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Полярный Мишка, октябрь 2010

"Jolly Rover"

An interview with Andrew Goulding

We've got answers to our questions from Andrew Goulding, creator of Brawsome company and developer of "Jolly Rover" - a dogs-pirates adventure.

Hi, Andrew! First of all tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I was born in 1980 and I live in Mitcham (Victoria, Australia) with my wife Bridey and two children: my daughter Emma is about 2 years old and my sun Daniel is 5 months old. I've been in the games industry for about 7 years now, having worked as a tester, programmer and assistant producer at Torus, Codemasters, Tantalus and Krome. While at Krome I started doing contract programming in a genre I loved, the point and click adventure. Then I've got into independent game development.

With your own large studio and so on?
My studio is a small room near the garage that's lovingly called 'the dungeon,' being that it's dark, cold, and under the house. It was probably mostly used for storage, and it's really very cold! I normally wear a coat and gloves for half the day before my small heater warms it up. It is good in some respects, 2 small children can tend to get noisy, so it's good to shut myself down there to get work done, and it's also good to have a home-work disconnect, which is important to have when working from home, and it's good when the temperature reaches above 40 degrees Celsius in summer. Though sometimes it can be difficult to go down there, especially on cold days. Normally when I'm working from home I spend a good 10 hours a day down there, only coming up for coffee, lunch and the inevitable bathroom break.

When and why did you decide to work for yourself?
I always wanted to design and develop original games, particularly point and click adventures. When I first got into the games industry, I thought that's what you did, you made new games. But over 5 years and 4 companies, the reality seemed to consist of working with existing licenses or porting between platforms. At every games company I've worked for I've always pitched ideas for games in the hope that one of them would get made. None of them were picked up, which made me question my worth as a designer, and the quality of my ideas. During this time I was loosely involved in the indie adventure game community, and through that started chatting with a fellow adventure game developer, Dave Gilbert (Wadjet Eye Games). We wanted to collaborate on a title, but it never quite got started. In 2008 I read on his blog that he had just gotten a deal with PlayFirst to make an original point and click adventure game. I asked him if he needed a programmer and he said yes, but could only afford to pay me 20 hours a week. At the time I was working at Krome as an assistant producer, so to make it work I would get up just before 5am, work for 3 hours, then jump on the train to Krome for a full day. On the weekend I would put in 5 hours. Including travel time this was just over 70 hours a week. I did this for 3 months, before realising I was mad, and decided to make the move to doing the adventure game work full time, picking up other contracting jobs on the side surprisingly fast. Since then life has not been without its ups and downs, but it has generally been awesome. One thing that can get difficult is the long delay between payments, sometimes up to 2 months! So, you need to be able to budget well; my wife helps with that.

What does the name of your company mean?
I initially wanted to call the company "Awesome Games", but it was too generic, and Google showed it was already taken. So, I started playing around with lots of different words. Eventually I created a word that consisted 'awesome' and 'braw', which is a Scottish word meaning something "great" or "good". Google search showed no entries for "Brawsome" so I felt it was a winner.

From how many people does you company "Brawsome" consist? Are you alone?
Well my wife handles the finances, but I do everything else.

Why do you do adventure games?
It definitely is my favourite genre - I like classic point-and-click adventure games. It's no secret that I'm a fan of the Monkey Island series, though I should say that when I say "Monkey Island series" I'm talking about Monkey Island 1 and 2. Though I might cop some flak for this, it's my opinion that the series got weaker with each sequel after " LeChuck's Revenge". I feel similarly about "Space Quest" past episode 5, "Quest for Glory" past episode 4 and "King's Quest" past episode 5. "Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis", "Flight of the Amazon Queen", "Day of the Tentacle", "Sam and Max" - there's something about the games that were created in that period that were great and they were made with such a humour and personality you just can't fall in love with them and the genre itself.

Why have you decided to make a pirate adventure?
I wanted to make a pirate adventure game for years, probably not long after I played "The Secret of Monkey Island". I've had hundreds of other ideas for games, but the adventure game ideas have always been close to my heart. When the Nintendo DS came out in 2004, I thought it would be great for a point and click adventure. My first idea for a pirate adventure for the DS was so called "Just Another Pirate Adventure", as a parody of pirates and point and click adventures. I worked as a programmer for four different games companies in the space of four years, and at each company I tried to push the design for this adventure with no luck. Later, in 2008 these ideas just got were adapted and transformed. By the way a pirate theme occasionally became very popular at this mere time - with the exit of "Pirates of Carribean" movies, with the remakes of "Monkey Island" first parts and with the exit of "Tales of Monkey Island".

Pirate adventure - OK, I got it. But why with the dogs?
Well, I didn't want to get a copy of "The Secret of Monkey Island"! Originally I tried to design a game with humans but they just felt too generic. I was remarking to a friend that Sam and Max had such fantastic silhouettes, you'd recognise them anywhere, and then it struck me, why not make the characters real dogs?! Each dog with their own unique silhouette, breed and personality. And of course I wanted it to be a comedy, and not take itself too seriously, and felt dogs just added to the silliness of it all. By the way I just love dogs like pets.

Do you have dogs at home?
No, we have two small kids! When they get a bit older I think I'd like to get a Schnauzer... or maybe even a couple of little Dachshunds. Named Jolly and Rover.

