Don't get confused, today indeed is Monday. Really. As you may have noticed,
we're also covering people who develop games in their spare time.
BestGameEver.com happens to be one of these projects. Under the motto
"Free Game. Every Friday." a new game is being provided every week.
Each title either incorporates a new idea or is a refinement of a
previous release based on feedback by the players. We've had the chance
to chat with Dylan Fitterer, creator of these interesting time killers.
Read on if you want to know more about BGE, the design premise,
inspiration and if Sofa King Cool is really the only title that is,
well, Sofa King Cool.
Q: Okay, who are you people? What's your background?
Dylan: I've been programming for years and gaming for many more.
Since nobody has yet christened me Game Designer - I decided to do it
myself. Tada! The other contributors are lifelong friends from as far
back as elementary school. And of course, my lovely gamer wife Lebeth
is a great writer and full of ideas.
Q: Why did you specifically go for "Free game. Every Friday." instead of let's say "Free game. When it's done."?
Dylan: Actually, I did "Free Game. When It's Done" for a couple
of years. :) It was a great learning experience for me, but didn't
accomplish much else. A couple good friends started asking for weekly
releases and it was just the kick I needed. The constant pressure keeps
my productivity up and the regular releases keep me... releasing. Also,
Lebeth specializes in usability and weekly games mean weekly feedback.
It's the perfect sanity check to see if other gamers agree with me
about what's fun.
Q: Usability? So, she's the first person to point out whenever
there's something inappropriate about controls or the interface design
among other things?
Dylan: Uh oh, you're on to me Ã‚– she's definitely an unfair advantage.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Dylan: My bathroom shower is the source of all creativity.
Q: Do you intend to credit it someday in your games or on your website? Or perhaps a game involving the shower?
Dylan: The shower is holding all the cards, so we'll have to wait and see what it demands.
Q: Its own game! Or so I've been told by the voices. Sofa King Cool was obviously influenced by Pong and probably table hockey. What about the 'sofa' aspect though?
Dylan: Sofa King Cool is the spiritual sequel to a game my
sister and I did called Dynamo. A good friend of mine came up with the
new name and the game was rebuilt in a theme to match. Try saying the
name out loud a few times to get the definitive review of it.
Q: (.............................. !) Oh, I did realize that
earlier, of course. Yes. Anyway. Riders on the Board does have a
fascinating control approach. How did you come up with this one?
Dylan: It was inspired by Pooning in the novel "Snow Crash", but
it started out much more complex. The first interface was a keyboard
and mouse setup designed for stunts on a physics model (instead of the
usual pre-made animation approach). Towards the end of the week it
became clear that the fun was all in the spring-harpoon. Simplifying
around that made the game much better - and you can now play it
one-handed. I'll return to the stunt idea sometime though.
Q: The games you're creating are supposed to be prototypes. Which
means that you release them, evaluate the feedback and improve the
concept in the next version. If you look further down the road, are
there plans for commercial games some time in the future?
Dylan: Being able to dedicate all my time to BestGameEver.com
would kick an unbelievable amount of ass. So yeah, I'd love to make
money with it. Inventing games is what really drives me though and
that's what I'm focused on. Hopefully the money thing will just
Q: Have you ever participated in some of the indie game contests? (Do you plan to do so this year?)
Dylan: Never have and no plans to yet, but that's a good idea.
Q: How long does it usually take from the idea to the final release?
And more specifically, how much of that time is spent on brainstorming,
designing and coding?
Dylan: Roughly a week :)
For me, brainstorming, designing and coding are all closely tied and
have to happen simultaneously. Games are unique as interactive
entertainment and developing them should be interactive too. Brainstorm
an idea, design the interface and implementation, code it - and most
importantly - see if it added fun. If not, delete it. Repeat.
Q: Well, how many hours of work does a project like Free Parking 2 devour?
Dylan: I never keep very close track of time -> maybe 40 hours.
Q: And what are you doing when you're not busy coding games?
Dylan: Playing fetch with our border collie, gaming with friends, biking, contract programming...
Q: The major design premise behind your games clearly is KISS - keep
it simple, stupid. What are you personal KISS-game favourites?
Dylan: I do try to make sure each game is built upon a simple
and fun core. An iterative approach is the best way to make original
and fun games. To do that, the first step is developing the central
fun. From there you can add all kinds of novel settings and
depth-increasing features (removing the ones that don't increase the
fun). This way the game is fun at all points in development. In Free
Parking 2, you can see depth added that doesn't detract from the
simplicity of the original. Some great games built (I think) as
expansions to fun core gameplay are Diablo, Halo, and Kohan.
Q: What games are you currently planning?
Dylan: For this week->Asymmetric multiplayer has always inspired me...
Q: It's only a few days until the release, but could you give a small insight on how it's going to play nonetheless?
Dylan: Well, I'd rather not say too much since I might change it. Travis really seems to need a bodyguard though, doesn't he?
Q: That certainly would be understandable. And what can we expect after that?
Dylan: My plans don't usually extend very far, but I'm always
rolling a few ideas around. As with the attendant that inspired Free
Parking [full story here -Spun], I'd like to center more games around small things from my own
life. It's a good way to generate a starting premise instead of having
to start with a technology - and at least one person will find it
funny. I'll be building more simulations to increase interactivity
(like the fluid in Travis Must Die 2). I've also got ideas about
training an artificial intelligence and cooperative or competitive
level design as gameplay.
I guess 'Travis vs. The Parking Lot Man' or something along those
lines is likely to be released some day then. Thanks a lot for
answering our questions and good luck with your future projects!
If you'd like to know more about BestGameEver.com I'd suggest heading over to - surprise - BestGameEver.com. Make sure to stress their bandwidth and up the server costs by downloading all their games. Simply stop by their forum if you want to comment on one their releases or even suggest new features.