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Road To The IGF: Sune Nielsen, Oddlabs (Tribal Trouble)

The latest in Gamasutra's 'Road to the IGF' series of interviews with the 2006 Independent Game Festival finalists speaks to Sune Nielsen of Oddlabs, developer of IGF-nominated indie RTS Tribal Trouble.

Frank Cifaldi, Contributor

March 4, 2006

6 Min Read


Continuing our 'Road To The IGF' feature, profiling and interviewing each of the finalists in the 2006 Independent Games Festival main competition, today's interview is with Sune Nielsen of Oddlabs, developer of Tribal Trouble.

Tribal Trouble is, according to Oddlabs' official description, "a fast paced realtime strategy game where you will find yourself pitted against your computer or online players. Your job is to lead your somewhat clueless kinsmen (be it Vikings or Natives) to new discoveries and victories as the tribal clashes rage across a group of tropical islands."

In this exclusive interview, Nielsen discusses with Gamasutra the development of Tribal Trouble, Oddlabs' use of the Lightweight Java Game Library toolset, and the future of the developer.

GS: Tell us a bit about your background in the game industry, when your developer was founded, your location, your previously developed games?

A: We really have no background in the game industry. Oddlabs consists of 4 computer science students who have always had the dream of becoming game developers. 5 years ago we started to toy with the idea of actually living off games and began playing a bit with demo effects and small games. A couple of years ago we then started working on Tribal Trouble, and founded the company last year.

GS: Tell us a little about your game - genre, how long it took to make, what it was inspired by, why you wanted to make it?

A: In short, Tribal Trouble is best described as a humorous real-time strategy game for casual players. The game is not "just another RTS", but is designed with ease of use in mind. We have tried to strip down the genre to create a game that is fun and easy to learn, but difficult to master. We tried as much as possible *not* to use other games as an inspiration, because we wanted to do something that was not entirely similar to the RTS games of today. But we have had our eye on the old Amiga game Mega Lo Mania, trying to use its concept of units as a resource, making them a generic unit capable of being trained to all the different tasks in the game (peons, warriors, weapons manufacturers etc.).



We have spent about 2 years on developing Tribal Trouble, plus a little extra time spent on other unfinished products, where code has been reused in Tribal Trouble. A lot of the time also went to the development of the Lightweight Java Game Library (lwjgl.org).

GS: What was the smartest thing you did to speed development of your title, and the dumbest thing you (collectively!) did which hindered development?

The smartest thing was without a doubt chosing java as a development platform. We had to spend a lot of time perfecting LWJGL to be able to use hardware accelerated OpenGL, but with Java being much easier and faster to develop in than C/C++ and the out-of-the-box crossplatform support, it has surely paid off and will pay off even more in future titles.

Another timesaver is our ingame bugreporter which can send us the entire eventlog of a game, enabling us to accurately replay a game session. This has made it much easier to find bugs and much easier for our testers to submit reports.

The dumbest thing we did was the classic mistake of underestimating the workload of developing a game, and therefore setting way too big goals in the beginning. It took quite some time before we finally decided to do Tribal Trouble instead of other much larger projects.

GS: What do you think of the state of independent development? Improving? Changing for the worse or the better?

A: I definitely think it is improving. We are seeing more games which push the borders of technical achievements for indies. Indie developers are also becoming much better at polishing the look and feel of their games.

GS: What do you think of the concept of indie games on consoles such as the Xbox 360 (for digital download) or on digital distribution services like Steam? Is that a better distribution method than physical CDs or downloads via a website/portal?

A: I don't think it is necessarily a better distribution method, but it is definitely a nice extension of the possibilities available to indies. Having said that, console distribution is still a major roadblock to indies, simply because of the large costs of the required SDKs and the fact you need the blessing of the console manufacturer. With regards to steam, I don't see the big difference compared to many of the portals out there, except maybe for the target market.

GS: Have you checked out any of the other IGF games? Which ones are you particularly impressed with, and why?

A: I haven't had time to look at all of them, but there's definitely some nice ones in there. I was particularly impressed with the graphical polish of Professor Fizzwizzle, which really improves the experience of the fairly simple puzzles.

GS: What recent indie games do you admire, and what recent mainstream console/PC games do you admire, and why?

As mentioned, I like Professor Fizzwizzle's design, but I must admit that I don't have time to play that many mainstream games. However, I'm quite impressed with the huge size of the world in World of Warcraft.



GS: Do you have any messages for your fellow contestants or fans of the IGF?

I hope all the entrants gain a lot from the awareness IGF generates for indies, because we really need the publishers to pay more attention to the indie environment. I hope to meet fellow indies at the GDC, because being from Denmark, we don't get to meet them all that much in person.


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About the Author(s)

Frank Cifaldi


Frank Cifaldi is a freelance writer and contributing news editor at Gamasutra. His past credentials include being senior editor at 1UP.com, editorial director and community manager for Turner Broadcasting's GameTap games-on-demand service, and a contributing author to publications that include Edge, Wired, Nintendo Official Magazine UK and GamesIndustry.biz, among others. He can be reached at [email protected].

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