, niche market, and AGS has done wonders to drop the barriers to entry.  Accept that you will have to work exceedingly hard to stand out, and accept that you are almost never working hard enough to promote your game.  Put in the hours as if it was a second job, and love doing it.

Thanks KB for the interview, and all the best for the future of Little Red Dog Games!  Your true identity has of course remained a secret for bureaucratic reasons.


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