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We Ask Indies: Chris Suffern, creator of Super Mutant Alien Assault!
Chris Suffern is a game dev from Sydney. In this Q&A he talks about starting a game dev career at 29, jams, co-op games, favourite devs and Bond, James Bond!
April 23, 2014
8 Min Read
Chris Suffern is a game dev from Sydney. He defines himself as a “passionate gamer turned passionate game developer”. Chris is working on the awesome Super Mutant Alien Assault. And now he answers our questions!
1. How long have you been making games?
Not long enough for my liking. I started late, learning as a hobby when I was 29. I’m 34 now. At least I spent a decent part of that 29 years doing research, or as some like to call it, playing games.
2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.
I seem to be cursed, or blessed, with a case of extreme inspiration. Most games I enjoy I can’t help but be inspired by. I can’t play a good game without it spawning a game idea in my head. In these particular situations I like to analyze the core aspects of the game that I found enjoyable. Break them down to their fundamentals, rip them out, add things I like that I feel were missing. Dress the whole thing up in my own thematic tastes. Thats just the foundation. From there, I let my creativity take over and naturally evolve the game design. In general I spend a lot of time day dreaming about game design. I like to do creative thinking sessions on weapons, enemies, gameplay mechanics, etc. One session for example I tried to answer the question: “What’s the best possible weapon ever, in terms of feel, function and satisfaction?”. I ended up with a weapon design I can’t wait to implement. Unfortunately it does not fit into Super Mutant Alien Assault, so will have to wait for one of my future games. I also get inspired by other media. Often watching movies, reading comics or listening to music I get game design ideas.
3. Super Mutant Alien Assault is a hectic 2D arcade game in which "an alien assault goes from bad to worst as your ships reactor mutates alien invaders into vicious monstrosities" and you are the last defense. How did you come with its core idea?
This was the core concept of my first game, Mutant Alien Assault, which was inspired by Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box. One of the core aspects I like about SCB was the constant conflict in the player priorities. Between furthering their goal of picking up point scoring crates, or killing enemies before they reached the bottom and grew more powerful. This resulted in constant decision making in the players mind, choosing which priority to focus on. I enjoy this kind of moment to moment tactical decision making. The fundamental mechanic that introduces this in SCB is enemies that grow stronger if you let them live long enough, while at the same time having a separate goal that does not involve killing enemies. Wanting a similar priority conflict in my own game, I brainstormed a way to do it that would better suit my tastes. Radioactive mutating aliens, obviously.
4. The whole background story of Super Mutant Alien Assault sounds like the plot of a bizarre (and awesome) 80's movie. Do you like horror\scifi movies? Which ones are your favourites?
I love scifi. I also love fantasy, spy\espionage, and war\specops. These are the four themes that I fall for. I chose a scifi setting for SMAA because its such a rich and fertile ground for crazy gameplay, weapons, and enemies. Absolute scifi favourites are the ones I grew up with, Red Dwarf and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
5. Super Mutant Alien Assault is going to have a local coop mode. How would it be? Any super secret feature you wanna talk about? Also, do you like local coop games? Which ones are your favourites?
SMAA coop will be straightforward. It's single player campaign, but with your buddy. Enemy spawning will scale to accommodate the extra fire power. Additionally, inherent gameplay mechanics will naturally scale the difficulty of coop. The fact that you share the limited weapon and grenade resources and the fact that explosives hurt both players and enemies, means friendly fire will be an issue if care is not taken. I love coop in general. Coop just lets me kill two birds with one stone. I can spend time with family and friends and game at the same time. This is my ultimate life hack. Possibly my friends and family don’t appreciate it as much as I do, as all I want to do is play games with them. Local coop is naturally better as it enhances the social experience. Favorites would be BombSquad, N+, TowerFall (Quest mode), Rayman (Legends/Origins), Broforce, Gears of War, Awesomenauts and Cortex Command. Local multiplayer shout outs to Samurai Gunn, SpeedRunners, Badland, Orbit1 and Achtung.
6. You've participated in some game jams (including Sydney Global Game Jam). Do you consider game jams important? Why? What is your favourite story or anecdote concerning a game jam? Any feedback you remember?
I think they are great. Important for different reasons, for different people, because they fill a variety of needs. My particular needs were to meet other developers and get to know a bit about the Sydney game developer scene. What I ended up getting was just an awesome experience immersing myself in game development in a room full of like minded people. The air is thick with creativity and passion for games. And its just great to tangibly know how many other people there are out there like you. Suddenly you don’t feel so different. Not sure why this incident comes to mind, but I half fondly, half regrettably, remember a sleep deprived, caffeine induced, tirade I went on when I discovered my game jam partner had used Drag & Drop in our game. We were using GameMaker and I was helping him improve his coding skills as we developed our game. I discovered he had used Drag & Drop actions instead of code. What followed was an overreaction, which is why I think the incident stuck in my head, but when I was finished he had vowed never to use Drag & Drop again.
7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?
Ahhhh, the impossible question. I do find these top X lists really hard. My top 10 games list has 50 games in it. First to mind: 1) Vlambeer. Its not just that they make awesomely fun games. They are just a great inspiration for all aspects of indie game development. 2) Team Meat. Another of the many pillars of indie development which I draw inspiration from. Plus I love Super Meat Boy, its up there on my list. I also really like Edmund and Tommy’s design sensibilities. Not hyped for Mewgenics as its simply not my kind of game. But I’m definitely excited for future Team Meat developments. 3) Torn Banner. These guys came out of nowhere and blew my mind with Chivalry. That game shot straight into my top 3 games of all time list. No one has done Medieval Melee combat in such a satisfying and brilliant way. They scratched an itch I’ve had for a long time. I’m super excited to see what these guys do next.
8. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?
Define heavy? I love games, I play as much as my life reasonably allows, which is definitely not as much as I would like. Lets look at my Steam 5 recent list: Dota 2 (coop), Splinter Cell Blacklist (coop), Company of Heroes (coop), Infested Planet, LUFTRAUSERS. iOS I’m playing Lords of Waterdeep and Monument Valley. Vita I’m playing TxK and Stick it to The Man.
9. One last random question. If you could have the leading role in any movie ever produced, which one would it be and why?
I was going to say Conan as he is my favorite hero of all time. But then I remembered that all the Conan movies suck. Next up would be James Bond. He’s just the ultimate spy and mans man. Who wouldn’t want to play him. I grew up watching all the bond movies, but the earlier ones are foggy, so of the recent ones Casino Royale was the bomb. But I ain’t doing that one scene. You know the one. Ouch!
*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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