An Interview with Charles Logan

Charles Logan is truly a man for all seasons. A Turkish-born artist, actor, musician and writer, he started off his art life at the age of 6 with professional classical music training in Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIWAAAAJGQ3YmY1YzcwLWU4NmItNDI2MS1hY2U3LWUzNjcxYzlhMWRmNQwhere he concentrated on violin. At an early age Charles began improving his skills in a variety of art forms such as illustration, concept art, writing and theater. After a time, he began doing graphic design for websites, bands and theater groups.

After moving to the city of Boston, MA to study acting in theater, Charles took part in numerous productions put on by Emerson College and Berklee College of Music. While continuing his noteworthy art career, Charles has made the jump into indie game territory. I was able to sit down with him recently and I got a few questions answered.

 

Me: Tell me about little Charlie. Did he have many art pieces placed on the fridge?

Charles: Condescending?

Me: Placating?

Charles: . . . .

Me: And they’re off!

Charles: Well, I was born into a family of musicians actually. My father’s side came from a musical background and I started professional classical music training at the age of 6, so art and creativity has been a part of my lifestyle for longer than I can remember. I studied music and theater at an educational level but in terms of visual art, I am very much self-taught and I actively seek the knowledge that’s out there.

Me: Do you have a preference between the conceptual and physical art forms?

Charles: Whether it is performance or merely visual art, it doesn’t matter what sort of medium I’m working with so long as there is a creative production I can lead or be a part of.

Me: At what point did you start plying your trade?

Charles: I have always been an on-again-off-again musician really. But besides that I just did regular college kid jobs back in the day.

Me: I see that you’re getting into the world of indie game design. Have you had any issues with jumping into such a less-structured space?

Charles: Despite this being my first dive into the video game scene, I’m not really new to the entertainment industry. I’ve spent the past couple years working with a company here in Boston and I eventually became their Art Director. It is an industry that’s growing, and will continue to grow. It’s better to get on the boat before it heads off into the sunset. Continue reading

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An Interview with Richard Ogden of Red Phantom Games

Richard Ogden - ProfilePhoto- SmallRichard Ogden is no stranger to the gaming industry. Currently working under his studio label Red Phantom Games, he’s had an excellent international release with his debut title, Minutes. Before founding his one-person studio near the end of 2012, Richard had a robust career spanning nearly two decades in the industry. Some of the more notable companies he was with are Sony Computer Entertainment, Codemasters, and Bigbig Studios (which brought us bestsellers such as Pursuit Force and Motorstorm: Arctic Edge).

I was recently given the opportunity to speak with Richard about Minutes and his studio despite a busy schedule. Red Phantom is already in initial working stages for its follow-up effort while just having come off the PlayStation® 4 and PlayStation® Vita release of their minimalist, reaction-based puzzler.

MinutesLogo_Shadows@2xMe: Tell me, Richard, what started you down the path to indie stardom.

Richard: My dad brought home a ZX81 when I was a kid.

Me: I was an Apple II Plus man myself.

Richard: . . . .

Me: Did you have aspirations of becoming a game designer?

Richard: I was at university when I realized that a career in game development was a viable choice. It was the adverts in the back of Edge magazine that did it.

Design like a Pro!

Design like a Pro!

Me: Having had the opportunity to work with some of the companies you have, or have helped to found, what brought you to create your indie studio?

Richard: Just seemed to occur at a natural point. Starting a new, one-man studio fits with that whole movement though really (I) think I’m in the scene as such.

Continue reading

Review – V-Axys’ Album ‘How Does This Work’

Kevin Balke, aka V-Axys, is a Gamer through and through. Born in Germany, he met his co-hort in music crime in 5th grade. Now that he’s all grown up his passion is composing music and shredding his guitar! He founded the  Music Entertainment System with Nesmic, a fellow artist and friend.

