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The Experimental Gameplay Project, a key element in indie games' evolution, has returned, and Gamasutra speaks with co-founders Kyle Gray (Henry Hatsworth) and Kyle Gabler (World of Goo) about their plans.

July 17, 2009

6 Min Read

Author: by Staff

The Experimental Gameplay Project, by which lone developers would create seven-day game prototypes around common themes, was born at Carnegie Mellon University and featured creators who went on to become crucial figures in the modern indie scene. Now, the project, which featured -- among other things -- Tower Of Goo, the original prototype for 2D Boy's World Of Goo, has returned, with participation by several of its original members as well as new ones. The roster is an all-star list of indie notables: Professor Hatsworth designer Kyle Gray, World of Goo co-creator Kyle Gabler (who, as mentioned, built that game's predecessor in the original EGP), Maxis engineer Shalin Shodhan, Crayon Physics creator Petri Purho, and World of Goo programmer Allan Blomquist. Following the announcement that the project would return, Gamasutra sat down with Kyle Gabler and Kyle Gray, both of whom were involved in the original incarnation, to discuss what led to the reboot, its future plans, and development beyond the core group. Why restart Experimental Gameplay Project? What do you hope to learn from running the site? Are you having fun yet? Kyle Gray: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to reboot the site. There were just too many things that conspired to eat up my free time, like relationships, games, making a living -- you know, all the unessential stuff. It's also great to be back in the prototyping mindset. Banging out a game in seven days is horribly fun, whereas the last two months of alpha are just plain horrible. Now that I have more time to devote to the site, I'd love to use it to discover more indie developers. Our old site was rather chaotic -- at times it was hard to tell if the game you were downloading was a title by some awesome up-and-coming one-man game-making brigade or some company using EGP to advertise its crappy shooter. With our new, improved site I'm really hoping we'll find more people like Petri or [Jonathan] "Cactus" [Soderstrom] -- and one way to do that is by grabbing the best people we know and forcing them to battle to the death in a no-holds bar game making competition! Kyle Gabler: It's easy to lose touch with reality when working on the same thing for months and months. I'm hoping the small periodic projects will force us and other indie devs to remain nimble and creative, always forcing ourselves to readjust and ask ourselves, "What do people REALLY want to play with?" The original EGP, alongside a number of other projects, was quite influential in promulgating rapid prototyping as a way to devise high-quality indie titles. Are you going to be tempted to spin off any of these projects into larger games? Kyle Gray: Let's hope so! If just one of these prototypes makes it into a full-fledged game, then it's further proof that the system works. But if that doesn't happen, it'll at least make for good practice and a great distraction from making commercial titles. Kyle Gabler: In IGF 2008, all but one of the winners began as a small prototype! It would be sad, though, if unscrupulous dev houses turn all of our creators' prototypes into 99-cent [iPhone] App Store clones. Is there a regular set of participants every month, and how do you decide which "guest stars" to add to the line-up? Kyle Gray: At this point we're made up of a core team of five guys, but a few friends have already contacted us to participate in next month's round. I'm also hoping visitors will participate by sending us their own games. Wouldn't that be a great way to discover new guest stars? Kyle Gabler: Yeah. Our site has been up for less than a week and we're surprised how many user-submitted games we've already received without even asking for them! I think we'll officially open it up, and solicit user submissions every month as well, and probably post a roundup of the best user games submitted, in addition to the "core" team's games. Why don't more high-profile creators try releasing fun themed mini-games for free? Kyle Gray: Probably because of "time" or "budget" or other such constraints. That or maybe their legal departments are ultra-conservative. I couldn't imagine having to check trademarks or copyrights every time I release a crappy seven-day prototype. Luckily, it's a well-known fact that indies are broke. Otherwise, I'd probably have to be more cautious like the big boys. Kyle Gabler: Lots of amazing indie devs release small games for free constantly. Just browse through TIGSource, Indie Games, Jay is Games, or Offworld any day of the week! I think more of them need to recognize their own potential and think about turning their well-received free games into more high-profile console games so more people outside the indie scene can play them. Tell us a funny thing that happened during the making of your first EGP game. Kyle Gray: Man -- it hurts to think that far back. The first EGP game I made was a competitive two-man title called Opposites Attract. Not only did I not know how to use Flash, but I didn't know how to make art either! The whole thing looks and sounds pretty crappy. It was also one of the first times I can recall ever having to use math or physics in my life. I remember franticly searching online for the proper equations. It really makes me wish I'd started making games in high school. As bad as that was, it was nothing compared to the next round, "Springs." Kyle made the awesome Tower of Goo while I turned out that stinker Feedin' Frenzy. It was a step up in graphics, but the whole game was busted. I remember Shalin and Kyle trying to explain spring physics to me, but it broke my head. So, as a result, I try to stay away from all but the most basic physics. Kyle Gabler: Kyle Gray got us all addicted to coffee. And flavored vodka. After a few weeks making games, we were feeling sucked dry of creative juice, so we went to a children's science museum for inspiration and played with all the toys, like the wall made of pins that you can stick your hands or face into and a 3D mold of your body parts comes out on the other side. We forgot that kids are covered in snot and urine and germs, and we all got really sick from sticking our face in science.

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