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Road To The IGF: Konjak's Throwback Noitu Love 2

Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2008 entrants, we talk to Joakim Sandberg of Konjak, developer of the action beat-em-up
November 13, 2007
Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2008 entrants, we talk to Joakim Sandberg of Konjak, developer of the action beat-em-up Noitu Love 2, inspired heavily by classic Treasure and Konami titles. With professional animation work done on a number of WayForward handheld titles including American Dragon, X-Men 3: The Official Game and Justice League Heroes: The Flash for GBA and the forthcoming Contra IV for the DS, Sandberg has also created a handful of well received indie titles including Chalk and the original Noitu Love. What kind of background do you have in the game development? JS: All my background in actually developing games is creating them myself as a hobby. I've been doing so for several years, but I have no idea how many. I've been wanting to make games since I first played them, drawing levels and making cardboard TVs with pictures of game ideas on them. What motivated you to make a sequel to Noitu Love? JS: It wasn't so much a motivation to make a sequel -- I personally really dislike Noitu Love 1 at this point for God knows how many reasons. I just really enjoyed the universe of the game, and had the idea for a style of gameplay I chose to assign to this universe. You don't actually play as Noitu at any point either, but he is not completely absent. Where did you draw inspiration from in its design and implementation? JS: I try not to be greatly inspired by one specified source. When I make a game, it's from the assembled impressions I have gotten from playing all the games -- or, at least, I hope so. It actually seems I have a tendency to make games in genres I never play otherwise (like puzzle games, space shooters and action games like Contra or Gunstar Heroes, because I suck at them). When I came up with this idea, though, you could say I wanted to go against some games that have action, but by having that, they seem to have to be hard. I am hoping my game is less of a challenge, while retaining a fast pace. In a genre that has been developed so thoroughly over the years, how do you personally go about developing the gameplay of boss battles for a 2D platformer? JS: I love making bosses. Whenever I am coming up on creating a new boss (or enemy, really) I feel I want to make it something different and unexpected. This is most easily done in appearances, of course, but the way to defeat them (or avoid them if they can always be hurt) is where I really want to be different, which is harder. But not nearly everything has been done. I am bad at explaining my working processes beyond "I just get the idea and make it and try some things", but I try to think, "have I played this exact thing before?" And if I have, I rethink it. Now, getting down to basic facts, a lot of the bosses and minibosses shoot a bunch of projectiles on you like they always do, but then I try to be different in the appearances, the setting and the tactics involved in not being hit. Then my testers tell me how I failed. What sort of development tools have you been using to produce Noitu Love 2? JS: I have been using a game maker called Multimedia Fusion 2... it's really not very dynamic with effects, and it is very slow to use at this time, but I could never find the patience to learn how to properly program. If you want to make a game and can accept the boundaries, it is a very fast tool to do so. What do you think the most interesting part of your game is? JS: I would have to say the input method. You still walk (and jump) with the keyboard keys, but you fight using a crosshair controlled by the mouse. My efforts in making it faster but easier is you quickly dash straight to the targeted enemy when you click to attack it. There will also be one level controlled differently with a different use of the crosshair. How long has development of Noitu Love 2 taken so far, and what has the process been like? JS: It's a nightmare making a game by yourself, most of the time. You're the only one who sees all the bugs, and you're the only one who will have to fix them. Also, graphics are definitely the most time-consuming part of making games and you just want to move along and realize the next idea you had. But it is the end result that counts, and I'll never stop wanting to make games. So far, I believe I have been making the game for three months, and I seem to be at a pace of one level per month. If you had to rewind to the start of the project, is there anything that you'd do differently? JS: I haven't worked on it long enough to really see where I could have done something better with the engine (with the "skill" I have as a programmer), but I always think I slack in big ways with the graphics. They can always, always be improved... the program I use also has a very bad way of having you not able to have parts of your engine as global information; it has to be repeated over each level, and if I change my mind later it will be a hassle to change, so I hope I won't want to rewind too much. What are your thoughts on the state of independent game development, and are any other independent games out now that you admire? JS: I probably sound ignorant, but I don't think I know enough about the indie scene to express myself well, because through all of it I've just wanted to make games. That's not saying I ignore all the people of the community, they are the people playing my games and I love them all for it! As for other games, I don't play that many games (overall), but ones I can remember now that I liked were Lyle in Cube Sector and Cave Story, and games by Bernie (Politsch Bernhard). I'd like games by Gustav Kilman if he made them. I might have a too closed-minded view of independent gaming, though. I think of it mostly as the smaller games people make at home that may or may not be free of charge. I know there are companies like Valve, but I don't know of anyone else. I don't get into their financial states as much as their games. You have 30 seconds left to live and you must tell the game business something very important. What is it? JS: My watch stopped, could someone tell me the time?

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