[In the latest Road to the IGF interview with 2010 Independent Games Festival finalists, Gamasutra speaks with Dejobaan Games' Ichiro Lambe about AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, a finalist in the Excellence In Design category.
AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
is all about falling at high speed. Players navigate skyscrapers as they plummet, performing stunts as they go, and even confront the spectators they see on the tall buildings they pass on the way to the ground.
In this interview, developer Dejobaan Games' Ichiro Lambe talks about how BASE jumping videos inspired the project, why the team went with an abstract look for the game instead of a literal one, and about the "Spiderman Mode" that almost was.
What is your background in making games?
For children of the '70s and '80s, it seems to always start as a hobby -- TI 99/4A, Atari 800, Atari ST, and the Amiga 2000 for me. I was hooked from the time I was a kid.
I first entered the industry in 1993, before college, working to create online games back when 640k and 320x200 seemed like grand ideas. During college, I co-founded Worlds Apart Productions (now Sony Online Entertainment Denver), and in 1999, founded Dejobaan Games, LLC.
What development tools did you use?
We hacked C++ in Visual Studio 2005, used Adobe Audition for audio editing, and our 3D middleware is a German engine called 3D Gamestudio.
How did you create the sense of actually falling top-down?
I'm beginning to realize that it's all about the visual cues. Show the tops of skyscrapers, and make sure the scales (building sizes, terminal velocity) are realistic.
How long did you work on the game?
9 months -- from late December, 2008 to early September, 2009. We launched on September 3rd.
How did you come up for the concept for the game?
Dejobaan's Gameplay Architect, Dan Brainerd, sent over a YouTube video of a bunch of guys flying down the sides of mountains in ridiculously thin wingsuits
. Could we translate that into an actual game? Over the course of a weekend, I took our 2004 title, Inago Rage, and twisted it into something with the BASE jumping basics. We called the prototype "Low Altitude."
You ended up with a distinctive abstract, luminous look -- what influenced the visual decisions? Why not go for a more literal-looking environment?
Oh, Leigh, you asked my favorite question! One of our tenets is to look closely at what the big studios do, then do the exact opposite. As indies, we're competing against AAAs who spend as much on a team lunch as we do on an entire game.
If we try to compete on scope, market to the same niche, or go toe to toe on graphics -- we're going to be utterly crushed. If you look at Metacritic's top five PC games of 2009, four of them have ridiculously lavish 3D graphics. The fifth is Braid
. If the big guys are going hyper-realistic, then for us to create an aesthetic that gamers won't dismiss outright, we need to go hyper-unrealistic.
If you could start the project over again, what would you do differently?
We're always learning from our mistakes, so the #1 lesson for our next project is to periodically take that 30,000-foot view of things. Step back -- does the game play like we imagined it would? Are there tools we need to build or buy to make development faster? What bottlenecks can we automate? It was easy for us to get mired in details during Aaaaa!'s development, and I'd like to avoid that in the future.
Were there any elements that you experimented with that just flat out didn't work with your vision?
My favorite was something our Gameplay Architect Dan proposed, called (informally) Spiderman Mode. You could sling a rope out and swing from the floating buildings. If you used momentum right, you could swing higher and higher (just like on a schoolyard swing) to reach secret areas. It was a fun mode that kept us entertained for hours, but ultimately didn't make sense in a game about speed.
Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you particularly enjoyed?
I love Monaco
, and want to have a Monaco
party at my house. Andy Schatz did a great job on the game -- and he's not even done with it! Cogs
is also just beautifully crafted, and Closure
has a great, inventive mechanic -- it's such a simple high-concept that works so well.
What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?
It's a wonderful time filled with magic bunnies and giant robots and seven kinds of awesome. Within the past month, I've played the alpha of a former AAA guy's first independent title; I've talked shop with the head of a great new studio that's set up shop a mile away from us; and my team's received a nomination for IGF 2010.
It feels like I imagined things would when I was a kid, dreaming of a life in game development.
[Previous 'Road To The IGF' interview subjects have included Enviro-Bear 2000 developer Justin Smith, Rocketbirds: Revolution's co-creators Sian Yue Tan and Teck Lee Tan, Vessel co-creator John Krajewski, Trauma creator Krystian Majewski, Super Meat Boy co-creators Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, Sidhe's Mario Wynands, who worked on Shatter, Daniel Benmergui, creator of Today I Die, Klei Entertainment's Jamie Cheng, executive producer on Shank, Star Guard creator Loren Schmidt, Miegakure developer Marc Ten Bosch, Joe Danger creator Hello Games, Limbo partner Dino Patti, and Closure's Tyler Glaiel and Jon Schubbe.]