July 20, 2013
To get started, first off we at Urban Gamerz 411 would like to thank Marc McCann (Joint Owner/Developer) at FarSpace Studios for taking the time to do this Q&A with us. In this interview Marc discusses what it takes to be an independent game developer and what a regular day at FarSpace Studios entails.
UG411 - How did FarSpace Studios come to be ?
Marc McCann - FarSpace Studios is basically a company that consists of 2 people. One of them being myself (Marc McCann) and the other being Robert Blackburn. We have been good friends since high school and have always had a passion for playing and writing games. We wrote a few iOS apps under the guise of "DudeWare" a few years ago but that never really got us anywhere besides a bit of pocket money and experience. We started working on our upcoming title "Hyphen" last year, and decided it would be a good idea to form a real company and start to take our ambitions of becoming self employed more seriously. We're hoping that the release of Hyphen will allow us to leave our day jobs and grow FarSpace Studios into a proper development studio.
UG411 - When it comes to Game Development, what is your approach to making your Games?
Marc McCann - We don't really have a set approach in all honesty. Being a small 2 man team we can quickly generate ideas and get them into code without too much in the way of planning. For instance, Hyphen is the result of a discussion had over a cup of coffee one day. We had the idea and I went home and coded up a quick prototype whilst Robert created some test assets. We decided the game would be worthwhile to develop and continued from there on! I'm not sure if this approach is common amongst other small independent developers but basically we have an idea, write the code and create assets as we go along. The base code for Hyphen was finished quite quickly as it was our primary focus. The rest of the time has been spent creating assets (levels, audio etc), adding visual and audible flair and making the game code more robust. Hyphen is our first game however, other titles we will be releasing in the future are much larger and require some serious planning so a totally different approach that we haven't even begun to start to conceive will be needed there.
UG411 - What Games or Important Events in your life and around you would you say have inspired you ?
Marc McCann - Sonic the Hedgehog! Without a shadow of a doubt Sonic the Hedgehog is the one game that got me hooked and made me want to make games. The entire reason I learned to program is because I wondered how on earth a game worked after seeing Sonic running round loops and racing through stages. As soon as I was old enough to understand anything beyond basic math, I went to the local book shop and picked up a book on C++. That was the start of my obsession with creating games and perfecting my programming skills. As for as inspiration, lots of things inspire me such as music and surroundings. Whenever I hear or see something new I always envisage how it would fit into a game world and what sort of game could be made about it. It's a burden sometimes though as I spend too much time daydreaming! I can't think of any particular event that inspired me although the introduction of the iOS AppStore made me realise that I have a skill that can be used and benefitted from by the masses. It is truly inspiring when you know that your creations can be enjoyed by others and the AppStore provided that initial avenue for me.
UG411 - Tell us about your upcoming game and what Gamers and none Gamers can expect.
Marc McCann - Our upcoming game is an action/puzzle game called Hyphen. It's quite a simple game as far as mechanics go. Basically you control a rotating stick (we decided it looked like a hyphen - hence the game name) around various mazes. Navigating the mazes alone can be quite tricky but we have also added various enemies, traps and interactive obstacles such as proximity mines, closing spike traps and gates that need to be unlocked to progress further into the level. The combination of the challenging maze design, obstacles and the constant rotation of the stick makes for a pretty intense gaming experience. We have created a very hard game, which is good as that is exactly what we set out to achieve. Despite it's difficulty though, Hyphen is a stunning game to look at and the soundtrack is melodic and enticing. Players from all backgrounds including hardcore and even non-gamers will be able to pick Hyphen up and understand and enjoy the gameplay within seconds. It's deceivingly easy to learn and understand but mastery is going to require the patience of a saint and some pretty impressive gaming abilities. Before we released the Pre-Release demo a lot of people expressed concern that the game may put people off due to being difficult but shortly after playing the demo the very same people were informing us that Hyphen is extremely addictive and drives the "just one more go" instinct instilled deep into the human mindset.
As a gamer you can expect an instense gaming experience that pushes you very hard in the skills department. You will really have to work to progress through Hyphen and finishing the game will be something to be very proud of as it will be a testament to your gaming abilities. All this while being thoroughly entertaining and visually and audibly impressive.
As a casual or non gamer you can expect a game that is fun to play, addictive and visually and audibly impressive. The later levels may prove a little bit too much for players who don't enjoy a challenge although Hyphen may just make you start enjoying a challenge!
UG411 - What advice do you have for aspiring Game developers?
Marc McCann - Where to begin? Hmmm. Well first of all we would advise anyone to stay well clear. If that didn't deter them then they are probably crazy enough to be a game developer and I would welcome them to one of the most demanding but rewarding professions there is!
The main thing is to get good at what you do in your own time, don't rush into anything. Making games is an art and a science all rolled into one, it isn't something you can or should learn overnight. Sure some people do but that doesn't necessarily make them a good developer.
I would also say it is a very good idea to develop a thick skin and learn to take criticism on the chin and learn from it. There are far too many game developers that aren't able to take any sort of feedback that happens to be negative . How are you supposed to learn what is good and what is bad if you expect everyone to tell you what you have made is awesome? We have all made a terrible game at some point and most of us laugh about it, it isn't the end of the world - it's the very best lesson you will ever learn.
Last but not least, embrace social networks from a very early stage. You can use them to learn, promote and meet other people with similar interests. The game development scene is a competitive arena but I have yet to meet a member of it that isn't willing to help their peers.
UG411 - Last but not least what are your aspirations down the road, and what can we expect from FarSpace Studios in the future?
Marc McCann - Great question. The simple answer would be to be successful. I think everyone sets out with that as a basic goal. Once we have got Hyphen released for PC we intend to port it to various other platforms including mobile as we think that is it's true home. Also as I briefly mentioned earlier we have a separate rather ambitious project in the works that we're pretty confident will make some waves once it is announced and has some media to show off to the public. We will be getting on with making that game as well as releasing a couple of smaller games, mainly as a side thing whilst working on the larger project.
In the near-mid future we are hoping to make FarSpace Studios completely self funded as opposed to us putting personal money into it. Hopefully we will both be able to leave our day jobs and work at FarSpace Studios full time if Hyphen sells well enough. We aren't expecting to get mega rich overnight but I think sustaining us both financially for a year or 2 is achievable if we get it right. This will give us plenty of time to work on our upcoming stuff and allow us to concentrate wholly on making quality games.
In the longer term we would love to evolve into a decent sized company that employs others for their talent and can really churn out awesome games. This may seem like a pipedream to some but it's certainly doable and we intend to give it a good go!
Whatever happens though we will still be here making awesome games and trying our best to achieve our long term goals!
UG411 - That is awesome and we can't wait to see a full version of Hyphen and all the other games to come from FarSpace Studios in the near future. I want to thank you for your time and allowing us to interview you. Can't wait to see your progress and hopefully sit back down and talk with you in the future.
Marc McCann - Thank you, and thanks for the interview opportunity. We would be more than happy to do another interview at some stage in the future if you're up for that!
UG411 - We at Urban Gamerz 411 would love to do another interview in the future and we thank you and greatly appreciate your time.
You can now Enjoy the Hyphen Demo at the FarSpace Studios official website by following the link below.
Interviewer: Jonathan I.