Interview with Deadly Serious Media about their new game “ABE”

 

ABE is my first major game. A game full of things I never thought I’d be able to do myself, at least not for another year or so.

One day I got laid off from work; well not really laid off, but my company laid off all but 15 people and demoted those 15 to a lower pay and longer hours. I was one of those 15. I have a wife and 2 kids, so this really disrupted my life and lively hood. I always love games and always heard about the tremendous amount of money to be had in the mobile market. So, being tired of living my life at the whim of a company only worried about their bottom line (like most companies), I announced to my wife in a triumphant declaration, “I’m going to make mobile games!” She didn’t seem happy so I added rather cautiously, “in my spare time, early morning, so I can keep my paycheck and not take any time away from you and the kids”. She was okay with this. :)

It started with a neat little powerhouse called GameSalad. For those unfamiliar with it; GameSalad is an easy to use, drag and drop, mobile game development program. It’s backed by great support and a pretty tremendous community. I started using it around January of this year and didn’t bother reading any of the materials (silly me). What makes GameSalad such a great starting point, for those unfamiliar with coding, is the available templates. These are fully functional games, or game mechanics, built in GameSalad, and many are free. Since I already have a strong artistic background and a degree in animation this set up felt perfect for me.

I built my first two small games (not great games) rather quickly using these templates and learned plenty along the way, but I stumbled in the following months as my knowledge was limited due to my own fault for not actually watching the tutorial videos. I continued to make mistake after mistake, bouncing back and fourth in the forums for answers all the while no realizing what I’d been learning the whole time. Now, even though I was not an app zillionaire yet, something funny happened; I stopped caring so much about the money and really just wanted to make an awesome game! It became this obsession, and my wife desperately wanted me to talk about something else.

I entered a competition on the GameSalad forums and made a fun little space game in a week. It worked okay but was full of bugs. Since I knew what would break it I was able to play around them to present the game as what it was intended to be and ended up taking second place! I was in shock! I pulled off something I wasn’t sure I could do. I realized I had learned a fair amount about working with GameSalad.

Shortly after a bigger contest was announced from TOTGB.com and I knew I had to enter. I was full of confidence with my new found skills and waiting anxiously for them to announce the theme. When they did an idea struck me almost instantly! I was so excited, but also worried I couldn’t pull this one off no matter what.

The idea was simple, you control a character that can morph from form to form, ever changing, to get around obstacles and navigate hazards in order to reach a goal. Each form would have it’s benefits and limitations and it would be up to you to figure out the sequence and timing of these forms; Ball, rock, and balloon.

I went to work quickly building the controls before anything else. I had to make sure I could build this before investing time in artwork. To my surprise I built a function control mechanic within a day! I was literally jumping with joy! The design portion would be a bit more difficult because I wanted to make this a publishable game. To me that means a certain level of appeal and quality.

I decided to make ABE a cute little thing because people like cute little things. No real definition because ABE  stood for “Amorphous Biological Entity”. I also decided he needed a personality, then I thought, “How about three?” I settle on making his ball form happy as ever since this form is bouncy and mobile, his rock form should look grumpy and stressed because he’s heavy and immobile, and his balloon form should be happy because he’s light and kinda worried because he’s fragile. It really came together so naturally it’s hard to really describe where it all came from. I can’t pinpoint any sort of inspiration for ABE because he just kinda happened.

Then came the feel of the game. Since ABE is this nondescript thing where would he exist? “A lab!” jumped out at me. I drew my inspiration from Portals here. Grey, sterile, deceptively simple. It all seemed so cohesive, and like the title says, sometimes making a game just happens!

ABE ended up sweeping most of the contest, garnering first place in many categories. This is something I hadn’t anticipated at all! It also came with tons of recognition and praise from others in the community. I knew that I had to take this game to market and make sure I did it right. Normally I’m one to jump the gun when I get excited, but I had a feeling that would work against me on this one. After all, I’d made a great game, just like I wanted to do.

With ABE’s release I feel hopeful that it will do well, and worried it won’t. I guess only time will tell, in the meantime I’ve got a ton of games that I’m sure will be great follow ups to ABE, and may actually be better. I feel like I can finally call my self a game designer! Not bad for just one person in under a year. :)

-Allen

http://deadlyseriousmedia.com

ABE is my first major game. A game full of things I never thought I’d be able to do myself, at least not for another year or so.