How Does This Work, his self proclaimed, ‘first attempt at bleeps and bloops’ comes off as very put together. The mic check, or Chipcheck, as the opening track sells Kevin’s Chiptune ability immediately. Glee, his second track, hits like a slap in the face with fist-pumping ChipPop cheerfulness. Definitely, Glee stands out as the best of the bunch. The happy continues into Space Rocket, where the pace is quick and the harmony is swooping.

Coming into the second-half of the album, the mood hits a wall with Overscale“, which seems like it should’ve been a ballad, but then hit a riff that seemed to repeat itself for a good minute-and-a-half too long. The change continues with track 5, 4×4 Burrito. It’s hard to pin this one down as a ChipDance tune or the Composer trying to get into the gritty and test out how much he can put into a song without completely destroying it. “Burrito” is also the longest song on the album, at 5:21.

Rounding out the album, track 6 Link Cable, gets back to the uplift party from the start. The 6 track album ends on a high note and stays there across two bonus tracks. White Clouds makes you feel like you should be jiving in a pub and Green Pipes, as it’s name sake suggests, relies heavily on Mario 3 sound chip emulation and thumping bass. You’re gonna wish you were searching for Princess in a different castle.

Overall, the album is well worth the $4.05 US price tag. V-Axys has definitely hit the scene running with this first Chip effort. I’m looking forward to listening to Kevin’s sophomore Chiptune effort. I believe he has the talent to put something great into the void.

An Interview with Kevin Balke

I did an Interview, via email, with Kevin Balke, aka V-Axys, about his origins, where he wants to be in his career as Co-Owner of a Gaming Music Label, and what he thinks about the Indie Scene and where it’s going.

Me:     What was your music scene growing up in Germany and what was it that pushed you into composing music?

Kevin:     I always listened to a vast variety of music (Pop, Metal, Classic, IDM, Hardcore, Jazz, Rock, Punk, Hip Hop…) so I can’t tell if there was one big influence. I think the first bands I listened to were Linkin Park and Rammstein along with some more less famous German metal bands. At the same time I heard a lot of T-Rex, 2Pac, Stevie Wonder and Prince because my dad is a fan of them. Through Eminem I really became friends with hip hop, haha, the ‘Slim Shady LP’ was awesome. At the same time I fell in love with the melodies of different pagan and black metal bands, listened to a lot of Ensiferum, Finntroll and stuff. But Blink 182 was great, too. And don’t forget Aphex Twin. And the soundtrack of Legend of Zelda and the Final Fantasy series and Super Mario and Secret of Mana and….You see, I always listened to almost everything. Maybe my biggest influence was good music in general. Continue reading

An Interview with Pete Birch and Alex Blake

Pete ‘Birchy‘ Birch and Alex ‘Not Birchy‘ Blake are Indie Developers working together 200 miles apart in the UK. Their project, Terror Firma,  has been in production for several years now. Currently, they are introducing a new game engine to their project. Recently I asked them to do an Interview with me. After telling me to “Sod off” several times, they finally decided it might be fun.

Me:    Tell me a bit about what you guys are up to?

Birchy:    We are currently developing Terror Firma.  It’s a zombie first-person-shooter set on a UK military base. We are aware that there are currently a huge amount of zombie based games on the market, but we are trying to create one that will stand out from the crowd. Terror Firma is my personal dream game, we want to take all the things we’ve seen and enjoyed in other zombie games then amalgamate them into one entertaining package. This does mean, however, that we must avoid making these elements feel ‘watered-down’.

Alex:    As Birchy has said, we are currently working on a horror shooter. I really like games that excite the senses and evoke emotions, which is what we are trying to do here.

Me:    What’s your take on being a Game Developer?

Birchy:    There are numerous benefits to being an indie game developer. Not having to answer to anyone and setting your own deadlines can certainly be liberating. The downside to having this freedom is the nagging thought that time not spent working on your project just pushes the release date further back. I would say that ultimately, the greatest thing about creating indie games is having the freedom to work true to your vision.

