Sun 23 Aug 2009
We proudly present our new series of “mini” interviews called Dev Intro. The goal is to give some (yet) unknown indie development studios the opportunity to talk about their premiere adventure game titles and their approach to game design in general. After more interviews in the series are published it will be possible to compare different ideas on starting out with your first indie title, as well as thoughts on the struggles connected to being indie.
Our guest for this interview is Oded Sharon of Corbomite Games who have just released the first episode in five of Pizza Morgana – an adaptation of a comic book under the same title. It is about the adventures of a young girl while delivering pizza for a company that also happens to hire monsters, vampires, faeries, and daemons. A demo version is to be found here.
Could you introduce yourself and your company?
Hey, I’m Oded Sharon, CEO of Corbomite Games. I’ve been working as a game developer for several years of various projects, and almost three years ago i decided to start up my own company, and we’ve been focusing on creating episodic adventure games ever since.
we started with making a demo for Zbang, a game based on the most famous Israeli comics, but it wasn’t accepted so well with publishers, so we decided to put it on hold and go and make Pizza Morgana on our own, which we just launched last week.
What do you think of the adventure game genre?
It is my FAVORITE genre, I just love adventure games and play them all the time. I don’t think the genre is dead, quite the opposite, but it is not main stream as it used to be in the 80’s when i was a kid and played all of Sierras quests and Lucasart games. I hope companies like ours, and Telltale games who are paving the way for us (Thanks Telltale!) will bring point and click adventure games to be more mainstream. Heck, we might as well live to see an AAA adventure game in our lifetime.
My favorite game of all times is still Monkey Island 2. I love it so much that I even opened up “Buy a car for Ron Gilbert” website as a joke.
When i became a game developer, I went to game developer conferences and finally had the opportunity to meet the people who made my childhood games. Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, Tim Schafer, Noah Falstien, Hal Barwood, and more… I felt like such a fanboy when i shook Ron Gilbert’s hand for the first time, but i tried to remain professional.
Coming to think of it, they are all Lucasarts alumni and i haven’t met a single Sierra veteran, but i am in touch with Al Lowe sometime.
What is your approach to creating the style and storyline for Pizza Morgana?
Since Pizza Morgana is based on a comic book, we wanted to keep loyal to the distinct style the original comic had. I’m a big fan of hand drawn 2D art, so we decided to make the game 2.5D since i wanted to have the backgrounds drawn by hand. We went with 3D characters because in our early assessments, and our experiences from Zbang we thought that it will be easier to achieve. I think there’s a lot to be said in favor of 2.5D. You get better perspective and you can create new animations easier without needing to draw each frame by hand, which is something very important when you’re thinking about making an episodic adventure game.
The characters will look better in Episode 2, that’s something i can assure, as we have a new head of the graphics department who is just a brilliant artist and he recently join the team.
How much of the game’s content is an adaptation of the graphic novel?
We basically take the original story, and stretch is to extend the game play. Episode 1, is based on the first ten pages of the comics, and If you read through them, you finish it in about 10 minutes. We were aiming for a 2 hour game, and in fact if you bother listening to the conversatoins and play the game on hard mode when you first play it (as any self respecting hard code adventure gamer should) it is about 2 hour game. But if you’re an avid adventure gamer, play the game on easy mode, and skip all the dialogs, yeah – it’s shorter.
I’m always baffled on why games are measured in length, but that’s a whole different topic.
What is your approach to creating the gameplay for Pizza Morgana?
Pizza Morgana was created to appeal to both adventure games, and casual gamers. Most casual gamers who did try it liked it, and we are trying to distribute it in as many casual portals as we can, as such, it might be too easy for adventure games, but that’s why we added the “Hard Mode” to the game itself. We are using an very intuitive interface where you do actions with left mouse button and change them with the right mouse button, but we also choose the default one for you and switch between them when the action changes, so if you only have one mouse button (like on a mac) you can play it just by left clicking.
When we write the characters and the story flow of the game, my philosophy is that you, as the player, are NOT the character you’re playing, but you’re merely guiding them in their world, and that they do have a mind of their own, but they’d often do what you ask them to. Something they don’t. That’s why you’d hear them say stuff like “I can’t use these two items together”…
Also – Comedy, is one of the most important aspects of all of my creations, i try to make the games as funny as i can. For example, there are a whole bunch of jokes in the dialog between Abbie and The Watcher, when you’re trying to fill out the forms.
What can we expect in future episodes?
A whole lot of wacky fantasy play and comedy all around, in episode 2 we visit the watcher’s headquarters, where you actually get to play the watcher who were bothering Abbie and Jackie in the magical forest while he was to go through a maze of bureaucracy before he can talk to the head watcher to report on his actions with Pizza Morgana. Meanwhile, Jackie finds herself in “The Mobious Worm” a magical transportation system that bend the laws of the Magic-Time-Continuum, this gives us the opportunity to make some very creative puzzles.
Episode 3 will take place in the desert, where there is a no magic zone in certain areas, and magical creatures cannot stay there for long, so there will be a bunch of interesting puzzles there. We’re still designing Episodes 4 and 5 but they will generally follow the original storyline of the book.
What does being indie mean to you?
Well, for starters, it means my life as a game developer is harder. I often find that I have to do everything myself. I am the director, lead programmer, game designer and I have to deal with art, backgrounds, music, sounds design, PR and marketing, and I even make coffee for my team mates who come work here in my house. We don’t even have an office, we all have laptops and we just meet at coffeeshops or open up a big table in my living room and just work. There have been a whole bunch of people working on this game, and most of them did it for free, so its tough, especially when people’s landlords come and want them to pay rent. Many of my teammates have boring day jobs, or other freelance jobs just to keep going, so we’re really hoping to get people liking the game and buying a copy.
But, it also means we have full creative freedom to make our games whatever we think is right, to make our own choices, and our own mistakes, and we don’t have to abide by any publisher’s demands to change certain aspects of our games. I’m hearing horror stories from fellow gamedevs who are also Indy but also work for publishers, and it’s a complete different experience to work for someone else than yourself.
I think with all the hardships, being Indy is great, and that it is something any aspiring game developer should consider, and not to give up easily.