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Road To The IGF: Motorama's Januar Tanzil

Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2007 entrants, today’s interview is with Januar Tanzil of IPlayAllDay Studio, developer of the side-scrolling Indones
Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2007 entrants, today’s interview is with Januar Tanzil of IPlayAllDay Studio, developer of the side-scrolling racing title Motorama. Tanzil is an Indonesian freelance programmer, who worked on the title and its physics engine in his spare time over a period of 10 months. He describes the game as a “realistic motocross simulation game” which allows players to “ride through tons of challenging tracks on multiple different bikes”. However, “challenging” might be understatement, he admits, adding that he has “received feedback from gamers who couldn't pass the tutorial levels”. Nonetheless, the title’s online community remains highly competitive, with an online leaderboard allowing players to compete for the “title of Motorama Champion”. We contacted Tanzil via email to ask about the game, its entry into the IGF, and the Indonesian game development scene. What is your background in the games industry? I'm a computer science graduate and used to be an IT worker - a programmer for hire. I worked on several adver-game projects for ad agencies for about 2 years, until I founded my own studio. What is the gaming scene and industry like in Indonesia? Console and online gaming is pretty much the mainstream here, and PC games are only for the geeks or somebody who was born in late ‘70s. I think the influence from the region shapes our current gaming scene. The industry is pretty much in its infancy, as we don’t see any demands locally, but I think these days several new studios have established that are either working on their own project, usually in the mobile gaming market with a global aim or doing outsourced work. To make it short, if you explain yourself that you actually work as a game developer, people here will say, “You do what now?” It’s kinda frustrating, especially when you have that talk with your future mother-in-law. I think people here are talented, it’s just that we don’t have enough chance - if any at all. Hopefully things will change in the near future, I keep my finger crossed for this; so crossed I must now code with my foot. When was IPlayAllDay Studio formed, and what previous titles have you released? It was in early 2004, as a plot to earn a living other than coding "SELECT * FROM TABLEWHATNOT". The idea at first was to jump on the web-gaming market, so I gathered some of my friends as artists. I was doing okay, but the vicious cycle came again - apparently I was good at what I did, so people started to ask me for webgame/adver-game projects and before you know it I was a programmer for hire again. Motorama is pretty much the first release of our studio. Even though I know my studio has delivered some adver-games in the past, I'm not sure the contracts allow us to co-own the released product, so I won't mentioned it here for my own sake. What inspired Motorama, and why did you decide to make it? When I was an active member of Flash developer community - meaning spending 3-4 hours a day posting threads in Flash forum - I found a discussion about bike physics based on a simple constraint/spring model. I thought that the sample and the demo posted was very cool so I decided to create one myself. After I got myself a working demo I started to build a simple game on it. It was a very crappy game with a bike riding a terrain from left to right but somehow I couldn't stop playing it. I postponed the idea of making a complete game as I was swamped with other works but when our studio finally found a chance to create a complete game I knew that this is what I wanted to make. What were your expectations from your game, and do you feel the end product lives up to those expectations? Money, and no. Hey, at least I’m being honest here! Joking aside, I’m expecting that Motorama will be a very good learning experience business-wise, and oh boy am I learning a lot from it. I do have some regrets though, due to lack of time and resources I had to cut some of my wacky ideas. I hope in the next version to make all of them come true. What do you think the most interesting thing about your game is? I don’t know, I’m not a marketing pundit and after you’ve played and tested your own game thousands of times, you kinda forget why you make the game at the first place. Anyway, I think simply cause it's fun for anyone who has OCD like me. The game is very challenging and demanding, something that we don’t see in mainstream games. How long did development take? About 10 months for the release of Motorama v1.0 and another 3 months to update it to v1.1, which includes the map editor. I think I also need to mention the time for developing an elaborate website for it, which was about a month. It could've gone faster if I didn't have to juggle 2-3 jobs at the same time. What was the development process like? It was a bittersweet experience. During the development, I still kept my day job as a lecturer and doing some contract work. Polishing the game is a very hard task ‘cause you get to be your own critic, and I can’t say that I’m proud of myself in the final result. I’ve learned a lot of lessons and I definitely intend to use my enlightenment in the next project or upgrade. What do you think of the state of independent development, and how do you think independent games fit into the industry? I can’t say I know much about that particular matter, all I know is the fact that I joined an indie dev forum in late 2004 and my member id says #412 and now it’s up to #4000, so I guess it’s booming these days. I also don’t know how it’ll fit in the industry; so far I can see that it fits in a form of casual games and niche games. I guess it’s quite logical ‘cause that’s the only place where low budget development can fit, and I've seen some indie developers succeed in those markets. I just hope that the industry won’t bastardize it so much just like they did in the music and movie industries. Have you checked out any of the other IGF games? I'd be lying if I said that I have. Hey, there are 143 games out there and I don't want to spend my day playing all those games - unlike journalists, I don't get paid to do that. I did play some of the games that are already generating some buzz before I knew they were entering the competition, though. Which ones are you particularly impressed with, and why? I admire Minions of Mirth, simply ‘cause it’s an MMOG, and Armadillo Run ’cause that’s what a puzzle game should be like. Which recent indie games do you admire, and which recent mainstream titles do you admire, and why? I read somewhere that RuneScape is actually an indie title - kudos to them. Again, to be able to pull a complete and professional MMO like that is very impressive. To me, being an indie is about how you can believe in your idea, manage to do things all by yourself and actually pull everything together into a nice complete and polished product. I guess my philosophy is a bit different than others - it's not always about new ideas or creative design. Do you have any messages for your fellow contestants or fans of the IGF? Hmm. Best of luck to all the contestants and I hope I can get to see some of you guys next year. For anyone who enjoys indie games, just try my game... and others too. But not so much.

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