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Making one game a month can be fun, challenging, and rolodex-building, shares Major Bueno team Benedikt Hummel and Marius Winter.
Each game is a chance to make an impression, and in 2013, Major Bueno took 12 chances when they commited to Christopher "McFunkyPants" Kaitila's One Game A Month challenge. For them, that included an epic pancake-flipping tale and an adventure starring Double Fine's Tim Schafer. Additionally, out of almost 200 entries in the first Indie Speed Run, the duo's Caesar's Day Off became a finalist and won the 'Loudest LOL Award.'
It's not just awards the team is racking up, either; Caeser's Day Off and their Drop A Beat, Giuseppe! have been played over 500,000 times together. Their repeated genius and success couldn't be coincidence, so I virtually sat down with these two developers to learn more about them and their craft.
Would you mind introducing yourselves a bit?
Bene: Hey, my name is Benedikt Hummel and I am 50% of Major Bueno. I spent most of my past years creating games and animating cartoons. Since a two years I'm studying Interactive Media at the Filmacademy in Ludwigsburg, Germany. I like salt.
Marius: Hello, my name is Marius Winter, previously Marius Fietzek, but then I got married this summer and it was great. Like Benedikt, I study Interactive Media at the Filmacademy in Ludwigsburg, Germany, and also had the chance to intern at Telltale Game and Double Fine. Pancakes.
How and when did you guys meet?
Marius: Bene approached me in a funny situation.
Bene: It truly was a pretty crazy occasion. In fact it was one of my first days at the Filmacademy when I recognized Marius' voice in a crowd of students. I did not know him personally at that time, but I had seen his Flash animations that he voiced himself. That's why I knew his voice.
Marius: And then he said "Hello," and we became friends.
When did you start releasing games?
Marius: We had our first 48h gamejam together summer 2012, where we teamed up with Irina Gross, and created a fun little thing called The Visit (below). We wanted to make a game that lures in Mario-Platformer-Fans, and then hit them with a horrible twist.
Bene: I've been creating little flashgames since around 2004. This happened mostly in the spirit of the Newgrounds.com community and kind of evolved from clumsy tries of assembling little games into quite huge and elaborate projects like Lucky Tower. Once I had met Marius we soon noticed how our approaches on game design share the same spirit. We just had to turn our ideas into actual projects.
May I ask, what tools did you use to create your games?
Marius: We created all of our games in Flash. Actionscript 2 magic.
Bene: Yes, everything was created using Flash and occasionally Photoshop for background art. Actionscript 2 compared to Actionscript 3 is a super handy programming and game-assembling tool, since you don't need any setup done before you go straight to gameplay creation. The music was mostly done in Reason.
What was the appeal of doing one game a month?
Marius: After "The Visit" we were like "We have to do this again!" "Yeah, we should make games!" "Totally, we should!" and we said that a lot... but actually making another game never happened, because there were "other things" to do. Busy school and all.
Bene: When brainstorming, we always had a huge bunch of small ideas and when we got to know the OneGameAMonth (1GAM) website and project, we realized that this would be a great opportunity to boost us to actually create those games in small steps. Also this range of tiny games seemed like a good way to get super quick feedback on concepts and also to get the word out by a high frequency of small releases.
Marius: OneGameAMonth gave us the perfect motivation to create a lot of games, despite the fact that we really have "no time" for them.
How important was doing 1GAM as a team? Would you have been as committed to the idea if not working with a partner?
Bene: Working as a team, the other parts always seemed to be providing a mix of inspirational thoughts when brainstorming and motivation. When working alone, it's sometimes rather hard to really pull things off. That wasn't the case for us as a team.
Marius: I couldn't have done it alone, I can easily fall into lazy-mode when working solo. Benedikt and I were motivating each other every month, which was crucial.
What did you learn from this?
Bene: By releasing our games the minute we finish them, we always received immediate response from the players, so we would always know instantly how our ideas worked out. That way we learned a lot about game design.
Marius: And that you always can find time to make games. If you want to experiment, you can do it. Even in under 24h you can try out interactive things, and learn a lot from it. The biggest enemy is not the 'lack of time', but the part of your brain telling you you have 'better' things to do. There are many way to get yourself motivated, and One Game A Month was the perfect motivator for us.
What were your favorite/worst games from this?
Bene: My favourite game in the series is Drop A Beat, Giuseppe! (above), because we managed to connect both, super enjoyable and unique arcade gameplay and a touching emotional twist in one game. I'd say least favourite game might be Host Master Deux, because it somehow got way too big and complex and that way I feel that we couldn't focus on simple and unique spots that breathe our spirit.
Marius: Giuseppe is also my favorite, mostly because the controls imitate the physical "piano bashing" nicely, and puts you in the right pianist-mood. My least favorite is prooobably our november game, Bridge, Please!. While it is fun, it misses a second layer of "something", I don't know. This game is really rushed, and we didn't had time to take a step back and just think about the concept for a while.
But it's ok, because we were busy creating our final game at the time, Party Bueno, and it was worth it.
What was Party Bueno all about, with fans uploading their game art?
Marius: One Game A Month started in January, and ends in December. Now we seriously had to celebrate this year, by finding a way to party with the fans and every player around the world. This is why we came up with the idea of asking the internet to draw characters that will be in the game. You were able to upload an image on our website, and that figure will appear in the big party-mansion the game is set place. At the end, there were over 700 uploads! It's an amazing outcome.
Bene: We wanted to make the game itself (pictured below) be a great party, so the player takes control of a random party guest and you can do all kinds of party activities a rad party should offer. So there's a love interest, drinking, wild dancing and other crazy things to do and explore! Even lions!
How have you come to work and meet so many other developers?
Marius: I interned at Double Fine last summer and probably gained Tim's trust! Other developers stumpled upon our games on Twitter, then wrote about it, and that caused more developers to notice us... Others we just contacted via email... So yeah, at the end meeting these guys wasn't very complicated or hard. We just talked to them.
Have you gone commercial, or do you just release freeware?
Bene: We do release our games freeware, but we're always open for contract work.
Marius: We want to find a way to pay the rent with what we do, so we'd love to do commercial projects as well.
Are you planning to do 1GAM next year?
Marius: No 1GAM next year, 2013 was very exhausting. But if there is a Gamejam happening in the area, we probably will show up!
What are your future game dev plans then? Anything new coming?
Marius: We'd love to work on a bigger project now, but at the moment we will concentrate more on finishing school. My diploma year starts soon, where I want to combine "game developing" and "road trip". It's going to be interesting.
Bene: 1GAM was super fulfilling, but we feel that we need to move on to bigger things now.
[Play Major Bueno's games, including one of my faves: Brawlin' Sailor]