Interview with Going Loud Studios’ Ben Kane

Going Loud Studios now has a trio of titles available on Xbox LIVE Indie Games and given how unique each title is from one another, it’s easy to see the ambition of developer Ben Kane. Coming off of the release of his newest title DLC Quest, Kane was able to take some time to talk to IndieSnack about his titles.

IndieSnack: Can you start by introducing yourself? Can you tell us how Going Loud Studios started and what its mission is?

Ben Kane: Hi, my name is Ben Kane and I’m the sole member of a little independent game development outfit I call Going Loud Studios. I started indie development a little over a year ago after working in the industry and eventually deciding to branch off and try doing things my own way. The “studio” started in a basement and has recently moved up to “spare bedroom” status, with a window and everything. Times are good.

The mission of Going Loud Studios is a bit aimless, but that’s actually the point. I entered into indie development because I wanted the flexibility to work on whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. In a sense, the goal is simply to make games that I want to make (and play), and then share them with as many people as possible. Then repeat, improving along the way.

IS: Right now you have three games available on Xbox LIVE Indie Games – Zombie Accountant, Lair of the Evildoer and DLC Quest. Each of these differ in gameplay styles and themes. Was this intentional? What kind of design challenges did you encounter in mixing it up with your styles and themes?

BK: The change in gameplay and styles is definitely intentional, though more the result of what I wanted to do at the time rather than any long-term planning. It’s certainly easier to pump out sequels and build off your existing efforts, but I feel the variety is more interesting to work on and thus it keeps me motivated. My games have to be something that I’m personally interested in playing if I’m to have any hope of actually finishing and shipping them.

Of course, this does create more work for me. It’s risky to start from scratch with each game, but thankfully there is a lot of low-level, behind-the-scenes work that I am able to re-use in each game that isn’t very apparent on the surface. That lets me focus on the more interesting elements, like prototyping gameplay and trying out new graphic styles and mechanics. As far as design goes, I’m basically winging it no matter what type of game I decide to make. I’m a software engineer by training, so I pick up what design advice I can and then apply a fairly rigorous “Is this fun?” test to whatever I come up with.

IS: Your most recent game release is DLC Quest. What prompted this satirical look at the current game industry? Do you have any input on how downloadable content should be handled?

BK: DLC Quest was originally just an idea for a tongue-in-cheek update to Lair of the Evildoer. Late in development, some DLC was announced for a big upcoming game that was described as “essential.” The response from the community was overwhelmingly negative – after all, this game wasn’t even out yet and already important DLC was being pushed on them. I wanted to make an update to mock that DLC pack, but I already had too much work on my plate. So instead, I just wrote the idea down. Then I kept writing down ideas whenever “bad” DLC was announced. Pretty soon, I had so much material written down that I looked at my notes and decided that it could be a stand-alone game.

DLC has certainly been handled properly in the past. When it’s “done right,” I really think both consumers and publishers benefit from it. It gives fans of a game more content in a universe they love and it lets publishers get more revenue from the fans that are more than willing to spend beyond the $60 cost of entry. The packs that rub the community the wrong way are usually easy to spot: They withhold content that players feel “should” be in the core game or they give advantages to players who spend more. To handle it properly, I think you simply need to ensure that the core game is not affected by either the inclusion nor exclusion of the DLC. Ideally, this would be by adding something completely new, like the Undead Nightmare pack for Red Dead Redemption.

IS: DLC Quest also features a old-school pixelated theme. What was the thought behind implementing this alongside a satire detailing a current trend?

BK: The style of DLC Quest was born purely out of practicality. I’m the only person who works on my games, short of licensing music. To keep development times reasonable, I have to work within my capabilities. I hadn’t tried out pixel art before, but it seemed like something that I could use to inject a little bit of charm into the game.

IS: How have gamers been responding to DLC Quest so far – both as a game and on its satire premise? What are your thoughts on the Xbox LIVE Indie Games platform?

BK: The response to DLC Quest has been overwhelmingly positive, and far beyond any of my expectations. Most people seem to recognize the gameplay as just a medium for satire – functional and unobjectionable. That’s pretty much what I was going for during development (and the biggest thing I was concerned about when it came time to ship). I could have added more traditional platforming elements like moving platforms, enemies and puzzles, but I feel they wouldn’t have necessarily added anything meaningful to the game. Thankfully, it seems like most people agree that the humor is real star of the show.

There’s a lot that can be said of the Xbox LIVE Indie Games platform and not all of it is positive. However, it remains one of the easiest and most powerful platforms for indie developers to create and distribute games on and I’m hugely grateful that it exists. It certainly leaves a lot to be desired, especially given that the platform itself has not matured significantly over the past few years. As a whole, it’s a fantastic system and any negativity is driven purely by frustration over the untapped potential. I would love to see it get the attention it deserves and grow into something even greater.

IS: Where do you see Going Loud Studios five years from now? Where do you see the game industry heading in the future?

BK: I see Going Loud Studios still making games! That’s really the biggest thing for me. Making games independently is a bit of a gamble – if I’m still doing it five years from now, then hopefully that means I’ve got things figured out. There’s no real desire to expand tremendously, though I feel some collaborations and larger projects would be a good fit in future.

For the industry itself, I don’t really have a much better sense of what will happen compared to any other gamer. It seems like a transition to digital-only content is inevitable, though that likely won’t affect much beyond piracy. I think we’ll see more and more experimentation around lower priced core games with greater add-ons in an attempt to let gamers pick and choose what they want to spend on a title. Unfortunately, I think part of that will include full-priced games with significant features offered as add-ons. Hopefully consumers can speak with their wallets and come to a balance that suits everyone. It will be interesting to see how the next generation of consoles embraces concepts like free-to-play and other microtransaction-based games that have gained traction on PC and mobile devices.

IS: Do you have any advice for aspiring developers out there?

BK: The best advice I can give is to finish a game. You almost certainly have a grand idea that you’d love to create, but set it aside for now. Take a really, really simple idea, like cloning pong, and then just finish it. I’ve heard that the first ten games you make are garbage, so get those out of the way. Don’t assume that something is beneath you – if it really is that easy for you to make a Tetris clone, then just do it! There are so many free tools, helpful communities and far-reaching distribution platforms that the barrier to entry is practically non-existent. Getting started may be the hardest part, but there’s absolutely nothing stopping you. Goooo!

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Categories: GemuBaka Interview

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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