Today i got contacted by Anthony Franchitti from xbla360.fr. He offered me to bring his interview with David J. Sushil from Bad Pilcrow to indienerds.com. I think it´s a good read and I hope you will enjoy it. The interview focuses on their new game “Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix And Her Nightmare” … if you don´t know the game, then you must have missed the nice trailer I posted just a few days ago. You can watch it here.
Thank you Anthony! Here comes the interview…
Anthony: Could you present in a few words Bad Pilcrow (the team, history, your goals etc)?
David: I’ve been developing games since I was a little kid. As a college students, I decided to make my hobby a career. My first venture into the game industry was a small company I started called Nickelpig Media back in 2004. Nickelpig was an outlet for some of my creative projects, and focused heavily on the local art and music scene in Orlando, Florida. After college, I landed a job teaching game programming at a local University. I decided to expand the focus of my game development efforts beyond Orlando. So, I dissolved Nickelpig Media, and began a new company, Bad Pilcrow.
A pilcrow is a funny little symbol that was traditionally used to indicate when a writer had changed thoughts. It has since been replaced by paragraphs. I liked the concept behind the pilcrow – a thing which could change the way people think. I tacked the word “bad” in front of “pilcrow” because in English, bad can be slang for good. As in “That is one bad jacket! Where do I get one like it?” The dual meaning of bad appealed to me, and it makes the name of the company somewhat ambiguous.
The goal of Bad Pilcrow is to change the way people think about games. I grew up during the Nintendo revolution of the mid-nineteen-eighties, and have a certain fondness for games that are simple and engaging. Modern video games don’t satisfy me anymore. In my opinion, they have grown too complicated, too focused on story, and they often require a major time commitment to learn. My personal interest is in creating games that are unique and satisfying experiences in line with retro design aesthetics. Our customers should be able to pick up and play our games without an extensive tutorial, using as few buttons as possible, and without having to sit through twenty minutes of dialog and plot development before getting to the action.
At the moment, I am the sole member of Bad Pilcrow. I design, program, and produce each project. I collaborate with a handful of contractors – mostly friends and students – when it comes to artwork, music, and sound.
Anthony: Your first game “Snail Shot Torpedo” is available since december 09, has it been succesfull?
David: Snail Shot Torpedo has not performed well, commercial. However, it has been successful for Bad Pilcrow in two ways. First, it was a tremendous learning experience. We began work on Snail Shot Torpedo without much of an understanding of the indie market, and without knowing how best to approach a game of that size. Now, we know what to do! Second, and most important, Snail Shot Torpedo is now a kind of foundation to base our subsequent games on. For example, when we began work on our next game, Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix And Her Nightmare, our most pressing concerns were, “How do we preserve what people liked about Snail Shot Torpedo, while improving what they didn’t?” We feel as though we’ve done just that, and are very excited about releasing a game that better demonstrates what Bad Pilcrow is all about.
Anthony: Vanessa Saint Pierre Delacroix & her nightmare is your next move on the indie scene (xblig & Pc), do you plan to get it on Iphone or Ipad, or others platforms?
David: In short, yes! There is much more to explore in Vanessa’s world. Right now, our goal is to make the best version of the game that we can for the PC and Xbox. Then, we’ll assess how we might approach tailoring the game to other platforms. Personally, I’d like to see Vanessa continue her adventures on iPhone and the Nintendo DS.
Anthony: What was your main inspiration for the Vanessa character?
David: I honestly woke up one morning with Vanessa’s name in my head, and a vague impression of a 2D platforming game mapped to a 3D cube. I must have been dreaming about her, I suppose! It took a few days to work out all the details, though, but when I had, I realized that this game could be something really special. I canceled all of my other projects and threw myself into a frenzy of development. After a few short weeks, I had a basic prototype assembled, and decided to approach a few trusted collaborators about making a sizable game – something that would trump Snail Shot Torpedo in terms of scope.
