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We ask indies: Andrew Shouldice on game jams and creative processes

Andrew Shouldice is the creator of Probe Team (Ludum Dare #27) and Hide (SFC Justice Pageant). In this interview he talks about game jams, creative processes, fellow indie devs and staring at the first screen of Shadowgate (NES) and being terrified!

Andrew Shouldice makes stuff. His games are always interesting and he has some clever ideas about the whole creative process behind making them (jam or non-jam related!). Now he answers our questions!

Shouldice by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

I have memories of making a terrible board game when I was kid, at about 5 years old or so. I didn't start making computer games until I got my hands on some old BASIC books from my local library, at around 10. I remember being astounded when I realized that I could make games on my home computer with QBASIC.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

The pattern I get into with making games really depends on whether it's part of a Jam or not. I found it easier to make some diagrams:

non jam process jam process

If you can identify at all with these processes, then the following observations might apply to you as much as they do to me:

- Jams make games, non-jams fill out the graveyard. Make games for jams.

- "The Tough Bit" is tough. Wallow around in it. That breakthrough will come sooner or later. (Hopefully?)

3. You have participated in some game jams. What is your favourite story or anecdote concerning a game jam? Any favourite feedback you remember?

The evolution of Hide was sort of haphazard and serendipitous. It started as a first person adventure game set in the desert. I wanted to try using a very limited palette with no lighting, so I picked four brownish colours and started making the desert world. Because there was no texture on the ground, I tried communicating player movement across large expanses with dust hanging in the air. I soon got frustrated with the look of the game, and tried simplifying a the whole thing by going black and white. Suddenly the desert was a wintery field, and the dust in the air was snow. It was a great breakthrough moment that really cemented the look of the game.

Favourite feedback: The glorious Porpentine wrote nice things about PROBE TEAM once and that made me feel good.

4. Probe Team is an interesting game you made for Ludum Dare #27 (Theme: “10 seconds”). Where does its idea come from?

My first attempt at "10 seconds" was an audio jigsaw puzzle. (I think the sound clips might still be in the downloadable project source.) After a little bit of experimentation early on the first day, I realized that it really wasn't fun. It was back to the drawing board at that point.
I find time limits stressful, so I was fretting a bit about the  "10 seconds" theme. I started thinking about how to get around time limits while still respecting the theme, and the result was 10 seconds worth of fuel, instead of 10 seconds worth of time.
5. You have also made Hide, a really eerie survival horror game. Do you like this genre? What are your favourite survival horror games?
I can't handle scary games. I stopped watching the Machine for Pigs trailer part way through. As a child, I remember staring at the first screen of Shadowgate on the NES, terrified about what was beyond the door.
It's a little weird then that I made Hide, I suppose, but I do like the idea of providing a scary experience for people. Telling ghost stories is fun. I like to think that I'm using my own aversion to scary games to pinpoint what I find really scary about them. For example: being defenceless and huddling behind something, unsure of whether or not you've been seen.
6. What projects are you working on now? (We are eager to get a scoop!)
I've got a couple projects in "try to turn it into something cool" stage, and lots in the the "thinking" stage. A few times a year I get obsessed with making a game about exploration and forbidden mystery, but in non-jam contexts, so they don't really get anywhere. :)
7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?
Stephen "Increpare" Lavelle's work ranges from funny to disturbing, but it carries a cool detachment and alien tone that I find very appealing. His work often feels simultaneously like something that no human made, and something deeply personal. I have a suspicion that Stephen is super, super smart.
Check these out:

I don't have outstanding reaction times when it comes to games, but Terry Cavanagh has made some of the few precision-control games I've become obsessed with. Both VVVVVV and Super Hexagon look like the sorts of game's I'd quickly get frustrated with, but I stuck with them. I haven't collected all the trinkets in VVVVVV, or seen the very end of Super Hexagon, but those games still made me feel accomplished and satisfied.

Sophie Houlden is a delight. Her work has an enchanting whimsey that's backed up by a diverse skill set. She's very open about her development process and the challenges of marketing indie games. If "follow their work closely" means Twitter, I feel like I'd be getting the most for my money by choosing her. :)

Fact: All three of these people lived together in the same flat together for a while. The very same flat.

8. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now? Naw, I'm not a heavy gamer. I spend more time thinking about games I'll never make. I try to keep up with what's happening via Giant Bomb.

Here's a list of games I'm playing now. In other words, these are the games I've started but I haven't finished yet, but plan on getting back to:

9. One last random question. If you could use any musician (dead or alive) to make music from one of your games, who would you choose and why?

Ooh, wow. I have no musical talent, and have great admiration for those who do. This would be a great opportunity to express my fondness and respect for any number of game musicians, including Jim Guthrie, Alec Holowka, Rich Vreeland (Disasterpiece), Danny Baranowsky, Magnus Pålsson (SoulEye)...

...but if I had to pick one, I'd have to take advantage of the "dead or alive" bit. The music of J. S. Bach is intricate and puzzle-like; I think he might have enjoyed puzzle games. If we could work through the cultural, technological, and language barriers, collaborating with him would be very cool.


*We Ask Indies is an initiative by Beavl, an Argentinian independent game studio putting some teeth into videogames. You can check all the interviews here (caricatures are made by amazing artist Joaquín Aldeguer!).

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