I’m falling! Falling I said! Down and down, deeper and uglier I fall. I may fall with no style, but to fall with grace is an art. To turn that art into a game is also a questionable route for any studio to take, but one independent studio did it and to critical acclaim. They took this boring hobby and made it into an award winning title full of kissing, hugging and praising your fans.
So to find out more about how and why you would do such a thing, and what life is like in the indie world I settled down to a nice chat with Ichiro Lambe of Dejobaan Games and fell into a conversation…
M: First of all, can you explain a little about who you are and what you do at Dejobaan Games?
M: The next question is one we ask every person we talk to here at Midlife Gamer, what is your favourite biscuit/cookie and what is your favourite beverage ?
IL: Waaaaaaait a second — I wasn’t finished with the first question! I’m Ichiro Lambe, Founder and President of Dejobaan Games. Since the team’s a small one, I tend to do lots of different things, from prototyping to company strategy to janitorial work. (I’m also the one who gets our interns coffee.)
Aha! You said “biscuit.” And with a “u” in “favourite.” That means that you’re from the other side of the pond, you are. Last time I interviewed with a British journalist, he accused me of being late for World War II. Which was true, since I was born in 1974. But he was a nice guy, so it’s okay.
I like any cookie that was borne of sweat and tears (because a little salt helps bring out the flavor). And my favorite beverage has to be ginger beer.
M: So how did Dejobaan Games start out and why did you choose to go the indie route?
IL: I’ve always worked for smaller studios, and that made sense going forward with Dejobaan. It was manageable, and indies are quick, and can turn on a dime.
M: What are the main benefits of being an independent company and what are the disadvantages of working away from the bigger publishers?
IL: I CAN:
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1.) Fall back on a team of two dozen excellent, competent 3D artists if I need to create something awesomely epic. (We have one excellent, competent 3D artist.)
2.) Take a vacation. Ever.
M: You’re currently working on your 14th title, can you tell us a bit more about it and how work is progressing?
IL: In a nutshell, ooo! ooO! oOO! OOO! is a game where you grow worlds from your MP3 library, fly and fight through them, then tweak their genomes and watch them mutate. It’s been both awesome and difficult — I’ve been mired in the whole algorithmic content generation aspect of it, and am slowly working my way out towards supposedly simple things such as aiming bullets at the player. I find that I’m no longer bright enough to solve the system of equations needed to angle enemy fire to lead the player, and fear that, perhaps, someone will rescind my degree.
M: What do you learn from title to title in terms of game creation?
IL: Organization, planning, and retrospection are key! As long as we look back and consider where we’ve been and look at where we’re going on a project, we do well. Sometimes we forget. That’s a disaster.
M: Your most prominent title ..AaaaaAAaaaAAAAAAA! A Reckless Disregard For Gravity, was released last year to critical acclaim. Is there now any extra pressure on you as a studio or is the pressure to gain awareness of your work now off?
IL: We did well with Aaaaa!, and I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. :) People now look at us and expect us to do interesting, ridiculous things. The pressure’s on for that reason, but it’s also nice to point at Aaaaa! and say “Hey, we’ve done that. We can create cool games. Here’s what’s next…”
M: Your main platform at the moment is mainly PC, is this a restrictive option for you? Do you think your titles would suit PSN or XBLA?
IL: Sure; gameplay-wise, I think what we’re doing is appropriate for PSN/XLBA. However, yesterday, I had drinks with a colleague who told me that he can’t use the term “Masturbation” as a menu option in his console game. On the other hand, we could name a game “Express Pedophile Circus Exxxtravaganza” without too much problem. I don’t think we’d actually make that game, but a more relaxed environment means greater creative freedom.
M: The title Dejobaan’s Easiest Video Game Ever, was released for free within the confines of your fan club. Could you explain a little more about the game…
IL: Dejobaan’s Easiest — a midway step between Aaaaa! and Ooo!. It’s a fun experiment that was actually less successful than I’d hoped. One of its purposes was to see if we could make a convincing level procedurally. I think we did, but we basically did that within the framework of Aaaaa!, and that wasn’t enough to excite people. With our next step, we’re going to show how that method of generation makes for truly awesome worlds.
M: …and why is your community so important?
IL: Community’s all we have. Right now, during development, they’re the ones that tell us when we’re doing something right, or when we’re not going far enough. We got a decent enough response on the last Fan Club game, but the folks who played it gave us feedback. The big message for us?
~ We need to go further! We need to do things that are more awesome! We can’t screw Ooo! up by playing it safe! ~
M: What do you want to achieve with your games? DEVGE and AaaaaAAaaAAAAA! are both very affectionate titles, is that something you thought was missing from the gaming scene?
IL: Our mantra is to make people play our games and scream, “HOLY JESUS JUMPBALL! I CAN’T BELIEVE I PLAYED THAT! I HAVE TO TELL MY FRIENDS!”. I think we do that best when our character shows through. In fact, I think all studios do best when that happens. Otherwise, you get these really stodgy, by-the-numbers games.
M: The indie scene overall is seeing a great boost in exposure thanks to Steam, XBLA and PSN. Is now the time to take risks with titles? Or is the market still a little closed in terms of getting your product on to these platforms?
IL: I’d say it’s always time to take risks. But I fall into the category of developers who believe that a calculated risk isn’t really a risk at all. If you write out a phenomenal, weird, wonderful design for your next game, and you can explain to someone else how all the strange, unusual pieces will delight gamers, I’d say that’s actually just playing things insanely smart. And publishers such as Steam and OnLive have been really supportive of those efforts.
M: Finally, what can we expect next from Dejobaan Games?
IL: My personal goal with Ooo! is to delight gamers the same way arcades did in the early-to-mid ’80s. Gamers back then would step into an arcade, be completely wowed by everything new, and spend hours exploring it.