One day I got laid off from work; well not really laid off, but my company laid off all but 15 people and demoted those 15 to a lower pay and longer hours. I was one of those 15. I have a wife and 2 kids, so this really disrupted my life and lively hood. I always love games and always heard about the tremendous amount of money to be had in the mobile market. So, being tired of living my life at the whim of a company only worried about their bottom line (like most companies), I announced to my wife in a triumphant declaration, “I’m going to make mobile games!” She didn’t seem happy so I added rather cautiously, “in my spare time, early morning, so I can keep my paycheck and not take any time away from you and the kids”. She was okay with this. :)

It started with a neat little powerhouse called GameSalad. For those unfamiliar with it; GameSalad is an easy to use, drag and drop, mobile game development program. It’s backed by great support and a pretty tremendous community. I started using it around January of this year and didn’t bother reading any of the materials (silly me). What makes GameSalad such a great starting point, for those unfamiliar with coding, is the available templates. These are fully functional games, or game mechanics, built in GameSalad, and many are free. Since I already have a strong artistic background and a degree in animation this set up felt perfect for me.

I built my first two small games (not great games) rather quickly using these templates and learned plenty along the way, but I stumbled in the following months as my knowledge was limited due to my own fault for not actually watching the tutorial videos. I continued to make mistake after mistake, bouncing back and fourth in the forums for answers all the while no realizing what I’d been learning the whole time. Now, even though I was not an app zillionaire yet, something funny happened; I stopped caring so much about the money and really just wanted to make an awesome game! It became this obsession, and my wife desperately wanted me to talk about something else.

I entered a competition on the GameSalad forums and made a fun little space game in a week. It worked okay but was full of bugs. Since I knew what would break it I was able to play around them to present the game as what it was intended to be and ended up taking second place! I was in shock! I pulled off something I wasn’t sure I could do. I realized I had learned a fair amount about working with GameSalad.

Shortly after a bigger contest was announced from TOTGB.com and I knew I had to enter. I was full of confidence with my new found skills and waiting anxiously for them to announce the theme. When they did an idea struck me almost instantly! I was so excited, but also worried I couldn’t pull this one off no matter what.

The idea was simple, you control a character that can morph from form to form, ever changing, to get around obstacles and navigate hazards in order to reach a goal. Each form would have it’s benefits and limitations and it would be up to you to figure out the sequence and timing of these forms; Ball, rock, and balloon.

I went to work quickly building the controls before anything else. I had to make sure I could build this before investing time in artwork. To my surprise I built a function control mechanic within a day! I was literally jumping with joy! The design portion would be a bit more difficult because I wanted to make this a publishable game. To me that means a certain level of appeal and quality.

I decided to make ABE a cute little thing because people like cute little things. No real definition because ABE  stood for “Amorphous Biological Entity”. I also decided he needed a personality, then I thought, “How about three?” I settle on making his ball form happy as ever since this form is bouncy and mobile, his rock form should look grumpy and stressed because he’s heavy and immobile, and his balloon form should be happy because he’s light and kinda worried because he’s fragile. It really came together so naturally it’s hard to really describe where it all came from. I can’t pinpoint any sort of inspiration for ABE because he just kinda happened.

Then came the feel of the game. Since ABE is this nondescript thing where would he exist? “A lab!” jumped out at me. I drew my inspiration from Portals here. Grey, sterile, deceptively simple. It all seemed so cohesive, and like the title says, sometimes making a game just happens!

ABE ended up sweeping most of the contest, garnering first place in many categories. This is something I hadn’t anticipated at all! It also came with tons of recognition and praise from others in the community. I knew that I had to take this game to market and make sure I did it right. Normally I’m one to jump the gun when I get excited, but I had a feeling that would work against me on this one. After all, I’d made a great game, just like I wanted to do.

With ABE’s release I feel hopeful that it will do well, and worried it won’t. I guess only time will tell, in the meantime I’ve got a ton of games that I’m sure will be great follow ups to ABE, and may actually be better. I feel like I can finally call my self a game designer! Not bad for just one person in under a year. :)

-Allen

deadlyseriousmedia.com

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