When did you start to develop a game and how much time did the development take?
The game has been in actual development since August 2009, before this I probably spent about a month designing it and another few weeks developing the prototype, but as I mentioned earlier, I've wanted to make this game since 2004. "Jolly Rover" was released in june 2010 so it took about a year of development.

Were there somebody to help you with the investment? Why doesn't the game have a specific publisher?
I showed a prototype and game description to several major casual games publishers at Game Developers Conference (GDC) in 2009, but while they were happy to distribute the game, they weren't interested in funding it. After then unsuccessfully getting investment from venture capital sources I was close to scrapping the idea, and working on something smaller, when a friend suggested I apply for funding from Film Victoria. To cut a long story short Film Victoria and a melbourne art company by the name of Viskatoons saved the idea from the brink of extinction, by investing in the project, without their support there would not be a "Jolly Rover".

Did they help you with the money or with the work too? How many people worked on "Jolly Rover"?
There were about 15 people all up on "Jolly Rover", including voice actors. Viskatoons invested art into the project, and Lamaic was on contract doing all the audio stuff. All the voice actors were people I found all over the world through a site called voice123.

What did you personally do developing "Jolly Rover"?
Everything that wasn't art or audio. This includes writing, design, production, programming, voice casting & direction, and marketing. Working with voice actors was a special experience. I would have loved to have them all in the same room together recording the dialog, but budget constraints meant we had to work remotely. Each actor recorded their lines from studios in their home, and the voice files were all leveled by Lamaic so they sounded consistent.

What was the most difficult during development: drawing, programming, tying thing together, organizing, ... selling the game?
One of the more difficult things for me was the art side. I'd previously worked with artists that could produce great art from a simple description, but with Viskatoons I had to give a lot more direction, and draw initial sketches of all the backgrounds myself, and I'm no artist!

And what about the most interesting?
I loved working with the voice actors more than I thought, it was a short, but enjoyable part of the project. But the best part for me was writing the dialog, this was easily the favourite part of the project. Much of the dialog was written while I was implementing the scenes due to time constraints.

What was more important during development: financial part or creative one? Were there moments when you wanted do a thing but you couldn't because of pure economic reasons?
We made "Jolly Rover" with a very tight budget, and I squeezed as much as I could out of what we had. I have no doubt that if we had more money and time I could have made a better product, but I feel lucky that I was able to make "Jolly Rover" what it was with what little I had. I would have liked to have had more unique animations for actions, plus I would have liked to have had original music composed, but we only had a budget for stock music. In particular I wish I had a bit more money to record a few more lines after the initial session, it could have benefited from a bit more dialog.

What is your favorite character in the game? Are you a prototype of any character? The protagonist probably?
I like Gaius, and see a lot of myself in him. But I really liked Captain Howell, I would love to do a game just following him and his crew. I think that many of the characters supporting Gaius had stronger personalities than him, but I feel that worked out well.

How are the sales of "Jolly Rover" now, 4 months after a start? How were they during your huge discount? Are you happy with the results and were they enough to make us think we'll see another games from "Brawsome"?
Unfortunately no, the sales of "Jolly Rover" haven't been great. It's been reviewed well and I've gotten mostly positive comments about it, even won Best Australian Game at the Freeplay Independent Games Festival, and I think it's priced right at US$9.99, so I'm not sure what holding sales back. The only thing I could point to is maybe not enough people know about it? I do wish I had a budget for marketing above my own time. So, it may still be a while off till we see a sequel, but I'll do what I can to support it in the meantime.

What are your future plans in games developing? Porting "Jolly Rover" to iPad? Making a sequel? Making an other adventure game? Or may be a game of other genre?
Any game I make will have adventure elements in it, and I do still want to port "Jolly Rover" to the iPad, but a few things have to work out before that can happen. I want to make a sequel to "Jolly Rover", but it has to be done right, so there might be another game in the meantime that hopefully makes enough money to do a proper version of "Jolly Rover 2".

By the way, do you have plans of making a game were the action takes place in Australia? I don't think there a many games like that. Australian nature, kangaroos, koalas... Koalas-pirates?
I do have a design for a primarily Australian based adventure which I've wanted to do for years, but I worry that I won't find the market for it. Unfortunately Australia's gaming population isn't really big enough be financially viable as a target audience, especially for adventure games, so it might be a game I make when I don't have to worry about money, if that day ever comes!

What do you do now?
I'm mostly working on contracts for other people, providing programming and design/production support on a few projects. I'm supporting "Jolly Rover" in my spare time. Recently I've been collaborating on a new original project that I'm going to try and get funded, but that's in its very early stages yet.

Andrew, you do like adventure games. But didn't anybody tell you that the point-and-click adventure genre is dead?
It's not dead, just resting. But seriously, all the time. I joke that I make Jolly Rover through my "dogged determination". Personally, I love the point-and-click adventure, more than any other genre, and the funny thing is I seem to be finding lots of people who share this feeling!

What adventure games recently played you liked most?
I have to say that "Machinarium" was fantastic! I also liked the "Strong Bad's..." from Telltale , and the last few episodes of "Sam and Max season 2". I wish I had time to play more adventure games.

Well, we wish you to have more time to play adventure games and to gladden us by making your own. Good luck and thank you for "Jolly Rover" - an awesome adventure!
Thank you and greetings to all of the Questzone.ru community!


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