“Inside Indie” is where we invite some of our favorite developers to talk about their lives and careers in gaming. This week’s article is by Rudolf Kremers.
Hello Bytejacker readers, thanks for taking the time to read this episode of “Inside Indie.” Be prepared for some strange musings and weird thought processes. ;-)
Things are rather hectic at the moment, as some of you may know Dyson somehow made it into the finals of the IGF, incredibly in the Seumus Mcnally Grand Prize category! Alex and myself are therefore currently deep into further Dyson development, trying to progress the game as much as we can towards where we want it to be. This means some seriously focused work and late hours, often after our other work commitments. We are only two developers and a musician developing Dyson in our spare time so it can be a bit intense. It is absolutely fantastic fun to work on this game, though, and I never have problems finding energy or concentration when sitting down to do some more work on it. In fact, I am currently experiencing a strange phenomenon that is caused by being extremely focused or involved in a game.
I have started to see the world though the lens or filter of game development. Not all the time, thank goodness, but often nonetheless– and in interesting ways. It is a phenomenon that has become well known to me through working hard on many games before and spending scary amounts of time in deep concentration, focused on a game’s inner workings.
When I was doing Quake levels, for example, I would start to notice how many polygons are used in the real world or how badly textured real world buildings are. They often show really sloppy texture alignment or excessive detail in areas of the world that nobody ever sees. When working on Stolen I noticed that there are a lot of badly places CCTV cameras that can be easily snuck past, but that there aren’t enough shadows in London for good stealth gameplay. That kind of stuff.
Dyson is now doing a similar thing to me, but in a more subtle way. Because the design and programming of the game is based on the principles of procedural generation, it has been clear from the beginning that we needed to design game systems that allow a small amount of data or attributes to interact in such a way that they produce diverse, complex, and interesting results. This is why almost anything in Dyson can be related to only a few key attributes, like speed, energy and strength. We also needed this economy of design and technology because the original incarnation of the game had to be created within one month. The principle that a small and simple “seed” can grow into a complex and accomplished end product and the reproduce to form another seed containing an evolved or mutated seed is also a key area of interest in the study of artificial life, another major influence on Dyson. Think of it as a nerdy version of the circle of life?
I also apply this thinking to much of the game’s level design. Instead of trying to write down and create the full experience I would like the player to have, I find it much more honest and effective to just create a set of parameters and provide the player with a general goal and tools with which to achieve it. Those gameplay “seeds” then develop and blossom into a rich gaming experience created and enjoyed mostly by the player and not predetermined by me. Well, that is the plan, anyway.
The festival starts on March the 25th, and regardless of what happens we will have a great time there, I think. If any of you are visiting please come to our booth and say hi!
All the best,
Rudolf Kremers designs games for Omni-Labs. His latest project, Dyson, which he created with Alex May and Brian Grainger, is nominated for the Seamus McNally Grand Prize at this year’s Independent Games Festival. It was also featured previously here on Bytejacker.