We have a very special post for you here, for those long time readers you may remember we did an indie spotlight on an indie game that is in development a while ago which goes by the name of Environmental Station Alpha. Well today we bring you an interview with the guy behind this little gem, his name is Arvi Teikari or Hempuli on the internets. He’s a guy who makes games for the love of it rather than for any kind of monetary reward and an all round gent. Make sure you check out his blog on how the game is coming and also watch the trailer for the game below.
1) Environmental Station Alpha, you latest game under development, has a distinct retro feel to it and is somewhat of a departure from the style we saw in Officer Alfred. What made you choose this angle?
Mainly ease of use. I wanted to make a large game with a lot of areas, so it was clear from the beginning that I’ll have to use a very simplistic style in order to be able to work fast enough. I had experimented with limited palettes in order to achieve a very old-school feeling before, so I decided to aim for a similar feeling here. I made some mockup art with a 32-colour palette and tweaked it a bit before doing anything else in order to get a palette that is limited but still capable of creating varying aesthetics. As a general rule I tend to try to make my games differ graphically a lot, usually because when I get a game idea there’s also an artistic style that “fits” the idea from the beginning. I’m quite sure these “fitting” art styles come mainly from the games and works that inspired the game idea itself; for example, Officer Alfred was inspired a lot by Portal, and thus the “fitting” style was a clean, empty one.
2) E.S.A. looks to have been influenced by vintage platforming titles such as mega man and metroid. Are these the kind of titles you grew up on and What is it about this kind of game that makes them such timeless classics?
I definitely loved Super Metroid and Megaman as a child. Megaman games on the NES and Super Metroid are very different and there are several reasons why I enjoyed them so much as a kid. I’d guess that the biggest reason is nostalgia – I played them when I was younger and thus they had a bigger impact on me. They’re also very solid titles with very reasonable game logic and (in the case of Super Metroid) interesting aesthetics and environments. I don’t think they’re timeless classics, though.
3) Speaking of retro, what was the first console/computer you owned and what was your favourite game on it?
Depends on the definition. When I was 8, I got my own PC with Windows 3.11, so technically that’s my first own gaming machine of any sort (I played a lot of Commander Keen, Prince of Persia and Doom II on it!) However, my cousins owned both an NES and an SNES, so before playing games on a PC I had already played games such as Super Mario World, F-Zero, Super R-Type and The Adventures of Lolo. I’d say that the SNES had the biggest impact on me as a child.
4) When did you first get into making video-games and why?
I was on fourth grade (10 years old), and my friend asked me if I wanted to make my own game (I had dreamed of making a game before, after watching my brother experiment with Turbo Pascal and QuickBasic and using various level editors etc. to create my own worlds in other games), and introduced me to Game Maker. Neither of us knew anything about programming or scripting, so GM was rather limited for us, but nonetheless we made quite a few games together. Later on another friend told me about a “better” program called The Games Factory, which seemed much more user-friendly, so I changed to that and actually I’ve been using programs of the same family afterwards. In hindsight TGF was much more limited than GM and generally an awful product, but it fit my needs at the time very well. It took me quite a few years to get to actually finishing my games, anyway.
5) Is there any upcoming games, indie or otherwise, that you are looking forward to playing?
I haven’t been following the indie scene very intently for the past year or so, so I’m not sure if I can answer this. Papers, Please by dukope (http://dukope.com/
) is the first one that comes to mind, at least. There are quite a few promising titles around at all times, but to be honest I haven’t really been interested in playing games for a while (I think the last game I really enjoyed playing was Maldita Castilla by Locomalito (http://www.locomalito.com/maldita_castilla.php
6) We here are really looking forward to E.S.A coming out, have you got a rough date that you are aiming to release it?
Nope. I’m trying to get it done this year but there are several variables to this, so I think I’d better not promise anything.
7) Whats the biggest challenge you face when developing games?
Staying motivated over long periods of time and actually starting a game. The former has been a serious problem for me before, but I’ve slowly learned to overcome it, mostly by planning my games better and trying not to start new projects haphazardly. I feel that these days the latter is much more of a problem. Working on the same project for a long time sucks the fun out of game development, so I periodically feel the urge to make a small side project (say, a one-week experimental game) on the side, but recently I’ve noted that it’s not quite so easy to just start a new project. I think this is mostly because of increased quality “standards”; I simply can’t just make a funny, stupid game anymore but instead want to polish them, increasing the development time and raising the bar to beginning their development. This is especially evident when it comes to graphics – I often feel unmotivated when I see a white frame and realize that I have to actually do some pixel art to get started.
8) Xbox One or PS4? -PC master race is not a legitimate answer ;)
Neither seemed to have any interesting games on them, sans the new Oddworld title that is apparently coming to both of them? I guess PS4 is the “correct” answer due to Xbox’s DRM, but to be honest the fact that I wont buy either makes me a tad indifferent about the whole thing.
9) What are your views on the next-gen indie publishing models from Microsoft and Sony? Will you take advantage of Sony’s self publishing policy? Maybe E.S.A for PS4?
Due to using a rather limited game-creation tool rather than an actual programming language, my options in those regards are rather limited. ESA will be PC-only, but my games after that will probably be PC/Linux/Mac -compatible and that’s it. I’m not hugely into marketing or selling my games, so I’m not really thinking much about those kinds of possibilities. Steam seems to be the safest bet right now (in case that I end up selling the game).
10) All your games are evidently a labour of love and you can see that platformers are something you enjoy creating, what type of game would you like to make next? Another platformer or something else?
Haha, yeah, sometimes I feel kind of bummed-out about the fact that all the ideas I come up with are platformers! (Un)fortunately my next games will probably belong in that genre, as well. I really want to finally finish Officer Alfred (after 2 failed attempts), and I’m quite sure it’ll be my next larger project. On the side I have a ton of ideas varying from stupid to ridiculous. Currently I’m working on a flash remake of an earlier game of mine because I thought that the game had some potential left. I’d also love to make a plot-heavy adventure game at some point, but at the moment I’ve mostly just drafted some character designs so I wont be working on that for quite some time, still. As I said before, small experimental games are something I’d really want to get into again at some point as well.
We hope you enjoyed this one, as we get more into the indie scene we want to bring you more of these type of interviews and perhaps inspire you to try your hand at game creation yourself. Sound off in the comments about anything you like about ESA or even other indie games you have discover, or if you are making a game we would love to hear from you. Cheers
-The Quim Ninja