Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Sidebar: Meet Martin Pichlmair of Broken Rules

Avast ye, green sailor, and hunker your breetches as we set sail upon the seas of independent development. This week’s sidebar comes to you all the way from Vienna, Austria, a country that is in fact landlocked, rendering sea-faring impossible. However, that is one of its least interesting aspects, for this week I present to you an interview with Martin Pichlmair of indie team Broken Rules, who hail from this fair European city. You may have heard of them for their much-praised WiiWare (and one-time Humble Bundle) title And Yet It Moves. Right now, they’re working on a fascinating game based on flight, named Chasing Aurora. Read on to find out more!

broken rules martin 300x225 Sunday Sidebar: Meet Martin Pichlmair of Broken Rules
Meet Martin Pichlmair, co-founder of Broken Rules.
Good morning, Martin. Can you tell us about what you do at Broken Rules?
Good morning, I’m Martin Pichlmair and I am one of five co-founders of Broken Rules. Our mission is to make games that offer great entertainment and meaning that goes beyond the game. We want to make games that stay in your brain long after you’ve powered down your computer. Currently, Broken Rules consists of eight people. My job is a hybrid of designer/producer/developer/salesperson. I help run marketing, co-wrote our engine, do a lot of business development and help designing the games. None of us does a job alone. We all cooperate as much as possible.
What is your personal history?
I’ve built my first game when I was about five years old at a camp site in Italy. Actually I knew back then that I would be making games for life. But I got sidetracked and started studying until I received a doctor title, and then worked at the university and as a media artist for some time. When my art was on the brink of turning into a professional endeavor, I knew that I would much rather start a game business than become an artist for the rest of my life. So I quit my day job at the university and started a video game company. It felt like coming home from day one.
So, moving to your current project. You’ve said that Chasing Aurora is the first in a series of flight-themed games. Can you go into some detail about this?
We’ve started working on two titles back-to-back. A multiplayer game with a strong action focus and a moody single player game. We’re currently only focusing on the multiplayer part and want to see how that goes before we return to the single player game. To complicate things further, we’ve even added a challenge-based single player mode to the multiplayer game.
I suppose there’s a lot of crossover endemic to the development process. Speaking of, how is development coming along? Are you still on track for a November 2012 release?
We’re right on track and while I can not guarantee that we’ll make it we certainly do what we can to meet our deadline.
“We’ve had nine-year-olds that picked up the controller and were able to enjoy the game right from the start.”
Chasing Aurora is coming to the Wii U. Are you making special use of the Wii U pad?
You control the bird in a very traditional, yet intuitive way. The stick steers your character and the press of a button flaps its wings. The Wii U GamePad provides an additional viewpoint. For example, in the Hide and Seek mode, if you are the bird who is hiding, you get your own view on the game on the DRC (Display Remote Controller). You can play the single player mode on the GamePad alone.
And Yet It Moves is a platform game with manipulation of space around you. Did an urge to be even more free within that space lead you into the realm of flight withChasing Aurora?
Felix, our lead designer, had a dream about flying right when we were starting to think about our next game. We worked on dozens of prototypes and the only thing they had in common was that all of them were physics-based. After trying his flight-racing prototype we knew we were onto something. It took us more than half a year to figure out what it is we were onto, though!
Nintendo has put a lot of focus onto casual gaming in recent years, yet Chasing Aurora looks to have a somewhat steep learning curve for mastering the power of flight. How long can players expect to spend learning the game?
We’ve had nine-year-olds that picked up the controller and were able to enjoy the game right from the start. Of course, some players need more time to adjust to it. We’ve designed the controls and the gameplay to offer enough depth to be interesting to the core gamer, too. The advanced single player levels require mastery of the system. On the other hand, a game of new players in multiplayer is usually quite balanced.
So there’s quite a scope of playability. How much of the game is single-player and how much is multiplayer?
There are three multiplayer game modes and one single player challenge mode. The multiplayer games are played in tournaments. The modes share the levels, so it’s hard to say how ‘much’ each one is. Personally, I have spent hours in the single player mode because it is quite addictive for me.
broken rules Sunday Sidebar: Meet Martin Pichlmair of Broken Rules
Broken Rules’ Jan Hackl (front) and Peter Vorlaufer (behind) crunching on development.
“It is personal and authentic and feels like a part of your life.”
How was the Indie Megabooth for you?
The Indie Megabooth was awesome! There were so many great games in such a small area. We’ll surely participate in the next Megabooth all over again. Also, PAX rules.
What is the most difficult part about being an independent developer? And the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part is that you have so much responsibility. The whole game is yours to make. It is personal and authentic and feels like a part of your life. The audience gets that, too. Actually this is also the most difficult part!
Finally, what’s your most prized gaming possession? Is there anything you’re still holding onto from the dark ages?
That one’s easy: The cloth map and the aluminum coin from Ultima V!
Chasing Aurora is still in development for the Wii U, with an expected launch date of November 2012.

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