~ March 2012 ~
As a former student of game design
myself, I was happy to field a few questions from
Jacob Bowmaster - a student of 3D animation who will be hoping to enter this
What originally inspired
you to become an independent game developer?
I've always believed that if you want something done right you have to do it
yourself! Every concept I've ever tackled has arisen from the fact that I
wasn't satisfied with what currently existed (if it existed at all). That has
been especially true of the wrestling games. We all have passionate opinions
about how things should be, and I'm a pragmatist who does something about it.
I'm not big on whining to other people about what I want from life. I prefer
to take the controller into my own hands...
do you consider your greatest accomplishment as a game developer and why?
The fondest memory I have was when the first boxed product I released landed
on my doorstep. I was holding something in my hands that I had seen through
from start to finish without the help another soul, and it would soon be in
the hands of thousands of others all over the world. I felt like I had
"arrived" - that this was my job now when it had previously only ever been a
What is the reason you chose to develop your games
It has never been a conscious decision so much as the natural state of things.
I'm capable of creating each component, and so I found myself doing as much
within seconds of having an idea. I've been making games holistically for so
long that I have no concept of what the alternative is! I can't imagine
calling up an artist or sound engineer, explaining what I want, waiting for
them to do as I asked, and then rectifying any problems with it. In my world,
that entire process would take place in seconds. Of course, the results aren't
always pretty - but there's something instinctive about my work that makes the
whole greater than the sum of its parts...
the perks and problems with going it alone as a developer?
The main advantage is that you obviously get your own way at all times, which
means you stay faithful to the original vision. That's very important for any
creative individual. I couldn't bear to have a great idea and then watch it
fall by the wayside. A publisher once told me to cut the backstage stuff out
of my wrestling games, which would have been a huge loss! My work wouldn't be
half as interesting if I was in a team. There would be too many compromises.
And as I mentioned, the process is surprisingly quick when you have no one
else to answer to. There are definite downsides though. Critics never fail to
point out that the quality of the work tends to be lower - especially without
dedicated artists such as yourself. On a personal level, I've always envied
the camaraderie of a team or company as well. I'm a solitary individual, but
even I missed having people to share the highs and lows with. A lot of social
interactions stem from your job, so I've had to sacrifice a normal life in a
lot of ways. There are also fewer surprises when you're self-employed because
nothing happens unless you make it happen!
was your goal for your game The You Testament? What did you want to
Again, my main motivation for that project was that it had never been done
before - and wasn't likely to be done by anybody else anytime soon. In those
situations I often find myself asking, "If I don't do this, who will? If not
now, when?" That's the most exciting thing for me, but it's also a huge
responsibility because you're constantly tempting fate. Being different isn't
always seen as a virtue, and you invariably become an antennae that attracts
criticism. Of course, with The You Testament I also got the opportunity
to convey a message. It's not as explicit as some people assume - half of the
gimmicks are there simply to make it function as a coherent gaming experience.
However, as a student of all the world's religions, I am big on the
connections between them and wanted to bring that to the fore...
game had the best reception? Which game caused the most controversy?
I want to say Wrestling MPire 2008, but that got a somewhat lukewarm
reception back in 2008! People seemed to appreciate that more over time once
they realized that nothing else was coming. The wrestling games are also tied
up with how popular the actual sport is, so you have to go along for the ride.
Expectations are very hard to meet - let alone surpass - so I constantly feel
as though I'm disappointing people. Fans create their own game in their heads,
and nothing you do can compete with it. I dread the 24 hours after releasing a
new game - waiting to see whether all the effort was worthwhile or a waste of
time. The most controversial release was definitely The You Testament
again, because it offended absolutely everybody. Cynics instinctively despise
anything remotely spiritual, whereas devout people complained that it wasn't
spiritual in the right way and didn't match their own narrow vision of what
such a game should be. Fairly predictable stuff, but the latter was more
disappointing because it's obvious that the project was a sincere attempt to
bring a spiritual dimension to gaming...
If you could go back and do anything over again, what
would you change?
I'm keenly aware that "everything happens for a reason", so I'm not big on
regrets. You can't hate your past if you love your present. Every little
project I embarked on was a stepping stone to others - in ways that even I
could not foresee. The same goes for the attitude with which I made them. That
passion is what made me jump out of bed every morning and do the work that
needed to be done. It was all part of the story, and my career wouldn't have
been half as eventful without it. It was a fire that burned a lot of people
but also fuelled a lot of things! Although I don't regret the past, I do
reserve the right change my attitude and set a new tone going forward. I have
the opportunity to re-live my career all over again through new technology,
and of course lessons have been learnt that I will benefit from second time
around. Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. It may seem like
you're going round in circles, but you're actually spiralling upwards...
did you distribute and fund your games? Was it effective?
The first games I ever published were through a legitimate 3rd party, which
was all very exciting and is what everybody hopes for - but it didn't satisfy
me creatively. Once the Internet made it viable for people to make their own
arrangements, I jumped at the chance to manufacture my own discs. It added
even more tasks to the workload, but it was worth it to have the games
released as I wanted, when I wanted - and more profitably to boot. Around the
same time, it also became viable to sell software electronically - which was a
major development because there were no manufacturing costs! Profit margins
were higher than they had ever been, so with the backing of a loyal audience I
was able to make a living from something that would otherwise remain a hobby.
And that business model has now evolved into how people download apps, which
is a win-win situation if you can get larger audiences paying lower prices.
I've never been convinced by advertizing because the chances of it being
relevant are pretty small. I'd rather promote my own website than somebody
else's! The best promotion is self-promotion...
What was the
greatest obstacle you had to overcome developing games?
The greatest obstacle has been attempting to run a gaming empire from my
laptop! Home computing and the Internet open up infinite possibilities, but
then once you set off down that road there are certain limitations that you
have to overcome. The independent developer is essentially trying to cram an
entire games studio onto one PC. You constantly need to search out the ideal
software - and the ideal hardware to run it. I'd say the latter is the biggest
hurdle that nobody sees. I created the thousands of animations for
Wrestling MPire 2008 on an installation of 3D Studio MAX that
crashed every 30 minutes! I've lost a lot of work to software errors and
hardware failures. Wrestling MPire Remix was almost lost forever in
2011 due to a virus that came from the fan site, which would have been quite
ironic! You just have to suck it up and do the work all over again. I rarely
abandon a project no matter what happens. Perversely, it often turns out for
the best. Sometimes I've lost an animation or piece of artwork and then
recreated it better than it was before. I figure those setbacks are designed
to test how committed you are to the project. I get tested more than my own
What is your next project and goal?
I'm currently working flat-out to produce mobile gaming's biggest and most
playable wrestling experience. It's a huge undertaking, but I've had a glimpse
of what the finished project will look like and I know it deserves to exist.
It's like I've been given a map to some buried treasure and all that remains
is to walk a thousand miles to get there! I was actually hoping to build up to
it gradually, but I felt compelled to dive in at the deep end and make a big
impact. My first major project for mobile devices will be the best one that
I'm capable of. No preludes or warm-up acts. I constantly feel as though I'm
racing to meet some imaginary deadline! I've literally got enough ideas to
last a lifetime, but there are only so many that you can bring to realization
in the few years that your work is relevant. That would be my only regret -
having an idea for a game that never saw the light of day. It's better to
regret the things you do than the things you don't...
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