Alex:    I used to think game development was like a mysterious dark art. I remember playing games when I was a kid and I would marvel at how it worked. Now I know that there’s so much more to it than the player sees. You have to be very opened minded when creating games and be aware of the limitations of yourself and your computer. Continue reading

An Interview with Alex Probst

Alexander Probst has been in the Newspaper Industry doing every thing from Art Director to Graphic Editor to a straight-up Designer. What Alex has realized about his awesome career garnering him handfuls of awards from the Society for News Design is that he loves creating games.

Me:    I need some good ideas for a new game project. What can you tell me about any of your projects?

Alex:    I have lot’s of ideas for different games, from simple puzzle games, to MMO’s, to FPS’s. I’m working on ‘Colorino‘, a simple addictive puzzle game (Candy Crush-like mechanics). We are trying to make a fun game for people to play while waiting in line or at the toilet. Something nice, challenging and fun.

Me:    You had me at “gaming on the toilet”.

Alex:    It’s my firstborn, my hopes and dreams of becoming a full time game designer. And we’re also working on another game called “New Trino Trips” that will (hopefully) come out sometime in 2014.

Me:    So, what got you into this crazy Indie Scene, anyway?

Alex:    Desperation! I’ve been playing games as long as I can remember and I’ve been a Newspaper Designer for 20 years. I’m really sick of it so I decided to start doing games in hopes to change profession.

Me:    It’s never too late to get in to the Indie Dev Scene, what with all the game building software out there. Do you think the ease of access into Game Developing will affect the Scene or its occupants in any way?

Alex:    It’s a double edged sword, good to have more and more people doing games and contributing to the overall market and ideas, but the bad side is that the market is getting more saturated. It becomes harder to stand out, even with a good game. Continue reading

An Interview with Dragon Slayer Studio

Dragon Slayer Studio is a young Indie Team founded in early 2013 in Italy. It’s something that the three co-founders, Fabio Cadario, Johnny Picciafuochi and Simone Verde, always wanted to do. With the experience matured in the game industry, the time had finally come. The name is a reminiscence of their past as gamers, when the youngers founded an Italian Starcraft clan that reached the top 3 national rankings. As of today, DS Studio is no longer a 100% Italian team, since Manon Dreijer, their pixel artist, from Netherlands and Marc Greenwood, sound designer, from England joined them for their first project. Dragon Slayer are currently focusing on developing games for the mobile market, both for Android and iOs.

Me:    Hey guys! I’m looking forward to getting inside your heads. Literally. No, not literally. Tell me, what got you into Video Games to begin with?

Simone:    My first contact with video games was when I was pretty young. Back then, I always loved to play Creatures for C64 and Flashback for Amiga, but should I choose one of my favorite in my gaming past I would definitely go for Final Fantasy VII. That game was the beginning of my love for the RPG genre. Nowadays, I don’t have a specific preference, it may be related to the fact that I don’t have much time for playing, now that we are so focused on our game.

Me:    I’ve seen Rune Lords and I’m getting amped just thinking about it. It seems to be a Virtual Card Game with RPG and Strategy elements. Would you mind telling me more about it?

DS Studio:    Rune Lords is a card game with a new combat system, designed with the mobile audience in mind. It counts over 60 cards divided among six elements. You have to build a team of five cards, with a maximum of one card per element. Then you can fight your opponents by drawing runes and custom gestures on the screen to activate the card’s skill. The basic concept is kinda similar to the other card games you can find in the store charts; collect, level up and evolve your cards.

What makes Rune Lords really stand out, is that you actually have to do something during your match, victory is not just one click away. You need strategical thinking to prepare a good card setup and the ability to use the right skills and as many of them as you’re able in the ten seconds allowed to draw the runes.

