[Continuing a series of interviews with 2010 IGF Mobile finalists, Gamasutra sister site FingerGaming speaks to lilt line developer Gordon Midwood, whose iPhone game is competing in the Best Mobile game category, having won the IGF Mobile award for Audio Achievement.]
Gordon Midwood, developer of “retro rhythm racing beat ‘em up action game with a dubstep flavour” lilt line, has come a long way since FingerGaming spoke to him nearly a year ago. Initially quite cynical about how his rather unique game would perform buried under a storefront filled with tower defense games and… iPhone butts, lilt line has recently seen great success, winning the IGF Mobile Audio Achievement.
Heading into the festival, FingerGaming had the chance to speak to a cheeky Midwood about the evolution of lilt line and his recent good fortunes.
What is your background in game development?
Gordon Midwood: I have more of a background in web games than in traditional development. Online is definitely where I cut my teeth initially. As soon as I stopped trying to eat the cables that soon cleared up though.
I did once have a short stint at Electronic Arts doing the frontend for a well-known racing franchise. The working conditions were a little too crazy for my liking, although to be fair to EA they did tell me in the interview that I would be getting the full Burnout experience.
Independent game development definitely suits me best though, freed from commercial reality and the oppressive opinions of co-workers!
Can you tell us what development tools you used to create lilt line?
Sure, well the iPhone SDK for all the coding obviously, and a level editor in Flash to make things easier there. Marking off beat points in the audio was done using a bit of Mac software called Amadeus. Oh, and I did a fair bit of the coding on a little Dell Mini9 hackintosh on the train on the way to work.
How long was the game in development?
About 5 months in total. To be honest I was unfamiliar with Objective-C and all the iPhone stuff beforehand and it was all done in evenings and weekends. So it would have been a lot quicker if I was on it full time and actually knew what I was doing.
How did the initial concept come about?
I basically just wanted to make an original rhythm game. I had this idea of a side-scrolling thing which generated music according to the challenges of the level so I just started building it.
How important was it to have a close working relationship with musician 16bit throughout the development process?
It was crucial definitely; the music determines the levels so the selection of the right tracks, which we did together, was vital. They also gave me access to unreleased stuff, delivered audio split up in the right format and so on. In fact the whole way through 16bit have been awesome and massively supportive.
Would you think of working on another music game in the future, perhaps featuring something outside the realm of dubstep?
Absolutely. In particular I would love to make a prog rock game featuring massively meandering 30 minute levels!
In fact there are loads of crazy music genres I would like to see better represented in gaming. That’s the theme of my talk at the GDC, so you should come along if you are around and interested in listening to ten minutes of abrasive music and dad jokes.
You released a pretty substantial update at the end of last year which included several new “tracks”. Was it successful from a creative and financial standpoint?
The new tracks are definitely my favourite ones of the lot, and people have given very positive feedback on them. I loved making them because I could just let loose and make some properly difficult levels, which is my natural tendency anyway. So that’s the creative bit answered.
From a financial point of view the game sold a fair few more copies on the back of the update, but the difference was not massive. No matter, I’m very happy with the new levels and am glad I made them. It seems to have stopped people whining about the game being too short as well, and you can’t put a price on that.
If you could reset and start fresh on development of lilt line, what would you do differently?
Have you played and enjoyed any of the other IGF Mobile finalists?
Yes indeed they are all clearly excellent games, and I’m very flattered to be in their company. Sword & Sworcery looks beautiful and tickles my fancy a lot. I thought Minisquadron was a blast to play through too. I also enjoyed playing Spider, although the one thing that really spoiled the game for me is that the main protagonist had too many legs.
What do you think of the current state of the indie scene, particularly in relation to the mobile space?
Mobile independent gaming is a fascinating area at the moment. You’ve the iPhone explosion, increasing proliferation of Android and even the Windows Series 7 thingy with its Xbox thingy. I think it is a superb area for any independent to try to make a breakthrough. I have my suspicions about its profitability long term though; PC and console alternatives still lead the way there in my opinion.
In general, I would say that the vast majority of creativity and original thought in gaming is coming from indie games these days. I think the scene is in excellent shape. The barriers to entry are lower than ever and the amount of attention being paid is higher than ever.
The upshot of all of this for me personally is that one person making a minimalist dubstep game in his pants at 3am in the morning can eventually get nominated for an IGF award, for which I am very grateful!