Early on, I knew I wanted Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare to have a European feel to it. As the narrator states, the story takes place “in a very old city.” When our lead artist, Kyle Leavitt, joined the project, I sent him images of Prague as an example of how Vanessa’s world might look. I decided to listen to classical music while working on Vanessa, and the Czech composer Dvořák was especially influential in determining the tone. Despite the heavy Czech influence, we’ve never settled on an actual location for the game.
Anthony: What was your main inspiration for the name “Vanessa Saint Pierre Delacroix”?
David: Again, it just kind of popped into my head one morning. Vanessa’s last name does sound remarkably French, doesn’t it? We’ve decided to include imagery from the works of Eugene Delacroix into the game.
Anthony: According to this video Vanessa is not alone in the game. Any infos on the others characters?
The characters in that video are Vanessa’s classmates. They were bullies in the real world, but in the nightmare world of the puzzle box, they are helpless, and entirely at the mercy of Vanessa and her puzzle-solving abilities. In terms of gameplay, they don’t add much, but they deliver some very funny dialog, which adds a sense of humor to the game.
Anthony: The gameplay seems to be very original. What was the first idea for the game? the gameplay with the cube or Vanessa and her story?
David: The idea for the cube came first. Games should always be about the players and what they do. Once you’ve established some basic mechanics, then you can develop an appropriate story. Story serves three purposes in our games. First, it provides a context – it explains why you’re lobbing torpedoes at zombie snails, for instance. Second, it provides emotional relevance – if you care about the characters, then the act of playing the game can become a more meaningful experience. Third, it is a marketing tool – it is often easier to explain a story than it is to explain game mechanics.
Anthony: The Xblig is getting better and better with some nice quality games. How do you see this evolution?
David: It’s wonderful! Microsoft has empowered students, hobbyists, and fledgling studios by giving them the opportunity to develop console games. I hope more companies follow suit. Wouldn’t it be excellent if Sony or Nintendo said, “We’re going to create our own version of XBLIG, but it will be better!”
In general, I believe we’re nearly the end of a cycle. People will look back on this time as the golden age of mainstream, blockbuster games. But I don’t believe that industry model can sustain itself. As the scope of a game grows larger, so does the risk involved. As a result, studios only focus on making games that are guaranteed hits. Gamers suffer in this scenario, because games become stale. I believe most developers will turn their focus towards smaller, more manageable projects, which are far more in line with what indie studios produce right now. If indie developers play their cards right, they may find themselves at the start of a new cycle, where gamers are tired of playing the same derivative mainstream titles, and are searching for tighter, more meaningful games.
Anthony: What are the advantages of working on a platform like the Xbox live indie game in your opinion?
David: There are millions of Xbox gamers around the world. With Xbox LIVE Indie Games, developers are basically handed a built-in audience. Microsoft has basically created YouTube for console developers.
Anthony: What are the inconveniences?
David: I’m annoyed by the lack of quality control on XBLIG. As long as certain guidelines are met, any game can be released, regardless of whether or not it is actually any good. I realize “good” is a very subjective term, but I think we can all agree that some games certainly bring down the overall reputation of the XBLIG brand. That market could be much stronger if Microsoft implemented better controls for quality. My impression from talking with other XBLIG developers is that no one would mind having to work a little harder, if it would leave gamers with the impression that XBLIG is a place to find excellent games.
Anthony: Any advice for the novice who want to start developping games with the tool XNA?
David: XNA is an excellent technology for developing games. I suppose I don’t have any specific advice on XNA, but I would encourage beginners to approach game development as though they were painting a picture or sculpting a statue. Think of your game as a form of self-expression. There is plenty of money to be made in the game industry, but more importantly, what do you want to say to the world? Snail Shot Torpedo is a game about how I’ve found fulfillment and satisfaction in a hobby that some people in my life thought was a waste of time to pursue. Vanessa is a reflection on how, in recent years, I’ve learned to let go of negative emotion – anger, resentment – in favor of patience and selflessness.
Anthony: Any last word for our members and indie game fans?
David: Thank you so much for your interest in Bad Pilcrow and Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare! When it is released early next year, I sincerely hope that everyone enjoys playing it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it.