During our recent indie event at Game City , GC Editor, Patrick Waring had the opportunity to catch up with Louis Roots from SK Games to discuss being different, making prototypes, and their latest creation, Gun Dash!
What’s it been like for you working in the Perth Gaming Industry?
Louis: Uh, what Perth industry? Ha! It’s been great, the community’s been good. We obviously do different stuff, so it’s not like we’re competing with anyone, so it’s really nice to be a company that can be really friendly with all the community… Which I hope we get across.
Could you tell our readers how you first got involved with game development?
Louis: I did a university degree, which had, uh, varying degrees of success. Then went to Europe and worked in a mobile development company. Did some great stuff over there, but just really wanted to bring it back to Perth. Really wanted to start a company and make something happen in Perth.
Do you feel like Perth is a better starting place for those up and coming as there isn’t such a community here as there is in other parts of the world?
Louis: Yeah. It’s either like, no one’s done it before so it’s either gonna succeed really well or it’s gonna fail like everyone else. So, I thought I’d find out for myself.
It seems that every event we go to where SK Games has been showcasing, that you guys always try to bring something different along, and today is no exception. Could you please tell our readers about the inspiration behind your latest game, Gun Dash?
Louis: Louis: We prototype all the time. We do prototypes every other day, really. Every time we’re not doing something else, we’re doing prototypes. One of them happened to be Gun Dash. It was kind of a take on the Super Meat Boy-ish platformer. We decided to do the race thing and to have it multiplayer because we wanted a really strong multiplayer element, and then we just came up with some really good controls for it that we hope feel intuitive, and anyone could just walk up and play. Or at least with only little bit of time needed to figure it out.
Yeah, it did take me a while to figure out that you needed to shoot backwards to go forwards!
Louis: Hence short rounds. You can lose a round and it doesn’t really matter, and next round you know what you’re doing.
For those who haven’t played Gun Dash, could you tell us what it’s about?
Louis: Plotwise, not much. It’s just four characters who start at one end of the map, and you go the other as fast as possible. We have the whole map on screen at once, and as such, the physical cabinet came out of necessity.
We needed to have a big enough screen (we had to go with projection) to have everything on screen without it being tiny. Then we wanted the two joysticks, and so, everything came out of figuring out the best way to do things. Maybe a trip to IKEA, then a trip to the tip, and then all of sudden, we have everything we need! It comes out of constant iteration, and a constant, ‘what would be best for this?’ That’s really what’s at the core of our development cycle; ‘What is the best way to experience this type of game?’
Gun Dash, like some of the other games you’ve showcased, they’re not really your average in the lounge room playing games, but they are party games. So, what’s your intended market?
Louis: We’re hoping that we can get hold of some local venues and do some custom stuff just for them, and then hopefully they will pay us for that. [laughs] So we’re aiming more at the venue market than individuals.
So for events at pubs and bars, that sort of stuff?
Louis: Yeah. We can do one-night hire stuff for stuff like Gun Dash, or if there’s a bar that wants it for a number of months, we can make something that fits with them, something that’s a lot easier to set up, all that kind of stuff
I’ve seen Gun Dash, I saw an octopus game last week, and a few months ago I saw another game you guys have where it’s just flippers in a pinball kinda game. You seem to have a lot going on! Are there any projects coming up that you guys have in the works?
Louis: Yeah, over Christmas the office is getting a bit empty now and again, different people going on holidays at different times. The slow Christmas project is making very small games in milk crates that we can take to markets and festivals and places that we can throw around. Try and get them out to a different audience as well. A lot of these places have very low seating, so replacing a table with a milk crate with a minimal amount of buttons and a tiny screen in there. Easy, done.
It certainly appears that you guys have some really unusual designs. The octopus game had a table with a big screen in the middle of it, and you hit foot pedals to make the tentacles hit things, and Gun Dash is just a couple of control sticks and a projection screen.
Where do you guys get your ideas for how these units are put together?
Louis: It really comes out of the game design, and goes part and parcel with that. The “What’s the best way to experience this?” theme comes into it a little bit. With Gun Dash, we went for the whole cowboy theme, so we went with palette wood, and had to darken it and make it all look nice, so that was a really visual thing for the boxes.
With the octopus game, it’s a loose theme because we’re not entirely sure what we’re gonna do with that one, whether we’re going to change the controls or mix it up a bit. But yeah, the idea for the controls and everything that really comes out of, “what’s a crazy way to play this game?” or “What can’t you get from a controller and a keyboard?”. Essentially, what can we bring to the table that is completely different.
What advice would you offer to anyone starting in the indie games scene?
Louis: Make prototypes. Make anything! Make small games with single elements and go for it. The more you do it, you do game jams, you make stuff with friends, the more you do it, the better you get. The more you can show, the better people know you, all that kind of stuff. It all comes from just making games.
2013’s been a pretty big year in gaming, what’s been your favourite?
Louis: I’ve really been following the little games. All the stuff that I really should be checking out, because I don’t really have time to check out the big games. Kentucky Route Zero, that was really great. I love these little games that take your perceptions and change it. It’s kind of in a way what we’re trying to do with arcade games.
Do you feel that because you’re an indie dev, you’re more drawn to the smaller games?
Louis: I’ve developed a loathing for the bigger stuff. I really have a hard time with F2P stuff from working in the industry. The bigger games in general, I don’t see the point when there are so many great indie games. Even just lower development cost games, not just arty indie games. There’s so much more enjoyable titles out there, and people just seek CoD, you know?