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Interview: Haunted Temple's Ben Vance Is A Game Development Hobo

Interview: Haunted Temple's Ben Vance Is A Game Development Hobo Exclusive

June 21, 2010 | By Chris Remo

June 21, 2010 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Haunted Temple Studios' indie startup story is a classic tale: four experienced game makers leave behind the world of high-budget, low-risk, triple-A development to make it with their own original game concept.

In this case, the stories concerns the high-res 2D turn-based strategy game Skulls of the Shogun, which a four-man team, including Rez veteran Jake Kazdal, are planning for Xbox Live Arcade and PC. But programmer Ben Vance has a particularly unique development environment: the road.

Vance tells Gamasutra that for more than six weeks he has been checking in code from friends' homes, coffee shops, motels -- anywhere he and his girlfriend can find a wi-fi signal on an ongoing road trip that has spanned thousands of miles from California to Kansas. On the studio's official site, Vance plans to post updates on his ongoing adventures.

After working for Electronic Arts in Los Angeles for five years, Vance was part of the former Boom Blox team that was laid off when its next project was canceled. "At that point, I got seriously involved with [Skulls of the Shogun]," he said, "but, because of some personal reasons, I also wanted to get out of my apartment, and I've been on the road since then."

Vance currently has no stationary residence, but he says that, thanks to modern technology, developing a game in those circumstances is easier than one might expect.

"It's an experiment. We'll do the small indie thing, and also try an alternative lifestyle and see how it works out," he said. "We're at the point where the tools and technology make it pretty easy. I haven't really had any problems."

Occasionally he'll "need a wi-fi connection and can't get one," but that's been the only real hitch, Vance says. Even the internet, seemingly a basic necessity, is only necessary when he needs to merge in new code or conduct video conferences with his team members. "He did a video conference from a gas station," artist and team leader Jake Kazdal recalled, laughing.

Despite the experiment's success, Vance thinks he'll have to settle down eventually, after trekking up to the Pacific Northwest to converge with Kazdal and other former EA coworkers who have relocated to Seattle.

"I'm not burned out, but I don't think it's going to go for years," he said. "I anticipate it'll go for maybe another month or two at the most."

So what was it that set Vance on this path to begin with? "Landlord from hell," Haunted Temple programmer/designer Borut Pfeiffer chimed in. Nodding, Vance confirmed, "That's it exactly."

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