I good you bid evening, fellow traveler, and welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Sidebar. The Indie Megabooth interviews continue unabated! This week I made some time to catch up all over again with James and Michelle from Ska Studios. It’s been around nine months since we last spoke, and it felt like the right time to hear about how the development process forCharlie Murder has been coming along. If you’re curious to read the first instalment, you can find it all here. It hasn’t all been development, though, as you shall soon find out. Read on to find out more!
It’s been a fair few months since we last spoke. How is Charlie Murdercoming along?
James: Charlie Murder is coming along great! It keeps getting bigger and better, but there’s still much to do. I’ve joked about it becoming “Scope Creep:The Game” because every week or so I’ll be trying out some random new gameplay mechanic to see how it can make the general flow more interesting (the latest is beercrafting!)
And I don’t think there’s any shame in scope creep (for the uninitiated, ‘scope creep’ refers to a project’s ambitions expanding beyond the initial design — if a project’s ambitions expand faster than the developer can address them, the project is never finished!). The organic development process is a big part of why it’s great to be indie: we get to implement exactly what we want whenever we want, and there’s no red tape, scheduling, or contracting to sort out, we just do it.
“The Megabooth gave us strength in numbers.”
How was the Indie Megabooth for Ska Studios?
J: Megabooth was fun! It was nice to offset a bit of the scariness of exhibiting at a convention by being part of a like-minded community.
We got some great exposure and met a bunch of cool people! For the PAX prior to this, we were totally in the shadow of Firefall – their sheer size, lighting, and audio totally dominated the area and our booth felt like one of those little noodle shops that Deckard visits in Blade Runner. The Megabooth gave us strength in numbers.
Were there any difficulties?
J: Planning was maybe a little frustrating; a bit of creative collaboration was required. What indie dev doesn’t view him or herself as the absolute bottom line in creative vision? Indie collaboration is a little bit oxymoronic, right? But it couldn’t have been that bad, because at the end of the day, we pulled it off! (well, the Megabooth’s PR guru Kelly Wallick pulled it off, and for that we are all forever in her debt).
Despite the cat-herding, will you be taking part in future Megabooths, if they happen?
J: Quite possibly!
Are you any closer to a release date for Charlie Murder, beyond the Ska Studios classic ‘next April’?
J: Also possible. But for several reasons, I can’t promise anything.
With Michelle making up half of the team, how has the development process changed for you, James?
J: I have a lot more developer accountability! For several years I’ve been making game development tools for just me, and now I have to make sure they work for other people. You don’t know how many times Michelle’s had an issue with an editor or something where my response has been an embarrassed “Oh, right, that button doesn’t work. Don’t press that button.”
It has been awesome to put Michelle to work with those editors! She’s been making new clothes (using my sprite sheet editor and clothes metadata editor), and has made a few animated characters (character editor) and maps (map editor). Everything looks perfect. I think our styles were a tiny bit disparate at first, but now everything just looks like it fits. Probably a consequence of tying the knot.
Yes, congratulations on that, you two. How has it been for you, Michelle, to get used to working in a small team, and to move from your previous work at AreaNet to just you and James?
Michelle: I’ve had a year and a half to get used to it now and I do still miss the larger environment where you could just stop by the coffee machines and shoot the shat with coworkers. Here, I just have James, the cats, and the occasional delivery person. The delivery guys sure do get freaked out when you want to chat about how the latest build is going. You’d think I would get sick of working and living next to the same person every hour of the day but it’s honestly been great. Lack of socializing aside, I have much more freedom as well as a lot more responsibility. We’re pretty much always working and always busy. That also, I do not mind. I am starting to feel I am leaving my mark, which to me, is the meaning of life!
Thanks for your time. You two make a lovely couple!
Thanks. You’re welcome!
Charlie Murder is still in development for XBLA.