Develper Interview: Gordon Little from Gord Games
First things first, introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Gord Games. You are a one person operation, correct?
Hi, I’m Gordon Little, and Gord Games is just me. I’m the design guy, the art guy, the terrible SFX guy. Designer Gordon is going to fire SFX Gordon pretty soon if he doesn’t get his act together. I am definitely not a music guy. I’m a “downloads royalty free music from the internet and hope it fits the mood guy.” I’ve been using Construct 2 for a couple years now and have over a dozen free little jam games out there and two paid games, Spell Casting 101 and Starfighter: Research and Development.
Spell Casting 101 is a family friendly (but quite devious) line drawing and memory game. Starfighter: R&D is a top down shooter + a research and unlock components game.
I’m currently working on my largest project to date, Magbot, which is a mix of classic platforming and modern physics. Magbot is releasing on PC (Windows / Mac / Linux). It’s is a metroidvania style puzzle game with a focus on exploration rather than combat. The challenges come from overcoming a hostile environment and occasionally running into its powerful inhabitants. Magbot features magnetic and gravity abilities to collect and use for environmental manipulation and exploration. Each ability unlocks new areas of the ship to explore.
I notice that your Kickstarter approach is different than a lot of others. You have the game development handled yourself outside the scope of it, and are only doing a Kickstarter for an improved OST (Orginal Sound Track). Care to tell us about the thought process behind that?
The music in Magbot started off as a selection of Royalty free music from Incomptech but I’ve been working with composer Benjamin Burns and the kickstarter is specifically to fund the production of original music. All the stretch goals were for MORE MUSIC. I intentionally did not want to add any goals that changed the game itself because I didn’t want any kind of feature creep, or scope expansion. There’s no “new area of the ship” or “2 new abilities” because I already have mapped out what I want to accomplish with this game. I also, very intentionally, didn’t want any physical goals. Being in Canada, and speicially on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, shipping is expensive. So instead I focused on special digital things. Like having your name in the game, or a small diary entry by a colonist.
What part of Magbot are you most proud of so far?
I actually tried to create Magbot 3 times, and this was the successful time. The first time I did everything using “platformer” controls and tried to fake the physics part by moving things around manually. It was terrible. The second time I tried to do everything with physics. Magbot’s body and wheel were separate objects. It kind of worked but silly things like, it always fell over when you tried to move, required so much “hand holding” code that it was unwieldy quite terrible. The third time, what we have here now, is a blend of both regular platformer controls (left, right, jump, duck, etc) and when you engage a physics based ability, or move into a gravity zone, it switches to physics mode on the fly, turning off the platforming controls and relying on the physics engine. When you leave a gravity zone it switches back instantly.
Playing through the preview of Magbot, so far, feels very solid already. With over a year left until release, what kind of features and aspects of the game are you currently working on? If you feel comfortable sharing, of course.
The release date is actually the worst case scenario date. I really hate it when projects are delayed and delayed and everyone feels sad. Instead I chose a date that I had 99% confidence I’d be done long before then. I am hoping that I’ll be done in Q1 or Q2 2016.
What’s done right now is pretty much everything except the levels themselves. What I mean is that the core is done, the story is done, the map of how the game flows is done. Saving / Loading / Options / Menus / UI are all done. The game was built from the very beginning to support keyboard and mouse and also gamepad. All controls are remappable. Magbot has 7 abilities and they are all working. Early test builds had all the abilities enabled in a sandbox mode for people to try out. I’m not going to give away any details, but if you watch the kickstarter trailer, you can see a few of them in action. They all (except for the light / scanner) revolve around magnetic and physics manipulation. What is not done is a lot more art, more animations, more scenery, and better sound effects.
I’ve asked a couple of developers about this before, but what has your experience with industry bodies like the IGDA been?
I actually don’t know anything about the IGDA and had to google it to find out what the acronym stands for. Then I remembered I joined a local chapter’s Facebook groups a while ago. I don’t know if that says more about me or them to be honest! I feel like a small fry to be signing up with something like that. I’m not sure what a little one man operation like mine gets out of it.
What advice do you have for people who want to make their first inroads into game development?
Always always always start small. No, even smaller. Do game jams. Those are fun, give you a set time and a mission. I taught myself how to use Construct 2 by doing a lot of game jams. For each jam I picked something I didn’t know much about and focused on it. One jam game was a platformer. Another was a angry-birds catapult style game, etc. Learning how to use arrays, random generation, even little things like user interface and saving and loading games. They’re little things that need to be set in place for your first REAL game.
What has been the most challenging part of developing Magbot or other titles of yours?
Time & focus. Since gamedev is a hobby, not my actual day job, and the fact that I’ve got my wife and 3 kids who get attention first means I usually get an hour or two before bed to make the magic happen. Some nights that means draw a sprite, or a few frames of animation, or make a sound effect, or block out a new level. The focus part is just as difficult. For me the REALLY fun part of making a game is creating the systems that make the interactions possible. Figuring out how to code a game that switches between zero g physics and back to classic mario platforming without the player noticing. Making the different abilities that the player can use to solve the environmental puzzles. Once that’s working, I find the actual level design the hardest thing to do.
How important do you feel is games media to the potential success of independent games? Do you feel more able to connect directly with fans?
Game media, at least the big guns, the mega sites, have the power to expose thousands of people to your game. If you can get their attention. I personally find the best way to interact with people online these days is Twitter. I can chat with fans, devs, tubers and twitchers, post pics and gifs, get feedback, all at once. It’s so global, so gamers without borders, a giant community of people brought together by their love of the bleeps, the sweeps, and the creeps.
While I can sense the serious undertone of the plot in Magbot, I notice the thread humor involved as well. Are there any direct inspirations when writing for Magbot?
Magbot, at it’s core, has a very serious story. The mission to colonize a planet went very wrong when some catastrophe happened to the ship. Now it’s up to you to save the lives of thirty thousand colonist. Are they alive? Where are you exactly? Who are you? Writing Magbot’s story is two parts Star Trek to one part Red Dwarf. Not as much a comedy as Spaceballs, but not as serious a drama as Battlestar. The Engineering AI, affectionately referenced as Scotty, is both the comic relief and a proxy for Magbot, as the little robot can’t talk. It’s very intentional, Magbot’s silence, as you, the player, don’t have a clue as to what’s going on and neither does the character you control. Or at least that’s what you’re meant to believe.
How hard is it to make 2D games stand out in a crowded market? What kind of challenges do you feel you have to be overcome and what is your approach to overcoming them?
I think it’s hard for any game developer to get their game noticed these days. The ease of making games these days is a double edged sword. The easier it is for everyone to make games, the more there are. The more there are, the harder it is for anyone to notice YOUR game. I put together what I thought was a very humble kickstarter and it’s still been very difficulty to get the word out. But as I’ve said before, Magbot continues with or without the kickstarter. The kickstarter was just a way to add something I can’t easily do. But the Steam Greenlight campaign continues and hopefully by the time the game is done, it will have gotten through Greenlight.
Last of all, where can people find you and where can we find more information on your projects? Shameless self promotion time!
People can download the demo of game for free from itch.io here http://gordgames.itch.io/magbot and it contains the first 4 areas and the first boss. If they like it they can support development by purchasing alpha access which gets them the current build (7 areas and 2 bosses) as well as the full game upon completion.
I encourage everyone to head over to Steam Greenlight and vote for Magbot here: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=486453747.
For more information about my games head over to http://gordonlittle.ca.
You can find Benjamin Burnes musical awesomeness (work) here: https://soundcloud.com/abstraction