Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, we talk to Jani Kahrama and Jetro Lauha about their IGF 2008 Excellence in Audio finalist Cinnamon Beats
, the physics-driven rhythm puzzler where players create their own beats.
What kind of background do you have in the game industry, or in making games?
Jani Kahrama: I've been writing random game designs since I was a kid, but professionally things got started in a company called Fathammer, which was making 3D games for smartphones. I worked there for four years as a game designer, producer and creative director in more 15 games, mostly original IP, but with the occasional big-brand project.
Jetro Lauha: I created some shareware games back in the 90's. In 2001 I got offered a job at Fathammer, which was my first job in the games industry, and it was where I eventually met Jani as well. After that I worked for two years at Sulake Corporation, until I joined with Jani to start up Secret Exit.
What motivated you to create a game like Cinnamon Beats?
Jani: The original idea is Jetro's, and we decided that the concept is interesting and unique, and may have good gameplay hidden in there somewhere. So we made a prototype, and getting this far with it has been incredible!
Jetro: Yeah, I already thought of the concept last year, back when I was making Racing Pitch
- which also was a finalist in the IGF. I like to toy around with different ideas, and this was one of them which I felt I have to try at some point.
Where did you draw inspiration from in its design and implementation?
Jetro: Well, I could single out at least a little video in the net called "Apartment Beats" which was a wonderful piece about making rhythms from household objects. Naturally the Stomp musical is also quite inspiring. Back then I didn't think about Animusic
, but that also serves as a good reference, getting towards integrating rhythm with physics simulation.
Jani: As for the gameplay, I have fond memories of a game called The Incredible Machine
What sort of development tools are used by the team?
Jani: I used Jetro for coding of the prototype - that proved to be a good choice. Our tools are all standard stuff: Visual Studio, Photoshop, Maya, et cetera, but the one thing I'd like emphasize is the importance and usefulness of a wiki in our company. We set one up right in the beginning, grew into using it, and now it's an essential element in our communication and production.
Jetro: You can guess I used Jani as the tool to test out things and refine gameplay ideas. He also replaced my placeholder graphics with better placeholders.
What do you think the most interesting element of your game is?
Jani: The emergent rhythms, absolutely. There's a wonderful chaotic element to the game, with balls bouncing around, and suddenly with a little tweaking a rhythm pattern appears. It's spontaneous and rewarding.
About how many people have contributed to Cinnamon Beats, and what has the development process been like?
Jetro: Well, I kind of stole the time to start to code on the first proto, which was kind of a surprise for Jani. I hadn't taken actual vacation time in the summer, so one could argue that I just took some, and caved in to do some coding, and then suddenly say that 'hey, I'm working on a little game like this.' Of course, as soon as I got some first thoughts out modeled in code and explained the next ideas to him, he became an integral part of the development to work with the gameplay and graphics.
Jani: One thing to remember is that the final game will be done around Q3 this year, so the number of people involved is going to grow. Thus far, the prototype involved code, design and graphics from a team of three.
If Secret Exit had to rewind to the very start of the project, is there anything that you'd do differently?
Jani: I'd like to answer that around post mortem time. We're still a bit too early to point out big issues.
Jetro: I think you already got a glimpse from the funny start.
What are your thoughts on the state of independent game development, and are any other independent games out now that you admire?
Jetro: Mostly I want to cheer out at the indies who are exploring out what can be done with physics in games. There still seems to be so many interesting things to try out.
Jani: First of all I tip my hat to the guys at The Behemoth. Great style, nice games, good people. For indies in general, I understand it first-hand that the problem is money, but I still have the nerve to call for focus and higher production values. Quite often, I see the choice taken to make something a bit too big, a bit too rough, rather than something small but very nice. I admire Everyday Shooter
for the little gems they are. And of course, the esteemed competition at IGF - especially I'm cheering for Crayon Physics Deluxe
You have 30 seconds left to live and you must tell the game business something very important. What is it?
Jani: You wouldn't be an indie unless you're doing this out of passion - remember to enjoy it! It's easy to get caught in the challenges of everyday production from tight deadlines to tight budgets and stress out. But it's important to enjoy the everyday life and the challenges and not just consider it something nasty to endure on the way to the inevitable success glimmering in the golden horizon... 28, 29, 30.
Jetro: I'm saying only something short to leave you room to think about it for the rest of the 30 seconds: "Consider what's most important in the long run."