Me:    Sounds like your studio did their research. The interactivity is crucial, in my humble opinion. I know personally, I would rather have to perform actions in-game as opposed to just drawing, placing and waiting. What are some of the other features of Rune Lords?

DS Studio:    The game will allow both a single player and a multiplayer mode. In the single player part the player will be able to move freely on a map. He can choose to follow the story going from a location to another, test himself against random encounter or scripted events while gathering currency, cards and items to improve his team.

The multiplayer will consist of a PvP Arena with monthly rewards. Each match will be live and each turn will be synchronous, so both players can plan their choices and their actions will be executed simultaneously. Continue reading

An Interview with Carmine Fantarella

Carmine “The Game Fanatic” Fantarella co-founded Games of Edan, an independent game studio in Adelaide, South Australia. He’s currently working on Zygote, a first-person action/adventure game. It’s alpha release is scheduled for 2014. He, and his wife Gillian, are also raising a 2 year old son, Edan, and project managing the build on their new home.

Me:    Tell us about your gaming habits growing up. What did you really get into?

Carmine:    I’ve always loved playing and making games, both computer and board games. I spent my early childhood playing board-games like Monopoly and Game of Life with my cousins; or computer-games like Impossible Mission and Spy Hunter on my Commodore 64. I’d visit the local corner-store to play coin-op games like Space Invaders, Asteroids and 1942. And I also loved my electronic handheld “Game & Watch” Nintendo games like Donkey Kong, Manhole and Octopus.

I’ve always entertained myself with game-making, whether it be board-games or computer games. I remember first experimenting with the BASIC programming language to create text-based adventures on the C64. I found programming especially fascinating. Simply put, I enjoy the freedom of creating worlds, developing stories and playing games. Games combine many artistic and technical disciplines under a common goal, each of which I enjoy in their own right. So for me, games are a natural fit.

Nowadays, my parental responsibilities and game Dev aspirations leave me little time to dedicate to marathon gaming sessions. So I tend to watch Streamers or Let’s Players if I have a free moment. I’ll occasionally mix it up by playing either of my two favorite genres; single-player FPS or Racer Sim.

Me:    What has been the driving force that brought you here?

Carmine:    My parents and close family members. All excellent role-models. My grandparents and parents took a huge risk about 50 years ago when they migrated from Italy to Australia; pursuing a better future for their families. They directly altered their lineage of stereotypical land-farming peasants and their irrevocable commitment has consequently offered me untold opportunities.

My wife followed a similar life-changing experience migrating from England 15 years ago. We married a few years later and recently had our first child. We’re now relishing our new roles as parents. Her unwavering support and friendship has given me the strength and courage to follow our shared aspirations. I am continually inspired by their resilience, love and support for which I’m forever grateful.

Me:    Zygote. What is it, and where can I find one?

Carmine:    Zygote is a First Person Adventure where the player discovers an
emerging war and must support the Kinship resistance against the advancing Patogens. By exploring the world and it’s characters, the player discovers the rationale for their existence to ultimately answer the question “Why am I here?”. Zygote’s design is influenced by the FPS/RPG/Sci-Fi genres and Surrealism movement. It’s combination of hand-designed and procedural levels create a unique player experience. Continue reading

An Interview with Karl R Olson aka Ultraklystron

He’s been called many things. Artist. Otaku. Rapper. Nerd. His given name is Karl R. Olson, but his Final Form is the magnanimous ULTRAKLYSTRON. By day he’s a mild mannered software engineer, but by night he’s a Nerdcore Mic Controller spitting his machinations at all the haters. J/K!

Me:    Coming up in the world, what was it like being Karl as a kid just listening to music?

Karl:    I recall really liking “Daughter” by Pearl Jam when I was in 3rd grade. A friend of my mom bought a copy of Vs on cassette to go along with my first walkman, and in general, that cassette was in rotation a lot in that Walkman. The first track I memorized was probably “Fu-Gee-La” by the Fugees. Listening back on revision4920, my flow was definitely influenced by equal measures of Wyclef Jean and Lauren Hill.

