In-Game: The Minds Behind Desktop Dungeons
Last year, I conducted a set of interviews for research purposes and managed to interview a couple of the indie developers at rAge Expo in Johannesburg. After a very busy day, I managed to squeeze in an interview with the guys from QCF Design, the developers behind the indie hit Desktop Dungeons (a popular rogue-like game). I thought some of the questions and answers I received might interest readers at eGamer. So here we go, I’ve basically summarised the interview somewhat as the transcription was nearly nine pages in length which is too long for a feature article such as this.
Last year’s rAge was a frantic fast paced event where time wasn’t on our side. The mass of people attending the expo was astounding and I’ve near seen so many gamers in once place at the same time. There’s clearly some voodoo magic going on. As one of the heads of Indie coverage for indie game (Timothy being the other half of the nerdy pair) I was tasked with exploring all things indie at rAge.
So I attended the Indie Dev workshops sponsored IGDA (International Games Development Association) and SAGD (South African Game Development) whom put together some interesting sessions ranging from art in gamedev to how to effectively run a gamedev studio and funding. I eventually got to sit down with the guys from QCF Design which included: Danny Day, Rodain Joubert and Mark Luck. We got to talking about indie development in South Africa and other related factors.
One of the I asked was, “What do you think you are developing games for, profit or personal reasons?”. The responses I received were pretty intriguing.
Ah, well that’s thing. It really is that shades of grey, bell curve pattern, and you really do have to make sure that you never pull too far in one direction because that is unhealthy for any sort of games company.
At the same time, it doesn’t make sense to say we’re an indie studio we’re going to make something for profit. Yeah we’re trying to survive and obviously we like to and do want to continue and succeed in making things because we’re making things that we believe in. But we’re not trying to go at like no point okay that we are designing by committee. There are no publisher meetings.
Any game we ever do that is for profit starts out as a personal project.
I then asked them about where there passion for developing came from. Danny got the ball rolling and talked about his childhood, and where the seeds of game design were planted.
If you give me something I can make something in I’m gonna make it. As soon as I first had something that someone could interact with, like I used to make toys out of Lego. I wouldn’t build Lego models to enjoy the models. I’d build something other people could play with. I’d make toys for people that didn’t have something, like I’d build elastic firing guns that would automatically reload, or something like that. So you could play with them.
Similarly, it seemed that nearly all of QCF Design’s passion for developing did not come from videogames themselves, but games in general. Rodain elaborated for me.
Actually, again, much like the others it stems from a general passion of gaming. At a young age, before computers and things like that even. I’m talking about, that games are more than electronic stuff, you know. If you love board games, if you love playing games. Even if you love you know having a game of tag in the pre-school field with your friends or whatever. This is where game design starts and eventually it moves onto creating more complex games. Design your own card game, then you access your computer and you learn how to code, and it’s a new tool.
Mark thought that a passion for game design to be something more basic then just a passion for the medium.
I think it’s something far more basic then that. I see it honestly as a creative process. So for the same reason you may ask someone why do they paint? It’s just something that you have to do.
I then moved on to questioning related more directly to the industry itself and asked about their qualms with the videogames industry. Especially with indie games taking over some of AAA territory. Mark started things off.
I’m just going to say the publishing model in general. It’s something that’s not cool. I mean you see big studios make these amazing games and then you know the publisher is the one making all the money, and they didn’t put nearly as much work as the creatives. And that bothers me.
It’s not like I’m satisfied with things. The way that I see stuff it leaves gaps and opportunities for us to hit. You know nobody’s doing this we can do something cool there.
After much deliberation, we eventually got to a topic which is closely linked to and effected QCF design, that is cloning. What is cloning you may ask?
Well, basically what happens is there’s nothing significant right now from stopping, indie and mainstream, one studio blatantly ripping off another studio’s idea.
Once more QCF design faced a blatant clone in their midst during 2010 when another indie dev blatantly ripped off Desktop Dungeons, and began selling the clone on the Apple Store (more of what happened can be read here). Danny went on to tell me about the implications of cloning on indie developers.
Cloning hurts the developers who are trying to develop the initial idea, right. So, basically for instance if we hadn’t been able to stop Desktop Dungeons being cloned we would be in situation where we would not be able to make any money on the iPhone.
Soon the interview began to near to an end and we talked about the community of gamers, and they explained how they are part of so many different communities. The communities have helped them to develop Desktop Dungeons with feedback on the beta version of the game.
At the same time, we’re also a part of whole bunch of communities. Yeah, we’re a part of the South African Game Development Community. We’ve been working hard to grow that for the last ten years. Because of the IGF and GDC we’re part of a larger community and we’re talking to people from across the world.
With that, the interview finally came to an end and afterwards I ventured off into the depths of rAge and covered the event with my fellow eGamer writers. I learnt much in the process from the guys at QCF Design about the place of the indie developer within the industry, and the ills of cloning developer’s hard work. There’s much more going behind the scenes of game development then you know.