Ian Snyder is elsewhere. He is one of eight Student Showcase winners in the 2012 Independent Games Festival. His game The Floor is Jelly has just been released. And now he answers our questions!
1. How long have you been making games?
I've been making games since 2005... I guess that would be nine years now!
2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.
There's often a lot of glorification placed on having ideas, but I don't feel it's at all the important part of the creative process. The most difficult part of creating something isn't coming up with an idea, it's sitting down and finishing it. I honestly don't know where most of my ideas come from, anyway. You could point to a game like e7 as being similar in concept to The Floor is Jelly, but the games are completely different in practice. It's in that process of finishing an idea that one's creative voice begins to truly shine. Anyone could make a game about deformable, gelatinous terrain, but only a few would end up making The Floor is Jelly. It's in the execution of an idea that all of your flaws and shortcomings crash against your goals and ideas and you end up compromising, you end up making something that reflects you.
3. The Floor is Jelly is finally out. Congrats on that! How do you feel about it? What did you do at launch day? Any anecdote or fact you would like to mention? Any favourite feedback so far?
I'm glad to see it out. Really really glad. It's been so rewarding to see it out in the wild and to see people enjoying it. Like - people really, genuinely enjoy the game! It kind of blows my mind! I expected it to release and everyone would play it and immediately see all the flaws I see in it. I imagined they would criticize it for X, or be immediately annoyed with Y. That's not been the case though. Through development of the game, I lost my vision of it as a whole. When you're working on something for two years, it's easy to forget why you started working on it. For a long period, I lost whatever feeling of joy I first had when bouncing around on the game's jelly. Seeing other people experience that has helped me reclaim some of it for myself, I think.
4. You've defined The Floor is Jelly as “an experiential platformer” before. Can you tell us more about this definition?
The game was still very far from done when I described it as such, but I think it holds up pretty well regardless. The game is about the immediate, tactile experience of jelly. Despite whatever mechanics are added to it later, they're always in service of this kinetic sensation. So the game is not about overcoming some challenge so difficult as to be absurd, it's about putting the player in contact with the game central substance. It's about how the music, the visuals, and the experience of play make you feel.
5. The Floor is Jelly has a strong “what if” statement (“What if everything you touched was made of jelly?”) Do you like what if's? Any what if that come to your mind and you'd like to see explored in the form of a videogame? (wow, I've said what if too many times!)
In the case of The Floor is Jelly, that "what if" question is a good way to contextualize the experience to someone who doesn't know anything about the game. That said, I do think one of the central pillars of videogames is "what if". Most games are about exploring a certain set of possibilities. Anything from "What if everything was jelly?" to "What if I was an octopus pretending to be a man?" to "What if I walked over there and flipped that switch?". So much of videogames is about establishing and answering curiosity.
Disaserpeace did some incredible work for this game. So many places in the game just come alive when his music starts playing! Our collaboration more or less began at GDC 2012 when I was showing the game in conjunction with the IGF. He happened to play the demo then, enjoyed it, and offered to do music for the game. Since then we've collaborated entirely online, more or less as our schedules would allow. He's done absolutely fabulous work for the game and has been wonderful to work with.
7. There are some interesting thoughts about puzzle games in your blog. What puzzle games are your favourite and why?
Jelly no Puzzle is a nearly perfect puzzle game. The level design in it is so elegant and clear. It doesn't try to do anything revolutionary with puzzles, it just has very simple mechanics that it build wonderful, well constructed levels around. I'm very fond of Corrypt and Fjords, although I don't know if most people would classify Fjords as a puzzle game (and certainly it is not just a puzzle game). Each game explores in its own way the idea of a glitch puzzle, and the results are fantastic. There's this set of levels in English Country Tune where the game gives you a new mechanic and then asks you to build a level that is solvable within that set of mechanics. I've always thought this was a really brilliant moment.
8. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?
Ugggggh this question is hard. Everyone is so brilliant and amazing. I find Andi McClure's experiments in generative sound and visuals to be very compelling. Her work strikes me as a kind of catalogue of her own discoveries regarding the possibilities inherent in computation. That sort of exploration is really valuable to me. He's not a game developer, per se, but every game developer should be familiarizing themselves with David Kanaga's work on music in games and his writings on music/games. There's so many people deserving of this final slot, but I think I'll have to give it to Richard Hofmeier, as it's his next projects I am most excited for at the present moment.
9. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?
10. One last random question. If you could warn any character in a movie or tv show about something you know it's going to happen, who would it be and what would you tell him/her? Also, how do you think this would modify the output of that particular movie/tv show?
At the beginning of every movie I try to tell the characters that, in however many hours, the movie will end and they will blink out of existence. They always ignore me. Maybe they can't hear me. Maybe they just don't care. Maybe living and reliving these scripted plots is the only thing that gives their lives meaning.
*We Ask Indies is an initiative by Beavl, an Argentinian independent game studio putting some teeth into videogames. You can check all the interviews here (caricatures are made by amazing artist Joaquín Aldeguer!).