Me:    What got you into the Indie Music Scene?

Karl:    Probably listening to Seattle-area grunge bands as a kid. I’m definitely a 90’s kid in spite of having been born in the 80’s, and so the DIY aspect that permeated Seattle both in music and culture in general definitely made me feel like I could do it on my own.

Me:   
When you’re not at your 9-5, how much time do you spend in the music production process?

Karl:    Oddly enough, I happened to record vocals for 6 new songs before this interview, but it was an usual stroke of luck. I’ve been exhausted from my day job, and I just don’t often have the time or energy to record vocals when I get home. I think now that I have an Android device again and that Caustic 3 (my favorite android production software) is out I’ll at least be able to do some more instrumental stuff. Maybe I’ll make a Music For Tablets 2 sometime soon. Also, this little productive streak could be the start of another binge of writing. Maybe I’m finally wound up enough about work problems I have angst that I can put into music. I mean, it’s lame, privileged, middle-aged angst, but angst.

Me:    What’s something that you’ve become really intense about when you’re working?

Karl:    As a musician? Probably live performance. It’s really fun, and I’ve become good enough at it that I always feel like the crowd is having fun too. A close second is completing new music. There is a real sense of accomplishment when I finish an album, especially the Nerdcore albums as they’re usually the culmination of ideas I may have had since the previous Nerdcore album I’ve done.

Me:    Would you drop your day job?

Karl:    If I could support myself reliably with it without dramatically changing my style and subject matter, I would. I really love producing for other people as well, so I do wish I could do that more often as well. Which I think I could if this were my main career. Continue reading

An Interview with Adam Carr

Adam Carr  is a creative genius. He even has a degree in Creative Writing and is not afraid to roll it up and use it as a weapon. That was your first warning! Adam is the brains behind 2 Hit Studios, where he and his brother, Matt Carr, are working on Fatal Theory (which is an over-the-top side scrolling beat-’em-up).

Me:    First off, why this Industry?

Adam:    I like that I can justify playing games as “market research”. (ha ha) But really, what I love is crafting these whole little worlds for people to lose themselves in. You get to pull all these different disciplines together — writing, art, game mechanics, sound and music — and turn it into this whole cool experience.

Me:    What got you into Gaming?

Adam:    I can’t remember what came first, the Sega Megadrive or the shareware floppy disks you had to battle command line to get running. I was maybe 5 when I played my first game, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Gunstar Heroes. That masterpiece is the Holy Grail of gaming. I swear to god, Matt and I have beaten that thing a hundred times and it never gets old. We still play it! But lately I’ve been playing the hell out of Spelunky, a masterpiece of a different kind.

Me:    So you became a Developer and started 2 Hit Studios. Has your goal been realized to the point that you had initial planned out?

Adam:    The fact is it’s not just making games all day. You also have to run the business side of things. That means accounting, marketing, actively pursuing an audience. We were pretty naive in the first place, thinking “yeah if we just make this sweet game maybe we can make money and stuff!” (haha) Nope. All that business junk is super important but so far removed from our skillset that it’s been kind of a crash course to learn it all. We’ve still got a ways to go.

Me:    Who inspires you the most?

Adam:    Honestly? Anybody who quits their soul crushing desk job to follow their passion. Even if it tanks and leads them to ruin, they gave it a shot and that’s guts.

Me:    How much of  you do you put into your work?

Adam:    Hopefully everything. We freelance Web Dev to pay the bills and it can get pretty lame playing the professional all the time, so our games are our space to cut loose and be ourselves. The result is this bizarre mix of just whatever we think is cool at the time. Writing the dialogue for Fatal Theory is the most fun I’ve had on a writing project, because the humor tows this line between half-way clever and all-the-way dumb, and I get to make every character as ridiculous as I want. Continue reading